In the Spring of 2017, in the process of developing CHAMP’s new website, we realized that we knew little about the beginnings and history of CHAMP. So, on May 2, 2017, early members Susan Bell, Chris Allen, Judy Fitzpatrick, Bill Fitzpatrick, Sally McGrath, and Joanie McSweeney came together at Sally McGrath’s home to help recreate the early days of the organization. Terry Brown (CHAMP President) and Kathleen Brown (CHAMP Secretary) were also present.
What follows is the result of their memories and conversation.
In 1992, before CHAMP was formed, there was the First Annual Recreation Ride as part of the Harvest Festival. Evelyn Losack convinced Susan Bell to head up the ride, along with Lisa Miller. All the funds raised for the ride went to the Harvest Festival Committee. The following year it was decided to split the ride off from the Harvest Festival. That next ride left from Rancho de Corrales and returned there, followed by lunch and music; Village Mercantile provided prizes. There were 100 to 110 riders.
Subsequently, there was a Village Council meeting about trails. Bicycle people were getting everything they wanted so Kathy Gordinier said “we need an organization like the bicycle people have… something official, with letterhead, that will be recognized”.
As a result, CHAMP was created in 1995 and held its first Open House on June 1 of that year. Early meetings were held at Stephanie Sam’s house. Every horse person in Corrales was automatically a member. The mission: advocacy for the equine lifestyle.
- 1995 – 2001: Susan Bell
- 2001 – 2004: Joanie McSweeney
- 2004 – 2005: Frietze Williams
- 2005 – 2006: Joe Hancock
- 2006 – 2008: Herb Altheimer
- 2008 – 2011: Steve Henry
- 2011 – 2014: Steve Komadina
- 2014 – 2019: Terry Brown
The group’s objectives as stated at the very beginning were:
“To encourage the use and enjoyment of horses and mules in the Village of Corrales;
To ensure that public lands in the Village of Corrales remain open to recreational livestock use;
To assist the various government and private agencies in the maintenance and management of said resources;
To educate, encourage, and solicit active participation by interested members of the public in the wise and sustaining use of horses and mules; and
To encourage the continuous use of livestock in the Village of Corrales.”
Local attorney Melissa Hill came up with the name “CHAMP” (Corrales Horse and Mule People).
Susan Bell was the first president and served from 1995 – 2001. At that time, there was a very loose Board and meetings were held in various members’ homes; member meetings had speakers, primarily trail related.
Chris Allen, an early CHAMP member, was on the Village Council in the 1990’s. At that time there was a movement to ensure that horse ownership was represented on the Council.
In late 1996, according to a Spring 1997 newsletter, CHAMP volunteers conducted a “Windshield Horse Count”; they “drove, walked, cycled, or rode their mounts through neighborhoods and counted only the number of equines visible from the road. Maps of assigned neighborhoods were carefully drawn to avoid double counting of animals that could be seen from more than one street or road. More than 1,000 horses, mules, donkeys, and ponies were outdoors and visible from public roads. CHAMP can only speculate how many more such beasts live in Corrales but were not counted because at the time of the count they were inside barns or off the owner’s premises for recreational, business, or medical purposes.”
In the late 1990’s, the Jones Property became available for commercial and residential use. Chris Allen advocated for the Village to buy the western portion of the land with a Gross Receipts Tax bond issue and challenged the Village to raise money to buy the front portion of the land. To help justify the construction of a livestock arena at the west end of the property, another count was conducted; it showed there to be 1,000 horses just from the recreation center south. The subsequent acquisition of this land resulted in what is now the entire recreation complex and was a premium example of private/public partnering.
In 1999, Top Form Arena was completed at the western end of the complex. It was paid for through private donations from CHAMP members plus a $45,000 donation from Top Form Data, Inc. in Rio Rancho. Still posted at the arena is a board showing the names of all those who contributed to this project.
At the dedication of the Arena in 1999 a few CHAMP members were watching an equine drill team and decided they needed a drill team too. They formed the Hot Flash Riders which still (in 2017) ride and perform.
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Subsequent activities that CHAMP sponsored or that were developed independently by CHAMP members include the following:
- They worked closely with the MRGCD relative to trails and trail development and developed a map of trails.
- When Steve Henry was President he wanted the Village to be designated “Horse Capital of New Mexico” and succeeded in getting the Village to agree to it.
- In 2005 Lisa Miller organized a Bike/Horse Ride to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research in honor of Suzie Buchanan who had died of breast cancer. The ride started and ended at the Recreation Center. Bikes traveled on Loma Larga and horses followed the trail along that same route.
- In 2005 and for a few subsequent years, CHAMP developed annual calendars with photos of Corrales horse men and women and their horses or mules. The calendars showing just animals sold nicely; the ones showing animals and people didn’t!
- In 2012, after a dangerous Bosque fire when help was needed to rescue horses from homes threatened by the fire, CHAMP developed the first Emergency Evacuation Plan. Terry Brown created the original plan for the Village of Corrales. The Village currently uses a modified version of that plan.
- In 2014, CHAMP purchased for the Village specialized equipment for large-animal rescue and then trained Fire and Police personnel in how to use it.
- CHAMP continues the tradition of the Annual Recreation Ride and held its 25th Annual Ride on May 27, 2017. In recent years, riders have ridden a two-hour ride from the Top Form Arena north along the Corrales Acequia to Romero Lane and then returned to the arena via the Sandoval Lateral, along the western edge of the Corrales Bosque Preserve.