Spooktacular Halloween Dressage Show at Del Mar Horsepark to benefit cancer charity

The Spooktacular Halloween Dressage Show will be held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at the Del Mar Horsepark.

The CrackerJack Productions event features a costume freestyle exhibition and Halloween party, the Milan Memorial Equitation Challenge for adult amateurs and the popular Howling Dog Costume Contest.

The dog costume contest will be held at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1, and awards will be given to best overall costume, scariest, best-matched pair (pet and human), funniest and most creative. A requested $10 donation to participate in the contest will benefit Pacific Cancer Fitness.

“I’m a (cancer) survivor, so I have always wanted the show to give back to breast cancer,” said Lisa Blaufuss, founder of CrackerJack Productions.

Last year, she donated proceeds to Breast Cancer Angels, and in the show’s first year she gave to San Diego Cancer Research Institute and invited a group of cancer patients to watch the show.

“It was so beautiful for them to just sit at the horse park and watch the horses dance to music,” Blaufuss said. “It was so peaceful for them, and a lot of them came back the next day just to be in the moment again. To be able to touch someone like that, even in the most microscopic way, I just enjoy that. I want to give back somehow each year and to try to do it big.”

Blaufuss rode and competed for years until she was sidelined first by a back injury and next by breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2010.

Rather than ride, she turned her focus to equestrian event management and founded CrackerJack Productions in 2011. She has since built up successful and popular shows for the California Dressage Society’s San Diego Chapter circuit.

With Spooktacular, Blaufuss wanted to do something a little different. With most of the circuit shows featuring high-quality international competitors and Olympian riders, competition can be fierce. Spooktacular is an opportunity for riders to “get out of their head a little bit” with the costume freestyle and the musical freestyle class.

“My goal with the whole show is to see as many smiles and as many giggles as possible,” she said.

She is putting this year’s Spooktacular together despite the fact that she is undergoing chemotherapy — her cancer has returned. She didn’t make it to her five-year mark and her cancer has moved to stage four.

Blaufuss said she is grateful that she has a lot of friends supporting her through her second battle with cancer — a Friends of Lisa group has formed that hosts various events throughout San Diego to help raise funds for her costly treatments.

“There’s nothing good about cancer,” said Susan Webster, founder of Spooktacular beneficiary Pacific Cancer Fitness. “It’s a horrible, awful, deadly disease and I’ve lost too many friends to it. But the good thing that came out of it was that I met people I never would’ve met before.”

One of those people was local resident Meredith Grimm, an oncology nurse and patient advocate for cancer and rare diseases.

Grimm leased Blaufuss’ dressage horse when she was no longer able to ride, and in finding out about her work with cancer, Blaufuss introduced her to her close friend Webster. The unlikely combination of horses and cancer brought them all together.

As Webster was working to start Pacific Cancer Fitness, Grimm helped with the health aspect and Blaufuss from a business perspective.

“We are people affected by the cancer in our lives and could see the benefit of collaboration,” said Grimm. “We decided to combine our different skill sets to increase knowledge, connect people and help cancer patients create their own wellness and ‘new normal’ lives.”

Webster was driven to start Pacific Cancer Fitness after her own experience — she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.

“It was a really difficult treatment process and kind of overwhelming, even though I had an amazing team.” she said. “At the end of the year, I was trying to deal with all the side effects of treatments. My body changed, my skin changed and I didn’t find anything available for people like me.”

Webster, a Johns Hopkins-educated scientist, was certified through the American Council on Exercise and became one of 40 cancer exercise specialists in the country. She started working with clients at Tri-City Wellness Center in Carlsbad and founded Pacific Cancer 2 1/2 years ago to help people “survive well.”

Webster said Pacific Cancer Fitness stresses how important it is for survivors to focus on exercise, nutrition and stress reduction that can reduce the risk of recurrence. The facility offers support groups, education and group fitness classes as well as a warm-water pool, compete with underwater treadmill and an indoor track.

“Lisa is kind of the picture of what I envision of everyone who comes to my program, and that’s that they keep going on with their lives,” Webster said. “She’s still running a business, engaged in life, taking care of her horses … Lisa is a model to me of a woman who isn’t taking this sitting down and who is doing her darnedest to make her life work.”

As a survivor, Webster is making her life work, too, and doing her part to show others what they can do to get through. This is different for everyone, but the most important part is self-care and being your own health advocate.

Pacific Cancer Fitness “is my passion,” Webster said. “It’s just so rewarding to see someone come in after getting a really negative diagnosis and see them leave feeling hopeful. Giving people hope, that’s the best thing that I do.”

To sign up for the Spooktacular Howling Dog Costume Contest, contact Susan Webster at (760) 683-9105 or e-mail susan@pacificcancerfitness.org. To learn more about Spooktacular, visit Crackerjackproductionsllc.com.

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