Jul 09, 2020

USEA Events A-Z: The Event at Isaacks Ranch

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Photo courtesy of the Isaacks Ranch Facebook page.

Isaacks Ranch in Las Cruces, New Mexico (Area X) will host their first USEA recognized event over two days on the last weekend in September and will offer Introductory, Starter, Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, and Preliminary levels.

Marilyn Isaacks brought eventing to her family’s property, Isaacks Ranch, in the early 1980s after her first experience with eventing at the Sonoita Horse Trials in Sonoita, Arizona. Legendary course designer Paul Popiel installed the first cross-country course at Isaacks Ranch with the help of Marilyn and her sons. In 1985, Isaacks Ranch hosted its first USEA recognized event, the Las Cruces Horse Trials.

A few years after establishing the event, Marilyn passed the reins to the Las Cruces Horseman’s Association (LCHA), a non-profit organization that promotes a wide variety of equestrian activities in Las Cruces. While she maintained ownership of the property until her passing in 2017, at which point it passed to her family, LCHA was in charge of organizing the event. LCHA continued to organize the Las Cruces Horse Trials at Isaacks Ranch yearly until 2019.

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.

Marilyn’s granddaughter Madeline remembers watching her grandmother ride as she was growing up. “I started riding as a young child and always watched my grandmother eventing,” she recalled. “I grew up on the ranch and started out in Western riding before I got bored. I switched to English riding and had way more fun.” An eventer at heart, Madeline also rode polo in college and did some in the hunter/jumper ring as well.

Madeline has taken up the organizer’s mantle and is now situated at the helm of the newly dubbed Event at Isaacks Ranch. “It’s been a bit of a solo adventure on the organizing portion for myself,” Madeline explained. “I’ve had a paint crew of my mom and my boyfriend’s mom, and my boyfriend has been doing the maintenance and prep on the grounds. I’ve also been working with Adri Doyal on reviving the cross-country courses.”

A look at some of the new constructions on the Isaacks Ranch cross-country course. Photo courtesy of Madeline Isaacks.

Madeline and Doyal, along with their support crew, have really worked to breathe new life into the cross-country courses at Isaacks Ranch, with each level sporting a new track and freshly painted and newly constructed fences. “My goal as I’ve taken things over this year has been to do updates and refresh things,” Madeline shared. “I’ve tried to be as ‘green’ as possible – we tore down one of the old buildings and all the wood has been repurposed into new jumps. We have some vintage jumps out there and I’m trying to keep with the ranch theme – a lot of the jumps have the family cattle brand because it was a working cattle ranch.”

The plan is to run the competition over two days – Saturday and Sunday – with dressage and cross-country on the first day followed by show jumping on the second day. They’ll offer Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels as well as both Starter and Introductory levels as well. “The courses are like a build-up – we’ll have similar jumps on each one so you can start on the littlest and graduate up to wherever you need to go,” Madeline described. “I want to be able to give our Area X folks some steps to help them learn so when they go out other places it’s a little easier to face fiercer competition.”

Madeline has also been working on hosting more clinics at Isaacks Ranch to help riders in Area X further their educations. In March, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Isaacks Ranch hosted a one-day derby with schooling dressage tests, and after restrictions were lifted in June they hosted a jumping clinic with Georgie Murray.

Madeline is working to maintain Isaacks Ranch's rustic feel. Photo courtesy of Madeline Isaacks.

As someone who is new to organizing, Madeline said she’s really enjoyed connecting with the other eventers in her area. “I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the equestrian community and reaching out to the smaller areas that don’t have a whole bunch of trainers. They can come over here and get a good lesson, which they don’t normally have the opportunity for. I like being able to gather everyone together. I want them to come out and have fun! You get out there and you have a great lesson or a great ride and you feel like you and your horse have connected.”

“It’s not the same old event it used to be – it’s fresh and new,” Madeline concluded. “For a long time the courses hadn’t changed and I know a lot of people got burnt out on that. It’ll be nice for them to have something fresh. Last year was the first year that we added new tracks and I think that gives everything a fresh taste.”

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

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