When Ransome Rombauer’s parents signed her up for Friday night Saddle Club at a small local lesson barn, it was an opportunity for her parents to have a date night and introduce her to horses, barn chores, and groundwork. She loved it so much that it evolved into spending many days after school and full time during the summers throughout her grade-school years.
“Sunrise Stables was a very rustic and down-to-earth experience,” Ransome said. “Before any of the campers were allowed to ride, we were required to learn how to muck stalls, pick hooves, groom, and properly feed the horses. I gained a solid foundation in horsemanship before I could even walk-trot. For that, I am truly grateful.” In the early ’70s, Ransome’s grandparents, Koerner and Joan Rombauer moved their two children, two Quarter Horses, and a pack of Sheltie dogs from Texas to the Napa Valley, where they ultimately founded Rombauer Vineyards in 1980. Ransome got the horse-lover gene from both sides; her father, Koerner “KR” Rombauer III, grew up doing 4-H throughout his youth, and his love of animals, farming, and horses definitely rubbed off on Ransome. Her mother, Laura, grew up riding horses on the mountain trails at North Lake Tahoe. Appreciation for food and wine already ran deep in the family. Grandpa Koerner’s great-aunt Irma Rombauer wrote the American kitchen staple cookbook The Joy of Cooking, and his German ancestors had deep roots in the winegrowing region of Rheingau.
Over four decades later, Rombauer Vineyards is now a third generation family-owned-and-operated winery renowned for its signature Carneros Chardonnay. “I remember tagging along with my dad doing wine-tasting tours at the winery and meeting customers at wine dinners. Everyone I knew growing up and where I went to school were connected to the wine industry,” Ransome noted. “It’s crazy to think that all my friends were a part of Silver Oak Cellars, Schramsberg Vineyards, Duckhorn Vineyards, Spottswoode Winery, Aubert, and many more notable California wine brands.” Though the wine business isn’t Ransome’s primary focus, it definitely is part of who she is. Like many young West Coast riders, Ransome spent most of her junior career in the equitation ring training with Daniel Ighani (Ighani Sporthorses) and Karen Healey. With many top finishes under her belt, moving into the jumper ring once she aged out of the juniors was a logical shift in focus. Ransome spent the final semester of her senior year of high school in Wellington, training full-time with Ashland Farms and Spencer Smith. She graduated from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in the spring of 2021 after commuting back and forth from Dallas to Wellington each season and spending summers competing at Spruce Meadows with Spencer. During this time, Ransome got to know Eric Lamaze, as Eric was training Spencer then and had also sold Ransome her jumpers over the years. “Spencer started traveling a lot more for his own career, and it made sense for me to make a change and move to Eric’s barn, Torrey Pines,” Ransome said. Eric knew my horses, knew me, and we really hit it off. He has a way of instilling self-confidence, and I have matured as a rider under his guidance and in his program. It has been a great partnership and the right move in my career.”
Since early this summer, at the end of WEF, Ransome has been showing throughout Europe, including a few Global Champions Tour shows and some of the more regional 3*** shows in Belgium, closer to the Torrey Pines home barn outside of Brussels. “I have my two jumpers at the barn, but there are always many young horses and sale horses for me to ride, flat, and lesson on, which is great and has given me a lot of extra time in the saddle. This summer is the first time I have been able to focus on my riding 100 percent and not have the grind of managing school and university in between commuting to competitions. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of such an established training program and be surrounded by such great people. It’s very exciting. I love the barn culture, the team camaraderie, and the buzz that goes on every day,” Ransome said. She will keep her horses in Belgium through mid-December and then head straight to Florida for the 2023 winter circuit with the Torrey Pines team.
Though competition has been her focus throughout her riding career, Ransome has always had a soft spot for horses and other animals in need. “Animal welfare has always been one of my passions, and I grew up being around animals and horses at a local horse rescue,” Ransome added. “During high school, I became aware of Brooke USA, a fundraising arm for an international equine welfare organization, and I started donating my competition prize money. Simultaneously, I became more and more aware of the issues of kill pens and the movement of horses from the USA to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.” This was a time when everything clicked for Ransome, and she realized she needed to do something. It all started with a Craigslist ad and taking on a family of feral miniature horses living in squalid conditions in a residential backyard while being terrorized by little kids. Little did she know, the mare was pregnant, and soon the family of three became four! It was only the beginning and thankfully Ransome had supportive parents who turned a blind eye as she added to her herd of rescue minis, including a few that were rescued out of a kill pen in Texas and hauled back to California. The experience of taking on neglected horses, rehabbing them, and bringing them back to life was truly rewarding. Ransome didn’t stop at just minis. The Rombauer family has taken on numerous rescue horses and has recently added rescue dogs to the menagerie. It has come to a point where, between retired show horses and the rescue horses, Ransome currently has 14 in her herd that she manages with the help of her parents. Needless to say, Mom and Dad have said that is enough —no more horses!
While attending SMU in Dallas for four years, Ransome struggled with being away from her rescues at home. She started regularly volunteering at Dallas Animal Services and the Fort Worth Animal Care and Control to fill her nurturing need. Her love of animals and her special connection with creatures in need paved the way for many, many, volunteer hours at the shelters. “I love rehabbing animals, identifying the ones that are in the worst condition and overlooked, and bringing them back to life,” she said. “It makes me so happy and satisfied to be a part of their transformations. It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.” Fort Worth Animal Care and Control is one of the largest city-owned dog shelters in the country. “There are over 1,100 dogs at the shelter right now,” she says. “It’s a complete nightmare.”
Irresponsible backyard breeding, lack of sufficient spay and neutering services, and so many people surrendering pets, have filled the Texas shelters beyond capacity. So, Ransome took on a new shelter dog, rehabilitated it for a semester, took it home to the Napa Valley, and started all over again with another rescue the following term. “So, we have five dogs at home at the moment from the Texas shelters, and my parents say ‘No more!’” she laughed. “I really have a soft spot for helping animals, and so does my mom, but at this point, my dad has cut me off from adding more animals to our four-legged family.”
“I think this is my calling and my way of giving back to the horse and dog rescue community,” she continues. “I think it’s easy to get caught up in the show scene, and it’s hard to remember that there are so many unwanted horses and dogs out there—especially in Texas. I see so many. It’s hard, but it’s important to me, and hopefully, my volunteer and rescue efforts make a tiny bit of difference.”