California Riding Magazine • April, 2014

Flying Changes

Thomas "Tommy" Gallagher
Popular announcer passes on.

Popular horse show announcer Tommy Gallagher passed away March 3 at the age of 58. Tommy worked the West Coast hunter/jumper circuit for many years, and spent the last few years in his home state of Delaware. He was known for his fun, warm, colorful personality, clever announcing and wide circle of friends. He is survived by his son, Thomas Christopher Gallagher, who is set to graduate from Georgetown University in May. Tommy had a number of health problems these last few years, but kept his positive outlook and sense of humor to the last.

Memorial donations in Tommy's honor can be made to Pediatrics at Christiana Care Health System by way of donations to Office of Development, Christiana Care Health System, 13 Reads Way, Suite 203, New Castle, DE 19720.

Jesús Piris
Gone, but not forgotten.

Extraordinary horseman Jesús Joaquín Vicente Piris Fraile passed away on March 10. His long career with horses unfolded in many parts of the world, and he was based in California since 2000, when he was recruited by Medieval Times Theater in Anaheim. He later moved to San Diego where he trained many horses.

Jesús was born in Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa, and grew up in the Western Sahara until the age of 11, when his family moved to Sevilla, Spain. He is survived by his wife Rebeca Córdova, as well as his son Jesús Jr., mother Natividad Fraile Medina and four siblings, all living in Spain.

At the age of 15 Jesús began his chosen life's journey: to work, live and breathe alongside the beautiful animals that so inspired him, his beloved horses. He was accepted into the Royal Spanish Riding School, La Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, where he trained and rode the school's horses in all the difficult and challenging "airs above the ground" and became an instructor in the school.

Jesús left the school to explore many other equestrian pursuits, including training show jumpers and running Andalusian horse breeding farms, where he exercised his uncanny ability to select breeding animals to quickly improve the quality of a herd. He trained dressage horses all over Europe, worked on fighting bull breeding farms and as a talented rejoneador (mounted bullfighter) for 10 years in Spain and Portugal before a near-fatal car accident ended his career. It was especially fascinating to hear Jesús' stories about these bulls and their behavior, and it was evident that he had become an expert in that arena as well.

Later in life, as Jesús matured, he became sensitive to the point that he literally could not kill a fly or even ants, much less a bull, and he playfully called his wife Rebeca "asesina" when she did so.
Jesús had an incredible ability not only as a rider – on horseback he was breathtaking to behold – but also as a trainer. In Andalucía he was known as "El Brujo" (the sorcerer) for his seemingly magical ability to transform horses that were either severely limited in their natural abilities or ruined from previous faulty training, and turning them into willing, obedient mounts.

In spite of the fact that he is known to have been one of the best master horsemen of our time, Jesús was always modest and unpretentious. Making money and a name for himself was always secondary to his passion for horses. Horses were a lifelong love and much, much more than a business to him – they were his partners and friends and he loved every one of the hundreds of horses that he worked with in his lifetime.

Jesús had an exceptionally interesting life, packing a lot of adventure into the 56 years he was given on this earth. He lived his life on his own terms, as he wanted, and immersed in what he loved – his horses. One interesting highlight of his career was starring in the well-known Spanish director Miguel Távora's flamenco version of the opera Carmen. He rode a beautiful white Andalusian horse that he selected and trained to piaffe, pirouette and canter in place while he danced with a flamenco-dancing Carmen. He toured with the opera two years, playing in major theaters and palaces all over Europe, including the Royal Palace of Paris and Real Maestranza of Sevilla.

In the year 2000 he was recruited by the dinner theater chain Medieval Times, and brought to the U.S. to serve as Horse Master and run equine operations at their Anaheim castle. After two years he struck out on his own with his training business, and eventually moved to San Diego to live with Rebeca Córdova, whom he married on April 14, 2012, and with whom he shared an extraordinarily loving and special relationship.

Jesús was kind, generous, charismatic, and well-loved by all who had the privilege to know him. The horse world has lost a great man, and horses the world over have lost a true friend. Jesús will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

For more information about Jesús and his life, google "Jesús Piris Dressage."