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January 28, 2015

Posted by on January 28, 2015

January 28th 2015


Dear Friends and Family of Cottonwood Creek Ranch,

         It’s supposed to hit 80 degrees here today!  Why am I pecking away at my computer you ask?  Well, I’m recovering from a food poisoning extravaganza that required I cancelled yesterday’s lessons!  Although I’m carefully and gingerly moving about the house, I am planning to give lessons as usual tonight!  It’s not all bad, it’s given me a chance to catch you guys up on all of the latest CCR happenings!



Yes, it’s true!  Emmy turned 6 years old on January 18th!  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long!  She had a great Birthday Party here at CCR with Mandy and her helpers giving rides to her guests!  If you wonder why Toys-R-Us is out of My Little Ponies, and Littlest Pet Shop toys, you now know why.  They are all here.  In my living room.  Sock drawer.  Fish tank.  Shampoo bottle…..



Well, only during their lesson.  Kim Oplotnik suggested we buy a weight vest to practice in!  I ordered one last week that weighs 40 pounds!  We’ll definitely be adding it to the program to build strength, proper position, and to insure no one is leaning to the side!


Sunday Funday is done and in the books and it might have been the best boot camp yet!  It was the perfect amount of time, had a huge turnout (17 joined us for lunch at Mr. Lu’s Chinese Restaurant) and everyone learned, laughed and got a great work out!  The bareback version of Capture the Flag might have been the highlight of the whole thing, with many a story coming out of that adventure!  Long live the Blue Team!!



It ain’t what YOU’RE thinkin’!  We’re talking the Big D in Dallas!  It looks like the Big D Horse Show (formerly all Saddlebreds) will be adding Morgans this year!   The show lands on the dates that Red River used to be held, May 1-3 down in Irving, TX.  With all of the trainers who are showing interest, I think it’s going to be a BIG one!!!



MEM Star Power, “Earl” is a big gelding by Liberation First Star (so he’s a half brother to, like, almost every horse in the barn!) has arrived from Massachutes to be tried out as another one of my Saddleseat Equitation horses!  Earl narrowly beat  Snowmageddan that is suffocating his home state, and I’m sure he’s glad he missed it!


RWJ  Massimo also just arrived from Peeper Ranch!  “Gaston” is a gigantic 4 yr old English Pleasure gelding that I am starting on Saddleseat Equitation patterns!  He’s smart as can be, and I’m excited to watch him progress!  After just a week, he’s already nailing his lead changes and circles!



Scott (Marsha’s son) from Marsha De Arriga will be here Saturday 14th at 1pm (right after lessons) to get everyone ready and fitted for show season! 



Just a reminder not to use the CCR mailing list unless permission has been received by the Big Kel-huna.  Me!   No spam, just my fam!



 I got a message from Stacy Hennessey that Morgan Medallion in Santa Barbara has changed their dates, for this year at least!   It will be held July 29-August 1 to help those kids who are usually in school during the fabulous show!  They are also offering Saddlebred classes, and are hoping we’ll think about coming back!! It’s flattering, but it backs right up to Summer Daze in Fort Worth.  Let me know if any of you are interested, but I bet we’ll stick a little bit closer to home.  Although the allure of the beach, palm trees AND horses is tough to resist……


Horse Show Dates 2015:

April 10-12……Centennial in OKC, OK

May 1-3………..Big D in Irving, TX

May 7-10……….UPHA Chapter V in Kansas City

June 10-13……Gold Cup in Columbus, OH

June 25-29….Tulsa Summer Classic in Tulsa, OK

*July 2-4…….Circle J in Denver, CO

August 6-9…..Summer Daze Regional in Fort Worth, TX

Sept 2-6…….Jubilee Regional in Springfield, IL

Oct 12-17……Nationals in OKC, OK

*Note: Not many interested in Circle J this year.  We might have to drop it.  Let me know if you want to go!




I have been hearing quite a bit of talk about possibly changing the qualification requirements for the Morgan Grand National to require a horse or rider to show at a minimum of 3 shows.   I went ahead and wrote up a letter that I forwarded to the committee about my thoughts on this idea.  No worries, it wouldn’t be for 2015 but it still concerned me!  Here’s a shortened version of what I forwarded on: 

“We show a lot, and last year I brought horses to 12 horse shows.  I have some people who can barely make it to 1 or 2 shows, and others who would show at every singe show if their horses could handle it!  I continue to bring more and more horses to every show I attend, and I am attending more horse shows.  We added several shows this year that we didn’t even attend in 2013 including SASHA (20 horses), Gold Cup (12 horses), Tulsa Summer Classic (12 horses) and Jubilee (12 Horses).   Our numbers at shows from 2013 and 2014  have increased at every show including:  Red River 20 to 22 horses, Summer Daze 15 to 23 horses, Nationals 39 to 41 horses, and Centennial 25 to 29 horses as well as all of our other shows.  Forcing people to attend these shows is not how I am steering my boat, but the direction my customers have wanted to go.  I have added stalls to my barn every year and finished the year with 41 horses at Nationals.  Although I am very much for the promotion and expansion of the breed and the growth of our shows, for several key reasons, I do no think this is the best way to do it.

The cornerstone of my concerns rests on my high school level of Economic education and reflects basic supply and demand.  If we can’t get enough horses to our horse shows, don’t make it harder to get to horse shows.

I worry about our sweet Junior Horses.  The Junior Horses aren’t usually even ready to hit the show arena until late summer.  I don’t think it’s fair to push these little guys, to take them to shows before they are ready, just to qualify them for Nationals.  These are our future amateur and kid horses and we need to ensure they have a proper start and foundation so they can enjoy a long, happy and healthy show career.

The Arabians tried this tactic many years ago, and it also didn’t work for them.  They switched their qualifying system back.  I don’t know the details, but Stan Morey can fill in the blanks and I think he’d be worth talking with before any decisions are made.

 I worry that we’ll be breaking the little guy’s bank.  Many people who show with me, do so on a shoe string budget.  They figure out where and when they can spare work days to show, how much overtime it will take to pay for it and try to go to the best shows possible to qualify for Nationals and keep them within budget.   Their kids, horses and themselves are often times crowned World Champions and they deserve to be at Nationals.  If you force them to show at 3 shows to qualify I worry they will just quit going to Nationals, or with no golden egg to look forward to they will quit trying to compete with the wealthier people all together.  Some of my people enjoy two horses, but alternate shows with them so they can afford it.   Forcing them to show at 3 shows with each horse will just cause them to sell one which isn’t going to help the shows, nationals or the breed at all.

Along with hurting the little guy, I worry this rule will squeeze out the more affluent people.  We need these people as well, but these types of people have other interests.  They travel and may even compete in other sports, are involved with large community functions, or their businesses keep them away for long periods of time.  They have limited open weekends that they can attend shows because they have so many other things going on in their lives.  Although I’d like to think they’d choose showing Morgans over a trip on a Yacht to Portugal, the Westminster Dog Show, or a golf tournament with the President, I am not so naïve to think that they might not  pick our wonderful little breed.

 I have gained a little bit of perspective on our special breed and the concerns of it’s future over the years. I enjoy aviation and scuba diving, and I have a habit of paying attention to those businesses as well.  In reality, our equine industry is not much different.  We are luxury industries.  They rely on bringing in new people and teaching them to enjoy our products like we do.  I’ve noticed a common theme, and these industries have been talking about the same things we are talking about.   I feel like this is less of a horse issue and more of a reflection of the economics of the United States.  The scuba diving companies are talking about there being less people learning to dive, and taking dive vacations.  The AOPA just published an article in their aviation magazine talking about the diminishing numbers of people applying for their Pilot’s Licenses.  Just like us, they were wondering why and how to fix it.  I have found that the Equine industry lags behind the regular economy.  When the market crashed, it took a bit before our horse industry also saw the decline.  As the economy has started to recover, I anticipate the same delay will occur as our breed rebounds.  It’s not just the equine industry.  All luxury hobbies and businesses have seen the same things we have. 

That being said, I do not think we should sit on our laurels and hope our ship comes in.  I do believe we need to row out and meet it! Our breed can recover faster, and grow to bigger and better proportions but I don’t think making it harder for people to get to Nationals is the way to do it.  I have built my business on the principles of baby steps and despite the lagging economy my business has grown consistently every year.  I have had to add more stalls, hire more people, have more horses and am giving more riding lessons to new people with every passing month.    Requiring my people to go to horse shows was not responsible for this upswing in my business. 

The way I have gathered so many new Morgan owners is through a no pressure approach that allows people to take baby steps into horse ownership.  Or not.  It’s entirely up to them.  I offer lessons, and as they enjoy it, THEY start asking questions about the show horses and show program.  I have horses to lease, and they can get their feet wet without the big scary financial investment of initially purchasing one.  They usually then realize that if they buy their own, we can hand pick a more competitive horse or one that is more custom fitted to their own idiosyncrasies.  We start horse shows the same way, no pressure, just start with one show and if they want to do more (they always do!) we go from there.  I feel like this trail of bread crumbs that they follow has worked incredibly well, and forcing people to attend 3 shows a year (plus Nationals) is exactly the opposite, it’s like trying to force them into it.   They are going to spit the bit and run backwards!  People show horses because they want to, and because they love it.

Although I am against this change, I hope this brings to light some additional ideas and concerns that can be addressed during the discussion of this matter. 

Thank you for your time, and all of your hard work in trying to better our shows and our breed!  I appreciate you and I know we all want the same thing!”


Andy Illes will be here to do photos Saturday August 15th!  And yes, Andy is a girl!   Laurie Revard was at the helm to set up this awesome opportunity!  She is a master at horse photos and takes many of the great photographs used in the Magazines as well as the coffee table book in the cantina catching those great expressions! She would be a killer photographer for your senior pictures!


But she will whip you into shape!  The very esteemed Cindy Mugnier will be here at Cottonwood Creek July 8-10th to do a clinic.  She’s a judge, trainer, clinician, has served as President of AMHA and was just named AMHA’s Woman of the Year!   Please RSVP with me if you are intereste!



February 26-28th…….AMHA Convention!


See everyone soon!
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