Oct 11, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Las Cruces Horse Trials

By Linda Dombrausky - Las Cruces Horse Trials
Sandra Phillips riding Six Pack Event to the win in the 2017 Area X Preliminary Championship. Photo courtesy of the Las Cruces Horse Trials.

The Las Cruces Horse Trials in Las Cruces, New Mexico (Area X) are held once yearly in October and offer Starter through Preliminary level. The Las Cruces Horse Trials are the only USEA recognized event in the state of New Mexico.

Marilyn Isaacks had ridden horses all her life. As a teenager, she went to Chatum Hall Riding Academy, where she rode hunter/jumpers. Living in Las Cruces, New Mexico on the family ranch, she didn't have much of an opportunity to compete in hunter/jumper competitions. One day she received a flyer in the mail inviting her to the Sonoita Horse Trials in Sonoita, Arizona. She read the flyer and thought, "All the jumps are 3'3", how hard could it be?" So, she and one of her daughters decided to give it a go and after that she was hooked! She fell in love with the sport of combined training, as it used to be called, and the people.

Upon returning from her first event, Isaacks decided to create her own event in Las Cruces, New Mexico at the family ranch. Building began in the early 1980s and took a few years to complete with the help of her sons, for construction, and a cross-country course designer from British Columbia, Canada. This designer was none other than Paul Popiel, who designed the 1976 Montreal Olympic course and the cross-country course at the 1989-90 Circle K International Horse Trials at Trojan Horse Ranch in Phoenix, Arizona. The course took a month and a half to complete and was built by Popiel and the Isaacks family.

Marilyn Isaacks demonstrating cross-country on the Las Cruces' first cross-country course on the Isaacks' ranch. Photo courtesy of the Las Cruces Horse Trials.

For Isaacks, it made more sense to build a course here because there wasn't one and she happened to have the land for it. If she wanted to compete, she would have to drive to Arizona or California. A couple years later she held the first combined training event. The first USEA recognized Las Cruces Horse Trials was held December 7-8, 1985 and featured riders from New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and Texas.

Marilyn was the lifeblood of the event. She ran the event for a few years and eventually passed the organizing over to the Las Cruces Horseman's Association. Marilyn evented all through her life and stopped riding in her early 80s. In 2017 we lost Marilyn to cancer. Even without her the show will go on, she will be with us in spirit, laughing and having a good time. Her motto is “Ride baby ride!”

The Las Cruces Horseman’s Association (LCHA) has been around for 49 years. LCHA is a not-for-profit organization that promotes horsemanship and sportsmanship in a wide variety of equestrian activities and gives equestrians the opportunity to meet, compete, and share with horsemen of all ages and interests. It includes hunter/jumper, eventing, gymkhana, and western disciplines.

Joan King and Norman on cross-country at the Las Cruces Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of the Las Cruces Horse Trials.

The Las Cruces Horse Trials is run by a group of volunteers dedicated to carrying on what Isaacks started: giving riders of all levels a place to compete and meet others that love riding as much as they do. Our show environment is laid back and fun with prizes and ribbons handed out at the end of the show.

The cross-country course is brand new this year, revamped from its original look and feel to give the riders a new and exciting challenge. Many riders come to our show so they can train a horse on a course that is challenging but not scary although riding in the desert you never know what will jump out at you! It is a good course for riders of all ages that are moving up in levels or just starting out.

Bella Alberson and Bell Star show jumping at the Las Cruces Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of the Las Cruces Horse Trials.

The best part about our show is the people. We love to see our friends from Arizona, Central New Mexico, Colorado and Texas each year. It’s a fun time and everyone is friends but they welcome the new riders with open arms. The atmosphere is electric! For anyone that wants to be around horses, learn more about eventing or just to hang out with some fun people, they really need to come to our show! Volunteer and get hooked!

The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A­-Z series.

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