Pritchard Hill: A special horse, world-class wine, and a unique friendship

Even with a championship at indoors under his belt, Pritchard Hill’s best is “definitely yet to come,” says Carleton.

BY RENNIE DYBALL

Of all the messages  Balmoral receives on social media, this one was a first… “Is Pritchard Hill the name of the beautiful jumper? Who named the horse and do you know why he is named Pritchard Hill?”

That was the DM sent to Balmoral’s Instagram in 2019 from a woman named Alexa Chappellet. And the horse in question was Traci and Carleton Brooks’ green conformation hunter.

“He is named Pritchard Hill because Traci (who named him) loves wine, and Pritchard Hill is like the Rodeo Drive of Napa for grapes,” Balmoral’s social media manager responded to Alexa—who turned out to be part of the Chappellet Winery family that makes Pritchard Hill wines. “I just saw your profile and I guess you know all about Pritchard Hill. Small world!”

Carleton Brooks & Traci Brooks at Thermal.

A small world… and the beginning of a special and unlikely friendship. Alexa is the daughter of Molly and Donn Chappellet, who moved from Los Angeles to Pritchard Hill in 1967 with their children—and a passion for wine. “My father’s dream was to make a world-class wine from Napa Valley,” says Alexa. Some vines had already been planted, the first harvest came that same year, and Chappellet Winery was born.

Chappellet Vineyard.

“My father trademarked the name Pritchard Hill back in 1967, and we have used that name ever since we arrived on Pritchard Hill. It is now used for our very highest quality wines,” explains Chappellet. “It is no problem to have a horse named Pritchard Hill as our trademark is for wine-related issues. We do love it that the horse Pritchard Hill is also of the highest quality!”

Traci and Carleton came upon the Pritchard Hill area of Napa Valley because wine country “is one of our favorite places to relax and explore,” says Traci. “We ended up at some amazing vineyards on Pritchard Hill and fell in love with everything about it. They say everything from the climate, to the soil, to the exposure makes the best grapes and then wines. It has all the perfect elements. We decided to save the name Pritchard Hill for a really special horse.”

That horse would be a 16-hand, 2012 Warmblood with a sweet expression and a spectacular jump. “He actually loved to jump a little too much in the beginning, so we had to be really patient,” Traci explains. “He almost jumped too high and explosively at first. The goal was to relax his jump without taking away its brilliance.”

Carleton Brooks & Pritchard Hill. Photo © Irene Elise Powlick

“Quinn,” as Pritchard Hill is known at the barn, has been piloted mostly by Carleton in recent years, and also by Leslie Steele, John Bragg, and junior rider Juliette Joseph. “I follow Pritchard Hill’s life of competition and I especially love to see when Carleton rides him,” says Chappellet. Carleton and Quinn have racked up numerous championships and wins together everywhere from California’s Desert Circuit to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg.

Since connecting with Balmoral, Chappellet arranged for Traci and Carleton to tour her family’s winery, and she visited Balmoral’s Malibu location to meet the horse whose name she couldn’t help but notice on Instagram.

“Traci and I have talked a number of times and swapped stories,” says Chappellet, a horsewoman herself. “Carleton has the true love and spirit of one who cares deeply for people and horses. Pritchard Hill and I had an immediate bond. I love watching Pritchard Hill, but what I love most is that he is such a kind and willing horse, which makes me feel that he loves what he does.”

She’s exactly right, says Traci: “He’s happy every day and loves to work.”

Chappellet’s father was a rider himself, and Alexa grew up riding on Napa’s Pritchard Hill. “I often rode my horses bareback and had only Birkenstocks on my feet,” she says. “Although I did take some lessons and went to riding camp, I never had the interest to compete. My horses, Budweiser and Black Gold, were my friends, and taught me what I know. Budweiser liked to buck, so he taught me a lot!”

Today, Chappellet owns a registered Fresian Sport Horse named Indigo. She purchased him from a friend whose family raises, trains, and shows Mexican dancing horses. Indigo now lives at an Andalusian breeder’s barn near Chappellet’s home. “Although Indigo was trained to dance, I ride him on the trails in Paramount Ranch. Sometimes I ask him to dance just for the fun of it,” she says. “Indigo and I are a great team and I cannot imagine my life without him.”  

Alexa Chappallet & Indigo.

As for Traci’s thoughts on Pritchard Hill wines, her description sounds a lot like the horse she named. “It’s elegant and well-balanced,” says Traci. “Exciting, interesting, and thoughtful. With a rich, beautiful history.”

Pritchard Hill’s History 

When the Chappellet family arrived on Pritchard Hill in the late ‘60s, “The property was very dry and  large boulders were piled everywhere,” says Alexa Chappellet. “It seemed as though we had moved into a rugged,  dry, difficult area with no trees around. It was very hot in the summers.” Fortunately, Alexa’s mother  Molly had previously been a docent at a Los Angeles museum and “she has a gift for beauty,” says Alexa.  “She transformed Pritchard Hill into the beautiful setting it is now. Our property is now verdant and  lush and with trees and plants that my mom has cultivated for over 50 years.”


Photos: Irene Elise Powlick,  Alexa Chappellet


About the Author: Rennie Dyball is the author of several books, including The Plaid Horse’s middle grade novel series, Show Strides. She’s also a contributing writer for TPH and a ghostwriter for celebrity books. Rennie lives in Maryland and competes in hunters and equitation.

Read More from This Author »