Sponsor Stories

Ponies, private jets, Lamborghinis & little girls (Oh, my!)
When the dust settles in this little desert town, are you in Emerald City? Why yes, Dorothy. Surrounded by glittering ponies, grand prix mounts, both of which change colors and collect colorful ribbons, fancy planes and automobiles and all sorts of horse crazy munchkins (large and small), you certainly aren’t in Kansas.

During Week VI of the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit, HITS partnered with its sponsors to raise the bar, enhance the current winter circuit competitor’s experience, and continue to entice participants to follow the yellow brick road to this small, sunny, albeit salty town of Thermal.

Lamborghinis at HITS Thermal from Lamborghini Newport Beach
Photo by Cheval Photos

Looking Through the Crystal Ball
Whether you are an equestrian, golfer, rider, shopper or dining connoisseur there’s definitely an abundance of world-class course designs, boutiques with sparkly ruby slippers, and restaurants within 30 minutes of the HITS Desert Horse Park. Not to mention the European feel of the facility’s indoor arena and the outdoor Oasis Club, with catered VIP. It’s a place where sponsors can enjoy some desert time plus network and be a part of the equestrian community.

Donny Gath with his family at HITS
Photo by Cheval Photos

This yellow brick road is perfectly paved for car-crazy dads and their horse crazy daughters to come together and relish in the luxury of fast cars, private planes and fancy ponies.

One such dad is Donny Gath, owner of Lamborghini Newport Beach. Sponsors of the biggest money class in California, the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, Gath entered this arena because of his 9-year-old, horse-crazy daughter Kendall. Even on school days, this aspiring rider is up at 6am to ride before heading to class by 8:45am. In her second year of competing, Kendall rode in the medium pony division aboard her two ponies at HITS Thermal. Her commitment is paying off – she won a class with 37 entries and earned a Championship. So is her trainer the wicked witch? No, notes the little equestrian, Tracy Baer of Windsong Farm is “really good,” says Kendall. “She pushes me and makes me better.” No witches on the circuit, only fairy godmothers. Right?

The Vision is Clear
For many of the horse show competitors, from young Kendall to world class rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, HITS Thermal is not only a horse show but a family affair. It is a home away from home where they can while away the hours enjoying what the desert has to offer. With four little girls, and only one who rides, Thermal is a weekend escape for the Gath family. However, the branding and networking opportunities are clear to business owners like Gath and Lamborghini. For the Beerbaums, Thermal means business, a place to build their string and teach their clients plus have a semblance of family life. For both families, this Emerald City called HITS Thermal is a triple crown – competition, family and business all in one.

Enjoying the outdoors, with gorgeous sports cars adorning the grand prix arena, having lunch with friends while watching top sport horses on a sunny afternoon… There’s no place like HITS.



Highlights From 2011 HITS Desert Circuit

By Selena Frederick and Jackie McFarland

In what seemed a newfound rhythm for the HITS Desert Circuit, the winter circuit sailed relatively smoothly for six straight weeks. With increased entries and a positive response from many of the competitors we approached, we asked what was the formula for success this year? Challenging course designers, well maintained footing, improvements and additions to the VIP areas, big money classes, and of course the grand prix highlights from fantastic afternoons to fabulous evening events.

Beautiful sunsets and cool breezes welcomed the four World Cup Qualifiers in the intimate indoor arena. Actually for a majority of the six weeks the California desert weather was pretty perfect. To top it off, during the final week the facility sparkled with Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and even a pristine private jet parked on site.

John French and Chawi de Laubry

The west coast circuit drew a slew of legendary grand prix riders from near and far, including Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Hap Hansen, Eduardo Menezes, John Pearce, Rich Fellers, Jill Henselwood, Charlie Jayne, John French, Susan Hutchison, John Perez, Gabriella Salick, Kate Levy…

And that is just a short list. Stars of the circuit Rich Fellers and Lucy Davis each earned four grand prix wins, simply amazing. These two athletes and their horse mates, mind you they each won on different mounts, were fast, clean and cool as ice.

The hunter rings were bustling as well. West coast greats such as John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness, Chance Arakelian, Jenny Karazissis and John Bragg were vying for the various championships and derby wins. The ever-versatile John French, who won his usual lion’s share in this arena, also suited up for several outdoor grand prix events. French was seen ‘speaking’ both hunter and jumper on the same day, literally running from the jump off to the hunter derby, garnering top ribbons if not wins in both places. The calm, cool and collected French commented, “It’s an adrenaline rush with the jumpers and everything is so fast; I’m not used to being so hyper.”

Hansen and Michaels-Beerbaum
discuss the course

Quite a few competitors, sponsors and spectators noted the family-friendly aspect of the area. Lamborghini of Newport Beach’s Director Donny Gath brought his entire family. As is often seen when outside sponsorship comes on board, Gath’s company became a sponsor after his 9-year-old daughter Kendal started competing at HITS two years ago, so it is both business and pleasure. Grand prix princess and high-school senior Lucy Davis mentioned that her family can easily come out from Los Angeles and watch her compete as well as enjoy the desert treasures. “My dad can golf in the morning, and then come and watch me ride in the evenings.” Internationally acclaimed rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, also Davis’ trainer, expressed how nice it was for her to spend time in a family friendly environment. She explained, “In Europe the cold indoor circuits typically have late class times making it not very baby or family friendly. It’s also good to be back in California, and see people I haven’t seen in years.” Baby Brianna Beerbaum celebrated her first birthday in California with Mom (Meredith) and mount Lancaster winning the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix. Great day to celebrate.

Of course there were ups and downs. One particular grand prix Sunday took its toll on some top riders. Beginning the circuit with wins, Canadian John Pearce, as well as riding legend Hap Hansen, and the daring John Perez all took a spill at the same fence (#7). Unfortunately Pearce went on the injured list for the remainder of the circuit, whereas Hansen and Perez were able to walk away.

The close to the circuit $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert was nothing short of poetic. After 53 riders attempted Olaf Peterson’s technical and big and wide course of jumps, five riders remained in the running for the $200,000 in prize money. The 90-degree southern California sun apparently didn’t faze the riders or the Sunday afternoon crowd. Cheers were rampant at the end of Lucy Davis and Nemo 119’s clear

Lucy Davis and Nemo 119

jump off round, on a streak after winning three grand prix events in a row, as she crossed the timers in the lead.

The class was far from over with two riders left. next in the ring was speed demon Rich Fellers, aboard the amazing Flexible. And following that pair was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aboard the talented Kismet 50. The crowd gasped in disbelief as Rich and Flexible took the inside turn to the wide oxer heading down the last line and a rail fell. When the final pair of Beerbaum and Kismet 50 heading towards the first tall pink and white vertical – down went the top rail and Davis had clinched the win. It was a day to remember for competitor and spectator alike.

As Davis said in her interview with HITS after her victory, “I could never believe this in a million years. I was so happy to just win one Grand Prix and I kept thinking that there was no way that this could ever happen. Some of the best riders in the world were competing here today and to come out on top is just surreal.” (Read more in the HITS press release)

International riders, sizeable prize money, classy cars, big jumps, fans galore and increased attendance makes for sporty splendor indeed. Congratulations to all and good luck at HITS Saugerties in their fall finales for both hunters and jumpers.

Photos by Cheval Photos