Archive » September 13, 2012
By Pat Murphy, Contributing Writer
Doesn’t it seem like the Santa Ynez Valley offers a lot of fun to kids with horses? Healthy outdoor activities abound and 15-year-old MacKenzie Perez takes advantage of so many of them, that you wonder if she ever sleeps.
“Yes, besides loving to ride my horse in gymkhanas, I also play volleyball, water polo and swim,” she tells me. “I first started riding sitting in front of my mom on a horse, when I was only about a year and a half. We would go over to Ramon Becerra’s ranch and ride his horses, and when I got older I would exercise several horses every day for Ramon. I have always loved horses, and my mom, Kerry – and aunts Kelly and Bo – love them, too. They helped me with my riding a lot.”
But when MacKenzie was little, she had her own little white pony. Later she owned a quarter horse mare. “That mare loved to buck,” she says, “but I could stay on her and now she’s over it, but is still rather stubborn and thinks she knows everything. She was a reining horse before, but I am training her now to be a barrel racer because she is very fast.”
It was her cousin, Molly McGill, who got MacKenzie started in gymkhana, because she had been a star in that sport. When Molly and El Nino, a Thoroughbred X quarter horse, discovered barrel racing there was no stopping them. Finally, Molly won the state championship and was named California Gymkhana Queen.
Now, El Nino has put his saddle and bridle back on and he’s channeling barrels and poles with another pretty girl on his back. At every opportunity, they trotted right over to the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Center to compete in the gymkhanas. Over the years, the experience between the two partners grew to the point that they could successfully compete at other gymkhanas.
Finally, victories mounted up to the point that they were eligible for the California state finals! There they competed against 275 other horse and rider teams! And it was in 13 different classes, like pole bending, barrels, “birangles,” figure 8 flags, etc. The final outcome was that MacKenzie was named the Triple A 2012 California State High Point champion!
She says with a big smile, “I was awarded a beautiful saddle, $15 and two silver buckles. It was a great experience and all the practice paid off.” High achievement seems to run in the family. MacKenzie’s aunt Bo Derek, was not only a screen sensation, but in spite of great opposition, led the fight to ban the slaughter of American horses for food. It took great courage and was a tough fight, but one that most American’s know in their hearts was the right thing to do. Bo has also served the racing industry in monitoring their humane treatment policies.
“I’m so proud I can hardly stand it. MacKenzie worked so hard and the fact that she won on El Nino, a retired polo pony that her cousin Molly trained and won on some years ago, just makes it all that much more special,” said Bo.
Molly has graduated from college and is working for the Thoroughbred racing industry’s Breeders Cup in Los Angeles, after coming up with some groundbreaking ideas for them, she created their first app. Congratulations to the whole family; we are very proud of all of you.