June 2017 - The Gallop: Horsemanship Is The Greatest Hand-Me-Down

Three generations bonded by the horse bug.

by Kim F. Miller

Kristen Blomstrom’s starring role on the Stanford Equestrian Team brings a three-generation equestrian legacy back to the West Coast. The sophomore didn’t win the biggest ribbon at the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association national championships last month, but her grit, grace and good sportsmanship carried forward a tradition established by her grandmother, Lowrey Jones, and handed down to her mom, Brooke (Jones) Blomstrom.

Kristen & Zeros. Photo: Flashpoint Photography

Kristen: still a winner after getting kicked right before her class at May’s IHSA Nationals.

For many years, Lowrey ran Farfetched Farm in the East Bay Area’s Diablo and all three of Lowrey and Steve Jones’ daughters rode. Brooke is the youngest and was the biggest winner on the hunter/jumper circuit. Kristen came to Stanford with a riding resume highlighted by contesting her first Grand Prix at 16. Stanford’s Rookie of the Year as a freshman, she finished top 10 in Open Equitation at the Kentucky IHSA Championships. She did it just minutes after being kicked in the lower leg by another competitor’s horse and she did it with a smile on her face.

That’s how these Jones and Blomstrom ladies roll.

Theirs is a story of a commitment to horsemanship even as the pace, price and intensity of the sport accelerated. Spanning nearly 80 years, it’s a story of mothers and daughters and the horses that anchor their bonds to each other.   

Lowrey

The Joneses bought property at the foothills of the East Bay Area’s Mt. Diablo in 1966 and built their home, plus a four-horse stable and arena. “I just wanted our girls to have the same wonderful experience I did,” Lowrey explains.

She credits her introduction to horses to the Great Depression. Born during its lowest point in 1932, Lowrey recalls her family moving from a home in the country to an apartment in the suburbs. “I think my mom felt sorry for me in this apartment and that’s why she took me out to a good friend of hers in the country.” That was Elise Boyce, who had fancy show ponies at her Bacon Hall Farm in the rolling hills hunt country outside of Baltimore. “She really took me under her wing and gave me ponies to ride.”

Brooke & Kristen. Photo: Osteen

Lowrey showed those ponies regularly and also wrangled one of her own. “I wanted a pony so badly, but my dad wasn’t going to pay for it.” She asked “everybody I knew” for birthday and Christmas money towards a pony. When she’d saved $75, she found a 3-year-old for that amount and bought it, gratefully accepting her dad’s willingness to pay the $10 monthly board. “When it went up to $12, he had a fit!” she laughs fondly.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in 1941, “My dad joined the Air Corps the very next day and that changed our lives a great deal.” The rest of the family moved to California to stay with Lowrey’s grandparents.

The heartbreaker of having to sell her first pony, Secret, was tempered by doubling her money with a $150 sale. That was quickly spent on another pony when she settled out West.

The Farfetched Farm family.

At the war’s end, the family returned to Maryland. Attending Oldfields boarding school in Glencoe, MD, Lowrey happily reconnected with Elise Boyce. The mentorship resumed, with Elise sending nice horses to the school for Lowrey to ride. That was in addition to riding the lesson horses, competing against other East Coast schools and chasing hounds with the Elkridge Hunt.

Lowrey’s reverence for “Mrs. Boyce” is reflected in the fact that she could never call her “Elise,” even when her mentor was 98 and had been inviting Lowrey to do so for many years. “I just couldn’t do it!” Lowrey laughs now as the tables have turned. To Lowrey’s now fully-grown students, most with their own kids, she will always be “Mrs. Jones.”

Lowrey returned to California to attend Cal Berkeley and kept up with casual riding at nearby Mills College. After marrying U.S. Navy man Steve Jones, the next few years entailed too many moves to accommodate horses. When their oldest daughter, Kim, was about 8, Lowrey and two friends founded the Contra Costa Pony Club, at Buckeye Ranch in Lafayette.

Next came the move to Diablo, and the Farfetched Farm endeavor that grew to be an extended family of students and their parents. The barn’s capacity quadrupled to 16, accommodating the Jones’ family trail horses and, gradually, the horses of almost all of Lowrey’s students.

Lowrey always admired JoAnn Postel and Nancy Turrill’s approach at the Foxfield Riding School and Farfetched Farm shared its emphasis on producing the complete equestrian. “You learned everything,” Lowrey says. ”At the beginning, they hardly rode at all.” Kids cleaned the stalls, tack and horses, did their own braiding and clipping and they shared horses. “That’s how they all learned to ride different horses,” Lowrey says. Weekly written tests measured their growing knowledge.

Fun and games were also a big part of the routine. “It’s like every day was camp,” recalls Brooke, who often helped her mom teach. Field trips to Pebble Beach, the racetrack and the Los Altos Hunt were part of the program, as was trail riding on Mt. Diablo.

Farfetched Farmers at the beach. That’s Mandy Porter on the right.

Brooke & Steve Jones.

The gift of three horses from family friends, the Krusis, was a big boost to Farfetched Farm’s success. Sir William carried Brooke and other students to significant success on the top show circuit, and Maxi Taxi and Bachelor Joe also did double duty as lesson and show stars.

An annual Christmas party at the Jones’s home was highlighted by Lowrey’s review of each student’s year. “Her comments focused on character and personality traits, such as helpfulness and thoughtfulness, as well as on development of skills, riding performance, progress made and things to be worked upon in the future,” recalls Farfetched parent Margaret Freeman. “Each rider was assessed as an individual, noting with keen perception their strengths as well as those areas that could and should be improved upon. Watching the faces and reactions of the young riders as they listened to Lowrey’s carefully prepared comments often brought tears to my eyes.”

Brooke’s contemporaries growing up at the idyllic hillside stable included a handful who made a career with horses. Grand Prix show jumper Mandy Porter is the most famous on the list of Farfetched Farm graduates that includes Sacramento-area trainer Heather Whitney and Kieran Maddox in Indiana. More continue to ride as amateurs and all have fond memories of those lucky days.

“I am often reminded of just how extremely fortunate we all were to grow up with and be a part of Farfetched Farm,” Mandy reflects. “We were blessed to have such great experiences thanks to wonderful people as well as horses. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What lucky kids we were.”

Brooke & Lowrey.

Throughout her career, Lowrey also advocated for equine welfare and fair sport. She was a NorCal Hunter/Jumper Assn. board member, part of the California Department of Agriculture’s Horse Drugging Advisory Committee and lent her time to similar efforts through the American Horse Shows Association and other organizations.

Brooke

Following in the footsteps of her big sisters Kim and Lisa, Brooke recalls a youth obsessed with horses. Kim won a lot throughout her junior years and was a protégé of Hap Hansen’s while attending UC San Diego. Lisa gravitated to western riding and competing and still rides today.

Brooke & Anchorman at Del Mar in 1977.

“I took it very seriously from a young age,” Brooke says. “If I wasn’t on a horse, I was being a horse,” she laughs, recalling seriously-judged stick horse competitions staged in the arena or in the house in bad weather.

Back then, the 1970s, the Northern California show scene was not the multi-options-every-weekend circuit it is today. She began competing at a higher level by spending weekends with Marcia “Mousie” Williams in Los Angeles. She stayed with Mousie’s assistant McKee Thompson and her parents paid round trip airfare on PSA of $22, Lowrey recalls. The arrangement continued through her junior career, during which she often rode as many as 10 horses a day for the Show Jumping Hall of Fame trainer.

Just as Lowrey had Elise Boyce and the Kruisis support her efforts, Brooke had the abilities and attitude that attracted her own benefactors: Monty and Joanne Fisher, the latter an amateur rider with Mousie. Brooke campaigned several of the Fishers’ horses in the Junior Hunter division. She was taken fox hunting with Monty at Coto De Caza, then a venue for a premium horse show and fox hunting, as well as a hunting lodge. Brooke remembers it as “like Africa” for its remoteness.

At 13, Brooke found Anchorman, the hunter and equitation mount she rode to many tri-colors. She was a three-time PCHA “A” Champion and winner of the NorCal and Barbara Worth finals, plus Reserve Champion in the CPHA Finals. She also had many successes in the jumper ring on other horses.

Monty Fisher’s influence included his enthusiasm for USC. Brooke went to college there and, with Monty’s help, started its first equestrian team. “A lot of my riding friends went to USC and UCLA,” she explains. UCLA friends started a team, too, and things culminated with a collegiate face-off during the Forum Horse Show in Los Angeles. USC’s squad included Anne Amundson (Hoover), Kelli Clevenger and the late John Bauman. The Trojans won, Brooke was the overall champ and much fun was had by all thanks to “the Forum” environment adding plenty of pomp and circumstance to the famous school rivalry.

That USC team disbanded, but an IHSA team was established later and this year finished tied for 10th at the IHSA Nationals.

After college, Brooke went 12 years without riding. She returned to it on a 5-year-old Off the Track Thoroughbred gifted to her by a relative, C.N. Ray. Along the way, Brooke and her husband Bob Blomstrom settled into the now fully-developed equestrian community of Coto de Caza. She spotted a 4-year-old, High Profile, at a nearby farm, and developed him into a winning amateur partner at Indio and San Juan Capistrano. Since then, she’s been an on-and-off rider as it takes a back seat to her priorities as a mother of two and an accomplished career woman.

In her most recent show, the Pin Oak Charity in 2014, Brooke was Champion Adult Amateur on Dallas-area trainer Courtney Calcagnini’s Partly Cloudy.

Kristen

Coto de Caza was also critical in Kristen’s horsey addiction. That’s where she first rode a pony and “she was hooked,” Brooke remembers. There were also dance and Tai Kwon Do lessons, but “her favorite thing was always horses. She did her first show, a leadline class, at Indio, and she absolutely loved it.”

The Blomstroms moved to Iowa for work, then to Texas, where they were “very fortunate” to find Courtney Calcagnini and Scott Lenkart as their trainers. “Courtney did a great job with Kristen,” Brooke says. She and Lowrey note how different today’s sport is in terms of how much kids are allowed to do. Maybe it’s time demands or liability concerns, but the lessons learned from endless, unstructured days at the barn are harder to come by.

With the guidance of Courtney and her mom and grandmother, however, Kristen grew into a successful and self-sufficient horsewoman. Along with being the Stanford team’s Events & Outreach chair, she’s a go-to girl when it comes to various horse care tasks.

Lowrey in 1941.

Growing up on the show circuit, comparisons to her super successful mom were a constant for Kristen and her tall stature gave her a lovely equitation look. But, “I found out pretty early on that the equitation ring wasn’t my calling,” Kristen reflects. “Even though it left my mother and grandmother a little heartbroken.”

At 12, Kristen rode Starry Night to the World Champion Hunter Rider Championship Childrens Hunter title, but shortly thereafter caught the jumper bug.

On a young import named Zeros, Kristen went from Childrens Jumpers to Grand Prix by the age of 16. From her Dallas area base, she was champion at shows in Colorado, Atlanta and Kentucky. In 2014, she represented Zone 7 at the NAJYRC Championships and was a fourth-place finisher on the Zone 7 USEF Prix de States team.

Although collegiate competition is judged on equitation and Kristen had done very little of that as a junior, a strong equestrian team was a plus for the elite academic schools to which she applied and Stanford topped her list from an early age. The influence of her equestrian upbringing was the subject of her college essays. Taking ACT and SAT tests at shows, then competing in the afternoons, is one example of the high-wire juggling act Kristen pulled off as an accomplished student and athlete. “I would not be the person I am today without horses,” she says. “I completely credit the work ethic and self-discipline I have developed to growing up in the horse world. I’m extremely proud of all my accomplishments, but the lessons I learned along the way far outweigh the awards I received.”

Stanford has some famous recent alumni: 2016 Olympic show jumper Lucy Davis and many time Grand Prix winner Nayel Nassar among them. Kristen admires both greatly but doesn’t plan to follow in their footsteps. “The Stanford Equestrian Team affords me the incredible opportunity to keep riding and competing while also being a well-rounded student,” she notes. “At this point in my life, I am definitely more focused on my Political Science degree and attending law school after I graduate, but the horse chapter of my life will never be finished. Much like my mother, I hope to have a successful career and maybe come in and out of equestrian retirement every once in a while as I get older. If my mother and grandmother are any indication, the horse bug never really leaves you.”

 


The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 949-644-2165.