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A Fitting Ending




by Kendra Peeples

 

The fitting & showmanship division is one that has huge popularity in other breeds but is just beginning to truly catch on in the Morgans. When people think of fitting & showmanship, there’s often one name that comes to mind: Connor Farley. Connor, now 17 and in his last year of eligibility, has been an early and fervent supporter of the division. He advocated that the division be extended to include a qualifier and world championship instead of being just a Grand National finals class. In the past 10 years of competing in fitting & showmanship, Connor has won Grand National and/or World Championship titles eight years and the Reserve World Championship title twice.

       This past February, Connor suffered a broken back on his family farm in West Virginia. After traveling all the way to New York City to seek the opinions of the professionals at the esteemed Hospital for Special Surgery, he began his long road to recovery. One month ago, Connor returned to the show ring at the New York Regional Morgan Horse Show aboard his new partner RBF Ramblin Man, a half brother to his beloved prior partner RBF Russian Roulette. He and Ramblin Man finished in sixth in their 14-17 qualifier, and they also competed in the western dressage division.

While competing in Oklahoma City on Sunday morning, Rhea Turner, trainer at Kardia Equestrian Academy, noticed that Ramblin Man was having some soreness issues. Rhea knew that Connor had been anticipating on returning to the Fitting & Showmanship 14-17 World Championship that evening, and she offered him the chance to present SDMF Master Illusion so that Ramblin Man could rest. Connor graciously accepted the offer.

       Come Sunday night, Connor and SDMF Master Illusion earned the Reserve World Champion title much to the joy of every party involved. There was not much time to dawdle, however, as Master Illusion switched handlers and Aaron Woodland brought him in the 13 & under world championship where he placed third. Aaron had previously won his qualifier with Master Illusion and was thrilled to place third in the world championship. Stablemate Tatyana Carr earned the Reserve World Champion title with QVM National Treasure.

       The teamwork, mutual support, and trust that each owner and exhibitor had in each other was a beautiful testament to the world of equestrian sport and especially to the atmosphere and community within the fitting & showmanship division. Natalie Woodland, owner of SDMF Master Illusion and Aaron’s sister, joined the rest of the Woodlands, Farleys, and Rhea Turner at the outgate to share in their celebration. It was a truly beautiful sight to see as the families joined together to celebrate.

Prior to the beginning of the show, Connor hosted an informal mini camp for multiple exhibitors after being approached by many of the other exhibitors – amongst them Elizabeth Keller, the Fitting & Showmanship 14-17 World Champion. In Connor’s final year, he was able to take one last victory pass and also experience the joy of watching his mentees and friends take their own victory passes. There is no more fitting ending to his career for a young man who has given so much of his time and energy to help this division grow. 

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