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Celebrating The Warmth of the Holidays



by Leeann Mione
CHELSEA, Ala., - The holidays are always a warm and special time and nowhere was that more apparent than at the Lavery South Stables holiday gathering on Dec. 8. Unseasonably warm weather had everyone in attendance wondering whether or not this Christmas would indeed be white.

Trainer Joe Lavery has joined Sis Grant at her Chelsea, Ala., farm and the two of them teamed up with customers and friends to start the day’s festivities with an entertaining display of a select group of talented prospects and proven show ring performers for the crowd.

Grant has equine youngsters everywhere. Babies by It’s Hammertime, babies by Periaptor, babies by Desert Supreme Admiral, just to name a few. Her deep love of the American Saddlebred was shown in the smile on her face as she proclaimed “That’s my favorite” after each horse performed for the crowd. She loves them all and she’s got a lot of them to love. And she’s got more on the way. Her horses fill every nook and cranny and share the farm with a wide range of animals. Ducks swim in one of the ponds of her heavily wooded acreage and peacocks, including white ones, occupy the back barn. There are guinea hens, puppies inside, puppies outside, and a group of unusual six-toed cats that hang out in the hayloft.

Joe Lavery has been at Sis Grant’s for only a few short months and many of the prospects that were shown had only been under saddle a couple of times, but he had them right on the money and showing well for the group. The parade of horses began with the It’s Hammertime colt Whiskey River. Lavery presented the high-stepping yearling prospect, out of The River Wild, to the appreciative audience. There was more to follow and they just kept getting better.

Chocolate Soldier, another yearling prospect by It’s Hammertime and owned by Sis Grant, was next on the list to show off a powerful trot with Lavery presenting. The yearling is out of PVF’s Winterwing, a Bi Mi Sultan Wine mare.

When Carl and Georgia Holden’s bay yearling, Sue-She, came through the gate, she was absolutely explosive. Sired by Periaptor and out of Runaround Town, the big, powerful filly showed off plenty of attitude to go with her high-stepping trot and had the Holden’s grinning from ear to ear.

Out of a Radiant Sultan mare Perfect Storm was the final yearling prospect, sired by It’s Hammertime, of the group. The expressive chestnut, owned by Sis Grant, was every bit as bold and forward-going as his half-siblings and again drew lots of applause from the crowd.

Joe Lavery rode Look, I’m Absolutely Fabulous in Grant’s big, outdoor ring and the junior five-gaited contender, sired by Desert Supreme Admiral and out of Fancy Society Sea, showed off with a powerful performance. “Cha-Ching” seemed to enjoy having an audience and lots of room to move.

Reedann’s D-Phi-Ance sired the two-year-old fine harness horse Jessie Ventura, who had only been ridden a couple of times prior to the parade of horses. Lavery presented the sporty chestnut, out of a Courageous Admiral mare, and had owner Sis Grant proclaiming that this youngster was in fact her favorite. Just until the next one, that is.

Carla Ritzie stepped into the spotlight with her proven ladies three-gaited gelding, Worthy One’s Rhythm. Under the direction of Lavery for just a short time, Rhythm proved he was worthy of the crowd’s appreciative applause as he high-stepped his way around the big ring.Worthy One’s Rhythm is co-owned by Ritzie and her dad Carl Holden, Jr., and is by 3-T’s Worthy One and out of Majestic Mystique. Ritzie and her big gelding have won numerous titles in their career together so far and Rhythm won the ladies stake at the recent Dixie Jubilee Horse Show with Joe Lavery’s sister, Lindsay, in the irons.

As soon as Ritzie hopped off Rhythm, she hopped on York’s Coppertone, a four-year-old three-gaited park horse by Man of York and out of Desert’s Radiant Sunshine, for the final ride of the morning. The four-year-old was just purchased by Lavery South customer Pauleta Matsui from co-owners Sis Grant and Margaretha Headley. And yes, this one was Sis Grant’s favorite too. It was obvious that Ritzie was having a ball guiding the powerful youngster around the big arena and no one was ready for the morning’s horse show to end.

The guests were treated to an incredible lunch buffet after the morning’s performance and gathered in Sis Grant’s home to enjoy great food and talk about the horses they had seen. Georgia Holden and Carla Ritzie had each prepared chili and had a $100 bet as to who’s would be gone first. Georgia’s white chicken chili was a huge hit but Carla’s traditional red chili was just as popular and the bet ended in a dead heat. The homemade cornbread and other goodies also had everyone raving and the hot Kentucky tea that Georgia Holden made was a much requested recipe that remained her secret, to the dismay of the group. Eventually the guests had to depart, full of great food and full of the holiday spirit and the hospitality the South is famous for.

As beautiful as Sis Grant’s home was for the afternoon lunch, it was spectacular when a select group of invited guests returned for an elaborate dinner party on Saturday evening. An enormous floral horseshoe that had been won by Sir Winzalot and Carla Ritzie when she was a teenager, adorned the front door. Candles, like luminaries, lit up the lawn and doorway as did red poinsettias. The Christmas tree stood atop a mound of wrapped presents and the aroma of dinner greeted each when they walked in the door. Pauleta Matsui, a customer of Joe Lavery’s from California, prepared an unbelievable feast including beef, homemade egg drop soup, Chinese chicken salad and two kinds of tirimisu, an elaborate Italian dessert, one with Godiva chocolate. Matsui also refused to divulge her secret recipes but had everyone talking about the elegant meal long after the last place setting had been cleared.

The day, spent with gorgeous horses and great friends was a spectacular success due to the hard work of the Holden’s and the Lavery South Stables group. Sis Grant, in her beautifully decorated home surrounded by friends, customers and the new trainer that she admires so much was completely in her element. At the age of seventy-four she enjoys her life with her children, grandchildren, her friends, and especially, most especially with her horses.

The warmth of the season is always evident as the holidays approach and this year many of us have witnessed how the warmth of the season can indeed be abundant regardless of the time of year. Sis Grant, Joe Lavery, and the customers and friends of Lavery South seem destined to bask in the warmth of the season all year long for many years to come.

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