September 2015 - Show Report: Giant Steps Charity
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 00:56

Sonoma Horse Park gets bigger, better, more elegant, more fun & more funds.

All photos complements of Alden Corrigan, Sonoma Horse Park.

The Giant Steps Charity Horse Show quickly established itself as a fixture for Northern Californians and out-of-towners and it seems to get bigger, better, more elegant and more fun every year. It took place July 29-Aug. 2 at the Sonoma Horse Park, with many contenders moving right along the next weekend to one of the granddaddies of the charity show circuit: Menlo.

Eight year old Grace Anne Doyle delivers another amazing performance singing the National Anthem. Bearing the flags are members of the Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center’s Wounded Warrior program.

A happy contestant in the Hermès Team Relay

Giant Steps highlights were many. The Charity Classic Gala, presented by party planner extraordinaire Colin Cowie on Sat., Aug. 1, showcased generous donors and bidders in a live and silent auction to raise money for the therapeutic riding program. Giant Steps riders and volunteers gave an impressive demonstration, especially rider and YouTube sensation Christopher Duffley, who knocked everybody out with his rendition of Lean On Me, backed by the Veona Children’s Choir.

Trick riders, the Daredevil Sweethearts, wowed the crowd in other ways, then Guy Thomas and Black Jack topped the field in the $10,000 Six Bar class as the night’s entertainment finale.

On Sunday, Chilean Matias Fernandez rode Alegria to victory in the $40,000 Shaklee Grand Prix. Mattias Ekeroth and The Governor, Kristin Hardin and the previous week’s Grand Prix winner, Firestone, also made it through to the jump-off, along with Nicole Bloom and Camerone and Guy Thomas and Peterbilt.

Earlier in the week, the show staged a variety of fun events, most of which doubled as fundraisers. Here are some highlights:

Battle of the Sexes

With 10 ‘men’ (one brave woman joined up with the men to even out the teams) and 10 women, the Wild Turkey Farm Battle of the Sexes was a thrill from the first horse. The course of action was set at 1.20m and each man was matched against a woman for a ‘race’ to the win. After each of the riders in the pair completed the course, the fastest time would head out to the stage in the center of the ring to cheer on their gender.

Men first, with Dakoda Mower and Acco Leth, went all out and set a challenging start for the females with a clean and fast time of 53.02. Too bad for Mower that he was paired with the young woman who ended up earning the fastest time in the class: Peyton Warren and Lysander 99 raced around the track in a speedy 51.32 and the women took the stage and eventually won, six rounds to four, over the guys.

Eden Valley Stables owner and Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center board member Tara Gallagher Couch

Jill Humphrey & Connection

Adorable and Chic in Hermès

Kudos to the kids who gave their all in the Hermès Team Relay. Once this tenacious group got together in pairs to raise money, they were on fire. All together they raised over $36,000 for Giant Steps in less than 72 hours, setting a record. A total of 21 teams, 42 junior and pony riders, participated.

Dressed up in Hermès orange, the relay course included a three-legged race, limbo, hula hoop, horse shoe toss, baseball bat spin and a jump. While carrying large Hermès gift boxes, each junior and pony rider raced through the course in pairs. The crowd cheered as the kids competed with big smiles.

Everyone was a winner, receiving a fun gift at the end. However, congratulations go to the three winning teams: Eve Jobs and her partner Anna, who finished in the fastest time. They raised the second highest amount of money, awarding them three valuable seconds off their race time for the win. Cayley Boyd and Dulcie Lou Morris raised the highest amount of money, $5,501. And the Best Effort Award went to Giant Step Riders and Team Relay participants

Amelia Metzler and Alexander Glickman. Each of these winning teams received Hermès bangles.

Hardin Gambles and Wins

Best Buddies

Always fun to watch, the $15,000 Eden Valley Stables Gambler’s Choice was also a thrill from the first horse. Donning bright yellow britches and ready for speed, Kristin Hardin gambled and won first, second, third and eighth in the class.

She was first to go on Nicole Teague’s Cornell de Muze, setting a score that she later beat on two other horses. Her second entry, the talented Bert (owned by Emily Cohodes) came a close second to his barn mate, Firestone. But last week’s $40,000 Equine Insurance Grand Prix winner, Firestone (Nicole Teague, owner) garnered the most points to come out on top. Having already set the pace and a high scoring track, Hardin had a feel for the course with Firestone.

Winners of the $40,000 Matias Fernandez and Alegria

Going last on Aran, Hardin was close to earning the top four, but had a rail at the joker fence.

In hunter, competition Jenny Karazissis continued her long winning streak. After a gorgeous Handy Round, Jenny led yet another Derby victory gallop, this time aboard Gail Haft’s Tip Top, in the $10,000 Equuleus Designs Open Hunter Derby 3’3”.

The Sonoma Horse Park series of hunter/jumper competitions, managed by Headlands Management, concludes this month with Strides and Tides, Sept. 9-13, and the Season Finale Sept. 16-20.

Report excerpted from press releases provided by the Sonoma Horse Park. For more information, visit


Winners of the $10,000 Equuleus Designs Open Hunter Derby Tip Top & Jenny Karazissis

NorCal Junior Medal winners Peyton Warren Camille Shelton and Cassidy Wilbourn

A member of the Daredevil Sweethearts Trick & Fancy Riding crew entertains the crowd at Sonoma Horse Park.

Morgan Dickerson & Balou Blom

Guy Thomas & Peterbilt