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AHHS Youth Medallion Program and the UPHA American Royal - A Great Partnership

The American Royal has long been the showcase for the nation's best Hackney ponies and their youth exhibitors and this year was no exception even though the numbers for ponies in virtually every division at the American Royal were especially light.

The AHHS Youth Medallion program was created to bring kids and Hackneys together and it now serves to provide scholarships to junior exhibitors who participate at shows around the country all season long, and to fuel the interest of parents, children and trainers in the versatile Hackney Pony and Hackney Horse.

In appreciation of those parents, juveniles and trainers who made the trip to Kansas City to compete for a national title a wonderful luncheon was sponsored by Saddle Creek Farm owner Pat Moore. Everyone in attendance enjoyed great food and a special presentation of gifts provided by the AHHS and various sponsors.

Rodney Root served as the host/emcee and was joined by co-chairmen Mary Lou Greenwell and Dr. Jane Keil. Keil and Greenwell presented "goody bags" filled with assorted gifts including yo yos, ink pens, magnets, keychains, subscriptions to Saddle Horse Report and Horse World, and stickers to all of the medallion participants. In addition, they also received nice leather halters donated by Walsh. National Championship winners received duffel bags donated by Radon.

A raffle was held with gifts donated by P & S Tack Shop, Terry Bennett Tack, National Bridle Shop, Le Cheval, Hackney World Magazine, and Janet Crawford Hicks.

Root closed the luncheon by discussing a proposal he intends to make to the AHHS board. Root discussed the idea of having five regional championship shows in various zones around the country: Central, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and West. "I don't wish to criticise anyone who has worked on the Medallion program. All those involved have done a good job. I do feel however, that the program needs to continue to be promoted and that it can always grow and thrive with the proper attention. Rather than dissuading young people from showing at the American Royal, I think that having regional championship shows where there is more money paid out to the participants, would give exhibitors even more reason to end their year at the American Royal with a bid in the national championship classes," said Root.

The five regional shows could offer the AHHS Medallion classes that they feel would be supported at their horse show. They would not have to offer all six that have national titles in Kansas City. If $3000 were offered at each show, that money (which would come from sponsors) would be distributed in the classes offered.

"The medallion program has been one of the best programs ever started by the AHHS," continued Root. "I think that encouraging young people to participate and giving them the opportunity to win additional money at regional championships, along with the added promotion from horse shows would help the program continue to grow and get bigger and better."

Thursday evening's AHHS Roadster Pony Under Saddle National Championship started the evening's competition. Six teams came through the gate to compete in front of judges Larry Ella, Nelson Green and Pat McConnell, hoping to earn the first AHHS national title.

Silent Partner and Aliyah Asch, License To Kill and Michelle Herron, Daydream Dancer and Marjorie Townsend, Aarobrook's The Aviator and Alli Smith, Blockbuster D.V. and Ashlynn Thommes and K & J's The Harley Sportster with Britt Gentry turned on the heat to make the class an entertaining one.

After all six ponies put on a great show, they lined up to await the results which were announced in reverse order. Aarobrook's The Aviator was called out for sixth place followed by K and J's The Harley Sportster. Daydream Dancer and License To Kill finished in fourth and third respectively. Finally, only two ponies remained. When Silent Partner was named as the reserve national champion, Ashlynn Thommes knew she had earned the first AHHS national championship. Thommes and Blockbuster D.V. took their victory pass in front of the enthusiastic crowd to close out their successful year.

Three sporty ponies worked hard with their young drivers in the 13 and under roadster pony medallion class including last year's winner Boxford Courageous Spirit. Richmond DeHart drove to the win last year and the game pony returned to competition this year with talented young driver Max Kaplan. Reigning World's Grand Champion Cowboy Magic and Gabriella Flynn were right in the mix. The final entry in the trio of competitors, Daydream Dancer with Edward Townsend, worked hard to impress the judges.

The judges were in agreement for all three places and named Daydream Dancer the third place winner and Boxford Courageous Spirit the reserve national champion. Gabriella Flynn was all smiles as she took the victory pass with her multi-titled pony to close out a great season.

The AHHS Hackney/Harness Pony Youth Medallion National Championship featured two ponies. Michelle Herron and cobtail Dun-Haven Radiant Spirit was met by harness pony Wait & See's Whiz Bang with Calloray Howard. Earning two first place votes, Radiant Spirit went to the winner's circle to await the presentation of the medallion, winning ribbon and national championship. Michelle Herron drove for owner Carol Hall. Reserve national champion Whiz Bang was shown by Howard for owners Jerry Cummins and Paul Adams.

The largest medallion class, the Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving National Championship, featured eight strong teams from around the country including last year's winner Heartland Parade Time and Kelsey Herbert and 2003 reserve national champion Portrait Of A Lady and Paul Pippin.

Seamair's Dear Sir and Max Kaplan, Seamair's Awesome Dancer and Julie DeVault, Motown and Will Mayo, Lightning Up and Patsy Loeb, City Hall and Katie Cunningham and Callisto with Aliyah Asch joined the group to make the class a competitive one.

City Hall finished in the eighth slot and was followed by seventh place finisher Lightning Up. Motown claimed the sixth ribbon and Seamair's Awesome Dancer put together the fifth place effort. Seamair's Dear Sir was fourth.

When Callisto was called out for the third place ribbon, Kelsey Herbert and Paul Pippin found themselves in a repeat of last year's championship class. Both young drivers and their trainers waited anxiously for the results to be announced and when number 815 was announced as the reserve national champion, Kelsey Herbert knew she had made it two years in a row.

Portrait Of A Lady and Pippin exited with the reserve title after a strong effort in the competitive class. Herbert took her victory pass with father, trainer and American Royal Horseman Of The Year Chuck Herbert grinning from ear to ear watching proudly.

The 14-17 group of junior exhibitors and their roadster ponies performed for the crowd and the supportive audience cheered their favorites among the group of five. Whims and Wishes and Chelsea Simon, Dream Field's Touche and Michelle Herron, Heartland Flurry and Tyler Howard and Tijuana Souvenir with Dylan Hutson joined last year's winner Dun-Haven Majestic Motion with Meredithe Steinhauer once again in the bike.

The young drivers drove hard and worked to put their ponies in the best spot possible in an effort to impress the panel but when they lined up, it was anyone's guess as to who would take home the national title.

Dream Field's Touche finished in the fifth slot and Whims And Wishes was called out for fourth. Dun-Haven Majestic Motion exited as the top three winner, leaving two young drivers to wait it out to see which would wear the medallion for 2004. Heartland Flurry was named the reserve national champion to close out a successful season. Dylan Hutson and the group from Infinity Stables were ecstatic when last year's reserve national champion Tijuana Souvenir was named the national champion with two first place votes. Jerry Hutson joined his daughter in the winner's circle for the presentation.

The division's final national competition, the AHHS Pleasure Horse or Pony Under Saddle Youth Medallion, featured five teams competing for the win. Aliyah Asch and Great Day were joined by Michelle Herron and Fitz's Miss Ashleigh, Domino and Hanna Baldwin, Outa The Blue and Makayla Wessel and Miss Fuente with Brittany Schram.

The under saddle classes are always a hit with the crowd and all five young riders enjoyed the support of the crowd as they rode hard for the panel. When the group lined up, Domino was named the fifth place winner. Great Day and Aliyah Asch, last year's reserve national champions, claimed the fourth place ribbon. Fitz's Miss Ashleigh earned the third place ribbon and Miss Fuente was named the reserve national champion with Brittany Schram.

After a third place finish last year, this year Outa The Blue and Makayla Wessel were able to take the victory pass after their winning performance for owner Michael Wessel.

One of the greatest testaments to the continued need for the AHHS program is the fact that all year long, junior exhibitors have participated in the classes offered for their respective divisions and many of them compete in more than one division. In addition, junior exhibitors seem to come back year after year to Kansas City to compete for the national titles. They must be having fun and enjoying themselves. The program has proven so far to be one of the best from the American Hackney Horse Society.

Hopefully the AHHS Youth Medallion program will be around for many years to come to provide a showcase for the young exhibitors and their beloved and versatile Hackney ponies and horses.

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