Friends and family gathered at Somerset Farm in Williamston, Michigan, last fall to honor horses, friendship and a special man. We celebrated Dr. Jorge Gomez, 74 and Semik, 26, a horse he imported more than 20 years ago. The pair was honored by the Dressage Foundation with its Century Club award. The Century Club recognizes dressage riders and horses whose combined ages total 100 years or more. To qualify, the horse and rider must perform a dressage test of any level at a dressage show or event and are scored by a dressage judge or a professional.
Dr. Gomez was born in Colombia, South America, and moved to the United States in the 1960s to obtain a medical degree in plastic and reconstructive surgery. He served as a U.S. Navy commander from 1967–1970 and was in the Navy Reserve until 1976. Today he resides in Michigan with his wife, Ginette. They have three married daughters. “Horses have been a strong part of my life,” says Dr. Gomez. “My grandfather was a cavalry officer in the Colombian army and had a farm. I rode horses before I had a tricycle, at about 5 years old.”
Dr. Gomez, who studied under Rosalind Kinstler, bred and imported primarily Andalusians for about 10 years. His first dressage horse was an Andalusian stallion named Pregonero, imported from Spain in 1980 and originally used as a bullfighting horse. He was to have ridden Pregonero in his Century Club ride, but the horse died three months before they could do it, and it would be three more years before he and Semik reached the required combined age of 100. In the summer of 1984, Dr. Gomez learned about the Czechoslovakian horses of Kladruby and decided to go there. He fell in love with two white mares that he purchased later that fall. “The horses were transported to the border,” remembers Dr. Gomez. “The mares went from Kladruby to Germany in an open truck with wooden sides. Since the truck was not allowed to enter Germany, the driver and his helper had to unload the horses and walk them across the border but only after the Czech guards made sure there were no stowaways hiding inside the trailer. Then the mares flew from Frankfurt to New Jersey.”
In addition, he purchased Semik (show name: Czechmate), the 17.1-hand black stallion (named after a mythical horse hero in Czech folklore), for his breeding program. “It was very complicated to import a stallion,” says Dr. Gomez. “There was a tremendous amount of paperwork and he was held in Bratislava for a long time. There were no diplomatic relations at that time and finally Gen. Alexander M. Haig, former U.S. Secretary of State, kindly stepped in to ask them to permit the horse to be shipped.” Semik arrived in the spring of 1985 after a long quarantine in New Jersey.
As an 8-year-old, Dr. Gomez sold Semik as a dressage prospect to one of Kinstler’s students. Over the years, Semik’s training progressed through the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) levels, but he only showed through Third. At 26, Semik, no longer totally black, still grabs attention due to his size as well as his desire for treats.
In this Century ride, Dr. Gomez was judged by Maryal Barnett, a long time friend and supporter. Also present were his family, Kinstler (as scribe that day) and many longtime friends and fellow riders. Learn more about the Century Club at dressagefoundation.org.