Like a watermark on a picture, it has become increasingly common for breeders to stamp their own product. American tags like ‘Landmark,’ ‘Windchase,’ and ‘Sunsprite’ attached to a horse’s name indicates that they were bred in the United States. Breeding and identifying event horses is what helped spur the creation of the USEA young horse programs: the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program and USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) Program. These two programs were designed to give owners and breeders the opportunity to showcase their young horse’s talent, and with hopes that these horses could be found next door instead of overseas.
Waving the American flag is Sunsprite Warmbloods - a name that is seeping into the USEA database with over 18 Sunsprite horses registered as event horses. The two people behind the brand are Pamela (Pam) Duffy and her husband, Donald (Don) Trotter, who own and operate Sunsprite Ranch in Temecula, California. Generous supporters of the eventing community, Duffy and Trotter have horses with their stamp scattered across the country.
For Sunsprite, it’s all in the name. A subtle difference in Sunsprite spelling indicates if the horse was either bred or bought by Sunsprite Ranch. If the name has an apostrophe ‘s’ attached to Sunsprite, that shows that the horse was bred at Sunsprite Ranch. So, the name "Sunsprite’s" indicates homebred and "Sunsprite" indicates bought and owned by Pam Duffy and Don Trotter.
Amidst the dark colors that fill home improvement stores, the colorful flower aisle of Home Depot was an influential factor in the Sunsprite name. During her trip to Home Depot, Duffy stumbled upon a rose that had the name of ‘Rosa Sunsprite.’ Developed by Reimer Kordes, the yellow rose that Duffy describes as a “happy rose” originated in Germany. Adding significance to the name, Germany is also where most of Duffy’s mares were born. “I was looking for an unusual name and a name that had energy to it. I happened to be looking for flowers and saw the name ‘Sunsprite’ and thought that would be a cool name for a ranch,” and that’s how the Sunsprite name came to be.
Before the boom in Sunsprite, Duffy started horse breeding many years before. “I got my first horse when I was 14 years old as a gift from my parents. It was a chestnut mare and when I went off to boarding school three years later, I didn’t know what to do with her. My mom said, 'If you get good grades, we can breed her for you,' and I said, 'Absolutely.' So, I became a horse breeder at the age of 18.” Several years later, in 1992, California became a permanent place for Pam Duffy and that’s when the breeding operation started to evolve.
A mixed bag of horse breeds, Duffy admitted, “[I’m] eclectic in my breeding, where I think a good horse is a good horse. I think of the horse’s breed as secondary.” Sunsprite produces a variety of different breeds like Hanoverians, Oldenburgs, and Dutch Warmbloods, but there’s one breed Duffy holds close to her heart and that is the Trakehner. “The original all-purpose horse,” Duffy said of the Trakehner. “During World War I, the officers almost always had Trakehner horses because they were light, easy to ride, and hardy horses.” This all-purpose quality in horses is how Duffy has shaped her breeding program. “I like all-purpose horses that can do a little bit of everything."
“We tend to average 3-5 foals each year,” and as 2- and 3-year-olds, that’s when she can tell which babies would make successful event horses. “[It’s] not something you would look for on paper, but there’s a certain demeanor and balance that they have. [They are the ones] that can turn quickly, are playful in the field, know how to pace themselves well, and know where all their gears are. They should all be able to jump four feet, but they also need to do it with a certain equilibrium of mind and spirit.”
“The foundation of any good breeding operation: the mares!” is the opening on the homepage of the Sunsprite Warmbloods website. Duffy emphasized the strong influence mares have on their foal’s attitude and movement. “For example, Sunsprite’s Watusi and Sunsprite’s Fleurette have the same mother, [Kamirette], but while they don’t look alike, they have traits that are similar.”
A top priority for Duffy’s broodmares is show experience. “I would like to have a mare that has a competition record. It’s not always possible, but if I had to choose between a mare that has done something or a mare that’s beautiful, I’ll go for the one that’s done something every single time.”
Meticulous in how she chooses the sire, Duffy believes every mare has a perfect match. “We don’t have any breeding stallions on the ranch because I like to pair every mare with the correct sire. There is no ‘one-stop shop’ when it comes to stallions. I go through at least ten hypothetical pairings but there are one or two pedigrees that speak to me.”
Both Duffy and Trotter understand the importance of “a sound and sane horse” - and that they breed, buy, or own. Their horses have collected wins in eventing from YEH to the CCI4-S level. Sunsprite’s Watusi (Wild Dance x Kamirette), a 6-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Sunsprite Warmbloods and ridden by Marc Grandia, recently won the YEH 5-year-old division on a score of 80.7 at the 2018 Twin Rivers CCI and Horse Trials.
Out of the same dam is Sunsprite’s Fleurette (Riverman ISF x Kamirette) a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Sunsprite Warmbloods and ridden by Emilee Libby. Sunsprite’s Fleurette has four wins to her USEA record with her most recent win in the Open Preliminary division at the 2018 Galway Downs Spring Horse Trials.
Another winning horse owned by Sunsprite Warmbloods but was bred in Oregon by Lori Whitley is Sunsprite Syrius (Titulus x Slytely), an 11-year-old Trakehner gelding ridden by Tamra Smith. Smith and Sunsprite Syrius have won events like the 2018 Galway Downs International CCI3* and 2017 Fair Hill International CCI2*.
The inspiration that started it all can be traced back to a horse named Pentagon. Duffy, who grew up in Mexico City, worked at a riding club that housed Pentagon, a grey Trakehner stallion out of Condus that represented Mexico at the 1968 Olympic Games in dressage. “I would look into his eyes and admire his athleticism,” said Duffy. Fast forward to present day and Duffy surrounds herself with warmbloods that share the same athleticism with the ones she admired as a young girl.
The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.
The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse Program in 2007 in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are presented in-hand while 4-year-olds are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated on their conformation. Divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.
The spring eventing season in the Midwest is always a toss-up due to unpredictable weather. Will it rain, will it be sunny, or will it be a snowstorm? No one knows! Mid-America Combined Training Association’s (MACTA) first cross-country schooling of the season was cancelled in March due to extremely muddy footing conditions and by the time our April dates came around, COVID-19 was in full force and we were unable to host our cross-country schooling and schooling show.
The FEI has published its Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at assisting organizers and national federations with the safe resumption of international equestrian events in line with national and local restrictions.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has approved additional modifications to the qualification period for the 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. The AEC is scheduled to take place August 25-30, 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and the USEA is doing everything possible to ensure a safe and successful Championship, while also ensuring fair opportunities for all.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).