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CH Sammyshine Retirement

Editor’s Note: Saddle Horse Report takes you “behind the scenes” of a World Championship retirement ceremony. For the benefit of those who could not be present on Thursday night at Freedom Hall, we are reprinting, not only the formal speech that was read, but also a step-by-step script of the entire ceremony.



CH Sammyshine received a kiss from

his caretaker before he and Cydni Simmons

made their last trip into Freedom Hall

together for his retirement.


Peter Fenton: “The five gaited pony division is celebrated tonight with a very special event, the first ever Louisville retirement of a five-gaited pony. Tonight we remember many of the other five-gaited ponies and their riders as well, take a look.” 


The audience views a slide show of numerous ponies & riders that concludes with CH Sammyshine victory pass videos.


The Simmons family and friends

 watch the slide show.


Peter Fenton: “Ladies and gentleman, ten-time world champion, eight-time UPHA Horse of the Year, five-time All American winner, five-time Juvenile Choice award winner, with championship wins at Lexington Jr. League, the American Royal, Rock Creek, Asheville, and many, many more… and the current Five-Gaited Pony World’s Champion of Champions … CH Sammyshine & Cyd Simmons!” 


Sammy and Cyd arrive and make circuits of the Freedom Hall ring trotting and racking both directions. They come to center ring where Sammy’s saddle is removed and the blanket of flowers is laid across his withers.



Peter Fenton then tells Sammy’s story:

Tonight we say goodbye to a unique show ring legend: Champion Sammyshine.

Sammyshine is the most successful five-gaited pony of all time. He has won 10 World’s Championships, five of them “Champion of Champions” titles, in effect World’s Grand Championships. In his career, he has won all three of the “Triple Crown” events of, Lexington, Louisville and Kansas City the only Five-Gaited Pony to have ever done so.

His last wins at these shows were Louisville and Kansas City in 2006 and Lexington just one month ago. He won the qualifying classes and championships at all three shows.

Sammy retires at the peak of his career. Since August of last year, he has won ten major classes, including two World’s Championships. Over the course of his thirteen-year show ring career, he has won blue or tri-color ribbons a record 59 times in recorded shows. He has been named UPHA Five-Gaited Pony of the Year for eight consecutive years, beginning in 1999. He is eligible for a ninth in 2007. No other five-gaited pony in history approaches his record.

Yet statistics, however impressive, do not tell the story of CH Sammyshine. It is the story of an irrepressible horse, a rider who grew from sprightly girlhood to lovely young womanhood during her time with him, and of the people who were drawn to him and love him.

Sammyshine was born CF Chief’s Kentucky Colonel at Caughman Farms in Eastover, South Carolina on June 22, 1990. Anne and Sam Stafford of the storied Blythewood Farms in Cleveland, Tennessee purchased him a year later

Sammy’s first recorded show was at Asheville Lions Club in 1995 with Anne Stafford’s niece Key Everhart. The following year, he went to a young red haired girl who is now a trainer in her own right, Toni Knight. Trained by Toni’s late mother Maria and her father Bill, he won the Five-Gaited Pony Championship at Lexington. The Chief, as he was still known, was on his way.

The team that brought Sammy into his own was Laura Cooper and her trainer Midge Hunt. Laura got him early in 1997. In July she reeled off four straight wins at Blue Ridge and Blowing Rock.

The story goes that they gave him the nickname “Sammyshine” because “Chief’s Kentucky Colonel” reminded them of fried chicken, and because he was the shining light in Sam Stafford’s eyes. It was at this time that Laura and Midge decided to make it official: Chief’s Kentucky Colonel’s barn name Sammyshine would become his registered name. The brisk one word title, which suggests both his exuberance and the way he lights up every ring he enters, became part of his magic. He no doubt would have been who he became under any name. Yet today one cannot imagine him as anything else.

Laura Cooper kept moving through the ranks in 1998. Champion at Raleigh Spring Premier, reserve champion at Lexington, and champion at North Carolina State Fair.

Nineteen-ninety-nine saw the big breakthrough. Sammy and Laura rattled off seven straight wins, from Raleigh Spring Premier in March to two world’s championships in August. Had Sammy retired at that point, he would have had his place in horse show history. He would be considered one of the greats.

But his story was just beginning. At the end of 1999, Cydni Elise Simmons was ready to graduate from three- to five-gaited ponies. Cyd had gone from academy classes at Little Britain Stable with Stephanie England-Gray to successful rides in equitation and performance on The Mustang Sally, but wanted the challenge of five-gaited. Her parents looked around for the best available. They found the world’s champion. Sammy became the property of Cyd and her family in August 1999. He has never had another owner. Since he is now part of the Simmons family, he never will.

The record tells the story. On July 11, 2000, Cyd and Sammy tied eighth at Lexington. On August 21, they moved up a notch to 7th at the Kentucky State Fair.

Then something happened. The kind of breakthrough this pair made for their entire career together. On August 24, 2000, Cyd and Sammy caught fire. She racked out of Freedom Hall with her first and Sammy’s third Five-Gaited Pony World’s Championship, she was only 10. To this day, Cydni Simmons is the only 10-and-under rider ever to win that title.


The rest is horse show history that more and more people have followed as Cyd and Sammy picked up legions of fans. There were wins at Bonnie Blue, Dayton, Rock Creek, Asheville Lions, Saint Louis, as well as the “big three.” Cyd won eight of Sammy’s world’s championships. Every one of those classes was different, each with its own drama.

But the story is deeper than that. It’s the story of a horse-rider pair who grew up together, who matured from the hot “little pistol” ridden by the cute little pigtailed girl to the elegant, airy Saddlebred with the gorgeous black haired young woman riding him. Before, people looked at them and were dazzled by their cuteness. Now they got stopped in their tracks by their beauty. Horse and rider hardly resembled their previous selves. It’s hard to say just when this transition occurred.

Or is it? If it didn’t start with the Simmons family’s move to Tammy DeVore Stables, it took root and developed there. There has never been anything quite like it in horse show history.


“He was wild but he was cute as a bug,” Tammy DeVore told the writer Ann Bullard.

She was speaking of Sammy in 2004, when she got him for training. Tammy admits that she and the world’s champion didn’t understand each other at first. He intimidated her, and didn’t seem to know how to respond to her training.

“He was bored,” Tammy said. “It was time to do something fun.”

What would both Tammy and Sammy consider fun?

“I jogged him in the fields, up and down the hills where deer ran across the field.”

Tammy had Cyd do the same thing. It took a while. But when they clicked, it was like nothing ever seen. The three of them, champions all, suddenly understood one another. Once they did, a new team was born that nothing could stop.

“He racks faster and trots higher,” Cyd said of Sammy after Tammy. The trainer’s regimen of riding up hill and down dale got the pony in superb condition, both in the sense of having more stamina and of looking finer, leaner, less pony-ish. “If he were 17 hands, he’d be my stake horse,” Tammy said.

Cyd Simmons had been preparing for this all her life. She rode her first horse at the age of 11 months. She showed in a lead line class at 18 months. According to her mother, it practically took an act of Congress or God to get her off the horse. She has been riding ever since.

The third member of the team is CH Sammyshine. Not only is he a smart, “good thinking” though eccentric horse who learns quickly. He seems able to think and make changes on his own. It was not, after all, Tammy Devore and Cydni Simmons who transformed him. They were the catalysts for what he did himself. Watch any of his classes and you’ll see how he is able to rate himself, how he knows when to turn on the jets. This is, of course, Cydni guiding him, but she couldn’t do it without a horse who seems somehow able to control his own destiny.

That’s where Jeff Simmons, Cyd’s father, miscalculated. “We’re going to let Sammy tell us when he’s ready to retire,” Jeff began saying as long ago as 2003. Jeff and the family waited and waited. Sammy said nothing about retiring. In fact he did the opposite. All he ever said was, “I want to keep going. I’m liking this better and better. What’s this about retirement? I don’t know the word.”

So, in 2006, instead of slowing down, CH Sammyshine turned it up and won at Lexington, Louisville and Kansas City, and is no doubt wondering where his competition is even as we speak.

But he had to retire this year. Not just because his family want him to go out a champion, but because Cydni Simmons herself is “retiring” from junior exhibitor classes, graduating to adult status and heading for college and the amateur division. At this stage, Sammy without Cyd would be like Astaire without Rogers, Smith without Wesson or, indeed, Bogart without Bergman.

It simply can’t happen. They’ve got to go out together, on top. They won’t be idle. Cyd will have college, Sammy will help his full sister Atlantis Chief raise her new family which will begin with a foal by Sir William Robert.

Cydni Simmons and CH Sammyshine have racked out of Freedom Hall together wearing flowers eight times. Tonight will be their ninth. Cyd and Sammy, Freedom Hall belongs to you…




Family walks ring with Cyd, Sammy, Tammy, Midge & Laura followed by fans tossing T-shirts & Sammy M&M’s…. with a few T-shirts rocketed into the stands with the CH Sammyshine Bleacher Reacher.


Peter Fenton:  “In your program it promised Sammy would rack out of Freedom Hall... shall we do it?”


Saddle back on… Cyd jumps up and racks a lap and up the ramp.


Sammy and Cyd leave Freedom Hall

together for the last time.


Peter Fenton (after exit):  “Sammyshine and Cyd Simmons, Burlington Saddlebreds and DeVore Stables invite all of Sammy’s friends over food, fun, music and visits with Sammy at their barn tonight starting immediately after tonight’s session… as soon as Tammy DeVore puts a few more five-gaited ponies in the ring tonight.”


Sammy had plenty of attention
at his retirement party.

(l. to r.) Jeff and Cyd Simmons, Midge Hunt, Sammy,
Cathie Simmons, Laura Cooper, and Tammy DeVore

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