The horse who launched my career
Friday, August 18, 2023, Navarro peacefully crossed the rainbow bridge at age 28. His owner Joy Lanzano, and his retirement caregiver, Jennifer Folks Knapp, were by his side, along with his long term veterinarian, Dale Bowers. He passed in his pasture where he had been retired since 2017.
I don’t quite know what to say about this incredible horse.
I started riding Navarro 19 years ago when I was just 20 years old. I had been lucky enough to have parental financial support for my horse habit until this point when circumstances changed and I had to give away my young rider horse PC.
At that point, I rejected the idea of horses and any affiliation I had with them and quit riding.In high school, I had been so horse-obsessed, that I didn’t have time for much else. I thought that this was a chance for me to figure out who I was without horses.
Yet I will never forget the night I decided I couldn’t NOT ride horses. I was at the typical college party living my best college life when I realized this wasn’t who I was. I called my trainer and left a message saying I had no money, and I didn’t care what it was or what it took, I wanted to ride again.
That was when Navarro entered my life.
I remember the first time on his back it was like starting over. During this period of non riding, I started running and thought I was in good shape. Well, for all of Navarro’s good qualities, he had quite a difficult trot to sit!
Naturally, the lessons begin, along with the all encompassing Dressage obsession starting again. I remember I was in the barn bathroom one day and I looked in the mirror I said to myself “I am going to train this horse to the Prix St. George.
At the time I lived in Fort Collins and had 2 years left at CSU, and Navarro was boarded an hour away in Boulder County. I would leave my house at 6:30 a.m. for my 8:30 a.m. lesson, then come back to CSU for school.
In 2006 I graduated, and we started showing at Second Level, me as an Adult Amateur. We were undefeated, and I expected to remain at the Championships that year. Unfortunately, the day I pulled up to get Navarro up to bring him to the horse park, his hind leg was the size of an elephant. Six weeks of stall rest and hand walking was our future instead.
However, Navarro recovered well, and in 2007 we came out at Third Level and I made my debut as a professional rider. In 2008, we rode down centerline for our first Prix St. George.
Unfortunately, injury was to be upon us again. this time, it was 16 months off due to a torn suspensory ligament. At the time devastated didn’t even come to describe what I felt. I think my friends would agree, it was a combination of bitchy, depressed, and lost.
Yet once again, through a lot of patience, hand walking, tack walking, five minutes straight line trotting (I’m sure all of my horse friends can relate to that!) Navarro made a full recovery. When I called my mom to tell her the news that we were cleared to go back to full work, I was crying so hard she thought I had an accident!
In 2011 we were back in the show ring. That year we did our first Intermediate I and my first CDI. We placed third in the Prix St. George, and second in the Intermediate I, in a giant class of 15 with many out of state riders who were heading for the Pan American Games. That in itself was a dream come true for me.
In 2013, Navarro was retired for me riding in competing with him, and spent his days having his owner Joy, a few of my students, and some leasers ride him and let him teach them the ropes.
I won more classes, championships, high points, and year end awards with Navarro in the eight years we competed together than I can even remember. He was the first horse I trained to the FEI levels. He was the first horse I broke 70% with at the FEI levels. He was the first horse that I performed a freestyle with. He is the one who started my career.
Navarro taught me about patience, perseverance, and how to ride a very sensitive and opinionated horse. (He was a Balzflug!) Navarro was there for me when my parents got divorced, and he was there for me when I was so broke I was living on a loaf of bread store brand canned vegetables, and a dream.
When I would go out with my friends, whether we were at a party or a bar, the first thing everybody would ask me was how Navarro was. Everybody knew how special he was to me.
But importantly, Navarro gave me something to believe in. He taught me how to believe in the horses that aren’t always the fanciest, but who have the biggest heart. There were many times when we came out on top over higher quality movers that were fancier than us, but the correctness of our partnership would show through.
I know he loved his retirement, but I think if you were to ask him what his favorite days were he would say the centerlines and the victory gallops. He was certainly special and he 100% always knew who he was and where he was going.
Thank you Joy for letting him be so significant to my life in so many ways for so many years.
To my Navarro, my BooBoo Navuu, my enabler. I will see you again one day.