Trapp O’Neal Trapped the Blue Ribbon in the $5k Sanda BMW/MINI Cooper Ride-&-Drive at HIPICO Santa Fe

As a spirited miniature pony galloped across the Grand Prix Field, some may have wondered if the class was actually about mini-ponies, rather than MINI Coopers! Rachel Lindsey and Bob & Dana Brawley’s son Lucas, sat atop the small chariot with an American flag in tow. The 5-year old and the adorable miniature horse named Noel from Madrone Ranch Stables in Texas, was the perfect prelude to the afternoon festivities. It was a cheerful beginning to Saturday’s $5,000 Sandia BMW/MINI Cooper Ride-&-Drive. This class marked the largest yet—with 19 entries brave enough to go out of their element in a class combining more than just doubles or triples!

The Ride-&-Drive competitors gathered with Eryn Remiger &  their driver for a photo op. Photo by Mary Neiberg

Sponsored by Sandia Automotive Group, this crowd-favorite and signature Santa Fe Summer Series class is a bit like watching a tennis tournament for those in the VIP Lounge who were sandwiched between both of the arenas in action. You have to run from one side of the tent to the other to be able to catch each element of this thrilling spectacle. The class begins with each rider jumping a course in the Grand Prix Field at 1.20m. After the rider clears the last obstacle of the course, they go from an all-out gallop to a quick halt, where their trainer or groom is waiting to catch the horse.

Just as the rider hits the ground in a quick dismount, they climb through the fence to sprint across the VIP Lounge to the Jumper arena on the other side. Stylishly awaiting them, was a FAST, ice blue edition MINI-Cooper S driven by Gabriel Rincon—a car enthusiast who works for BMW. After the class, Rincon confessed that in addition to each rider telling him to go as fast as possible around the arena, one rider even tried bribing him to speed up! But don’t worry, Rincon drove the same for all rider passengers as they whipped around the giant orange traffic cones in a serpentine, and through jump standards before coming to a sliding stop.

After zipping around the driving course, the rider sprints back across the VIP Lounge to execute the agility portion of the event— a limbo bar, a Liverpool, a golf shot and finishing with a shot on a pool table. Although the entire class is exclusively for the lighthearted, riders seriously prepared beforehand. New this year was an option for riders to “phone a friend” to do the golf or pool portion of the competition. The golf and pool shots proved the toughest part of the class—only one made the hole-in-one and no one made the pool shot!

Trapp O’Neal is the 2018 Ride-&-Drive Winner at HIPICO Santa Fe. Photo by Mary Neiberg

After coming home with second in the class last time, this year Trapp O’Neal trapped the blue ribbon aboard Elle Fortuna-MS. Owned by Marieke Slik, the grey mare hit full speed around the course with impressive tight turns in the big grass arena. Although many riders were fast, O’Neal’s competitive advantage was to dismount off of the right side of his horse rather than the left before running across the VIP Lounge to hop in the MINI-Cooper. When asked if that’s was why he won, he said, “I think that did it—and a good horse really helped too!” His time of 92.201 was the fastest time, even though he comedically took his time at the limbo and showboated over the liverpool!

Eryn Remiger, Chief Marketing Officer with Sandia Automotive Group was having nearly as much fun as the participants! Sandia Automotive is continuous supporter of HIPICO Santa Fe and began this class two years ago, “It’s a fun class and is something different than what other places do. It shows off all the cars, all the riders, and it’s just very entertaining!” When asked why Sandia Automotive Group decided to support the class, Remiger laughed, “It makes sense—HORSEPOWER!”