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American Royal Horseperson of the Year

(Editor’s note: The following speech and presentation was given Tuesday evening, Nov. 18, 2008 in Kemper Arena. Sally Jo Jackson wrote and read the following speech.)

Tonight the American Royal is honoring a living legion as the 2008 Horseperson of the Year. The undisputed "queen" of the Saddlebred industry, Donna Moore and the American Royal have a long history together.

Born Donna Hobbs in Kansas City, she attended her first American Royal when she was one-year-old with her grandfather who was the head of the poultry department for the show. A few years later, Donna watched in wonder as Lulu Long Combs drove her Hackney Ponies at the Royal. Upon seeing Lulu, the fire was built and Donna knew that she wanted a pony.

Soon she had a pony and was doing trick riding with the Santa Fe Trail Rodeo Riders. From the trick riding came showing Saddlebreds when she was 12 and the rest is Saddlebred history.

Donna has a long record of wins at the Royal including the 1981 Five-Gaited Grand Championship on French Commander, the Three-Gaited Grand Championship on Cock Robin and back when they had the popular parade world’s championship, she won that too on King Rebel. At the 1990 Kentucky State Fair, Donna drove Simply Mahvalous to be crowned World’s Grand Champion Fine Harness Horse.

Then there was the time that Donna and Tom were so dominate that horses they trained won an incredible 30 world’s championships titles in one year.

The 2008 American Royal Horseperson of the Year is here tonight with her daughters, Melinda and Melissa, both of whom are highly respected trainers in Kentucky. Melinda carries on the Moore tradition at Arrowhead Farm and won the Tom Moore championship in 2006 on Memorize. Melissa carries on the world’s championship tradition at Sunrise Sables and won the Tom Moore Memorial National Championship the following year riding Twice Charmed.

The Moore daughters are cheered on at the Royal each year by Donna’s son, Stu Gentry, her brother, David Hobbs, and her sister, Mary Ann Hobbs Clayton, all of who live here in Kansas City.

Coming off the rail to center ring, Donna was always a sought after judge. She has been awarded the ASHA Wing Commander Award, the USEF Pegasus Metal, UPHA Hall of Fame, Kentucky State Fair Hall of Fame and is a founding member of the UPHA.

Known for her, "keen eye," Donna has always seen things in a horse that others missed. Donna found a mare she liked, but Tom didn’t – she won out and insisted on buying her – Bellisima.

Donna says her greatest pleasures came from being able to put a horse and rider together to make a winning combination. I’d say putting Bellisima and Tom Moore together to win the Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champions four years in a row is proof of her uncanny ability.

Due to an injury, Donna’s last ride in the show ring was here at the American Royal.

So now let’s salute the one with that great eye, the undisputed Queen of the Saddlebred industry, Donna Moore.

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