Shining Equine Stars

By Jackie McFarland, Pam Maley & Alexis Meadows

Horses, like their riders, thrive in the legendary California sunshine.  The sunny state was in the forefront of the news many times over last year, most notably with the media darling California Chrome.  Other disciplines, while less nationally publicized, had shining stars as well.  In addition to Chrome, featured here are Reining Futurity Champion Show Me the Buckles, PCHA Show Jumping Horse of the Year Chello Z, and Amateur Owner Champion Extraordinaire Willow CBF.  We asked their owners to share some of their most memorable moments with these exceptional horses.

Photo By: Jamie Rhodes

Photo By: Jamie Rhodes

CALIFORNIA CHROME | Thorough Racing Horse of the Year

The fairytale horse that captured the heart of a nation, this good-natured chestnut colt with lots of white (called ‘Chrome’ by insiders) recently received the most coveted award in Thoroughbred Racing, the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. Rising from humble beginnings, he entered the history books as only the fourth California horse ever to win the Kentucky Derby. To the delight of his legions of fans, his owners plan to continue to race him, rather than retiring him immediately to stud. Chrome is expected to make his next start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28th, and his California posse will be cheering him on! His effusive and loquacious co-owner Steve Coburn said, “You can have all the money in the world to buy every single grain of sand on a beach, but you can’t buy this story. I’m a man that loves his horse and believes in the fairytale.” Famous for his bravado, this is a man that says a prayer to his late sister Brenda who shares a birthday with Chrome, before every race, asking her to “keep Chrome safe.”

NAME: California Chrome
OWNERS: Steve and Carolyn Coburn with Perry and Denise Martin
BARN OR PET NAME: Known to most of his fans as Chrome, his fans are ‘Chromies’
YEAR OF BIRTH: 2011BREED: Thoroughbred
SIRE AND DAM: Lucky Pulpit out of Love the Chase
BIRTHPLACE: Harris Farm, Coalinga, California
FIRST WIN: A maiden race at Hollywood Park in April 2013
MOST MEMORABLE WIN: The 2014 Kentucky Derby!
FAVORITE TREAT OR TRICK: A playful colt, Chrome likes to take his trainer’s hat off.


SHOW ME THE BUCKLES | Reigning Futurity Champion

Sporting a dazzling white four-foot mane that ripples with his every move, the stallion known as Show Me the Buckles has made a name for himself in the Reining world. As owner Rebeca Martin explains, “From the moment he was born I knew he was destined to be different. He was born ripped!” Affectionate, kind and gentle at home, Buckles becomes all business once he enters the arena. He is a solid competitor, missing reserve champion honors only twice in his career, while being shown by accomplished professionals Andrea Fappani, Jordan Larson, and Arno Honstetter. He qualified for the National Reining Breeders’ Cup, and with Fappani in the saddle, Buckles recently won the Go Round at the National Reining Horse Association Derby.

“His mane grows about a foot a year,” says Martin, “And I love caring for it!”

Now standing at stud through, Buckles’ first foal crop will hit the ground this season, and as we go to press, Martin welcomed his first offspring, a beautiful buckskin colt born at her Rancho de Sueños on February 9th, 2015.

NAME: Show Me the Buckles

OWNER: Rebeca Martin



BREED: Quarter Horse

SIRE AND DAM: Wimpy’s Little Step x Sunset Whiz

BIRTHPLACE: Rancho de Sueños, Ione, California

WHEN PURCHASED: Before he was born

FIRST WIN: Co-Reserve Champion 2011

NRHA Futurity

MOST MEMORABLE WIN: Of course the Futurity, definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Also, the Run Off at the 2014 Cactus Classic, which RFDTV called the most exciting in many years!

FAVORITE TREAT AND/OR TRICK: Absolute most favorite treat is Gummy Bears – he LOVES them!


CHELLO Z | PCHA Horse of the Year

According to the Chinese calendar, 2014 was the Year of the Horse, and it certainly was for Chello. He won six Grand Prix’s and had multiple top placings. Owner Josephina Nor Lantzman explains, “Our season began with a win at Thermal, where we had the only clean first round, and won without a jump-off. A great start to the year. Then we won the grand prix on Fathers’ Day and on my sixth wedding anniversary. There was a joke in our family that if it was a holiday we would do well. ”

Together since 2005, Phina and Chello have a great connection. “It’s genuinely rewarding when your horse knows he did well. I’m convinced he knows when he jumps double clean. He hears the crowd after his performance, perks up, bucks a little, and has a big smile on his face. That’s what it’s about – the sheer love and enjoyment of the sport. That’s what we continue to strive for, more fast double clean rounds, and more love and joy!”

The beginning of his tenth show season started off well, Chello went double clear in his first grand prix at HITS Thermal and picked up third. At press time he is on his way back to the desert with an eye on the AIG $1Million Grand Prix in mid-March.

NAME: Chello Z

OWNER: Phina Nor Lantzman

BARN OR PET NAME: Champ, Chello


BREED: Zangersheide

SIRE AND DAM: Chellano Z out of Daphnee De Frely



FIRST WIN: First win was when he was a 6 year old, first grand prix win was in 2011

MOST MEMORABLE WIN: The FEI Grand Prix on my wedding anniversary in 2014, and the FEI Del Mar Pacific Grand Prix in October of 2014 – another show in my hometown

FAVORITE TREAT AND/OR TRICK: Apples, bananas and dandelion


WILLOW CBF | Amateur Owner-Hunter Extraordinaire

Willow was pursuing a career as a dressage horse when her owner, Julie Hancock, and trainer, Philip Cillis, discovered her. “She just moved really well. We had seen her free jump, and it was so soft and nice. She has a great temperament, and the best brain,” Cillis remarked when she won the 2013 Future Hunters Mare Division at Capital Challenge.

Racking up honors from coast to coast, this California horse is an Amateur Owner sensation. She was the 2014 WCHR Zone Champion A/O Hunter 36 & over, 2014 USEF Reserve Zone Champion A/O Hunter and First Year Green Hunter; she was the 2014 Circuit Champion at Thermal in the A/O Hunter 36 & over and Reserve Circuit Champion in the First Year Green Hunters; she was Champion A/O Hunter 36 & over at Menlo and also won the PCHA Horse of the Year for A/O Hunters at Menlo. Plus she was the American Hanoverian Society Champion Horse of the Year for the A/O Hunter 36 & over.

Willow started the 2015 show season with a bang by earning the Champion honors in the A/O Hunter 36 & over division, and winning the $10,000 Devocoux Hunter Prix at HITS Thermal Week III. Clearly a girl on the move!

NAME: Willow CBF

OWNER: Julie Hancock



BREED: American-bred Hanoverian

SIRE AND DAM: ES Widmark x EM Cassie

BIRTHPLACE: Lawrenceberg, Indiana

WHEN PURCHASED: October 31, 2012 as a 4-yearold. She was bred to be a dressage horse and had never jumped. Philip Cillis recognized her talent and trained her to the shining star she is today!

FIRST WIN: Blenheim Spring Classic in April of 2013. She won the Low Working Hunters out of 45 entries and was Show Champion. We knew then we had something special.

MOST MEMORABLE WIN: Champion Future Mares at The Capital Challenge

FAVORITE TREAT AND/OR TRICK: She doesn’t love apples or carrots but prefers peppermints and candy of any kind…I am afraid I will make her diabetic from all the candy treats we feed her!