Skip to content

Bonnie Blue Goes PLATINUM!

by Sadie Killian

LEXINGTON, Va. -- It has been considered one of the best for quite some time. The facility is popular. The competition is enticing. Most of all, the warm Lexington atmosphere combined with the great group of barns that converge for the second weekend in May is second to none.

This year was classic Bonnie Blue and much more. The weather was outstanding and the competition deep. In addition and most importantly, the show was dedicated to a very special man, Robert M. “Bob” Reel, whose endless efforts made Bonnie Blue what it is today. Reel recently suffered a fatal heart attack.

Also this year, a new barn at the facility was dedicated to The Big Lonely, a farm owned by longtime Virginia Horse Center supporters, Karin and Bill Banks. This couple has worked tirelessly, towards the betterment of this center and their efforts were noticed at this year’s show.

Rob Wilson traveled from Smithfield, Ky., to mark the cards for the 124 class horse show. Coming off of the Kentucky Spring Premier and headed on to Ashville, a very busy Doug Shiflet acted as the official show photographer.

With large classes and nearly every stall filled, a show like Bonnie Blue obviously needs a great staff to keep things running smoothly. This year is was none other than Scarlett Mattson to head the team. She was assisted by John Stuart, horse show coordinator; Bill Rufty, who assisted in the coordinating; USAE Steward Nancy Noble; Richard Morgan, announcer; Sally Moore, paddock announcer; Coye Landrum, farrier; Sue Tallon, entry secretary and show support; Dale Stone, organist; Bill Whitley, ring master; Tabitha Moore (DVM), veterinarian services; and Richfield Video.

As with most major shows, there were a few head-turners that made their way through the Virginia Horse Center ring. Giving spectators something to talk about, one of the show highlights was the Fine Harness Championship where Todd Graham presented Platinum Stock Farm’s stunning black beauty Gone Platinum. Where did this horse come from was a question lurking in the minds of many watching the class.

Another deeply exciting class was the junior exhibitor park championship where Devon Garone took home a big win after a workout aboard Callaway’s Smart Angle.

Finally, the equitation championship was certainly one of the show highlights as nine riders made it back for the championship competition -- which is really something considering many equitation classes have been quite light in numbers recently. The hard-working and beautifully talented Jessica Saft nailed her workout and brought the equitation tri-color back to Clover Leaf where she celebrated the win with trainers/instructors Bill and Lisa Waller.


The five-gaited competition began with the exciting debut of Champagne In Winter and Ali Judah taking the blue in the Five-Gaited Pony class. This pair elected not to show back, which left the tri-color wide open for Diamond Flight and Kaitlyn Grom to step up a notch for the championship victory. Diamond Flight is trained by Terry Stephenson for Revelation Farm.

Six entries came through the gate for the Virginia Owned Five-Gaited class. John McKeown rode Champagne Commander for the blue with Bluebonnet's Wild Thing and Joy Bowman finishing with second.

Mike Tunstall rode the expressive three-year-old Siffer to the Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited blue for Leonore Farm. Seajay Lewis is really gaining a reputation, claiming top ribbons at Raleigh and J.D. Massey. With Smith Lilly up, this young horse by Roseridge Heir took home the red ribbon for Mercer Springs Farm.

Merlin Farm brought a few nice young horses out at Bonnie Blue. Roseridge Gold was one of these and he was rewarded for his big presence with the blue in the Junior Five-Gaited class. Merrill Murray was up for H. Curtis Meanor. Smith Lilly garnered another reserve finish with Yes I Have for Cedarledge Farm.

A nice group of nine junior exhibitors converged for their five-gaited qualifier on Thursday evening. Judge Wilson had his hands full in detecting the winner as there were several top notch pairs making their marks. Making a lovely debut, the new team of Will Harris and She's Bedazzled ADW came out on top after a very impressive performance. Unfortunately, the mare threw a shoe in the championship and under the guidance of Jimmy Robertson, they elected not to continue. Nonetheless, Will Harris and She's Bedazzled are surely top contenders for this division in 2003. Megan Ryan finished up with the red ribbon on Thursday night. When all was said and done on Saturday evening, It was She's A Starburst and Katy Sterba who finished as the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Grand Champions. Believable and Alexis Gerych were a standout for the reserve.

There weren't as many entries in the amateur class as only four showed up. This only left more room for the flashy chestnut mare by CH Caramac, Macaroon, to strut her stuff. With Lori Boyd Van Gorden up, Macaroon exited as the Amateur Five-Gaited winner. This George Nash-trained duo was on top of their game to capture the tri-color, as well. Callaway's State Senator, with Bill Banks up, was named the Amateur Five-Gaited Reserve Grand Champion.

Things began to mix up a little bit in both the open and ladies' divisions. The Ladies Five-Gaited class was large enough that it must have been difficult to tie the class. We saw the fresh new pair Kristen Shiflet aboard Pat Moore and Connie Sessom's lovely mare Assets and Attitude give it their all. The always successful team of CH Like An Admiral and Amanda O'Keefe Murchison and the current world's champions Sally Jackson and Wild Eyed and Wicked had outstanding performances in the 10-horse class. In the end, Sally Jackson and Wild-Eyed and Wicked racked away as champions. Kristen Shiflet and Assets and Attitude received a very warm applause for a reserve finish on their first time out. The competition was a little leaner for the championship on Saturday evening. Sally Jackson and her explosive gelding were greeted for a second victory pass by Dena Lopez of Double D. Titleist Aristocrat and Karen Blankenship put in a good show and moved up to take the reserve.

Both Amanda O'Keefe Murchison and Kristen Shiflet elected not to show back in the ladies stake. Instead, they focused their efforts on the big game -- the Five-Gaited Stake. Actually, Matt Shiflet showed the mare Kristen rode in the qualifier to shake things up a bit. Like An Admiral, with Murchison and Assets and Attitude with Shiflet were joined by the big moving chestnut Hero's Jumpin Jack Flash and Merrill Murray, who had captured the Open Five-Gaited Class Wednesday evening. The stake did not go as smoothly for Murray and the flashy gaited horse as the horse threw a shoe twice...a disappointment to both the Merlin Farm crew as well as the folks in the stands. After their exit, the class continued and we saw some real competition amongst all remaining entries. An expert showman, Matt Shiflet made every pass count and finished as the reserve champions for Saddle Creek Farm. CH Like An Admiral and Murchison joyously rode back to the Cricket Hill tack room as the Five-Gaited Grand Champions. Three-Gaited

The Three-Gaited competition kicked off with the ponies on Thursday evening. Alyssa Lopez and Our Sunbeam made it count for the blue in the Three-Gaited Pony class. They repeated their strong performance for the tri-color on Saturday morning. This sharp pair is trained by Dena Lopez. Rachel Machamer catch rode for Kathryn Nichols to claim reserve both times out aboard Extravagance. This team is trained by Clover Leaf.

Carter Cox showed the bright and fancy Secret Admirer to the Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited blue. Stacey Kipper is the proud owner of this up and coming contender.

Rob Turner was in the spotlight at the conclusion of the Novice Three-Gaited class. Turner guided Hit The Switch to this win for Judy Megalich. High View's Sharp Charm Girl and Todd Mathieson took the red ribbon for Brian Fitzsimmons.

Merrill Murray showed the second of two young horses for H. Curtis Meanor on Wednesday evening. While the five-gaited win was already mentioned, Murray also claimed top prize in the Junior Three-Gaited class for the Meanor's with their stylish mare Born Dixie. Dena Lopez finished second with Double The Charm.

With wins or reserves under their belt from about every show they've attended this year, Aaron Stump and the tried and true Undulata's Perfect Gift paved their way to the blue in the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited 13 and Under Class on Thursday evening. Bound and determined to hold his spot, the dynamic pair trained by Bill and Lisa Waller of Clover Leaf also captured the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Championship on Saturday evening. Mega Volt and Kaitlyn Grom stood out for the win in the 14-17 year-old qualifier, but landed a third in the nine-horse championship. The reserve went to the impressive team of Heart Of Blue and Brittany Kale.

There were also nine entries in the amateur class. The much talked about SJ Like A Champ and Margo F. Harwood made an outstanding show for the blue under the direction of John Champagne. No strangers to top ribbons themselves, Americana's Jazz Man and Phillipa Sledge were directed to the red by Rob and Sarah Byers. Both entries held their places for Friday evening's championship.

Phillipa Sledge graciously entered the gate with another one of her walk/trot favorites for the ladies class on Wednesday evening -- Lady Periana. Obviously up for the challenge, this successful pair has definitely started 2003 off on the right track. Lady Periana and Sledge swept the championship, as well, where Kristen Campbell's beloved beauty To Die For and Erin Boggs garnered reserve.

Owned by the Jean McClean Davis Trust, Man and Mystery was on top of the cards in the Open Three-Gaited class opening night. Carter Cox was up for this victory pass. This extremely bright chestnut by CH Man On The Town also took home the Three-Gaited Grand Championship with Callaway's Sunday Edit and Devon Garone taking the reserve ribbon back to the Fairfield South tack room.

The junior exhibitor park championship was one of the more intense classes at Bonnie Blue in the sense that Judge Rob Wilson called for a workout after the original rail work. The workout was no problem for Devon Garone, who knows exactly how to work the ring to her advantage. Garone and Callaway's Smart Angle managed to claim the tri-color. The pair had collected the blue earlier in the week in the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Park 17 and Under class as well. Reserve to the winners in the outstanding championship was Blue Ridge Miles and Kristen Fields. The reserve finishers are trained by Rob Turner.

Cajin Martini and Paula Percoco were in top form for the victory pass in the 10-entry Amateur Three-Gaited Park class on Wednesday night. They were joined for some major competition in the championship as ladies park winners Bonnie Buck and Amanda O'Keefe Murchison came knocking on victory's door. Bonnie Buck was named champion with Foxy Prince, who was second in the amateur park qualifier, finishing as the Amateur Reserve Grand Champion.

Bill Waller rode Carole Worthington's pretty mare Renaissance Lady to the Open Park class blue where nine showed up for the competition. Surrender To Fantasy and Phillipa Sledge garnered a respectable red ribbon for Pidgeon Roost. Renaissance Lady stepped down to reserve in the qualifier, but not to Surrender To Fantasy, who did not show back. Instead, Todd Graham maneuvered the ring to earn the top spot aboard Callaway's Blackbeard for owner Paul Turnman.

Fine Harness

Beginning with the young harness horses, the Two-Year-Old Fine Harness class featured three. John Champagne was behind the lines of Sultan's Perfect Night for the victory pass. Jimmy Nixon is the owner. Dena Lopez drove Meet Prince Charming to the red ribbon.

The seven-entry UPHA Fine Harness Classic Three-Year-Old class had Dena Lopez on top of the cards with My Elegance On Parade. This time John Champagne slid into the second place position with He's A Star, who is owned by W.L. Nininger.

Moving up to the junior class, Dena Lopez and Kiss Me were right on the money for the blue for owner Jane Burkemper. Mountainview's Worth A Fortune finished reserve with John Champagne in the driver's seat.

My Special Dream and Judy Heinbach turned in a winning performance in the Amateur Fine Harness class. Mary Sally Aylward and Oscar Night took the red.

New Millennium Equine Endeavor, Inc.'s beautiful harness mare Sass With Class won the Open Fine Harness class. Once again, Dena Lopez was the driver taking the victory pass. This time, Mike Tunstall finished second with Echo Of Thunder for High Hickory Farm.

The Fine Harness Championship was one for the record books as Platinum Stock Farm's explosive entry Gone Platinum took the tri-color. Todd Graham was the winning trainer at the whip. Sass With Class and Dena Lopez stepped down to reserve in the seven-entry class.


The Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship featured nine combinations, all vying for the blue. The exhilarating pair, trained by Heather Boodey, CH My Korbel and Victoria Woodruff turned in one of their many stellar performances and were granted the blue. Collector Of Blues and Ashley Saxe had a respectable finish for the red. Both entries held their spots respectively in the championship, however Devon Garone was aboard Collector Of Blues for the reserve.

Riding under the Fish N Fun banner, Harlem's Hot Scoop and Lisa Dabareiner won the Adult Five-Gaited Show Pleasure 18 and Over class as well as the championship. Titleist Commander and Traci Van Horn were reserve in the championship.

Mercer Springs directed the exciting pair of Bent Tree's Contessa and Leslie Tickle to the blue in the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic Three-Year-Old class.

Rob Byers was in the winner's circle after a nice go in the Junior Three-Gaited Park Pleasure class. Byers was aboard Theology for Stonecroft Farm.

Holly Wilson and Callaway's North Wind exited the ring in blue ribbon fashion after their top notch go in the ASHA Youth Driving Challenge Show Pleasure class.

In the Show Pleasure Driving class, Babs Patterson drove Stella De Ore to the blue for Barbara Billingsely. John Champagne trained this winning pair who also took home the Show Pleasure Driving Championship. In The Red and Claudia Fletcher were the reserve champions.

The Virginia Owned Three-Gaited Show Pleasure class was taken by Force Majeure and Julie Simmons. Also a top contender in this 12-horse class was Irish Jasmin and Lisa Shorter-Oakes, who happily left with the red ribbon.

The bright and fresh pair of CH Simbara's Samba Jamba and Daniel Lieberman were right on the money for the victory in the Junior Exhibitor Show Pleasure Walk and Trot 12 and Under class.

For the 13 and under riders, Kyle Gagnon maneuvered the ring to perfection and collected the blue for Fairfield South aboard the fancy bay Cedar Creek's Mr. Money Man. The pair stepped down to a respectable reserve in the championship, where My Dakota finished on top of Wilson's card. Jessica Moctezuma was the winning rider.

Devon Garone of Fairfield South rode Caramac's News Flash to a top finish for Mary Lucia in the 14-17 show pleasure class. They too stepped down to reserve in the championship, where So Much To Say and Jessica Singleton trotted out as champions.

Shannon Sewell catch rode CH In Neon to a win in the Adult Show Pleasure 18-40 class for Jamie Hitchin. Alvin Ailey and Lisa Dabareiner put in a good show for the blue in the 41 and over class. The championship left Force Majeure and Julie Simmons in the spotlight after a great go in the 19-entry class. The King's Man and John Scheidt also caught the judge's eye, taking home the reserve.

The elegant Mayday Masquerade and Jan Beardsley-Blanco had a flawless drive and were presented with the blue in the Country Pleasure Driving class. Repeating themselves and proving to be top contenders in this division in 2003, the pair finished as the champions too. Redneck Romeo and Mary Schmidt were the Country Pleasure Driving Reserve Grand Champions.

The Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure 13 and Under class went to Tara Grom and The Perfect Storm. This team is trained by Terry Stephenson at Revelation. The spotted beauty Coastline, with Justine Janzen up, finished as the 14-17 winner.

Ten teams showed up for the Country Pleasure 18-40 gate call. Doubletree's Queen Of The Dance made a great show for the blue. Second place was the very flashy Prince Town B.H. with the aggressive-riding Kelly Mount up. This pair came back ready for the challenge on Saturday...they finished up as the Country Pleasure Grand Champions with Adam and Desiree Clausen guiding them rail side. Bonnie Santana and Cindy Palmer Estes also stood out in this deep class of 17. They finished as the reserve champions. The Chesapeake Bay and Lisa Shorter-Oaks were first in the 41 and over qualifier.

In the western division, Luanne Kilday, who is certainly no stranger to a blue ribbon ride, rode the handsome Rum Tum Tigger to the Amateur Western Country Pleasure victory. The dynamic duo also claimed top honors in the championship. Lady Whitney and Jason Molback turned in an impressive performance, garnering the William Shatner Western Pleasure blue for Nealia McCracken. It should be mentioned that Luanne Kilday received a warm applause for her second-place finish in this 14-entry class.

Road Horses and Ponies

Danette Musselman visited the ring at Bonnie Blue with Muddy Waters. The pair was tied first in the Novice Roadster To Bike class. Kentucky Wild Cat and Jon Dabareiner finished on top in the Amateur Roadster To Bike class for Fish N Fun. George Nash directed the Intimidator and L.D. Boyd to the blue in the open class. This pair scared off the competition Saturday night, collecting the tri-color in the Roadster To Bike Championship. Dick Francis and Caroline Morrison took home reserve.

Hallelujah! and Holly Beasley took home the top spot after a solid go in the Novice Roadster Pony class. The six-entry AHHS Medallion Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony class left Whims and Wishes and Chelsea Simon in their dust as they sped away with the blue. Sweet Impression and Marli Dabareiner made a comeback to capture the Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony Championship. Whims and Wishes and Chelsea Simon stepped down to reserve. Amateur stars Late-Nite's Magic Moment and Kathryn Nichols were sharp as ever, finishing with the blue in the amateur class. Heartland City Boy and William Silber swept the Amateur Roadster Pony Championship tri-color. Miss Cherry and Larry McKemy put on a solo show for the Open Roadster Pony blue, but were defeated by Aarobrook's The Aviator and Mary Schmidt in the championship. Coach Light's Shock Wave and Roger Meade turned in the reserve performance for Cynthia Meade.Sarah Sessoms and Rowdy Yank were a huge hit in the AHHS Medallion Roadster Pony Under Saddle class. This Diamond View Farm-trained duo received a very welcoming applause for their outstanding performance.

Hackney/Harness Ponies

The Amateur Hackney Pony class was lean with only one entry making the gate call. Charlotte Carter and Mercedes Ben received a warm applause for their nice performance. The open class was swept by none other than Karen Waldron of Bent Tree, who had numerous wins throughout the week with her Friesians and ponies. Waldron drove Ooh! La La to the Open Hackney Pony blue and tri-color. Mercedes Ben and Charlotte Carter finished as the reserve champions.

Knight's Impeccable King and Charlotte Carter were right on task for the Amateur Harness Pony blue. Karen Waldron showed up for victory in the Open Harness Pony class, too. This time she was behind the lines of the fancy pony Vindicator. The pair won the championship as well, where Night Editor and Lee Hudson, also driving for Bent Tree, were reserve. An impressive seven entries turned out for the pleasure driving class with the David Latham driving Going My Way to the win for Dena Lopez. The pair teamed up for a tri-color drive in the championship as well. My Sweet Georgia Brown and Karen Waldron were named the reserve champions.


The Equitation division was extraordinary at Bonnie Blue, with most classes being filled with very talented young riders. In the walk and trot division, Jessica Northcutt of Clover Leaf and Alexa McWilliams of Cape Cod came head to head both times out. Jessica Northcutt won the qualifier, but finished with the reserve in the championship. Alexa McWilliams came back from a second place finish in the qualifier to sweep the competition in the walk and trot championship.

The Saddle Seat Equitation 13 and Under class was won by the elegant riding Tara Grom. Sarah Ann Howell was the winner for the senior riders.

Kyle Gagnon pulled off a flawless workout in the eight-entry UPHA 13 and Under Challenge Cup. Kaitlyn Grom added another blue to Revelation's stash after winning the senior challenge cup.

Eleven top riders turned out for the good hands class. The poised and polished Emily Garten finished with the win aboard Highpoint's Syncopated Rhythm. She is instructed by Cape Cod.

Joel Dorignac topped off the competition in the USA Equestrian Medal. This sharp young man was instructed to the win by Helen and Jimmy Robertson.

Finishing off an excellent week in Lexington, Jessica Moctezuma was named the Pleasure Equitation Champion, where Amy Rives was reserve.

The very anticipated Saddle Seat Equitation Championship featured nine riders, all vying for top ribbons. After a competitive rail portion of the class, a handful of riders were asked to perform individual workouts that had not been posted prior to the class. Nailing the workout and standing out on the rail, Jessica Saft was granted a very well-deserved tri-color. Jessica Saft rode Highpoint's Take Notice to this big win. She is instructed by Bill and Lisa Waller of Clover Leaf. Also a stand out, Emily Garten received a warm applause for her reserve finish. Emily Garten rides Highpoint's Syncopated Rhythm and she is instructed by Cape Cod.

Bonnie Blue also featured a light portion of Morgan classes, as well as Friesian classes. These results can be seen with the entire set of Bonnie Blue results in this issue. They can also be seen, searched and printed from our web site at

More Stories