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The Best of Bonnie Blue

by Christy Howard Parsons

Posted May 22, 2002

It was a year for the record books. Every stall was filled. Almost 500 horses were on hand to compete. The competition has never been deeper, the weather has never been better, and the genteel Virginia crowd has never been more welcoming. Bonnie Blue is THE event in this horse crazy Virginia town.

If you haven’t seen the Virginia Horse Center before - whether it’s at ASHAV or Bonnie Blue - you need to. Already one of the most beautiful, accommodating facilities in the country, it just continues to get better and better. New since last year was a huge new barn complete with permanent stalls and workout areas in the center. They currently offer 811 stalls and between tack and horses, every one was filled. Robert Reel, the Executive Director for the Virginia Horse Center, certainly takes his job seriously and does it well. He was very visible at every session, always searching for ways to make the show better and exhibitors and guests feel more welcome.

Bret Day traveled from Versailles, Ky to judge the 115 class event and he certainly had his work cut out for him. With so many horses, it might have been easier if there were three judges, but Day gave every horse a good look. He also threw a few curves in the equitation including asking riders to address their reins and work without stirrups.

Scarlett Mattson manages this show which explains much of the success. With a talented staff she hires and the many local Virginia volunteers who work so hard on the show, Bonnie Blue just keeps getting better and better.

Friday evening, Jon and Lisa Dabareiner hosted the after show party and the fundraising auction for the Virginia Horse Center. A limited number of original and unusual items were put up for bid including trips to the Royal Canadian Winter Fair and Washington, D.C., a Shively saddle, a Jerald jog cart, lots of beautiful art, and even an original of an animal of the purchaser’s choice by well known artist James Crow.

Another treat for the large Virginia audience that comes to support the show was the Freisian competition. Marilyn Macfarlane brought her team of four - Arend, Mylke, Jetro and Jelke - to drive her carriage in regal style. Karen Waldron also had her team of two beautiful Freisians Iedse and Earl hooked to her carriage to the delight of the audience.

Another talented Waldron Freisian, Sytse Stonecreek won the Freisian Under Saddle Class. Smith Lilly of Mercer Springs Farm was in the saddle of this gorgeous black horse. Karen Waldron herself and her beloved Floris earned reserve honors in the class of five entries.

The Hackney Horse Driving Class was also a draw to the ring for all horse lovers. Karen Waldron drive the winning Heartland Blizzard in the victory pass. Greg Reason showcased Watermark Farm’s Wentworth Lucifer to the reserve honors in the class.

This year as always Bonnie Blue offered deep, entertaining classes, a wide variety of entertainment, and a welcoming atmsophere that continues to draw exhibitors and trainers from across the country. You can bet that next year’s version will be even bigger and better. Where will they put them all? I have no doubt they are already working on that. 

  Saturday evening’s finale was completely elegant with a four piece orchestra playing in the background, Vern Serex’s call of the class, and a genteel Virginia crowd awaiting the best the gaited division has to offer.

They were not disappointed by the quality of the three entries. The much talked about new gaited horse with Harrison Shiflet, Attache’s Royal Assets, was the crowd favorite from the beginning, but Harrison’s son Matt, always the showman, with the well recognized gaited mare Glider’s Star, also is a hometown favorite. Tigerlee and Dena Lopez may have been new names to the Virginia audience, but they immediately earned their respect and cheers with a strong, consistent performance, which quickly catapulted them to the winner’s circle. Walt and Jackie Stred’s entry earned the tricolor honors with Lopez in the saddle followed by Attache’s Royal Assets, an entry owned by Dickey Davis. Tigerlee and Lopez also earned the blue ribbon in the open qualifier, this time followed by Glider’s Star, Kristen Bagdasarian’s mare.

The ladies five-gaited stake on Saturday night was a very exciting class with talented entries throughout the ribbons. Amanda Bell topped the competition with CH HMS Royal Winds under the direction of Royal Winds Farm. The multi-titled CH Like An Admiral and Amanda O’Keefe were reserve in the excellent class under the Cricket Hill banner. This talented team had won the ladies qualifier followed by Katie Raque and Profile Memories, an entry of the Willow Wind Saddlebreds.

Sally Jackson and CH Wild Eyed and Wicked made their debut at the World Cup show in Shelbyville, Tenn., but their arrival in Virginia was anticipated as if it were their first performance. They enjoyed the applause from the crowd and earned their two victory passes in the ladies amateur qualifier and the Ladies Five-Gaited Amateur Stake. Callaway’s Weatherman and Gabe Deknatel were pushing them all the way in the Stake with a strong performance, after a winning ride in the amateur gentlemen’s qualifier.

Gary Guz’s talented entry of Rastafarian and Kate Ryan earned the reserve tie in the ladies amateur qualifier for owner Mrs. Mika Ryan. Bill Banks directed his wife Karin’s Callaway’s State Senator to the reserve tie in the amateur gentlemen’s qualifier.

The junior exhibitor division was also deep with promise. Tiffany Trueman showed My Teddy Bheir like a master showman to earn both trips to the winners circle. The new team of Margaret Schmitt and Millennium is pulling it all together, earned red ribbons in both classes, and looking like a real contender in this division.

For complete show coverage see the May 20th issue of Saddle Horse Report

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