“There’s just something magical about that mare,” Laura Boyer said of her 15.3 (or so)-hand powerhouse and rising eventing star, Pandora. Pandora completed, and won, her first advanced horse trial at Twin Rivers Ranch (California) March 1-2. Her rider, James Alliston, couldn’t agree with Boyer more.
“Obviously the first time at a new level is challenging, but she did really well,” he said. “She’s a little horse, and I know she’s a good jumper, but sometimes you worry that the repetitive size of the jumps will get to her. I was supposed to do an intermediate two weeks ago to prepare her, but it was just too wet, so she basically went right up to advanced, but she was really confident all the way around.”
Alliston, 34, Castro Valley, California, introduced Pandora (Prostor—Marilyn Monroe, Comefast) to jumping as a 3-year-old and was thrilled to have the Swedish Warmblood mare back as a 6-year-old after her short-lived career in the hunter and jumper rings. Alliston knew Pandora was a talented jumper, but her performance during her first cross-country outing convinced him she was destined for eventing.
“She’d been nice in the ring, but she was amazing out [on cross-country],” he said. “From that moment on her jump has always been spectacular. Because of her size and everything I didn’t necessarily think she was going to go advanced, but she keeps surprising us.”
Alliston’s history with the now 9-year-old Pandora actually predates her birth. Ten years ago, when Alliston had recently arrived in the United States from his home in England, Boyer was looking for a trainer to help her schoolmaster, Prostor, strengthen his dressage work, and they met at a clinic.
“He just connected with ‘Pro’ immediately,” said Boyer, 65. “So I was his first client!”
Prostor (Tesis—Pemija) was a Russian-bred Trakehner who had been learning his job as an amateur-friendly hunter when Boyer found him. She transitioned him to dressage as he got older, and Alliston rode him mainly in dressage, though they had one memorable jumper show.
“He was an elegant, good-moving horse; I think he would have been a great eventer if I’d met him earlier in his life,” Alliston said.
Pandora’s dam, Marilyn Monroe (Comefast—Gabby’s Impala, Dragon), is a Swedish Warmblood mare owned by Boyer’s daughter, Kendra Ritch.
“We found Marilyn when she was 3 and my daughter was 20,” Boyer said. “We purchased her for no reason other than we liked her and thought she would be fun, and she turned out to be this amazing athlete with an incredible temperament. I got Prostor a few years later. He was 13, and I just rode him one day and wrote a check. Neither of these horses were expensive; we didn’t have that kind of cash. We just wanted to have fun.”
Boyer lives in Pleasanton, California, but grew up in Colorado riding any horse she could sit on. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Ph.D. in engineering and founded her own business as a civil engineer. She had a successful career and raised a family, but the horse bug came back when Ritch was old enough to try riding.
“We got my daughter riding when she was 10, and my husband is an equine vet, so I just got sucked in,” Boyer said. “It all kind of awoke all that passion I’d put aside because I never thought it would happen. I didn’t start riding until I was 50! My daughter was moving out, and I was just like, ‘It’s my turn.’ ”
Prostor was collected before he was gelded, and there was frozen semen available if Boyer wanted it. She was approached by a few people interested in a partnership but wasn’t comfortable committing to a mare she didn’t know very well. Then, it was her daughter and her own mare asking.
“Marilyn was 9, and Kendra was a farm manager on a Thoroughbred farm at the time,” Boyer said. “I said, ‘Oh, why not? This should be fun!’ And that’s how Pandora came to be. It was the first time I’d ever bred a horse, but Pro was big and very refined, so Marilyn balanced him out well, and they both had such good hearts and a sense of humor.”
Pandora inherited Marilyn’s golden coat and Prostor’s endurance. Ritch campaigned her in hunters and jumpers briefly, but Pandora had other plans.
“Pandora always has other plans,” Boyer said with a laugh. “It’s really fun to see her mature. She’s feisty, but she’s really come along, and James has been great. I swear he loves her as much as we do. I was shocked [at Twin Rivers] because she came off of kind of a green dressage test to a win, but that surprise quickly turned to, ‘Of course she did!’ All horse people are dreamers, and James is always so positive sometimes I wonder if he’s over optimistic, but he’s always been honest, and he seems to really believe in her. It’s just been an incredibly fun ride so far just to watch and be part of it. It’s a dream come true.”