Local Martinez equestrian group wins top honors at state championship

Horse and Rider Connection, a local Martinez company based out of Franklin Canyon Stables, recently took 15 riders, most of whom were under 14, to the California State Horsemen’s Association (“CSHA”) Gymkhana State Championship Show in Watsonville, CA. After 4 days of competition, October 8-12, nearly every Horse and Rider Connection competitor came away with a top-10 finish in their respective divisions, each winning a beautiful belt buckle. Two of the riders even took home the top honor of their Division, becoming Division State Champions, and winning a stunning western barrel racing saddle and a coveted belt buckle. A fantastic showing for this local group of homegrown equestrians.

Gymkhana is the action packed, precision sport of the equestrian world. The sport includes multiple events performed to display the training and talents of a horse and rider combination. Combinations are timed on pattern events. The most commonly known events are Cloverleaf Barrels and Pole Bending. All of the events challenge the horse and rider’s ability to work together, and demonstrate a range of skills such as speed, flying lead changes, jumping and quick turns. A good Gymkhana horse must have the speed of a racehorse, the turning quickness and agility of a cutting horse and the control and responsiveness of a stock horse. (source: CSHA website https://californiastatehorsemen.org/programs/gymkhana-2/ ) The riders compete as a horse and rider combination, and compete in seven divisions, based on the average speed of the competitors.

In Division 7, Madigan Sprecher (15) on Max became Division 7 State Champion, finishing in 1st place and winning a belt buckle and a beautiful saddle. Katrina Hamilton (17) on True, finished in 5th place, winning a gorgeous belt buckle.

In Division 6, Adelina Purewal (10) on Gizmo became Division 6 State Champion, finishing in 1st place and also winning a belt buckle and a western barrel racing saddle. Gracie Ortman (14) on Ruby finished in 2nd place, Danielle Mullin (11) on Cloud finished in 3rd place, Sarah Michaels (14) on Thor finished 4th and Sofia Fitzgerald (11) on Love finished in 9th place, bringing home 4 more coveted belt buckles. Itzel Tujillo (11) on Gambler finished in 11th place.

In Division 5, Kamryn Winters (11) on Breyer finished in 8th place, Eva Morrill (15) on JJ finished in 10th place, both bringing home belt buckles. Grace McKinley (11) finished 15th, after competing hard and moving up from Division 6 to Division 5.

In Division 4, Jasmine Smith (14) on Lexi finished in 3rd place, Virginia Guthrie on Summer finished 8th and Hannah Wright (21) on Jewel finished in 10th place, adding 3 more belt buckles to the Horse and Rider honors. In Division 3, Addison Heitmann (14) on Rascal finished in 11th place.

Horse and Rider Connection riders train throughout the year in classes and local competitions, getting ready for the CSHA State Championship Show. Horse and Rider Connection also operates a non-profit organization called “Thrive with Horses” that benefits local foster children, allowing them the opportunity to connect with horses and ponies, and offers horsemanship and riding classes for all ages and abilities throughout the year. Tri-Cities Horsemen’s Association (TCHA) and CSHA Region 5 host the local gymkhana competitions, many of which are held at the Tri-Cities Waterfront Arena at Radke-Waterfront Park in Martinez, CA. These events are free to the public, with a snack shack available benefiting TCHA.

If you would like additional information about the local gymkhana competitions, visit the TCHA website at https://www.tri-citieshorsemen.org/. For more information about Horse and Rider Connection classes or the “Thrive with Horses” organization, you can visit www.horseandriderconnection.com/.

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