A lasting and popular pastime, the San Benito Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo is typically an annual tradition locals look forward to. It is held the last weekend of June, but this year it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus and concern about the public health risk that comes with this kind of big community event.
The Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo held at Bolado Park started in 1929 and has only been cancelled once before. The county-wide event was stopped for four consecutive years, from 1942-1946. According to the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo Museum, this was because so many ranching family members who would normally compete had enlisted or were drafted into World War II.
The Horse Show and Rodeo is as much about horses as it is about cowboys and cowgirls. It is hard to explain the unique relationship between horse and rider, especially putting in long days out on ranches, where the two operate as team working cattle or under pressure in the competitive show arena.
This year BenitoLink is focusing on a few well-known horses that have entertained the crowds at one of the County’s most popular social and cultural events and earned their place in the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo Museum.
“My dad broke [started training] a lot of the horses for my grandfather, George Rose Sr.” but Tammy Rose said her father rarely got to show them. George Rose Sr. had built a big name in the show world, but at that point, his son hadn’t. That is what got her other grandfather, Jerry Sans to buy the two-year-old mare for his son-in-law. “He felt my dad kinda got left out and gave him a chance to show too.” As it turned out, that gesture gave George Jr. his start with the gift of a talented and wonderful horse named Princess Nile. George trained the mare and together they excelled in the horse show scene. Tammy’s mother Sandy Rose then went on to win with the mare, finding her own success and enjoyment.
Rose said, “What’s neat is my mom really had a special relationship with her. Like you have with your dog—you can really get attached.”
“I found a letter about Princess my mother wrote,” she continued. “It was a letter from my mom to Princess. She asked her to help her with something. She said she had one more thing she wanted her to do and that was for her to teach a 10 year old. And that was me,” Rose said. Having been shown by both her parents, it was finally Rose’s turn.
After her career, Princess Nile was bred and had a few foals. But one year, Rose’s mother saw that she was failing after giving birth to her new foal, Annie. It became clear to Sandy Rose that Princess Nile was not going to survive. “Mom held her head and looked in her eyes and said goodbye,” Rose said. “She was family to us.”
Not all horses are meant to be fully tamed. Bucking horses all have their own style that can take a rider a while to figure out. They get pretty wise about unseating the rider and some are nearly impossible. In a 2018 BenitoLink article, Chuck Morris, the Rockin M Rodeo horse breeder talked about bucking horses, also known as “rough stock.”
“Horses get a reputation just like bucking bulls, some for being rank and hard to ride,” he said. “Others get a reputation for being rider-friendly and easy to make a good ride on.”
Elliot French, who owns Slash Cross Bucking Horses LLC, lives in the Diablo Mountain Range and raises bucking horses out in the pastures of the family ranch. He helps arrange for the rough stock at the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo. Part of that task is to put together an exciting show for the rodeo crowd.
Asked about broncs that stood out in his mind, French said, “Popcorn was the most famous, or infamous, of the old Bolado string as far as I know.”
Popcorn, a palomino, is remembered because of the wild ride the horse gave cowboy Joe Frusetta. Defying gravity, Frusetta managed to stick with the horse as they both ended up upside down and jammed against the bucking chute. A photographer caught that moment, leaving one wondering if either survived. They did.
Tammy Rose heard family stories about Popcorn too. “He didn’t turn into a good stock horse, so they tried using him as a bronc. He was a real good bucking horse at Bolado.”
“Jim Indart owned the horse,” said Rose. “He sent it to my grandfather to break and so my dad broke the horse for 60 days.” She said George Rose Jr. had no trouble with the horse whatsoever. “When Indart got the horse back, he had Snooks Smith riding him and he bucked like crazy and bucked him off. It was a bad wreck. When Indart saw that, he said to make him a saddle bronc horse instead.”
Popcorn is still known today because of the hair-raising photo with Frusetta. The photo was later made into a Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo poster and hangs on George Rose’s wall of horse-filled memories.
Another favorite story with old timers is about a horse ridden by Lola Galli named Peanuts. In the 1940s, Lola bought Peanuts out of the Wild Horse Race, not usually the place you’d go to pick out a horse. This chaotic rodeo event requires riders to climb on the back of an untrained horse and see how it all works out. Usually it’s a brief, unpredictable ride and thrills the crowd, but in this case, Lola and Peanuts hit it off.
Lola was raised in Tres Pinos and lived from 1907 to 1992. In a short bio exhibited at the museum, John Baumgartner wrote:
“She was the daughter of Art Fruits who operated the Stage to New Idria Mines and was later a sheriff of San Benito County.
Lola grew up horseback and cowboying or cowgirling however you would have it.
Lola was known throughout the Cattle Country, Rodeo and Horse Show world.
She was particularly revered as our own at the San Benito County Horse Show and Rodeo.
In 1934, after the Salinas Rodeo, Will Rogers visited the Quien Sabe Ranch outside of Tres Pinos. He mentioned her in his column (Dateline Hollister May 17, 1934). ‘Didn’t mind all the men beating me roping, but when a girl did, it looks like Golf will be coming on me pretty soon.’”
Anne Morris said years ago her father, Baumgartner, came to the county and leased a ranch, “so he asked somebody ‘where can I get some help?’”
Morris said,“He was told to go to Tres Pinos and find the sheriff because he had a daughter and ‘she knows what she is doing.’
“Lola was an incredible human being. She was gracious and charming but fun. She could beat any man and still be a lady,” Morris said.
After the Wild Horse Race, Galli took Peanuts back to the ranch and put some time into his training. Peanuts went on to win the Hackamore Class at Bolado Park and became the Champion Hackamore Horse of Northern California.
Galli can be seen at the museum photographed with Cream Puff, one of her other horses. Baumgartner, who was a founding member of the horse show committee wrote, “She was a Storybook Horse Trainer. The kind you could write children’s books about. She truly loved horses and treated them accordingly.”
If you have additional information on any of these horses or stories about other local horses that performed at Bolado, please send us a note or email with your contact information. ([email protected])
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