Checking out the competition and settling in were the order of the day at Haras dos Cavaleiros as horses and riders prepared for the start of the Third Annual Haras Cup in Magnolia, Texas. The Haras Cup is the premier Working Equitation competition in North America and, with about $100,000 in prizes at stake, the tension is high at the event.
“Everybody is excited and I think everybody is nervous,” said Rafael Chávez, the owner of Haras dos Cavaleiros along with his wife Carmina Zamorano. “They are training, but they are spying too. They are checking the list to see who is their competitor.”
Chávez said that even his daughter, Carmina Chávez, a veteran of the competition who will ride Misty in the Children’s division, is feeling the pressure of the event that begins Friday and runs through Sunday, Oct. 16.
The Haras Cup is a three-day competition in the equestrian discipline of Working Equitation. Riders compete at a variety of levels in three different phases: dressage, ease of handling and speed. The dressage portion begins Friday with the ease of handling phase, where horses and riders maneuver through a series of obstacles, slated for Saturday. On Sunday, the speed phase involves the same obstacles ridden at top speed.
“I think everybody feels the Haras Cup in different ways,” Chávez continued. “The owners, the trainers, the people in the office, everybody. And tomorrow it will be quiet and everything will be very professional because the prize list is good. Today, everyone is friends; tomorrow they are looking for the money. This event has the most prize money in the world for the number of competitors. That’s the reason why everyone is so nervous.”
Doreen Atkinson of West, Texas, will ride her 13-year-old Lusitano/Quarter Horse gelding Obadi del Dios at the International level for the first time. In 2015, she and Obadi were the Haras Cup Advanced level champions and they have risen up the levels in Working Equitation at Haras Cup and Pin Oak Horse Show competitions.
“I’m going to ride him and listen to my music a little bit because I’m doing the International level [dressage portion] to music so I have to get my timing,” she said. “We are both trying to relax our minds and stretch. That’s what today is because, if we don’t know it by now, we’re not going to make miracles happen.”
Daniel Garcia of Ft. Worth, Texas, brought two horses to the Haras Cup, a 9-year-old Azteca (half Lusitano/half Quarter Horse) gelding named Temprano.
“We’ve been here a couple of times and he’s nice and steady,” Garcia said. “He’s pretty much a pro when it comes to show season. He knows his stuff and he focuses on his work.”
Garcia’s other horse, a 4-year-old Quarter Horse stallion named Bullet Proof, has his mind on other matters—mostly the mares—but Garcia thinks the horse has a shot at some prize money.
“I’m bringing him out when everybody is out in the arena to see the world and let him see the obstacles because they are different wherever you go at a Working Equitation competition,” he said.
Steve Kutie from Bowie, Texas, brought a client’s American Paint Horse mare, a 9-year-old named Smart Lil Smokin Gun, also known as “Pistol.”
“That mare is the No. 1 point-earning horse in APHA [American Paint Horse Association] history,” Kutie said of the horse who has earned world titles in cutting, reining, cow horse, trail and ranch pleasure. He added that she’s been trail ridden extensively and will be competing at the Paint Horse World Show in November.
“If you just get close to the gate, she’ll side-pass,” he said. “If she had thumbs, she’d open the gate and close it on her own!”
Lisa Harding, of Tomball, Texas, will ride three horses in the competition, Carbon, a 12-year-old Quarter Horse gelding at the International level, Sandhaven Chanel, a 4-year-old Australian Stock Horse mare at the Novice level, and Sandhaven Shameless, a 5-year-old Australian Stock Horse gelding at the Intermediate level.
“I’m riding and letting him settle in and have a good attitude and be comfortable,” she said of Carbon who will take the centerline in the dressage portion of the competition Friday for the first time at the International level and the third time at the Haras Cup. “It’s about having a good time and enjoying it and not letting the stress bombard me and to just have fun.”
She said Sandhaven Chanel is very green but Harding’s goal is to make the experience positive for the young mare. Sandhaven Shameless is a second-year veteran of the Haras Cup.
“He is a horse who is scared of everything and so this is a confidence thing for him as well,” she said. “We’ll just go out, relax, have a good time and not put too much pressure on him.”
Kellee Campbell, DVM, is the owner of Sandhaven Performance Horses in Austin, Texas. She is a small animal veterinarian and the breeder of the Australian Stock Horses Harding will ride. She believes that Working Equitation is a great way to showcase her breed, one she calls, “the breed for every need.”
“I want people to see that this is a sport that welcomes all breeds,” she said. “The sport of Working Equitation accommodates all levels and talents. If you want to put in the work, you can find a place where you will be comfortable competing here. It is tremendously rewarding and it promotes such a strong partnership between horse and rider! I’m in it for the long game. As a breeder, I love it when my horses do great, but I’m building for a future.”
Campbell is not only a fan of Working Equitation but of the Haras Cup experience. In fact, Sandhaven Performance Horses is sponsoring the live streaming of the Haras Cup from Andalusian World.
“This particular venue is like none other I have had exposure to,” she said. “What they have done in terms of arenas, substructure and stabling, social entertainment and the way they have reached out to international riders to encourage participation from outside the United States, is, in my opinion, the most effort to promote a show venue of anyone in the United States.”