January 2020 - Celebrating CPHA Special Awards Winners
Written by Produced by Kim F Miller & Alicia Anthony
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 00:31
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cpha spotlight

Ten Californians honored for their accomplishments and contributions.

Produced by Kim F Miller & Alicia Anthony

For the sixth consecutive year, California Riding Magazine has enjoyed the privilege of producing these tributes to recipients of the California Professional Horsemen’s Associations special awards. Thanks to their family, friends and colleagues for sharing these personal perspectives that give all a window into why they received these honors.

The awards will be presented during the CPHA’s Annual Awards banquet, Friday Jan. 3 in San Diego, during the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association’s annual gathering. For more information, visit www.cpha.org. For president Jeni Brown’s year-end greeting, this issue.


BEST BET - Equine Lifetime

“You usually don’t put a 10-year-old kid and a 4-year-old horse together,” says Susie Hutchison. “They usually don’t mesh very well!” In the case of the future Grand Prix jumping star and Best Bet, however, “It worked very well.”

The former stock horse came Susie’s way through her trainer Jimmy Williams in 1964, when the 4-year-old was sent to him at Flintridge for training and eventual sale. The black Thoroughbred was started as a stock horse, but Williams saw other abilities and had the sense that Susie’s already emerging talents would make her a good fit.

Originally called Last Bet, his name was changed to Best Bet, or “BB” around the barn. In early 1965, he and Susie, then 11, headed out to the Date Festival show at Indio where they entered the First Year Green division, competing mostly against professionals. She also campaigned him in the Junior Hunter division, and their long string of successes was underway in both divisions.

Throughout 1966, they were a hard-to-beat partnership in the Junior Hunter and Open Working Hunter divisions on the West Coast. They debuted on the East Coast that same year, hitting the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International and the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, where they were reserve Junior Hunter champs and received a top call back in the First Year Green championships first round—Susie then just 12. She remembers the thrill of being in the line-up with Gene Cunningham and great hunters including Among The Stars and Up In Smoke. It was the first of many memories of competing against professionals, a few of whom tried to no avail to psych Susie out, she recalls. “He and I were just a great pair.”

Their successes continued from there. From 1966 to 1971, Best Bet was the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association’s Champion Working Hunter. He was also an awesome equitation and medal partner. The Barbara Worth, AHSA Far West Medal Final and the CPHA Medal Final were among their big wins in that realm—all by the time Susie was 14.

Best Bet was consistently good, she recalls—even through a phase when she wasn’t. “I had a teenage phase where I wasn’t behaving the best and there was a stretch there where I didn’t feel like I rode him very well. At 13, I didn’t think I could do anything right, so there was a year of me just trying to ride him properly. Once I got my act together, things got much better. It was never him that had the problems!”

While Best Bet had ample pizazz in the show ring, he was not a horse that wanted much attention in the barn. “I rode him around bareback a lot and he was never naughty or anything. I think he just liked to be left alone. He was never that typical kids’ horse that wants you to throw your arms around his neck and give him kisses.”

“I’ve been really lucky to have fabulous horses to ride, but as far as my own personal horse, he was the best I ever owned.”

BEVERLY JOVAIS - Horseman Of The Year
by Jill Hamilton

To know Bev is to love her. Since first moving Chestnut Hill to California from the East Coast nearly two decades ago, Bev has become a great addition to the West Coast horse industry as well as a loyal friend to myself and many others.


Over the 15 years that I’ve known Bev, I have watched her have tremendous success in our industry, guiding many of her students to earn top honors in prestigious classes and year-end championships. In that time, I’ve also seen her act as a mentor for many younger professionals, offering show opportunities and endless help on the ground.

Everyone who knows Bev has been touched by her kindness, generosity and humor. She is always ready to help bring up morale with a bright smile or an encouraging word.

Several years ago, my business partner Nancy and I were helping clients at two different rings when I had to abruptly leave due to a medical emergency with a client. Bev immediately came over to ask not “Do you need help?” but “What do you need me to do?” That’s so representative of the kind of person I know her to be.

Beyond being a wonderful friend, Bev truly is one of the most thorough and disciplined professionals that I have ever had the pleasure to know: she was recently rewarded for her expertise by earning her “R” judging card. This year, she spent many hours preparing for the biggest and most challenging judging job of her life -- the 2019 USEF Pony Finals in Kentucky. I’m often impressed with her commitment to always go above and beyond to cover every detail of her work, whether it’s about judging a prestigious competition, coaching a student, or figuring out the program for one of her newest imports.

In addition to Bev’s professional acumen, she has raised three amazing daughters who I have gotten to know to be kind and generous people. Their character is definitely a testament to Bev’s values and kindness, and I feel very lucky to know both them and their mom.

NICK HANESS - Special Achievement
by Ryan May

It was 2016 at Indoors when I first really started to notice and admire Nick Haness’ talent, accuracy and effectiveness on a horse. It happened while he was showing Technicolor in the First Year Greens. At that moment, I knew he was “one to watch” for sure.


After claiming his championship title at Pennsylvania National Horse Show, he walked up into the stands and sat next to my friends and me. That’s when I realized he was not only spectacular in the tack, he was just as exceptional and fun as a person. From that moment on we became long-distance friends because we lived on opposite coasts.

Fast forward to 2018, while finding each other on the same coast, we felt a spark between us that started the journey to where we are now. That was the moment I really learned how selfless, loving and genuine he is. Nick sees people working hard, who may not have the means, and is passionate about stepping in to help. He is the type of professional who sets the standards high in his riding, morals and personal life and I will always look up to him for that.

Not only does he have a huge heart for others and the horses in this sport, he also has a passion for rescuing animals, such as the alpacas, goats, parrots, pigs, sheep, donkeys, mini horses, cats and the infamous “Hunter” the dog. You will catch him hanging out with them on the farm when he’s not at shows, horse shopping or traveling the world.

A day at home in the barn with Nick can be like a box of Sour Patch Kids candy—which he loves: You never know which flavor you might get! You can get anything from fun lessons, trail rides through the desert, to wineries for lunch and even some last-minute fun adventures to places like amusement parks or the nail salon. These are all some things he loves to do.

Nick is a great role model and is a very valuable and well-rounded person in our sport. One of his niches is finding talented horses all around the globe and matching them with riders looking for their new partner. Some of my favorite memories from this year and accomplishments for Nick are finishing second in the USHJA Derby Championship, Champion in the Stal Hendrix Futurity, the Winters Run Sportsmanship Award, Champion in the Green Hunters 3’3 at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and the list goes on.

He is so deserving of this award and I am extremely proud of him and all the great things he has accomplished this year.

AVERY GLYNN - Special Achievement
by Hope Glynn

She has always had a natural feel.  It took no time to understand that the horse gene was in her blood and that she would be a horse-crazy kid. I’m lucky enough to say that I was the parent that got Avery started on a pony right in front of me with a bareback pad on.  


As a small child she craved the excitement of the independence she has on horseback and the thrill of victory. She is a fierce competitor.  It was her first show doing Walk/Trot when she got her first pink ribbon (because in leadline everyone got a blue) and in the following class she got a blue ribbon.  I looked at her and said, “How exciting, honey: you got a blue and a pink ribbon.” As a 5-year-old, she looked up and said, “Why does it feel so much better to get a blue ribbon than a pink one?”  I knew at 5 she would be an incredible competitor.

She has had the help of so many wonderful trainers and owners that have helped her get catch rides and provided coaching opportunities to further her riding in and out of Sonoma Valley Stables in Petaluma. Through these wonderful horses and wonderful coaches and mentors, Avery has won the THIS, Onondarka, PCHA, Horse and Hound, and Norcal Finals while riding as a 12-year-old.  This year she added winning both the CPHA Jr. and CPHA Foundation Finals, Reserve Champion Jr Hunter Finals West as well as a top 10 national finish in the USEF Jr. Finals.  

Avery is an amazing competitor because she really loves the sport and cares so deeply about the horses she gets to ride.  She is a high school freshman and would like to ride for a college team.  She hopes to continue to learn and succeed in the equitation and hunter ring and looks forward to branching into the jumper ring.  

Avery has had both the team at SVS and the great coaches at Elvenstar and James Hagman support her along the way.  She is a pleasure to parent and coach and she is a loving human and good sport.  I am excited for her to be recognized with a Special Achievement Award from CPHA, she is a great example of hard work and horsemanship among the up and coming juniors.

Congratulations Avery. I am so proud of you!

EMMA PACYNA - Junior Horsemanship
by Georgy Maskrey-Segesman

It was the winter of 2018 that Emma came into my life.  I had been looking for a junior to show some equitation horses for me and it was suggested that I speak with Emma and her mother Michelle.  It was at lunch on a Monday afternoon that I would meet a young lady that would be part of an unforgettable journey and one of the greatest privileges of my life thus far.  


At that time I was looking for a very specific person to come into the business as a working student.  I had some very specific goals for myself and my sales business and it had been hard to find the right fit.  I needed someone with a great work ethic, a person who loves the horses, someone with a good feel and that was teachable.  

Most of all I needed someone who was humble and hardworking and not easily discouraged.  I knew that the road ahead was not going to be an easy one to navigate and it was going to take some grit to be successful, both on the part of my team and on this poor unsuspecting junior rider.  As I spoke with Emma and her mother there was a glimmer of hope that this was it: I had found my junior rider.  

I think it was six months before she actually spoke more than a few words at time. However, she tried hard, showed up everyday and did whatever was necessary for the horses and the business.  Emma groomed her own horses both at the farm and at the shows.  She rode multiple horses a day, cleaned tack, bandaged, set courses with us and was always available and never complained even though some of the tasks were tedious and not very glamorous.  

In the beginning of our journey there were moments when we all wondered if things were going to work out.  We had to redirect when things were going wrong and there were many times when we had to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and try again.  Through all this Emma remained steadfast.  

When our first major win happened at the Maclay Regionals, it was not just that win we were celebrating, it was the journey.  Although the journey was not yet completed, we could celebrate the milestone and see a clear path ahead.  With each success Emma grew more confident but never arrogant or entitled.  She worked harder with each success and every failure spurred her on in a most determined manner.

We drove across the country with the horses so many times on this journey to equitation greatness, but amazingly it’s not the scores or the ribbons that I will most remember. It’s being a part of Emma’s life in this small window of time, taking on insurmountable odds, pressing ahead in moments of darkness and despair, all the while loving the horses and the journey.  

ABBY STELLAR - Sportsmanship
by Kay Altheuser

The first time I met Abby (Friedman) Stellar was at the Desert Circuit horse show in Thermal. She had just moved to Elvenstar from Northern California and had several horses there to show. I rode one of hers in a class and I remember just how friendly and excited she was to have me show her horse, although we had just met. She had no idea how I rode but was willing to trust me. She loves to watch her horses go in the ring without feeling the need to always be the rider: she wants to do what is best for each one.


Abby has such a bubbly personality and is so appreciative of anything we do for her and the horses. She is always a joy to see and her personality shines through in any situation. If she asks how you are, she is genuinely waiting for an answer, will listen and always shares a loving and caring attitude towards others. Her personality is infectious and I love being around her. While shopping for horses in Florida one year, we laughed and joked with each other every day. No matter how long the drive was or how tired we were, Abby was always upbeat and cheerful, looking forward to the next stop. Even if the horse wasn’t a suitable choice for her, she always found something nice to say about it.

Abby is one of the most generous people I know, always giving, helping and mentoring the younger up and coming riders. She is the one who will fix hairnets and bows, polish boots, help learn courses, take someone to the ring in the golf cart, and anything else needed.

She has often offered one of her horses at a show if a rider needs a mount. This generosity really showed in 2016 when she graciously offered her horse, Cantuccini, to a fellow barnmate to compete in the ASPCA Maclay National Final in Kentucky.

I have seen her be the first to congratulate a fellow competitor and to cheer others on from ringside and there is always a kind word or encouragement when another rider is having trouble.  She is a very gracious winner and, if not the winner, or when things are not going as planned, she is always thrilled for those who do well.

If one of her horses performs well but doesn’t win, she is always excited and proud of their performance knowing they do the best they can. She sees little improvements in her young horses as a huge success and never drills a horse unnecessarily.  Her compassion for her horse shows in her day-to-day routine and care for them and she loves each one, always putting their needs ahead of her own desires. If it isn’t in the best interest of the horse to show on a particular weekend, she will not go regardless of her own wants.

Abby is a very special and unique person and I am so grateful to know and be friends with her. I cannot think of a better choice for the CPHA Sportsmanship award.

MIKE NIELSEN - Lifetime Achievement
by Tracy Burroughs

Mike has an incredible resume in our sport. We know him as a hunter/jumper trainer, but his background includes extensive work with Arabians, Saddlebreds, western performance and stock horses and even bucking broncos!

I know Mike best as my partner in Windsong Farm for 25 years.  When I decided to step out on my own as a professional, Mike was the reason I came to the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, where my business is still based. To this day, I still don’t know why he chose to help get me in here, but I’m grateful for that and, more so, for his influence ever since.

When Mike decided he wanted to spend more time on his work as a USEF judge and a course designer, we began working together with him taking over a lot of the teaching. He’s a great coach. He is very patient, he never gets mad, he explains things very well and he can be very funny. He’s a favorite of a lot of our adult amateurs.

His knowledge as a judge and course designer is one of the reasons he’s a great teacher. He can offer that judge’s perspective and break a course down into what questions it’s asking and options for solving them.

Our rings are next to each other, and many days I look over and there’s no riding going on: he and the riders are just talking. He is great about explaining the theory behind riding and training exercises and setting the students up for success in executing them. Not everybody aspires to ride in the Olympics and Mike is great for those who are serious about their horsemanship and learning and also want to enjoy the sport.

Plus, he has some amazing stories! We all miss him when he’s off judging or course designing and we’re happy when he returns.

Mike’s knowledge of horses is awesome. He’s a great on-the-ground guy for me and our riders. The breadth and depth of his experience makes him a source for various training challenges and above all, it enables him to see issues before they cause a problem. He just has a sense for when a horse is going to do something. That’s a big help in keeping horses and riders safe, which is one of his biggest priorities.

As a mentor, Mike has taught me so much about the business. I remember him telling me early on that “you’ll see a lot of money coming in and a lot of money going out.” I thought, “No way, I’m going to make a lot of money.” Which we don’t, of course. Instead it’s all about the love of the horse and Mike exemplifies this. There is nothing that escapes him about the horses.

He’s also a role model in the importance of giving back to the sport. He’s a past president of the PCHA and CPHA, and co-founder of the Orange County Horse Shows Association and has served on many committees over the years.

Along with being a great horseman, Mike is a genuinely nice person. I’ll always be grateful to be one of the many people he’s lent his help and experience to and for our long-standing friendship. He very much deserves this Lifetime Achievement award.


Tenacious. Passionate. Analytic. Powerful words for a powerful woman. Beginning with a love for the horse as a young girl, DiAnn made horses, horse sports, and teaching about all things horse her life’s work.

As a rider she reached the Grand Prix level and represented the U.S. in international competitions. She displayed her grit and tenacity by tackling some of the most challenging competitions on the North American continent, and success followed due to her deliberate, analytic approach to working to understand everything about her sport and the horses she rode. She was carried forward by her unwavering passion and enthusiasm.

As a trainer she had one of the largest show barns in California and guided her riders and their horses to success in the hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions. Langtree riders regularly won at shows, medal finals, and year-end championships. DiAnn encouraged her riders and instilled in them strong horsemanship and riding skills. Many of DiAnn’s students have continued to ride and some followed in her shoes to become top riders and trainers themselves, including her daughter, Kirsten Coe.

Along the way DiAnn became a licensed official, both judging and course designing where she further honed her skills and found new outlets for her passion. She developed a life-long interest in breeding and understanding how bloodlines affect a horse’s likelihood to succeed in the sport. DiAnn understands the value and importance of nature: breeding, and nurture: training and care in a horse’s overall success and well-being.

However, it is her role as the United States Youth Jumping Chef d’Equipe that is the pinnacle of her life with horses and where she is shining the brightest. DiAnn is sharing a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and wisdom with the up-and-coming show jumping riders of our country. Undoubtedly some will don the U.S. Team coat and represent our country in the largest and most important championships our sport has to offer.

I have no doubt that DiAnn’s tenacity instilling teamwork, horsemanship, and personal responsibility in our young riders of today will contribute to their successes in the future. I have no doubt that DiAnn’s insistence that these young riders learn to think, analyze, and learn about all aspects of their sport will make them robust horsemen with many skills to draw from to help them along their own paths. Finally, I know that each and every time she works with her young riders, whether in Nations Cups competitions, USHJA Gold Star Clinics, or interacting with them one-on-one, her passion and dedication shine through and imbues these riders with purpose and desire.

An Indelible DiAnn Inspiration

When I was 7, my mother let me accompany her to the Grand National Horse Show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, then one of the most important and prestigious shows on the West Coast. From the moment we arrived, I was in awe. Everything was so big and grand, especially for a young girl from the mountains.

My mother sent me to watch the Saturday night performance from my seat high in the rafters. The Open Jumpers started the evening, and then my mother was showing in the Working Hunter Stake. I knew I was supposed to cheer for Barbara Worth, the trainer my mother was working for as she competed against the men in the Open Jumper Stake. Then another woman entered the ring. A diminutive woman on a big bay horse. She was tenacious as she tackled the huge course, and she was calculating in how she rode. I was mesmerized. She made the jump off and I was so excited.

Over the shorter course that demanded daring turns and bold gallops, the small woman rider ignited something in me. Everyone went fast, but in the end she went fastest. I cheered as loud as I could from seat high above the arena floor as DiAnn led the victory gallop, sure she could hear my personal support.

That night as my mother put her horse away, I snuck over to where DiAnn’s horse was stabled. I watched her wrapping up her barn chores and tried to drum up the courage to talk to her. She spotted me watching her and she waved at me. I waved back. And then I couldn’t stand it, “You were amazing tonight,” I blurted out. “Thanks,” she said shyly and went back to her chores. I went back to my mother with a new passion burning in me. I wanted to ride like the woman I watched that night.

I never forgot that night, and now I get to call DiAnn “friend.” -by Marnye Langer

KAITLYN LOVINGFOSS - Junior Achievement
by Jim Hagman

When Carolyn Culligan called me in the fall of 2016 saying, “Jim, I have a kid for you…” I knew exactly who she was talking about. I asked her what Kaitlyn’s parents were like. She said they were the nicest people she’d ever met. I’ve known Carolyn for over 30 years and have the highest respect and admiration for her because of her professionalism and the quality of her character. Carolyn is always correct to the horses, gracious and so articulate. I was honored that such an esteemed professional would share a talented young equestrian’s career with me, so I told her that I was pleased to speak to Kaitlyn and her parents.

Kaitlyn’s show ring accomplishments are many and well-known, but they are not her most distinguishing traits. Her spirit of gratitude and generous character are evident and reflected in everything she does both on and off a horse. We have been blessed to experience her joyful consistent nature for the three years that she has been part of the Elvenstar family.

It’s her character that stands out most to me and that I most admire and appreciate about Kaitlyn. At the barn, people don’t talk about what Kaitlyn won, they talk about how she conducts herself. She is bright and has a wonderful feel, and when things don’t go her way, she demonstrates the emotional maturity that will lead to success throughout her life. We all have bad days, but somehow Kaitlyn is never moody.  She always has a cheerful greeting for everybody and is happy to extend her help to others. This sense of community responsibility was evident when she continued to ride and help Carolyn throughout her high school years.

Kaitlyn’s medal finals, equitation and hunter accomplishments speak volumes about her talents. But I think her jumper accomplishments are an even better illustration of her gift. Until two years ago, Kaitlyn had only a little jumper background. She purchased a jumper in Europe to take to Florida. It was a talented horse and she gained valuable experience in Florida, but it clearly didn’t like the footing when we got it back to California. A lot of people would have shown the mare anyway, but Kaitlyn didn’t want to pursue it when the horse was uncomfortable.

After being very impressed with her riding, Irish international Grand Prix rider Darrah Kenny helped arrange the lease of another horse at the end of the Florida circuit in 2019. Kaitlyn brought Deejay back to California. As of this past summer, Kaitlyn started at the Oaks with no money won, then quickly had top finishes in three California Grand Prix events. Suddenly, she was qualified for the Zone 10 team at the Prix de States Championship in Harrisburg last fall.

She went from very little jumper experience to having just one rail in the speed phase and going clean the next three rounds at the national Junior Jumper Championship. There are very few athletes that can maintain their calm in that situation. And the horse jumped out of his skin for Kaitlyn, because he loves her. That’s been true of every horse Kaitlyn sits on - they try their heart out for her because she respects their heart and spirit.

Kaitlyn has been an ideal role model since she first came to Elvenstar. I know she will continue to be that at Texas A&M, where she’s in the midst of her freshman season on the Aggie’s NCEA team. Winning is wonderful, of course, but there is nothing better than being a quality athlete who is also a truly extraordinary person.

I’ll close with a recent anecdote from the Maclay Finals this past fall, Kaitlyn’s last junior medals finals. She had an excellent first round and was called back in the top 25 for the second round. She flatted beautifully and was in a good position to place well. In the final jumping round, there was one bending line where judges seemed to want five strides, and Kaitlyn did a nice six because that’s what made sense in the moment.  When she came out of the ring, I said, “Kaitlyn, that was a lovely round. I’m sorry that line didn’t work out.”

Her response was, “Jim, it’s fine. He (Munich) was amazing. He feels amazing and he’s ready for his next rider.” And, she meant it, even though it was the Maclay Finals and her final junior moment. She has that healthy, mature perspective and that is, after all, what we most want in our students.

I could not be prouder of Kaitlyn or more grateful to her parents for entrusting us with their greatest treasure, and to Carolyn Culligan for bringing her into the California horse world with such a great foundation.

by Olivia Brown

Emma started riding with me when she was 11 and still in elementary school. The person that referred her to me said she was talented and very dedicated and had big goals in the sport. After she fell off our lesson pony three times in the first month, I was left scratching my head. However, over time and with much practice her luck and rate of success has changed.

After her first rocky month on the lesson pony, Emma leased a horse and then bought her first equitation horse soon after. It didn’t take long for Emma to start having success, including winning champion in the Limit Equitation Division at her first “A” show. This led to many more Championships and wins throughout her junior career.

For every success and win in the ring, there have been many failures and I truly believe that how she has handled the tough times has defined her as a rider. Emma is quick to shake off a bad round and is ready to hear criticism and try to do whatever is needed to find a solution to a problem. Emma comes to the barn or show every day with a can-do attitude and I believe this is what has shaped and molded her as the rider and competitor she is today. No matter the result, whether she has won or lost, Emma is always willing to work harder and do whatever it takes to become better.

Emma has a quiet and determined way about her. Judging from her demeanor, you would have trouble determining if she has won or lost. She is incredibly supportive of her barn mates and friends and is always willing to help or give a word of encouragement. To me, this is what shines through more than her achievements.

Honestly, Emma feels like family to me and I am just so proud of her. Not only for her wins and successes and all the ribbons and trophies that come with it, but being selected for this award, as it recognizes all the hard work she has put in to the sport thus far. Emma has committed to ride at Georgia and I know she will be a valuable member of their team while she is in college. As for her future, I am sure I will be working alongside her as a professional, and I look forward to this time!

Congratulations Emma for receiving this award and best of luck in all your future equestrian endeavors.