By Kathleen Brown
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 (current CHAMP President) and Kathleen Brown (current CHAMP Secretary) were also present.
What follows is the result of their memories and conversation.
In 1992, the First Annual Recreation Ride was included as part of the Corrales Harvest Festival. Evelyn Losack convinced Susan Bell and Lisa Miller to head up the ride. Funds raised from the ride went to the Harvest Festival Committee. A year later, the ride was moved from the Harvest Festival and left from Rancho de Corrales, followed by lunch and music; Village Mercantile provided prizes. Just over a hundred riders participated.
Subsequently, the Corrales Village Council met to discuss trails. Since bicycle people were getting everything they wanted, Kathy Gordinier said “We need an organization like the bicycle people have. Something official, with letterhead that will be recognized.”
With that, CHAMP was created in 1995 and held its first Open House on June 1. Every horse person in Corrales was automatically a member. The mission: advocacy for the equine lifestyle. The group’s initial objectives 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
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, serving from 1995 – 2001. At that time, there was a very loose Board of Directors and meetings were held in various members’ homes; member meetings included speakers, primarily trail-related.
Chris Allen, another early CHAMP member, served on the Village Council in the 1990’s. At that time, community interest ensured that horse ownership was represented on the council.
In late 1996, CHAMP volunteers conducted a “Windshield Horse Count.” According to a club newsletter from the following year, 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 that the Village buy the western portion of the land by means of a Gross Receipts Tax bond issue and challenged the Village to raise money to buy the front portion of the property. To help justify the construction of a livestock arena at the west end of the property, another count was conducted; it revealed a thousand horses existed from the recreation center south. The subsequent acquisition of this land resulted in what is now the entire recreation complex, demonstrating a prime example of private/public partnering.
In 1999, Top Form Arena was completed at the western end of the complex, funded through private donations from CHAMP members plus a $45,000 donation from Top Form Data, Inc. in Rio Rancho. A board showing the names of all contributors is still posted at the arena.
At the dedication of the arena, a few CHAMP members watched an equine drill team and decided they needed a drill team, too. The Hot Flash Riders were formed; they continue to ride perform to this day.
CHAMP continues to be an active part of the Corrales community. Activities that have been sponsored by CHAMP or developed independently by CHAMP members include:
Working closely with the MRGCD relative to trails and trail development and create 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.
For more information about CHAMP and its history, see their new website at www.champ-nm.com.
Early CHAMP Members
Left to right, front row – Susan Bell, Joanie McSweeney, Judy Fitzpatrick, and Chris Allen; back row – Sally McGrath, Bill Fitzpatrick, and Terry Brown