by Leslie Potter
W. SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The history of the Morgan begins in New England, with Massachusetts and Vermont both claiming to be the birthplace of the breed. It is appropriate, then, that the prestigious New England Morgan circuit begins every year in West Springfield, Mass., with the Vermont Spring Classic Horse Show.
The Vermont Morgan Horse Association has run the Spring Classic for 38 years, and for the past five it has been held at the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds. Exhibitors enjoy the well-maintained indoor coliseum as well as the ample food and lodging options in the Springfield area. The convenient location draws exhibitors from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as all six New England states. Though many show barns in the Northeast start their season at the UPHA Spring Premier in April, the Vermont Spring Classic is the first all Morgan show of the season, and many of the horses and riders to watch get started right here.
Phil Fountain and Shirley O'Gorman shared judging duties in the coliseum this year, while Janet Black scored the dressage show and Billie Hill officiated in the carriage division. Dr. Hayes Sogoloff manages the show every year, while Jewel Marsh kept things running smoothly in the office as the show secretary. Grace Yaglou and Al Celecki were the ringmasters. The announcer was Bill Carrington and Casey McBride was the show's official photographer.
Dr. Sogoloff and the show committee strive to make their show a fun and exhibitor-friendly event. With parties every night, exhibitors can relax and catch up with one another after a long winter away from the show scene. Wednesday night was the annual pizza party while on Thursday exhibitors enjoyed lasagna after the end of the evening session. The line for Friday night's ribs went right out the doors of Barn C, with hungry show-goers enduring the persistent drizzle while waiting for some barbecue.
In addition to the unbeatable hospitality, the show offers good incentives to put horses into the ring. Friday evening had the trainers' jackpot classes in western pleasure, hunter pleasure, pleasure driving, English pleasure and park saddle. The winning trainers for those open championships took home $500. In spite of that enticement, a few of those classes went uncontested. Numbers were stronger, however, in Saturday night's amateur championship classes, with notably large classes in both the amateur hunter and English classes. This year the classic pleasure saddle and driving championships also had the $500 jackpot prize, an added bonus in an already competitive division
Though entries in the park division tend to be light, it can still be counted on to bring spectators into the coliseum. Amy Neifert took the jackpot in the Park Saddle Open Championship with Something Wicked for Copper Beech, while Rick Stevens took the reserve with Heidi Kunkel's open qualifier winner KD Hot To Trot. Sandy Hendrick and her lovely Queen’s Victorian Lady maintained top billing in the amateur division with the blue and tricolor ribbons, while the ladies blue ribbon team of One And Only and Kate Kertscher earned the reserve tricolor. Cedar Creek Uproar, a handsome liver chestnut, swept the park saddle junior exhibitor division with rider Kate Kielceski for owner and trainer Alicia Fraser followed in reserve by JMF Ace and Kaitlin Kelley. A new team from Taylor River Farm, Stevie Meder and Set To Dance took home top honors in the Park Saddle Junior Exhibitor qualifier and championship classes with Laura McGee teaming up with Ultra’s Special Delivery for reserve. Richard Boulé introduced MW Code Of Honor to the winner’s circle in the junior division for Ken and Chris Delude.
The Park Harness Jackpot also went back to the Sebring Stables banner as Harry Sebring guided WS Commanding Spirit to the honors after a blue ribbon performance in the ladies class with Amy Neifert on the lines for Patricia Lloyd. The stunning ECP McNab stepped up to the park harness division this season with trainer David Rand as the pair took home the Junior Park Harness blue and tricolor for Steve and Jill Tassinari. In the amateur division, JW Sporting Victory and Carol Wesson earned top honors in both the qualifier and championship. Robert Severino enjoyed a trip down victory lane in his debut with his handsome On Star directed by Waterford Farm.
Turnout in the English pleasure division ebbs and flows from one show to the next. Numbers were solid in many of the English classes at the Spring Classic and sparse in others, but the quality of the entries was quite impressive. In the junior exhibitor division, the well-matched team of Pondview Promises Promises and Theresa Scott trotted off with top honors in both the 13 and under qualifier and championship. No stranger to the winner’s circle, FCF Couer De Lion swept the 14-17 division with rider Gina Macari for owner Elizabeth Henry. In the youth ranks, Equitation Unlimited rider Marlo Franco and WSG Wham-o turned in impressive performances to take the qualifier and championship for owner Ann Whitman.
Theresa Scott and Pondview Promises Promises
The trend of a division sweep spread to the amateur ranks as well. In the Amateur Stallions and Geldings class, Kristi Evans steered Hylee's Dann Osgood to victory, then went back to take the amateur championship tricolor back to Moreland Farm.
Luman Wadhams guided Graycliff Tony to a stellar debut, winning the English Pleasure Three-Year-Old and the Junior Horse Championship for Lynn and Jeff Yelton. On Friday night it was Narragansett Spirit in the winner's circle to take the English Pleasure Open Championship. Stonegate's Anne Benson rode this Hobby Horse Enterprises entry to victory, and as the winning trainer also took the $500 jackpot.
Another Stonegate-trained entry, the great Stonecroft Byzantine with owner Heidi Kunkel, was victorious in the Pleasure Driving Amateur Stallions and Geldings as well as the Pleasure Driving Amateur Championship. In the junior exhibitor ranks, The Bachelor MEM took the championship with Stephanie Slater at the lines after the team claimed victory in the 14-17 division. Harry Sebring added another $500 trainers' jackpot to the Sebring Stables tally in the Pleasure Driving Open Championship, which he won with the always-stunning Paradigm Hot Chocolate. Earlier in the show this pair took the blue in the Pleasure Driving Mares class for Copper Beech.
Classic pleasure continues to be one of the most popular classes in the Morgan world. Besides generally large numbers in this division, the competition gets tougher every season, with the quality of horses getting better and better. In yet another junior exhibitor division sweep, Lilac Hill Under Fire and Elizabeth Wyllie took both the blue and the tricolor back to the Equitation Unlimited banner. SBS Power Play and Kristi Evans were victorious in the ladies class, and then went on to take the coveted $500 jackpot as winners of Saturday night's Classic Pleasure Championship.
Following the trend, Rowenda Regal Heir and Leah Raitt swept the Classic Pleasure Driving Junior Exhibitor classes. ESS Fleur De Lis and owner Ernestine Smith took top honors in the ladies class as well as the $500 jackpot in the Classic Pleasure Driving Open Championship under the Waterford Farm banner.
By far the most popular division of the show, the hunter pleasure classes were filled to the brim and fiercely competitive. The first hunter class of the show was the ladies class on Wednesday evening. Garland Fleur De Lis topped this 18-entry class with owner Joyce Thoma under the direction of Cedar Spring Farm. This exquisite team would later take the tricolor in the open championship, earning the $500 jackpot for trainer Keely Sogoloff. In the junior horse division, Kathleen Peeples and Gradell Ring My Bell took both the qualifier and championship victories. This talented youngster is owned by Jerome and Shirley Modell.
One of many notable Driftway Meadow entries, Narragansett Bay and owner Nancy Desrosiers earned impressive victories in large novice rider and novice horse classes, and capped off the show on a high note with a win in the Hunter Pleasure Amateur Championship.
Nancy Desrosiers and Narragansett Bay
with trainer Scott Travers
Judging by the numbers in the youth and junior exhibitor hunter classes, the popularity of this division is not going to wane anytime soon. Two stables clearly dominated these classes throughout the show. Taylor River Farm added many blues to their banner thanks to The Lion King and Katelyn Merrill, who swept the 13 and under classes. Continuing her winning ways, Stevie Meder and Manchester In Demand took the blue in section A of the 14-17 and an impressive reserve in the championship.
Katelyn Merrill and The Lion King
Wynter Thyme Manor had a fantastic show, thanks in no small part to their young riders in the hunter classes. Grand Cru Valentino and accomplished rider Chelsey Abate brought home the blue in section B of the 14-17 class. Morgan Zielinski and Attn. Postmaster are a relatively new team with an already long list of victories. They added to that list with a blue ribbon in the Hunter Pleasure Youth, a reserve in the youth championship and top honors in the Junior Exhibitor 14-17 Championship. The bold-moving chestnut, Under Fire was crowned Hunter Pleasure Youth Champion with owner Bianca Abella.
In the western division, Bellewether's horses and riders were frequent visitors to the winner’s circle. Longtime student Jenna Britt and DFM Poetic Justice turned in a great performance to win the Western Pleasure Junior Exhibitor Championship. Tony Picardi rode the breathtaking, jet-black Greentree Nightowl to victory in the novice rider class as well as a reserve in the amateur championship. Judy Nason rode several winning entries herself, including Wellspring Immortal Star, another eye-catching black horse who took top honors in the Western Pleasure Mares and novice horse classes. FCF Montego Bay was the winner in the ladies class as well as the stallions and geldings. This entry ultimately took the tricolor in the Open Western Pleasure Championship, with Judy Nason taking the $500 trainers' jackpot.
Not to be outdone, RAND had some nice entries in the western divisions as well as many outstanding English horses. Anna Tassinari and MCA Seawind Serenade earned top honors in the junior exhibitor qualifier. Jason Douglass took Erika Ramsey's well-named ECP Pretty Woman to victory in the amateur qualifier and championship under the direction of David Rand.
Anna Tassinari and MCA Seawind Serenade
Though numbers were moderate in the Saddle Seat equitation division, it was evident that these riders had been working hard over the winter. Equitation Unlimited's Rachel Menard had an undefeated show, earning the top ribbons in the 14-15 age group, AMHA Saddle Seat Medal, UPHA Challenge Cup 14-17 and the Senior Saddle Seat Equitation Championship. Rachel earned her victories with RDF French Twist, owned by Brittany Davis.
Rachel Menard and RDF French Twist
In the junior division it was Taylor River Farm's Nason Lee Bastarache who dominated in her trips to the winner’s circle. This elegant young rider earned victories in the 12-13 age group, the UPHA Challenge Cup 13 and Under and the Junior Saddle Seat Equitation Championship paired with the multi-titled Hollybrook Romeo.
In the walk and trot division, Annie Kelley turned in a polished performance to take top honors in the 8 and under division. Another Equitation Unlimited rider, Alexandra Frangiosa, was victorious in the 9-11 age group and the Walk and Trot Saddle Seat Equitation Championship with Think About It MEM.
Quinn Mercier turned in great rides to take the Classic Saddle Seat Equitation 13 and Under as well as the Classic Equitation Championship with Absolut Appeal. Amy Podesva of Rolling Oaks Stable was reserve in the championship after taking the blue in the 14-17 qualifier. Another Rolling Oaks entry, Hannah Bornt looked elegant on the adorable Manistee Lee Mistral as she won both the Classic Walk Trot 11 and Under qualifier and championship.
Not surprisingly, hunt seat equitation classes were huge in numbers and highly competitive, with the championship ultimately divided into age groups due to the number of entries. The hunt seat equitation division echoed the hunter pleasure junior exhibitor classes, and many of the same teams took top honors in both divisions. Wynter Thyme Manor's Bianca Abella reserve the equitation 14-17 age group as well as a reserve in the championship. Barnmate Morgan Zielinski had an impressive catch ride on HVK Flaire Time to take the AMHA Hunt Seat Medal.
Taylor River's Katelyn Merrill was victorious in the 13 and Under qualifier as well as the championship with The Lion King. Stevie Meder showed why she's the reigning world champion in the senior hunt seat equitation division, taking the 14-17 age group and the highly competitive championship.
Stevie Meder and Manchester In Demand
In the walk and trot division, Montanna Lambrecht rode to victory in the 8 and Under qualifier as well as the championship. Lambrecht rides under the direction of her mother, Melissa, at Wynter Thyme Manor. In the 9-11 division, Nicholas Roberts and TJB Opinionated took the equitation qualifier and championship under the direction of Cindy Mugnier. It's worth noting that Roberts also had some impressive rides and a pair of reserve ribbons in the Walk and Trot Classic Equitation classes as well.
In the western equitation division, Nikki Evans came home with the championship as well as top honors in the AMHA medal. Jenna Britt was reserve in the championship after having won the 14-17 age group.
The Roadster To Bike classes received the most crowd response, with several exciting entries racing for top honors. Luman Wadhams drove Carol Hudson's Dragonsmeade Maxmara to the blue in the qualifier. The team also took reserve in the championship while Percy McDaniel and Blk Orchid Live From NY took top honors and the tricolor with a crowd-pleasing performance for Clint and Linda Barber.
The In Hand competition got the Vermont Spring Classic off to a tricolor start with UVM Sally earning the first championship of the show. It was fitting for a product of the UVM Morgan Horse Farm to start things off in the win column with Steve Davis presenting the Junior Champion Mare. Many-time champion MEM So Emotional added the Senior and Grand Champion Mare honors to her resume for Copper Beech under the Sebring Stables banner. The stallions were next on stage with 2006 Junior World Champion Stallion MCS Bandini posing as the Junior and Grand Champion Stallion with Mike Carpenter on the lead for George Schott. Way Beyond Reason took a familiar trip to the winner’s circle as the Senior Champion Stallion for Chris and Andrea Kelley under the Hobby Knoll Stable banner. Sarde’s Manistique showed off his good looks on the way to the Grand Champion Gelding honors with Luman Wadhams on the lead for Deedee Ludlam.
Another exciting season for Morgan exhibitors in the northeast is off to a running start. Thanks to the Vermont Spring Classic show committee for putting on a great competition. Mark your calendar for next year's show May 14-17, 2008.
Complete show results can be seen and searched by clicking here.