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I've Arrived Has Arrived... And God Says Thank You

by Leeann Mione

For 25 years he showed us what having heart and guts and determination truly meant in the ring and out of it. Sired by Centerfold and out of Miss Quality, I’ve Arrived burst onto the scene in 1984 and "burst" is truly an appropriate adjective to describe his arrival and way of being.

The gorgeous stud pony was a pistol and breeder Joe Listerman thought so much of him that when the colt was sold at two months of age along with his dam, Listerman told buyer Ricky Harris that he would buy him back when he was a two-year-old because he knew he was going to be something special. At the time of that sale, the pony was known as Brierley’s Centerpiece and Harris had purchased the mare and colt for his employer Dr. Frank Young.

As a weanling, yearling and a two-year-old, Harris had the pony in the winner’s circle as the Southeastern Futurity’s In Hand Champion. Fate would change the course of Brierley’s Centerpiece as a two-year-old when he was sold to Lewis Eckard, not back to Joe Listerman.

"He was a sight in hand and then we broke him to longline," said Harris. "I told several people about him but they said he was too little. He had a ton of motion barefooted and would squat all the time. He would swell up and get big.

"I remember when we weaned him, I caught him in the stall and he slammed me against the wall; he wanted me out of there. Dr. Young was helping me and he didn’t know much about horses. He struck at Dr. Young three times. He gave us a fit that day, but we finally got the halter on him.

"I ended up selling him to Lewis Eckard, sight unseen, and the rest was history," said Ricky Harris, the first trainer to see greatness in the young pony.

Eckard had already made history with his sire Centerfold, showing the grand pony to the Hackney Pony World’s Grand Championship as a three-year-old then again when he was 18, making him the youngest and oldest pony to win those titles at the time.

When Eckard purchased Brierley’s Centerpiece, he was a stallion and had already established his reputation as a tough guy. Despite his beauty, Eckard decided to geld him then set about getting him broke to harness. A task that would prove to be difficult to say the least. It would take Eckard two years to accomplish this because Brierley’s Centerpiece wasn’t going to do anything unless it was on his own terms.

When he was five, Eckard brought him out at Dallas, N.C. and they won the open roadster pony class. When they went to Blowing Rock later that season, the pony was inconsistent and was beaten, but yet another new owner would see through his stubbornness and have some faith.

Louise Allen bought the pony for her daughter, Stephanie Wellington, and the winter was spent that year training him for Wellington. He was easy and docile at home most of the time, perhaps because he knew there weren’t ribbons at stake and there was no audience to impress or intimidate, depending on how you looked at it.

The following year, Brierley’s Centerpiece debuted at J.D. Massey Classic and after breaking more than one set of harnesses before getting in the ring, he proceeded to break several more after he came through the gate. He lost the open class but finished the show as the Roadster Pony Grand Champion in an incredible performance for All Well Farm with Eckard in the bike.

Ironically, a future trainer of his competed against him at the show on behalf of a future owner; Anna Johnson. Mary Lou Greenwell showed Johnson’s first pony Bound For Glory against Brierley’s Centerpiece and at the time, had no idea that the day would come when he would be the pony to fulfill so many dreams under her direction.

After J.D. Massey, the pony headed to Tar Heel Classic but came with a new name, I’ve Arrived, and went home to a new owner and trainer. Ray Pittman had been watching the pony at J.D. Massey and considered him to be one of the best he’d ever seen. Despite having lost the qualifier at Tar Heel, Pittman asked Eckard to name a price. Eckard did but didn’t think anything would come of it. When I’ve Arrived exited the ring as the Roadster Pony Grand Champion with Eckard, Pittman was waiting with a check for the purchase price in full on behalf of new owners Ed and Ann Moore.

"He always had a big place in our hearts because he was one of the best ever," said Eckard. "It took me two years to break him because even though he was pretty quiet and docile at home, when he got to a horse show he thought he was 10 feet tall.

"He was very game, but not stupid. You just had to stay out of his way. He had a great mouth so even when he was running away with me, I only had to use two fingers on the lines.

"He gave me my first experience with a great pony and you know, when you’re a young trainer you have what you think are great ideas and you just don’t know any better. I used to check him in the stall before he showed and I’d leave him checked all the way back to the barn until he got back to his stall. I always felt that was part of what helped him. He was truly unique. His cadence was perfect even as a very young pony and he never carried much weight," Eckard continued.

"He was definitely his father’s son. Centerfold was notorious for kicking too and could be tough. I’ve Arrived was one of a kind and you wait a lifetime for one like that and he was definitely the greatest road pony of my lifetime."

Eckard, Allen and Wellington all shared tears when their time with I’ve Arrived came to an end but the pony had more help to give and more dreams to fulfill. Ray Pittman was ill at the time and recovering from surgery, but the gorgeous, tough, game little pony did him a world of good as he worked to prepare the pony for the Moores. That partnership would produce world’s title after world’s title.

First with Ray Pittman driving, I’ve Arrived was the 1990 Reserve World’s Champion Roadster Pony Stallion/Gelding winner. His first appearance at Louisville was only a hint of what was to come.

The wins for the Pittman-Moore partnership continued and the following year, I’ve Arrived was crowned the World’s Grand Champion Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony, with Andy Moore driving, and also won the junior exhibitor qualifier.

In 1994 and 1995, Beth Pittman took the lines to win four more world’s titles. I’ve Arrived was the world’s grand champion and stallion/gelding world’s champion both years.

The Moore’s final appearance at Louisville with I’ve Arrived came in 1997 when Andy Moore drove to the Kentucky County Fair win then Beth Pittman won the roadster pony open stake and stallion/gelding qualifier. I’ve Arrived had earned four world’s grand championships, four world’s championships and one reserve world’s championships for Edan Farm. The only reason there weren’t more was because Ray Pittman judged Louisville in 1992 and 1996 which prevented the pony from competing on the green shavings.

Ed and Ann Moore had this to say about the pony that put Edan Farm on the map, so to speak, in the show horse world. "Having the opportunity to own and show such a magnificent pony as I've Arrived was the highlight of Edan Farm's venture into the horse world. His record is a testament to his talent and desire to be a show horse. When he

entered the ring he knew he was somebody. He will be missed but not forgotten by all that loved him."

Carol Greenwell had been watching and growing more and more attached to I’ve Arrived as he amassed his incredible list of wins for the Moores. Ray Pittman, Greenwell’s dear friend, asked Greenwell to drive the pony at Southeastern Charity in 1997. Pittman knew that just as the pony had helped bolster his spirits as he recuperated, I’ve Arrived could also do the same thing for Greenwell’s declining health.

Greenwell knew I’ve Arrived was exactly the pony he needed for Anna Johnson and he approached Elise and Greg Johnson about buying the pony. They agreed and I’ve Arrived was Anna’s Christmas present for 1997.

Ray Pittman was as instrumental in that fateful partnership as Carol Greenwell was. He unselfishly gave up the pony he had loved from the very beginning so that the Greenwell and Johnson families could share in his greatness.

"By the time I got him, I’ve Arrived was a pony that you had to just let be what he wanted to be," said Mary Lou Greenwell. "He was, in my opinion, the greatest pony of all time. He had a heart of gold and he made himself. I don’t think any one person can say they made him. You just had to leave him alone and let him do it. Whether he was competing in amateur, open or juvenile, I never did anything different as far as training or preparation.

"Margaret [Pittman] had told me not to work him in the cart at home. She said we should just long line him, but I realized within about a week that for Anna to be able to drive him, it was going to take a little more than that so I put him in a bitting rig and long lined him. Anna didn’t really practice with him that much though. She didn’t need to. We tolerated a lot from him so that he could be what he wanted to be and I’m not sure a lot of trainers would have done that."

She continued by saying, "Hats of to Lewis [Eckard] for getting him broke and being able to keep a harness on him. He always had faith in him and was very, very patient in the process."

Their first season together, 1998, would prove to be one of extreme highs and lows. The two men who had been responsible for their coming together would not get the chance to see how it would unfold. Carol Greenwell passed away in February of that year and Pittman followed in March. Neither was the first to recognize the pony’s greatness nor the only two who unselfishly decided to share him with others, but both were responsible for making sure he ended up with people who loved him.

And love him she did. Anna Johnson became the one person that I’ve Arrived perhaps loved the most and together they earned two world’s grand championships, four world’s championships and one reserve world’s grand championship. They won both 14-17 junior exhibitor classes then moved to the amateur ranks in 1999 and won both of those classes in Freedom Hall. I’ve Arrived was also the 2000 and 2001 world’s champion stallion/gelding winner and he had so many other wins at shows throughout the country.

"I think there’s no doubt that he’s the greatest that’s ever been," said Johnson. "People thought he was crazy but he wasn’t. He had such a big heart. If you gave him anything, he gave it back to you tenfold.

"He was buddies with my other pony, Macho, and when Macho died, he hollered and hollered. He was so sad to be by himself. I sat on the floor of his stall and he licked my face.

"As much of an honor as it was to be able to show him, it was even more of an honor to just be a part of his life. He used to follow me around and he gave me such unconditional love," she continued. "He helped me fulfill my lifelong dreams but he also gave me so much more. He was the greatest companion and I miss looking out there and seeing him."

I’ve Arrived and Anna made their final show ring appearances together at Rock Creek in 2002 and they went out still at the top of their game as the Roadster Pony Grand Champions and open champions.

The grandest of ponies who had inspired such love, faith, patience and commitment for every single owner and trainer he ever had, was able to take each and every one of them to the top. He did it his way and fortunately, all of them had the good sense and talent to recognize he was capable of it if they just stayed out of his way and always made him believe that it was all his idea.

From Joe Listerman to Ricky Harris, Dr. Frank Youngs, Lewis Eckard, Louise Allen, Stephanie Wellington, Ray Pittman, Ed, Ann and Andy Moore, Carol, Mark and Mary Lou Greenwell, Anna, Susan, Greg and Elise Johnson, I’ve Arrived left an indelible mark on all their lives and when he was humanely put down Jan. 15, 2009, one of the greatest ponies of all time was once again able to greet some of his old friends.

Perhaps Mary Lou Greenwell summed it up best when she said, "I wonder who’s got first dibs on driving him Saturday night for the big stake in heaven."

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