Archive » March 6, 2008
By Pat Murphy, Contributing Writer
“Wake up everybody!”
So said valley resident, Greg Simon, who is a noted western horseman and is active in equestrian activities on a national level.
“Wake up everybody!” So said valley resident, Greg Simon, who is a noted western horseman and is active in equestrian activities on a national level.
Wake Up! Valley Horse World!
“The Santa Ynez Valley is absolutely famous for its horses and champion riders! And this means famous all over the United States, as well as in many foreign countries!” Simon said.
“We have multiple U.S. and world champions in many of our horse breeds. Now, we’re seeing interest in the western riding events expand in the eastern parts of America, and Europe is becoming crazy over reining, roping, and working cow horse. The valley is just blooming; even our Valley Pony club is one of largest in America,” he said.
Simon ’s western riding conquests are multiple, and he just received a certificate that states that his horse, Sparkling Jackie, is the 2007 American Horse Association High Point Junior Horse in dallying, roping and team roping! His years of competition in the American Quarter Horse Association’s world circuit led, several years ago, to an invitation for him to serve on the Board of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Then came an invitation for Simon to be a Western representative for events at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“First, they sent me an invitation to attend the Rolex,” Simon said.
“This is a four-star three-day event comprised of dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. There are only three four-star events in the entire world, and the only one in the western hemisphere is the Rolex at the Kentucky Horse Park.”
At this point, a big shaggy dog bounded into the room, apparently intent on adding his two cents to the interview. But hot on his heels is Sandy, Simon’s wife. She hauled the dog off my lap and said, “When Greg said he wondered why he was receiving this invitation to attend the world famous Rolex competitions, I said, ‘I don’t care what they want. We’re going!’”
“It was there that they laid out a proposal for me to join an International Council,” continued Simon.
“On this council I would represent the Kentucky Horse Park in planning and calendaring many prestigious events.
They had also just received the exciting news that they had been selected to host the World Equestrian Games in 2010! And this will be its premier appearance in the western hemisphere. This is an extremely significant honor for the Kentucky Horse Park.”
The International Council is a group of eight people. There is one from Ireland and another from England, and there are four from the east coast.
Then they jumped across America to the Santa Ynez Valley in the western United States, and selected two more. Greg Simon will be representing western horse breeds and Christy Metz will represent the Arabian breed. What an honor we have received!
The World Equestrian Games take place every four years and are similar to the Olympics. They include competitions in eight disciplines, and most recently reining was added to them.
“In Aachen, Germany, in 2006 when they had reining,” Simon continued, “the Europeans fell head over heels in love with reining, so it was a huge success. There will be between 600,000 and 800,000 people there in the ten-day period, in September and October 2010, in Lexington.
“The majority of the people will be from outside the U.S. — Europe and beyond — because of the very strong interest. The Lexington airport, because of the Keenland racetrack and sales facility, has very well-developed air transport facilities for international flights, with special equestrian ramps. Flying horses is as common as flying humans there,” he said
The Kentucky Horse Park consists of 1,200 acres and will be able to accommodate all the participating horses. They have six polo fields, a new equidome, jumping stadiums, a six-mile cross-country course, and fifty different breeds of horses are permanently there on exhibit.
They also have a practice racetrack for their full-time jockey school and a cemetery where some of the most famous horses in the world are buried. There is a fine museum, and the entire grounds are kept in pristine condition. Their latest improvement is a four-star hotel on the grounds that will be ready for the World Equestrian Games.
Simon is very involved at the Horse Park as the International Council will be charged with encouraging the different breed organizations to hold their events there.
They have the perfect facilities for everything from Thoroughbreds to polo, and now they are expanding into the Western horse events.
Greg tells this story: “One night after the polo, cross country and jumping people had come back from the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, … we were at dinner and they asked me if I had ever seen reining.
I, of course, said, ‘Yes, I have.’ They went on to say that they simply could not believe how incredible reining is! Now these are the biggest equestrians on the east coast that were going on and on about reining.
“Then, I said, ‘If you found that so interesting, what is your opinion of the working cow horse?’ Well, they were silent for a minute and then asked what it was. So I described the three components of working cow horse, which are the herd work( which is cutting to some degree), the flat pattern work (which looks a lot like reining) and the fence work.
But when I started describing the ‘down the fence work’ the entire table stopped eating and told me I was crazy because no horse could do that. They absolutely thought I was putting them on!”
It just happened that the chief executive officer for the world games, Rob Hinkle, was sitting right next to Simon and he asked if Simon could get him some information on working cow horse events because they would like to have a demonstration of it during the W.E.G., which they felt would wow the European visitors.
Now, it happens that Simon has had several world champion working cow horses, so he is well informed.
He agreed to help. This would be the exposure of the Western breeds of America to the largest group of equestrian enthusiasts in the world, which could greatly energize the sport and its surrounding industry.
“Over the twenty years that I have been competing and going to Texas, which is the center of cow horse competitions,” said Simon, “the more I heard ‘Santa Ynez — Santa Ynez — Santa Ynez!’ Even though we are a small valley, we are a very definitive centric in the horse world in competition. I am so damn proud of what we have! We have fifty breeds here! And there are champions in so many of these breeds.
“And what is equally wonderful is that we appreciate each other’s breeds and accomplishments. You go to Texas and it’s strictly Quarter Horses. You go Kentucky, it’s all about running Thoroughbreds. You go to Florida and its all about polo, he said.
“Here we have this incredible community of all these breeds and disciplines intermingled, and we go out and whup the world, and we come back here and it’s no big deal.
“Everyone expects someone to have a world champion sometime, in this Valley. It’s great. You come back here and you’re just part of a great family of equestrians!”