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American Saddlebreds Go To Washington

In 1958, the first Washington International Horse Show came together with Saddlebreds, hunters, jumpers, dressage and many other disciplines and breeds participating in a world-class event. Over the years, the show has become known as one of the nation’s top hunter and jumper events, with Olympic champions often making an appearance. Since its debut, the horse show has become as fixture in the nation’s capital with presidents, first ladies, celebrities and world leaders often in attendance.

The Mid-Atlantic Saddlebred Association booth.

While Saddlebreds no longer participate in the horse show, many of the breed’s world’s champions were invited to exhibit at the prestigious event’s 50th anniversary. The Mid-Atlantic Saddlebred Association picked up the opportunity to promote the horse "America made", and set up a booth on the first official day of the show, Oct. 21. Posters, banners, literature and buttons drew in the crowds, non-equestrian as well as those from the hunter-jumper world, informing and entertaining them about the American Saddlebred.

On Thursday evening, Oct. 23, Sherri Wechsler, owner of the world champion harness horse Kiri, and Susan Cummings of Bank of America hosted a welcoming reception on the 10th floor of the Bank of American club where great food, drinks and a spectacular view of the capital at sunset were served. Following the reception, the guests boarded a charted bus for a tour of the city.

Sherri Wechsler and Kiri

When the evening of Friday, Oct. 24 came around, the American Saddlebreds held center stage for the large Washington International crowd. Before the evening session got under way, Carson Kressley headlined the exhibition by presenting the colors on multi-titled western star, CH A Magic Surprise, owned by Pat Johnson. Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion CH Our Charming Lady and multi-world’s champion CH Blackberry Delight hit the ring to show the crowd the elegance and brilliance of a true three-gaited horse. World’s Champion of Champions CH His Supreme Reflection joined the group to represent the park division and displayed his champion form.

Mother Mary and Sandra Lilly

Fine Harness World’s Grand Champion Mother Mary and reserve world’s champion Kiri exhibited the airy gaits for which the fine harness horse is known, driven by their elegantly dressed lady drivers. The exhibition came to a close with the five-gaited stars of the Saddlebred world. Five-Gaited Reserve World’s Grand Champion According To Lynn and multi-world’s champion CH Have You Ever put on a dazzling display of power, speed and beauty which the crowd loved.

Carson Kressley and CH A Magic Surprise

Kressley returned to the ring on A Magic Surprise to lead the Saddlebred ambassadors in a parade around the ring, with each horse adorned in garlands and blue ribbons sponsored by ASHAV.

"It was a huge honor to be part of the exhibition and I think the whole thing was a huge hit," said Sandy Lilly, driver of Mother Mary. "Carson [Kressley] was the star of the show, as anyone might have guessed and he and Magic were wonderful.

"It was exciting to have all eight horses in the ring at the same time and the audience seemed to really appreciate us! It was a logistical challenge but everybody pulled together and made it work and all the horses were fabulous troopers. Each and every one was a tremendous ambassador for our breed. I think all of us came away with a sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie between all of us was just so much fun."

Mary Orr and CH Our Charming Lady

Lilly continued, "We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Diane Hauslein and Carolyn Folkers for their tireless efforts in putting this together."

"We were so pumped with all the anticipation of representing our breed," said the owner of Mother Mary, Anita Simpson. "We felt it such a privilege and responsibility to show our horse to an audience of thousands that would hopefully take a look at Saddlebreds in a renewed light. And the honor of being there with world champions and reserve world champions in downtown Washington, D.C. really was humbling.

Jacqueline Manzo and CH His Supreme Reflection

"The exhibition was awesome!" continued Simpson. "From beginning to end, it was one champion after the other being highlighted by up-close video of their head carriage, leg movements, riders/drivers and a wonderful audio explanation of every aspect of each division. We witnessed a show never done before and may never be repeated, but to have all those magnificent champions in the same ring performing their styles and gaits at the same time was truly a sight to behold!"

Mary Gaylord McClean and According To Lynn

Mary Gaylord McClean, owner and rider of According To Lynn added her insights on the event. "The first thing that comes to mind was while we were all sitting there in pretty tight quarters waiting to go in, I’m sitting on Lynn [According To Lynn] and thinking, ‘Holy cow, there’s Mother Mary, Blackberry Delight, Our Charming Lady, His Supreme Reflection and there’s Carson Kressley.’ It was an overwhelming feeling to be in the company of such great horses.

Barclay de Wet and CH Have You Ever

"Everyone behaved so well. These horses were great representatives of the breed and the crowd loved us. And of course they all loved Carson on [CH A Magic Surprise]. They went nuts for us. It was so much fun because the music they were playing was Born To Be Wild. We were all kind of nervous because we didn’t know what to expect but it was a different nervous than what you get when you’re showing at Louisville. This was fun. It couldn’t have been better."

Horses, owners, riders and most importantly the crowd enjoyed the spectacle the Saddlebreds put on. However, this promotion of the breed was no small undertaking. Ann Wilkinson is credited for cultivating this event with Diane Hauslien, president of the Mid-Atlantic Saddlebred Association, acting as liaison between the Saddlebred breed and the Washington International board. Lynn Via was also given many thanks for graciously purchasing 3,000 Saddlebred buttons as a special give-away to everyone who passed by the booth.

Rachel Machamer and CH Blackberry Delight

With over 500 of the best in the hunter, jumper and dressage world converging in the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., as well as thousands of horse people and non-horse people alike filling the stands, the American Saddlebred could not ask for a better stage to showcase its beauty, talent and versatility to the world.

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