Local equestrian enthusiasts Don and Carol Hirons’s impact and memory lives on in a new memorial trophy bearing their names. The Central Coast of California Arabian Horse Association (CCCAHA) took up the reins to develop this trophy to honor the legacy of these two founding members. The Don and Carol Hirons Memorial Trophy was recently awarded by the CCCAHA to its first recipient, Mikaela Hardesty.
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Don and Carol Hirons Memorial Trophy’s First Recipient
The memorial trophy honors an individual who exemplified the spirit, camaraderie and embodiment of what Carol and Don believed in: The opportunity for horsemen young and old, to have a venue to exhibit and hone their riding skills in a competitive, but friendly environment with genuine feedback from judges who care about their progress.
The first recipient, Mikaela Hardesty, is not new to CCCAHA. She has been riding in the shows since she was a young child in both English and Western disciplines. This experience led to her becoming an accomplished Endurance Race and Trail Trials rider as an adult. She has inspired others, especially her young nephew, to grow in their equestrian pursuits. Mikaela’s talents go beyond her skills as a rider. She was selected as the very first recipient of the award after careful consideration of her dedication to CCCAHA, the horse community and as an upstanding member of the area.
History of the Central Coast of California Arabian Horse Association
The CCCAHA played a key role in helping young riders grow and develop into competent equestrians. A small group of local Arabian horse owners and breeders founded the chapter in 1969. It sprang out of the growing interests in Quarter horses and other Sport Horse breeds that were becoming very popular along the Central Coast of California. Included in this small group of individuals were: Jay Stream (a past President of the Arabian Horse Association), Jeff Wonnell, breeder and trainer of USEF National Champion Arabian and Friesian horses, and Sheila Varian, founder of Varian Arabians. This dauntless core group of breeders and Arabian enthusiasts garnered the attention of many other Arabian and other sport horse owners and riders to join together and form CCCAHA. This local organization became part of the nationally recognized Arabian Horse Association.
Jumping on the Bandwagon: Don and Carol Hirons
Over the years, others jumped on the bandwagon including members of the Welsh Mountain Pony Club, who, in conjunction with Sun King Farms, Varian Arabians and the Arroyo Grande, CA school district, created one of the largest active youth memberships in the country. During this time, Don and Carol Hirons, both teachers at Arroyo Grande High School, were intimately involved in the education and mentorship of the youth in the community with regard to horsemanship and specifically the Arabian Horse breed.
They were also actively involved in the Welsh Pony Club and Brush Poppers. Pulling these entities together, combined with CCCAHA, open breed horse shows introduced horsemanship to the community in the form of a relaxed, comfortable venue for amateurs of all ages to compete and learn to become better horse owners and riders.
CCCAHA Open Horse Shows
These shows were low key but embraced the excitement and pageantry of open competition between riders of all ages and included professional judges who offered advice and feedback to the riders as they competed. Because CCCAHA was an Arabian breed organization, owners and riders of Arabian horses had a leg up because the classes were geared more toward the Arabian breed. However, but these shows offered something for everyone including ponies, driving, hunters, jumpers, English, and Western classes.
Don and Carol “Ran the Show”
It was at these shows where Don and Carol’s enthusiasm for youth and horses really shone. In fact, they pretty much ran the show. It was not uncommon to see Don Hirons manning the microphone with his booming Baritone voice as he “owned” the announcer’s booth. The same enthusiasm rang true at every show whether at Wranglerette’s in Atascadero, Buckley Farms in San Luis Obispo or Triple D Ranch in Nipomo. Don was always there with his wife of 58 years, Carol. As would be expected, Carol served as President of CCCAHA. She enthusiastically supported the shows and other activities of the club throughout her life.
The End of the Don and Carol Hirons Era
Sadly, in February of 2013, Don passed away leaving a tremendous void in the hearts and spirit of the organization. Carol picked up the “reins” and took over as not only the show announcer, but continued to serve on the CCCAHA Board of Directors. She served until until her passing in November, 2022 shortly after announcing her last show in September that same year. The loss of Carol closed a chapter in the history of the organization. This prompted CCCAHA and its current membership to ensure that Don and Carol’s legacy would continue to live on.
CCCAHA Continues On
Don and Carol were instrumental in getting the CCCAHA off the ground. In addition, the couple enthusiastically supported the local open breed schooling shows. Pat Wagner along with several other senior members continued to grow the club and make it what it is today. The CCCAHA continues today and provides monetary support for local nonprofits through local events bringing equestrians together.
The Perpetual Trophy: The Don and Carol Hirons Memorial Trophy
The Don and Carol Hiron’s Memorial trophy now has Mikaela’s name engraved on it as the first recipient. She will enjoy and display it for a year. After that, the trophy passes on to another worthy individual, perpetually. Once relinquished, Mikaela will receive a small memento of the award for her to keep as a memento.
Photo credit: Ashton Kingsley AJSK Photography
Cover photo: Deb Hirons, Lindamae Suprinski, Mikaela Hardesty with trophy, Matt Hirons, Pat Wagner
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