Each year, on the first weekend in December, it has become a tradition on the Southern West Coast to begin the holiday season with a very special horse show. Jingle Bell has become synonymous with a happy week full of Christmas trees, carolers, great parties in the big white tent next to the arena, fantastic trophies, whimsical decorations, excellent judges and wonderful horses and riders.
The “design team” of this wonderful show consists of two talented individuals who pull out all the stops each year to make sure everyone has a terrific time. Lance Bennett and Scott Hickey are the epitome of what every show management team ought to be. They are incredibly professional, but always with a terrific tonguein- cheek sense of humor. Each year this show has grown larger. It’s difficult to say it’s become “better,” because it’s hard to improve on perfection. But there’s always a new twist and a new surprise around every corner.
Torrential rain marred the move-in days. But the rain subsided on opening day. On the first day of the show, everyone had a variety of puddles to avoid, but that didn’t have much luck dampening spirits. The show, normally held in the beautiful Del Mar Horse Park outdoor arena, moved to the adjoining big covered arena for the week and didn’t miss a beat. Welcome gifts of chocolate peppermint bark helped everyone cope with the raindrops.
The Thursday through Sunday daytime only performances always have a great kickoff with the “Move-In-Chili-Feast” on Wednesday evening in front of Lance’s Rancho Vista show stalls. Hot chili, cornbread, spirits and live entertainment are the traditional fare. The chili kings of Texas couldn’t measure up to this recipe, which tastes even better when the sun has gone down and you’re freezing to death trying to get all your stable trappings in place for the show tomorrow. Of course, in California, “freezing to death” can easily consist of 60 degree weather. It’s all a matter of perspective.
On Friday afternoon, after the performance, the “Holiday High Tea and ‘Tini Party” in the big tent, has become another time-honored tradition. Joan Fernandez and Friesian Focus always sponsor this fun party. Live music, special martinis and a wonderful buffet kept exhibitors there for hours. A High Tea hat contest had 36 entries vying for the cash prizes. The $100 first place winner was Heather Leudtke (for the second year in a row); the $50.00 second place went to seven-year-old Lindsay Keliker. The prize for the best group went to Amanda Groce’s Johnny 6 Stables.
Saturday evening, the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association, Inc. and the ASHA California State Pleasure Horse year-end awards were presented in the tent. A buffet dinner and a terrific MC, Debbie Tomin, made the evening a big success. See the separate article on the awards in this issue.
Yes, there’s more! Sunday morning at the show wouldn’t be the same without the Amie Dru sponsored “Jingle Bell Brunch” in the tent. Gourmet crepes and omelets, made to order all morning with a delightful breakfast buffet and live entertainment was provided for all.
Ringside, a popular bar near the entrance to the arena provided hot cider, coffee and spirits and snacks daily. This was sponsored each day by a different barn. Liz Bolton Stables was the host on Thursday, Friday it was Tara Weber’s Sabino Equestrian Center, Nicole Johnson’s Premier Stables took over on Saturday and Anne Judd’s Lawson Creek Farms did the honors Sunday.
Another wonderful tradition this show has developed are the beautiful Christmas stall decorations each barn puts up vying for the lavish prizes the show provides. A huge flat screen TV went to Robin and Steve Young and Kassandra Young Sapia’s Friesian Thunder for having the most beautiful tack room. Champagne and chocolates went to the reserve choice, Robb and Betsy Wallen’s Wallen West Farms. Matthew Robert’s Stable from Scottsdale, almost always receives the “most beautiful tree” prize. They won again this year and received a Bluetooth stereo system. Sterling Hill Farm came in with a reserve and received a bottle of champagne and luxury chocolates.
Saddlebreds, Hackney ponies, equitation and open classes were judged by Steven Wheeler of Shelbyville, Kentucky. The addition, this year, of a Baroque division proved immensely successful. This included 27 new classes for the Friesians and Andalusians, in addition to the open classes many of them normally enter. Phillip Fountain of Prairie Village, Kansas judged this division in addition to the Morgan, academy and carriage divisions.
The show manager, Scott Hickey, outdid himself again this year with performances that ran like clockwork. Every amenity one could think of was provided for the exhibitors. Adele Maurer was the steward, and Jeff Gilbert announced. The show office consisted of the well-seasoned team of secretaries, Julie O’Connor and Sheri Hurst.
Office clerk Mary Hartman was in her usual spot in the office keeping everyone in line. Mary Kay received a special, and much deserved award, at the Circuit awards party Saturday night. UPHA Chapter One president, Robb Wallen, presented her with a beautiful plaque in honor of her 20 years as treasurer of the chapter. Rounding out the officials: Rick Osteen was the photographer, Kelly Carle was the farrier and Dr. Lindsay Lewis was the official veterinarian.
One of the highlights of the show was the $1,000 Open English Pleasure Saddle Seat stake offered for the second year in a row. Jason Williams catch-rode the magnificent Friesian, Germ Fan Lutke Peinjum (Harem), owned by Koreen Greenberg to a qualifying win in the amateur saddle seat pleasure open class. The pair was back in the ring in the championship, which had nine very competitive horses. There wasn’t a free spot on the rail as exhibitors flocked to watch the wonderful class. Trainer Robb Wallen headed both victory shots of the black beauty in his usual element of blue ribbons. This magnificent horse is available. Reserve in the amateur qualifying class went to Amazing, with owner Hannah Stanford and Doeke H, with Sarah Baldwin for Jackson Cripe, taking reserve in the stake.
Another very special moment in the show was Joan Fernandez driving her four-in-hand Friesians around the ring in the Concours d’Elegance class. The handsome antique carriage carried the singing Christmas carolers, in vintage costumes, to overwhelming applause. It was an amazing sight to watch that beautiful, slender woman commanding the extreme power of the four exquisite Friesians with such ease, dexterity and grace. Lance Bennett takes credit for guiding this entry.
Usually shows hold the academy division in a separate performance. But a complete array of 17 academy classes was interspersed with the open and amateur classes. This gave the beginners an opportunity of exhibiting in the real world instead of being relegated to an auxiliary ring or an empty coliseum. It was a nice addition to the show to see these classes well filled with wonderful young riders.
The five-gaited division was sparse, but it showcased some exciting horses. Julie DeVault took the open stake with flourish with Carolyn Hohenberger’s new junior gelding, Undulata’s Most Wanted, after a win in the junior/limit class. This team is trained by Liz Bolton and Theo Robinson. Charmed By Chance took the victory pass in the open class with Ashley Duke for Stephens College. It was a treat to see Liz Coglianese back in the show ring after a long hiatus. She expertly guided Virtual Design to win both the amateur qualifying class and the amateur five-gaited championship for Jamie LaFortune. Liz has a handsome two-year-old, Undulata’s Little King Erb, waiting in the wings for her to show next season, under the Bolton/Robinson banner. Lee Smotherman guided her new gelding Give Me The Blues, to a good reserve in the amateur stake, also for the Bolton/ Robinson team. Jamie LaFortune’s Renaissance Dance wore the reserve ribbon in the amateur five-gaited class.
The junior exhibitor classes featured some wonderful young riders who are taking the West Coast by storm. Marie Bellevue, already has eight blues to her credit after only two years of riding with the Bolton/Robinson duo. She added another by taking the junior exhibitor five-gaited championship with her talented gelding Rapid Reward. Jennifer Dixon headed up the victory pass for Ethan Feiber guiding River Card to the junior exhibitor qualifying win. Isabelle Gatti directed Onassis for Patty Ladd, taking reserve in both classes for trainer Jim Bennett.
A three-year-old newcomer on the block, Faustino, was one of the show stealers. The It’s Hammertime grandson topped the three and under five-gaited class and the junior five-gaited championship with Robb Wallen in the irons for Bobbie Reid and Ron Harris. Rachael Stokes guided her lovely mare, Dorian’s Last Song to the reserve spot in both the junior/limit class and the junior championship.
Liz Bolton showcased Undulata’s Jenna Live Erb to her sixth blue in six classes this year. The open three-gaited class and open stake belonged to them. The beautiful mare, owned by Lori Legaz, just keeps getting better and better. Suzanne Federico has had a great season with her new mare, Fort Chiswell’s Leading Lady. The pair conquered the amateur class and the amateur stake with terrific shows. Both mares are under the direction of the Bolton/Robinson team.
The junior exhibitors were stealing the show again in the three-gaited classes. Isabelle Gatti wrapped up a terrific season with Undulata’s Lady Noel, owned by Missy Bennett. She took the blue in the junior exhibitor championship and a good reserve in the qualifying class. Isabelle is trained by Jim Bennett. Johnny Jean Groce, trained by her mom, Amanda, has also been a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast this year. She guided her powerful gelding, It’s Z Prince, to a win in the qualifying class and a reserve in the championship.
Who has more fun in the ring than Bil Hartman? He finished a successful season with Into The Cosmos, for Helen Ragen, with three more blues in the amateur and open fine harness classes and the open stake, with trainer, Frank Miller directing the victory passes. Dick Martin guided Cameo’s Charlotte Corday to blues in the junior/limit class and the amateur stake for trainer Lance Bennett.
Lee Smotherman was busy showing three different horses this weekend. She expertly guided Cathryn Henderson’s Immortalized to wins in the open park class and open championship. Lori Legaz was back in the winner’s circle with her stunning gelding, The Woodsider. Both the large amateur class and the amateur stake belonged to them. Both entries are under the Bolton/Robinson banner.
Finishing up a successful season, Carly Browning was in from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to take Fox Grape’s Bombs Away to the championship win and a reserve in the open for Wallen West Farms. CH French Silk Stockings was a very fit 17-year-old taking the open with owner Debbie Tomin, proving that age and beauty can coexist. They did not show back. Bill Tomin is responsible for the meteoric rise to fame of this duo. Lee Smotherman was back in the arena, successfully guiding HS Queen Of The Castle to the junior/limit championship for Scott and Susie Jones. Another Bolton/Robinson success story. Mystery Of Nottingham topped the junior/limit class and was reserve in the stake with owner Austin Eversman.
She’s baaaack! Sarah Scott Hausheer is in her element on a gaited horse. Just turn them loose and get out of their way. More blues were taken by North Charleston and Sarah in the five-gaited open and championship. They had a late start this season, but made up for it in brilliance. Robb Wallen directs this pair. He already improved Charlie in the few months he’s had him.
One of the biggest stars of the show was a 17-hand black beauty that takes your breath away. His beautiful new owner, Madeleine McManus, got the surprise of her life last spring when her parents presented her with Undulata’s Satchmo as a graduation gift from college. The six-year-old was never shown until Theo Robinson showed him successfully last summer at Charity Fair. He was a sensation there. Madeleine won both park pleasure classes with him at Monterey last summer. Two more blues were added in the competitive adult three-gaited show pleasure open and championship classes at Jingle Bell. Liz Bolton and Theo Robinson put this fantastic team together and they have nothing but clear sailing ahead.
Another Bolton/Robinson product: It’s Just Jack and Emma Twombly for DeVault Farms are a joy to watch. They were standouts winning both the junior exhibitor three-gaited show pleasure class and championship. The star of the show pleasure driving classes on the West Coast is the team of Tristan and Bonnie Farris. Owned by Bonnie and her sister, Susan Fraser, this regal gelding took home more blues in the open and the championship with trainer Robb Wallen heading up the victory passes.
We have some extremely nice entries on the West Coast in the country pleasure division. Laura Ikuta guided Chilipopcorn to two blues in the five-gaited division for trainer Amanda Groce. Gen Hess offered a terrific performance to earn a blue in the adult championship and a good reserve in the open for trainer Jennifer Dixon. Harlem’s Midnight Lace wih Ashley Jeppesen, for Wallen West Farms, took the junior exhibitor stake and a reserve in the qualifying class. Dick Martin guided CH Ultrasuede to blues in the driving championship and open for trainer Lance Bennett.
There’s no stopping Kathie Dunn Jacobsen and CH Spurwing’s Superfine Lady. They have won a string of blues all over the West Coast. Kathie has been a mover and shaker promoting versatile Saddlebreds in the country. She’s proved her point, riding “Miss P.” herding cattle on her ranch in Colorado; in Western dressage competitions and riding side saddle both in parades and in regular Western barrel racing competitions. Then, the next week, going into a class A Saddlebred show and winning all the country western pleasure classes. This, often in open classes against trainers. Trainer Rachael Stokes keeps this beautiful mare in top order for whatever the week might bring. She’s never surprised what next week’s competition might be, but she’s sure it’ll be something wild and different. At Jingle Bell, they continued winning with blues in the open country western class and championship and qualifying with a win in the Shatner class (for the sixth year in a row)
Highlights of the Baroque division included the Friesian Thunder father/ daughter team of Steve Young and Kassandra Young Sapia. They very successfully train their own Friesians. One of the icons of the Friesian world, Jolmer Fan Tusken De Dobben was the saddle seat country pleasure champion. Tymo Fan de Stuken took the western pleasure blue and the opportunity western pleasure championship. The dressage hack open and championship belonged to Walt Van Esfane. All were showcased exquisitely by Kassandra.
Rachael Stokes’ Firedance Farm collected an assortment of blues with Rachael, up: Zorro Star took the walk/trot pleasure open and championship for Feibush & Servin. Two trophies went to Mariken Van Moerkerkenland, for Gary and Marilyn Lane, in the hunter pleasure open and championship.
It was wonderful to see the road pony classes well filled for the first time this year. We hope the trend will continue into 2015. The indefatigable pony of the century: CH DF Tres Chic did it again: He took the trophies home in the open class and the open championship, with his buddy Kendall Weber on the lines. Tara Weber, trainer. A newcomer to the division this fall, Passing Lane, is making waves with his precious little jockey, Kaitlyn Jackson. Blues belonged to them in the under saddle open and championship, under the direction of Robb Wallen. Bob Lovo guided Charlie Chapman to win the honors in the harness pony open and championship under Greg Carsten’s banner. Heartland Sugar And Spice was the Hackney pleasure driving champion with Brianna Puchta for Schoenheit/Ledda & Puchta and Regal’s Drummer Boy LF topped the open class with Mary Sue Northcutt for Kathleen Sullivan.