Having finished the 2016 competition season 1st in the Nation for Novice Level Horse/Rider pair, Julie Alonzo and her home-bred Andalusian mare CDC Memoria (Odalisca GF x Hilandero X) started the 2017 season at Novice B, but quickly moved to Intermediate A, where they will remain for the 2018 competition season as well. The two competed in two shows in 2017, to finish 8th among Intermediate-level competitors in the very active Region 1.
“Memoria is a really neat horse,” Julie said. “She’s very sensitive, and extremely talented. Because of her sensitivity, I really need to be aware of my body position at all times. She really is the epitome of everything an Andalusian mare should be: intelligent, athletic, eager to learn, and full of joy.”
When asked why she skipped over Novice B, Julie explained that the decision was prompted mainly by her horse. “I find that for many Iberian horses in particular Intermediate A is actually a better next step after Novice A because changing leads through the trot tends to shift these horses more onto the forehand, whereas changing through the walk enables them to maintain their weight on the hindquarters as they are transitioning from one lead to the next. In the Dressage trial, I didn’t really notice it being a problem, but as soon as we moved to the obstacles, my dance partner [Memoria] let me know in no uncertain terms that she much preferred walk transitions for obstacles such as the Slalom, Parallel Post, and Drums, where multiple lead changes are required in a small space.”
Developing a respectful and happy partnership with her horse is one of the things Julie says she likes best about Working Equitation. “I love how the sport has helped me refine my aids and fine-tune the communication I have with Memoria. We didn’t get to compete very much last year because I sat out to organize several of the licensed competitions in our region, but we still trained fairly consistently, and I’m really happy with how things are coming along.”
In addition to how much she enjoys the work with her horse, Julie often reflects on the friendships she has developed as a result of her involvement in Working Equitation. “I really love how kind and supportive people are. I love the way that people like Heather Humelbaugh, Jill Lovelace, Karin Hansen, Kristina Eckert, Nicole Grous, and Samantha Westby go out of their way to encourage people new to the sport in our area. Watching the community reach out to support Tristan Cruden, who led the national standings for Junior riders in 2017, just makes my heart sing.”
She also notes that the sport is something that her whole family enjoys. “My sister Karin Hansen is an incredible help; I really couldn’t do it without her,” she admits. “She bought or made most of the obstacles we use, and helps me load and transport them to all our events. Her husband Graham Hansen and their daughter Meagan are also regulars at the events in Oregon and really help out. This July, our oldest sister Kristine Strasburger, will be assisting at our WE Camp and the Cross-National Cup. It’s a great way to spend time together doing something we all enjoy.”
“The friendships are not limited to people in my immediate area. Working Equitation has helped forge friendships in Canada, (Kendra Martland, Trish Hyatt, Lisa Green, Deb Erickson, Bunny Caton, Dawn Brazdil-Lust, Kenton Miller, Kim Jungman, and Lynne Jupp), Australia (Kim Peterson, Mark and Jenny Mason, Michael and Lily Godding), and all parts of the United States. I have so much fun with the Region 5 people (Howard and Erica Peet, Kris Blacklock, Richard Klein, Karen Rach-StClair and so many more!). I also had a blast introducing the sport at the Von Holten Ranch in Missouri this fall and finally meeting Marty Stewart in person, as well as getting to know the amazing Brandy Von Holten.”
“I’m sort of the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of the sport in North America,” Julie laughs. “As often as my schedule and work responsibilities will allow, I donate my time to provide introductory clinics and to help get the sport started in different areas. I find that introducing new people to Working Equitation and seeing them light up as they and their horses begin to connect in different ways helps keep my own enthusiasm for the sport strong.”
“I’m looking forward to teaching Intro to WE clinics in Alaska, California, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, Missouri, and British Columbia this year, as well as helping out with the Aussie WE Camp coming up in Australia in April. It may seem a little odd to some, but this is just how I’ve been using my vacation days for the past few years, and it’s really grown on me, I guess!”
In addition to teaching the intro clinics, organizing WE shows, and competing, Julie donates her time as a member of the WE United Board, where her responsibilities include processing memberships and horse recording cards, maintaining the database of performance records (all scores earned at licensed WE competitions officiated over by WE United licensed judges since 2016), updating the WE United website, and keeping track of all Awards Program Standings for the Association.
Thank you, Julie, for your service, and congratulations on your success with Memoria!