On a Friday night in the 90s, you’d find the likes of Margie Engle, Jimmy Torano and other well-known international show jumping athletes in Pompano.
The “Jumping Under the Lights” series at the Pompano Beach, FL-based Sand and Spurs Park came before the Winter Equestrian Festival’s popular Saturday Night Lights (SNL) schedule; before Friday Night Stars at The Ridge at Wellington; and before the World Equestrian Center – Ocala built its impressive venue in Ocala, FL.
A multidiscipline equestrian boarding facility, Sand & Spurs was Florida’s original equestrian trendsetter. The facility was where many of South Florida’s brightest equestrian talent honed their skills in their youth—and where those who couldn’t afford the A circuit could have access to horses. The facility no longer hosts horse shows, but it is home to 35 equine residents and their caretakers of various backgrounds.
It has held that role for nearly five decades.
But Sand and Spurs, established in May of 1976, is in dire jeopardy of closing. The property it sits on— adjacent to the Goodyear Blimp base and the Pompano Beach Air Park—is not privately owned, but rather owned by the City of Pompano Beach. At a city budget meeting on July 18, a city Commissioner proposed permanently closing the park, and his motion was supported with votes.
“There are a lot of good riders to come out of Sand and Spurs,” said professional Tricia Loftus, who has trained at Carriage Hill Farms in Delray Beach for the last 20 years. “We all grew up being kids there. It’s so sad that this is happening to more and more local barns. There’s not going to be much left outside of Wellington.”
Loftus, who has now trained riders to both regional and national championships, got her start at Sand and Spurs when she was in grade school. A Pompano native, she developed her skills and kept her first horses at the facility through college. While attending nursing school, she utilized the venue’s unique stadium lights—a donation from a local football field—to teach lessons in the evenings when she finished with her classes. Ultimately, she forwent a nursing career and became a professional in the horse industry.
“While I was in school, I taught little kids how to ride, sometimes on my show horses,” Loftus recalled. “I’d teach one or two lessons after class and made more than I ever would have working for minimum wage at the local mall. And then I turned professional.
“There was always such a pleasant breeze at Sand and Spurs,” she added. “They had a great arena with good footing and great grass paddocks. There were the football stadium lights—Sand and Spurs had them before any other equestrian venue did—and three or four round pens. It was also a unique situation in that every stall was its own entity. Each stall is like a condominium that you owned, with your own walk-out paddock and tack room.”
Molly Allen at Sand and Spurs. Photos Courtesy Molly Allen
A Well-Rounded Education
A professional at ESP Farm in Brookeville, MD and Wellington, FL, Molly Allen has competed at some of the country’s most prestigious horse shows.
She credits much of her success to her upbringing at Sand and Spurs.
Allen was 11 years old when she first started riding in Pompano, and she’d walk a mile to the facility after school to ride and care for the horse she leased before walking another mile home.
“My mom started me riding,” Allen said. “To be able to ride, she would clean stalls, feed horses and do turn out as a form of payment. From learning how to post to riding Level 4 jumpers, my education was at Sand and Spurs.”
It was a multidisciplinary education for Allen, as Sand and Spurs was not exclusively home to show jumping horses.
“The greatest thing about my beginnings as a rider was that at Sand and Spurs, you rented your stall and could do whatever you wanted with your horse. There were dressage horses, carriage horses, trail horses and retired horses,” Allen said. “I learned how to ride reiners, to ride barrel horses. I learned all of those different disciplines that I wouldn’t have had I learned to ride somewhere else.”
Allen’s family kept horses at Sand and Spurs for more than 20 years.
“My mom’s retired horse lived there until less than a year ago,” Allen said. “There is still such a need for this facility.”
Kara Kuras: Then and Now. Photos Courtesy Kara Kuras.
“It’s unique to have a place like Sand and Spurs in the middle of the city. It would be a shame to see it go,” said Andrea Howell, who trains alongside Loftus at Carriage Hill Farms.
After attending the same high school, Howell and Loftus reconnected through Sand and Spurs, and when Loftus expanded her training business at the venue after college, Howell joined her team. Together, they called their business Ocean View Stables—a nod to the facility’s proximity to the beach.
“You could practically see the ocean from the barn!” Loftus exclaimed.
Also within view was Sand and Spurs’ public park. A five-mile track circled the property, introducing many park goers to horses for the first time.
“That’s what I would hate to see—taking this special place away for a lot of kids that wouldn’t have been exposed to horses otherwise,” Howell said.
A look northwest to Wellington, FL reveals a high-income community centered around a premier horse show. Howell asserts, not every family can afford to show at the international venues in the “Winter Horse Show Capital of the World.”
“In the sport that we’re in, it’s become financially unattainable for the middle-class family,” Howell said. “It’s still affordable at Sand and Spurs, and not a lot of people know about it. You purchase your stall, and you pay a city rent fee of about $300 each month. Board in Wellington can be $3,000 per month or higher.”
While Howell, Allen and Loftus all went on to work in the horse show industry, all three emphasized that horses play pivotal roles in people’s lives beyond simply sport. Among the programs running out of the facility, Sand and Spurs hosted a therapeutic riding program for several years.
“Having a connection with an animal and having this passion for horses gives kids an outlet. Going to the barn gives them somewhere to go, something to do instead of getting into trouble, so to speak,” Howell said. “Horses and horsemanship are a vehicle for so many things.”
Kara Kuras grew up riding alongside Allen, Loftus and Howell at Sand and Spurs, but she employs her horsemanship skills in a different way than her counterparts—as a part of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Mounted Unit. Sometimes, her work takes her back to Pompano, where she is on patrol at city events, including parades.
“There are going to be no horses left in Pompano, since they also closed the harness track,” Kuras said. “I fell in love with horses at Sand and Spurs, and I got my first horse there. It was a huge part of my childhood. It’s a great place, and it was a great childhood.”
Kuras wrote an email to the commissioners urging them to rethink their proposal. There is also a petition circulating to help garner support to save the venue at Change.org, with nearly 1700 signatures as of July 26.
To learn more about how to help save Sand and Spurs, click here.