Olympic quality equestrians from all over North America competed recently in a Six Bar jumping competition attended by some of Silicon Valley’s most notable families.
Steve Jobs youngest daughter, Eve Jobs, an accomplished rider herself, was among the 600 guests who turned out for the annual Giant Steps Charity Classic in Petaluma, California, presented this year by Colin Cowie Celebrations.
With the support of Sloan and Roger Barnett, and a who’s who of tech industry leaders, such as Apple co founder Steve Wozniak, as well as sponsors such as Hermes and Tesla, the event celebrated the excellence of horse riding and jumping in an ultra private setting among northern California’s golden rolling hills.
Here is how it all came together!
It took place 45 minutes north of San Francisco, at Sonoma Horse Park, a world-class horse show facility on an 80-acre property with no neighbors for as far as the eye can see.
The facility is also home to Giant Steps, a therapeutic equestrian center that is the beneficiary of the annual event. The organization provides rehabilitation services to people with a wide range of physical, emotional and developmental challenges. People who can’t walk or see or have other difficulties are empowered by learning to ride horses.
Sloan Barnett has been a powerhouse behind the event in gathering world-class sponsorships and major contributions to support it. Her husband Roger’s company, Shaklee, provided a $40,000 scholarship to the best rider. And her teen daughter, Violet, volunteered at the therapeutic center through the summer, helping disabled veterans. “It’s amazing for her to be exposed to what horses can actually offer to people. I’m so proud of her,” she said.
Sloan asked her dear friend Colin Cowie to plan the event, and he took on the challenge with gusto, transforming the scraggly horse terrain into something quite magical.
“I’m always excited to be able to mix in some style and some glamour for a good cause, and make a big difference,” he said. “I spend 20 percent of my time giving back to children — children’s education, mentorship, healthcare — and this is another one to add to the program.”
Among those attending were Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and husband Zachary Bogue, Hollywood interior designer Kristen Buckingham (wife of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham), noted environmentalists Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, Stacy Siebel with daughter Hunter, Carly Bechtel and Matt Sereni, Apple’s John Couch with wife Tara, Helen McEvoy, horse enthusiast David Shimmon with son David Jr., and hundreds of other supporters.
Arriving from Seattle, Gwen McCaw brought daughter Ella because she is also a rider. It was their first time at Giant Steps, but “It will definitely be an annual for us. It’s a great event.” It was a first for Marissa Mayer, as well, who had just flown in from a luncheon in Lake Tahoe in honor of Oscar de la Renta’s Peter Copping.
“The reason Colin Cowie is the greatest event planner of all time is because he knows how to stop time — he knows how to make a moment last forever,” said Ashley Herman, who owns the Sonoma Horse Park.
Colin used a refreshing scheme of green and white throughout the decor, with stripes adding a sense of sport, softened by beautiful green and white flowers from San Francisco’s WedSpring florists. “I never came across a stripe I could ever resist!” he laughed, pointing out that the green he used in the signature stripe was more of an August green, than the sort of green one sees in May or June. “It’s fresh, and great for a Saturday afternoon.”
As dinner was underway, guests were enchanted by a performance of “Stand by Me,” sung by Christopher Duffley, a young man with autism and blindness, accompanied by a chorus of children. An astonishing display of trick horse riding, with people standing upside down and swinging about on horseback while racing across the course, was also a crowd-pleaser.
A “Summer Rose’ Refresher” made with Double Cross Vodka, lemon, vanilla simple syrup, rose water and rose’ was the favored cocktail of the evening, while a rack of lamb dinner by Bruce Riezenman of Park Avenue Catering was served with chardonnay from Rombauer Vineyards and a pinot noir from Keller Estate.
English Pea Soup, with gioia burrata,Lazaro’s tomatoes, baby wild arugula with a balsamic peach vinaigrette, and toasted sweet baguette.
Quinoa cake with Moroccan sauce, almond-mint pesto and roasted nantes carrots, and blistered padrone peppers.
Rack of lamb with Moroccan sauce, almond-mint pesto, and potato leek strata.
Peaches, blackberries, pinot gris syrup, and almond mousse.
Sound for the evening was DJ’d by Donna D’Cruz, accompanied by a violinist and saxophonist. Drawing from a selection of music from around the globe, Donna tried to convey the sense of an inward journey. “I think when you give, you go inward,” she explained, while keeping the crowd in a joyous mood.