Nadine and Chocolate Chip driving at their home ranch in Hemet.
Breeder, avid competitor and sport advocate Nadine Tilley is a woman of two worlds: Andalusians and driving, both of which have been inspired by her involvement and dedication. The recipient of the USEF's Bill Robinson Trophy in 2010 and one of eight candidates for the Federation's Equestrian Of The Year title, Nadine has helped bring those two worlds closer together and to a broader audience. She insists that perseverance is her only substantial contribution to her achievements, but talent, effort and delightful enthusiasm play a big part.
Nadine was smitten upon first encountering an Andalusian on a 1972 trip to the Iberian Peninsula. She returned home unable to buy one because they were scarce in the U.S. Today, however, Tilley Andalusians' farm in Riverside County's Hemet is bustling with activity. Two handsome stallions, the gray Amici BB and the palomino Xar Pei VO, preside over a brood of top quality mares
Her first Andalusian, the Legionaria III son Bibaino III, came by way of breed pioneer Greg Garrison. In the 31 years since, Nadine has been instrumental in the Spanish horse's popularity in the States. She recently retired from the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Assn. board but remains fired up about the many ways in which these versatile, agreeable and beautiful horses can be promoted. At 63, she's a hard-to-beat competitor in the breed's many divisions. In the last three years alone, she and her horses have earned 27 national IALHA championships.
XarPei VO - National Champion Pleasure Driving Horse. Photo © Rick Osteen
Nadine loves to promote Andalusians beyond their normal following. She and her husband Bill found an ideal way to do that in 2004 when they established a $2 million endowment to ensure
that USC mascot Tommy Trojan's handsome
white steed, Traveler, will always be a horse of Iberian descent.
Within the equestrian world, Nadine has introduced the driving community to her beloved breed. From the wild and wooly cross country courses in Combined Driving to the prim and proper Antique Carriage Driving classes in an arena, Nadine and her Andalusians compete with zeal and success.
She got hooked on driving many years ago during a Saturday night gala at one of Frank Jordano's multi-breed shows in Santa Barbara. Accompanied by a ringside orchestra, the antique carriages rolled into the arena and into Nadine's heart. Today her private museum in Los Angeles houses antique carts and carriages, including those she competes with, and is opened to groups by special arrangement.
Nadine's Champion Lusitano Stallion, XarPei VO.
Driving is thriving, she reports. More sporthorses are turning up in this discipline that offers competition at various levels: marathon, obstacle and cone courses, plus dressage and working and turn-out classes in the ring. Nadine recommends the Los Angeles-based Whipper Snappers as one example of an active club with many local events planned. The club's Pleasure Days Carriage Driving Show in June, at Tejon Ranch Equestrian Center, is an annual highlight for driving enthusiasts new and old.
Receiving the USEF's award named for the late driving legend Bill Robinson was a great honor. "I knew and admired him greatly and to be nominated, let alone win this, is wonderful." Part of the thrill was earning recognition from the Federation's many constituencies. "Even though we do so much outside of our Andalusian breed competitions, we are still a small breed and not too many people know about us." Referred to affectionately as "our lady of perpetual driving" by friends, Nadine now has a much broader fan base herself thanks to the USEF award.
Nadine lives in Los Angeles but gets to the Hemet ranch regularly. She conditions her Combined Driving partners in surrounding fields that are available all but summer, when they're planted with melons. Neighbors enjoy the sight of these handsome singles and pairs tooling through the fields and roads near the farm.
Amici BB - National Grand Champion Halter Horse, Multi National Champion Performance Horse. Photo © Laurie Taylor
She rarely misses a foaling and is an active part of her horses' training. Nadine gives oodles of credit to Bill Deeny, Tilley Andalusian's trainer of the last three years, and to his predecessor Glenn Wilson, who retired from that post after 12 years. "My successes are not due to me," she asserts. "I've had the opportunity to have wonderful horses and trainers that bring out the best in them and me. Bill encourages me to do everything I want to do with these horses."
Nadine and Bill Deeny evaluate and prepare each horse for the most suitable career path, but one thing they can all count on is getting behind a cart and driving. "Every horse in my barn, of trainable age, drives," Nadine enthuses. "It's a great way to start young horses because it teaches them to balance and engage their hindquarters without stressing their bodies. It gives their mind something to do, and they develop their muscles and their trust in you."
I'd Like To Try That!
Andalusians are still relatively unique on the driving scene, but Nadine never has a problem selling one of hers to the driving community when she chooses to. The often more affordable option of crossing an Andalusian with an Arabian, Quarter Horse or National Show Horse is taking off in the driving world.
Nadine is thrilled with how Andalusians have earned their spot on the open dressage circuit and about other disciplines whose enthusiasts are embracing the breed. These include two budding equestrian sports: Western Dressage and Working Equitation. The former consists of lower level dressage tests ridden in western tack and the latter is a three-part competition of dressage, ease of handling (with obstacles) and speed obstacles. Started in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, Working Equitation draws on and seeks to preserve the ranch and farm work skills and the culture of the era in which they were relied upon.
Through IALHA's association with the California Andalusian Horse Alliance, programs to draw more of the public into the breed's spell are growing. "We are very inclusive," says Nadine of the outreach effort. "Our goal is to encourage people to try new things with their horses and to reach out to the breed's entire constituency, a lot of which is in the Latino world." Parading and dancing with horses are among the ideas being worked on. "We have to expand our horizons in these tough economic times," Nadine says. "We are interested in anything that gets people to say, 'Gee, I'd like to try that!'"
Gracia Espanta, the Champion Halter and Performance Horse on a combined driving marathon course. Photo © Kate Waddell
The Fiesta of the Spanish Horse, in Los Angeles May 4-8, is a perfect example of exhibiting these horses to the general public. At organizer Joanne Asman's request, Nadine will likely do a driving exhibition during Saturday night's Spectacular.
Of course, Traveler is the ultimate Andalusian ambassador, which is why the Tilleys, both USC supporters, created the endowment. Two retired Travelers call Tilley Andalusians home and Nadine hopes a few of her youngsters by Amici BB will be future candidates for the role. It's not one every horse can handle; being white and good looking is the easy part. They have to be comfortable in a variety of strange situations: galloping in front of cheering throngs in a football stadium or riding in a fancy hotel's freight elevator to attend a fundraiser, as the current Traveler has done. Because of these job requirements and the fact that Traveler sometimes must be two places at once, there are a few Travelers at the ready. The Tilleys' gift entitles their horses to first crack at the openings, but if they don't have the needed skills and temperament, they won't get the gig,
Although Tilley Andalusians has won many awards for producing great horses, Nadine describes the program as a "boutique" effort.
"I breed for quality, beauty and to preserve these horses' heritage. I breed mostly for my own showing, then I sell a few. It's not a business,
it's a love."
It's nice when a person's passion for something benefits that something in myriad ways. That is certainly the case with Nadine's affection
Nadine receiving the Bill Robinson Trophy from USEF president David O'Connor.