C.E. “Pep” Peppiatt
An exceptional horseman.
An excellent judge.
A wonderful talent and a unique, entertaining showman.
A man whose every appearance in the show ring, whether as competitor or official, accentuated the word “show.”
These are all attributes of C.E. “Pep” Peppiatt, of Russell Cave Pike in Lexington, Kentucky.
Late in his active career, Pep was perhaps best known as among the top judges of American Saddlebreds and all show horses and ponies anywhere in the world. To judge nice horses, however, it is almost essential to have had and made them, which Pep certainly did.
He judged and judged well from coast to coast and just about everywhere in between, as well as overseas, getting his start officiating for Maggie and Turner Young with Christian Barham. From the World’s Championship Horse Show in Freedom Hall (three times), to the Royal Winter Fair in Canada, to the Grand National at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, to the American Royal in Kansas City, to the Lexington Jr. League, Denver, Houston and Portland, Santa Anita, Havana, and South Africa (twice), Pep brought his unmistakable integrity and knowledge – not to mention his showmanship, even as a judge.
If the horses weren’t especially noteworthy in a given class, Pep always was. Dressed to perfection replete with a colorful pocket square, card in one hand along with his pencil sometimes shielding his eyes from the sun’s glare, fist on a hip, he would lean forward and study each entry with an intense gaze. A delight for any announcer or ringmaster, when he had seen enough at any gait Pep would signal for the walk sometimes jumping and spinning as he did so, then to call for the next one. There was never any waiting for his decision, as he walked the line and handed in his card with the flourish of a signature. Everyone always knew where Pep stood, as a judge in the ring or outside it.
Ever the party animal from the very start – Pep might have invented the term, even though he didn’t want you to know his given name was Cecil Everett, and Pep certainly fit better – he began his riding career at Tallulah Falls, Georgia when he was just 6. His first horse, from Will Farr B Farms, was Carita Flower, then Reverie’s Hamilton from Freeman Keys, and My Fancy Parade from the old Undulata Farm and Bay Rhythm from Walter Gant.
In Albertville, Alabama, he trained Noble Knight, Solid Mahogany, Slightly Dangerous, and Calamity Jane for W.S. Hewitt, the latter selling to Art Ledbetter for $10,000 when that amounted to a fortune by itself. For C.L. Fain in Atlanta, he trained Parading Lady, Man of the Hour, Welcome Harmony, Ever Thine, CHNoble’s Color Added, Jet Pilot, Lexington Leader, Love’s Command, and Royal Blue.
At Nan Dot Stables in Dallas and Danville, the stars were CHLib Sharp, CHStarlight Heiress, CHTanbark Romance, CHMiss Helen, and Jubilee’s Beauty. For Dodge Stables, he trained CHLover’s Sensation, Get Around, and Main Title.
At his own Peppiatt Stables, his highlighters were CHDixie Wing, Bi Mi Magic Dream, Wing Solo, Lady Virginia, CHSea of Secrets, CHFrench Wine, Carolina Shamrock, and Annabelle Bailey.
With his induction to the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame, Pep Peppiatt adds the distinction of his remarkable contribution to the world of show horses, as well as his unique personal flair and commitment to quality that are the equal of any of the heroes of the breed and sport.
When a very young Jack Nevitt got his first job around horses with K. K. “Eddie” Gutridge, he just pestered Mr. Gutridge into letting him ride something. There was a two-year-old in the barn named Guilford’s High Command, and Eddie figured he’d see just how bad Jack really wanted to ride – so he put him up on the unbroke colt while everyone else in the barn went to banging and hollering. As the colt started bucking, the next thing Jack knew was that his feet were up above the saddle, and his first ride turned out to be a very short one.
These are indelible marks of what has made Jack Nevitt a great horseman and a worthy inductee into the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame: not only did that experience not sour Jack on riding, but instead made him more determined to succeed, and he never forgot that horse’s name or that experience. Nor has he ever forgotten his love for riding or for his horses.
He worked at Rock Creek under the great Jim B. Robertson, and then with Garland Bradshaw. It was with Mr. Bradshaw that he learned the importance of stressing quality; Jack never forgot the time he led Captain Denmark out of the stall, told everyone to stop working, and walk around that horse, look at him, and never forget what a stallion or quality horse should look like.
As Jack’s career attests, he never did. As accomplished a working horseman as Jack is, he’s an equally accomplished judge, having judged the breed’s pinnacle shows, the World’s Championship Horse Show, Lexington Jr. League, American Royal, Indiana State Fair, and the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York three times each!
World’s Grand Champion CHBelle Elegant, owned by North Ridge Farm, the mare Jack made and trained up to her first “big stake” win at Louisville in 1975, has to account for many of his best moments in the sport. “The two of us grew up together,” he’s said. But she’s far from his only success story. He showed World’s Champion Five-Gaited Stallions Boola Boola (Copper Coin Farm) and CHIrish American (North Ridge Farm) as well.
Other top Nevitt trainees have included Blackberry Winter, Limelight, CHWing Flame, Miss Blue Grass, CHSee The Sights, Sweet Peach, True North, CHBlaze of Brilliance, CHThe Groomsman, CHSnow Flurry, Sir Kilarney’s Rose, CHVintage Lace, and Broadway Casanova.
Though the modesty that is a distinct personal characteristic of Jack would not permit himself to be put in his company, he shares another important quality with Mr. Bradshaw besides good horsemanship: they both had an interest in teaching and helping young horsemen. In Jack’s case, John Biggins, Randy Harper, and Tom Ferrebee all benefited from his experience and guidance.
Already awarded membership in the United Professional Horsemen’s Association Hall of Fame, this year the same Jack Nevitt who was bucked off in his first ride is rewarded for his persistence, his skill, and his superlative all-around horsemanship by induction into the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Robertson, now of Infinity Stables in Shelbyville, Kentucky, is the latest of a rare few Californians inducted to the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame.
He shares a link, however, with the very first Californian (and perhaps most noteworthy) so honored, Mrs. William P. Roth of Why Worry Farm, exhibitor of the immortals CHChief of Longview and CHSweetheart on Parade, among many others. For Jimmy was foaled in California when his own Hall of Fame father, Jim B. Robertson, was working for Why Worry. Not very long after that, however, the Robertsons returned to Kentucky and few would ever mistake Jimmy for anything but a Kentuckian through and through.
In the show ring, his successes include ponies who have claimed World’s Championships in the Roadster section on many occasions, with stars such as High Spirit, Janell’s Doll, Speed Limit, What Luck, Witchone, and Tijuana Souvenir. In the Saddlebred world, on Premier’s Fabulous Lady, he claimed the Five-Gaited Kentucky County Fair Grand Championship, and the Three-Gaited Kentucky County Fair Grand Championship with Cadillac Spirit, wife and indispensable contributor and partner Helen in the irons.
A devotion to youth and equitation also marks Jimmy’s career, eloquent testimony to his orientation and dedication to a future that will be more prosperous than the past. His own personal eloquence as a toastmaster and raconteur, marked by an inimitable, droll humor that is unmistakably his own, enlivens many a fun social occasion and delights everyone he encounters.
Two-time World’s Champion CHWhat A Phine Ruby as well as World’s Champion She’s Bedazzled ADW have been proud examples of his success with juvenile riders at Louisville, as has his daughter Jennifer’s consistent success with her Roadster Rum’s Last Shot, a Reserve World’s Champion. Other World’s Champions and Reserve Champions include Miss Outta My Way, Sweet Lips, CHI’m Mr. Blue, CF Mad Night Out, and Seamair’s Flash Dance.
In Equitation, his notable champions include Malissa Shirkey, Carol Reams, Lynn Ellen Reams, Virginia Cable, Tammie Turner, Sarah Cronan, Ann Mary Robertson, Addie Langford, Kelli House, Kelsey Price, Joel Dorignac, Melissa Shane, Annie Reed, Julie Spinnato, and Katie Raque.
On countless occasions, without being asked and without any notice or recognition, Jimmy has been a friend in need and a help in deed to his fellow horsemen, any number of whom have faced a personal emergency all the more successfully for his assistance. His own fraternity of professional horsemen has been guided with immeasurable skill in his presidencies of the UPHA twice, in the early 1990s and again over ten years later. He was honored by the UPHA with the Richard Lavery Award and the Helen Crabtree Equitation Instructor of the Year Award, and by the American Saddlebred Horse Association with its C.J. Cronan Sportsmanship Award in 2000.
He has served the World’s Championship Horse Show as a member of its Advisory Board on numerous occasions, formally and informally, and has judged the competition three times, once with his father in the 80s, and twice since, including in 2007. His integrity and skill in judging has taken him to the world’s other greatest competitions, including South Africa, Bermuda, and Canada, as well as the National Horse Show in New York and the inaugural All American Cup.
And so the magical tapestry that is the Kentucky State Fair and its horse show elaborates another golden thread or three, since Jimmy not only carries on a tradition of excellence in horsemanship with American Saddlebreds, but with ponies as well as other disciplines that were hallmarks of Jim B. and Mrs. Roth before him. He has done so always with an eye to service to his fellow horsemen and his favorite breeds, and to elevating officiating always to new levels, traits that also marked the lifelong commitments to their own passions of fellow Hall of Fame honorees Mrs. Roth and his own father.
Photo Credit: Photos by Howard Schatzberg