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Exhibitors Answer The Call At Penn National - Martin Crowned NHS Good Hands National Champion

by Bob Funkhouser

- For many of the new exhibitors to the 60th annual Pennsylvania National Horse Show, there were strange sounds coming from the large grandstands, which surround the spacious arena. There were people whom they did not know in the seats and those people were clapping their hands, stomping their feet and whistling as Saddlebreds, Hackneys, and roadsters competed for top prizes. Time and time again real live spectators were entertained by the performances of some of the industry’s top horses, ponies and riders.

The Pennsylvania National is a showcase of equine talent which, in addition to Saddlebreds and Hackneys, includes hunters/jumpers and draft horses. These spectators loved them all. Sure, the $50,000 Budweiser Grand Prix attracted many. However, spectators stayed for the Saddle Horse show and were just as enthusiastic about it.

And when a grand champion was crowned, the lights were dimmed, the spotlights came up and some spine tingling victory passes were made. For those who were around when Louisville had spotlight victory passes it brought back a lot of great memories and for those who had never seen those spotlight victory passes, the victory passes at this show created a whole new set of memories.

This horse show is all under one roof, which means weather is never an issue at this wonderful horse show.

As grand as all of this sounds, the Penn National was in danger of being just a memory to those in the Saddlebred industry. A small group of Pennsylvania and Northeastern exhibitors have been fighting to keep it alive, but the numbers were dwindling. With the help of those trainers recruiting other trainers to bring horses, as well as the ASHA getting involved with the promotion of the show, exhibitors from across the country responded this year and saved the day.

“The committee was amazed by it all,” said show manager Peter Doubleday. “The Saddlebred people really responded and came with horses. There are a few things we need to fix on our end like dragging the ring after the Draft Horse classes and we will get those cleaned up. I hope we continue to push forward and keep the momentum going.”

“We have had a great time. We really love seeing all the different types of horses, especially the draft horses,” said first time exhibitor Ruth Gimpel who came from Florida with her top string of horses and ponies. “It is so nice to show in front of someone and expose our horses to the general public as well as people in other breeds.”

Adam Clauson was assigned the task of judging the Saddlebreds, roadsters, and ponies, while Marilyn Macfarlane was brought in to officiate the NHS Good Hands Final. Shane Shiflet was back as photographer and he had plenty of top subjects to shoot.

Penn National has been home to the NHS Good Hands Finals since the National Horse Show closed its doors in Madison Square Garden. This year’s final attracted world class riders from across the country, although the 15 who showed up did represent a slight decrease in entries.

From the original 15, 10 were invited back for Saturday afternoon’s second round. Following their rail work, all 10 performed the individual workout in front of a large and appreciative audience. Judge Marilyn Macfarlane had a strong group of senior riders in front of her, practically all with world’s champion titles to their credit.

When it was all said and done, DeLovely Farm had delivered yet another NHS Good Hands National Champion. Mandy Martin was Lillian Shively’s 11th Good Hands National Champion and she represented DeLovely Farm with a flawless workout. Reserve national champion honors went to Cape Cod Farm’s Emily Garten. Erin and Kathy Boggs had this competitive young lady right in the thick of the battle. Also coming up with a well done pattern was top three finisher Kyle Gagnon, riding under the direction of Gary and Marsha Garone.

“I found out a lot of hard work does pay off,” exclaimed an excited Mandy Martin. “I’ve been riding since I was 13 and this Final has been one of my goals. I try to ride a couple times a day and this is the fourth year I’ve competed in the Good Hands Finals. The whole package came together this year.”

The Good Hands Finals receives special attention at the Penn National. A party was again given for the participants on Friday evening following the show. There was also a special presentation for the champion and reserve champion who came back on Saturday night and made spotlight victory passes following a center ring ceremony honoring their achievements.

Champion Mandy Martin was awarded the Good Hands Trophy which was donated by Margory Brown, a longtime Saddlebred owner and exhibitor from Tucson, Ariz., in honor of her daughter Dr. Laurel Clark. Dr. Clark was a crew member of the last Space Shuttle Columbia mission, which was tragically lost in the skies over Texas. Dr. Clark had many achievements throughout her career including becoming a medical doctor, serving as a Naval flight surgeon and being the first female submarine medical officer and reaching the rank of Captain in the Navy.

It has been said that Dr. Clark's accomplishments couldn't have been attained without dedication, focus, sacrifice and most of all, a passionate desire to do her best. Those same qualities exemplify what is necessary to be a successful Good Hands finalist. For these reasons, Dr. Clark's mother chose the Good Hands Finals to honor her daughter, Astronaut Dr. Laurel Clark, with a Perpetual Memorial Trophy. Dr. Clark's final email from space to her family is depicted on the framed photo that this year's winner received.

In addition to this wonderful trophy, Penn National also offered for the first time ASHA Northeastern Regional Champions. These were made up of participants in the championship classes from USEF Regions 11 and 12. Besides their regular placing in the class, the respective winners were recognized as Northeastern Regional Champions and they too got to make tricolor victory passes. In the open divisions Whimsicality and Michael Richardson won the Five-Gaited Regional Championship, I'm Sky High and Gary Garone won the Three-Gaited Regional Championship and Kaye Bowles Durnell won the Fine Harness Championship. Amateur champions included Beelzebub, CH SJ Like A Champ, and Harlem For President.

In the performance competition, DeLovely’s Todd Miles continued his banner season at Penn National as he ruled the open three and five-gaited divisions. Miles closed out the Friday night session by winning the Five-Gaited Championship with Chris Nalley’s It’s All About Me. The Junior Five-Gaited World’s Champion of Champions last year, It’s All About  Me had most of this season off before joining the DeLovely training staff a short time ago. Before heading into the winter Miles wanted to find out what the horse had in him and the gelding made two convincing shows to win both the open class and championship. Mike Richardson got a strong performance from his junior horse, Whimsicality, to take the Five-Gaited Reserve Grand Championship for the Grom family’s Revelation Farm. Sandy Lilly and Daddy O had been reserve in the open class.

There isn’t a junior exhibitor championship at Penn National but that didn’t get in the way of Ali DeGray and CH Tigerlee. They came from a reserve finish in the junior exhibitor class to take tricolor honors in the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship. In their first season together Emily Hess and Caramac’s Bogart have been quite good. The Fairfield South team scored the blue prize in the amateur qualifier and then finished as amateur reserve grand champions. It was a really competitive amateur championship as Jean Heiney and Harlem For President (reserve winners in the qualifier) finished in third ahead of The Wings Of The Dove and Grand Marq.

The junior exhibitor gaited class was as strong a three-horse class as it gets. In a battle of felines, Carolina Cat proved to be the superior species as Brittany McGinnis made her debut ride aboard the multi-titled world’s champion. DeLovely Farm and its supporters cheered the winning combination all the way to the winner’s circle. World’s champions CH Tigerlee and Ali DeGray finished reserve with Megan Ryan and CH LA Wing Victory in third.

Dr. Geraldine Meanor and So About Last Night triumphed in the novice gaited class giving North Wind Stables another blue. Bob Phillips and Roseridge’s Tip Top navigated to the red prize.

Mercer Springs Farm was another nice addition to the show. Smith Lilly won the Junior Five-Gaited class with Cool Down Papa and also took the UPHA Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Classic with Mountainview’s Starcatcher. The C. Norman Jones entry topped I'm Delighted and Jan Lukens for the UPHA Classic title.

Equine enthusiasts of any breed can appreciate a superior performance and that’s what Manila Thrilla gave the large and noisy Penn National crowd. Many around the rail from the hunter/jumper world, as well as the general public in the stands, had selected the current world’s grand champion as their favorite. DeLovely trainer Todd Miles didn’t hold anything back as the Theresa Vonderschmitt entry was perhaps even stronger than he was at Louisville. Their spotlight victory pass as the Three-Gaited Grand Champions was beautiful footage for the American Saddlebred in the eyes of many from outside the breed.

Manila Thrilla was not the only great ambassador in the top crop of Three-Gaited Championship competitors. Reserve to Manila Thrilla in both the open and championship, I’m Sky High put it all together with two extremely good shows for trainer Gary Garone and owners Mr. and Mrs. Rick Daigle. As he always does, Steve Demjen was riding hard every step of the way to return to Ohio with third place honors aboard Stacey Bare’s CH Caramac’s Norma Rae. Also in the hunt was Jan Lukens with Joellen Blount’s Heir Balloon.

For the second consecutive year Margot Harwood and CH SJ Like A Champ earned a spotlight victory pass as the Amateur Three-Gaited Grand Champions. John Champagne once again had this team fine tuned to sweep the amateur division. Both times Helen Rosburg and An Heir Of Magic scored the reserve rides with Carolyn Banks and In The Game pushing hard in third.

The exquisite team of Ashley Alden and Prince Of The Day could not be topped in the junior exhibitor walk-trot division. The winner’s circle was theirs twice while representing Royal Scot Stables. Tara Grom and Heir Popper stepped up for the reserve championship, while reserve qualifying winners CH Santana’s Cheer Me On and Rebecca Materniak finished third in the championship.

For Alan Lanoue, Darlene Trento-Wright took Star Of The Millennium to the Novice Three-Gaited blue ahead of Sally Eichlin and Albelarm Fidelity. Dr. Geraldine Meanor’s Callaway’s Dream Weaver was the lone entry for the junior class.

In addition to top amateur and junior exhibitor riders, long time Penn National supporter Gary Guz always has some eye-catching youngsters to show as well. He put Colleen Fitzpatrick and My Gisele in the winner’s circle for the UPHA Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited Classic. Roger Kearney brought out MacDonald Dixon for the reserve money.

Making the trip from Virginia to help support the Penn National, Karin Folkers and Bonus Attraction made their debut show a good one. The Windy Hill Farm entry was crowned the tricolor winner of the Three-Gaited Park Championship. Loren Uretta presented Lexington Dark Alley for the reserve championship streamers. They made the victory pass in the open class to qualify. Sally Eichlin and CH Albelarm Tradition were reserve in that one.

Television star Carson Kressley grew up showing at Penn National and the crowd loved that he returned to compete. Skip Shenker had Kressley and Callaway’s Prime Rate yielding a good return as the Amateur Three-Gaited Park Champions. Right at the top all season long, Sally Kropp and Chemistry In Motion ended the week as amateur reserve champions to go with their reserve in the amateur qualifier. That qualifier found consistent champions Callaway’s Smart Angle and Emily Hess on top with an athletic performance.

An accident in the warm up ring left only one for the Fine Harness Championship. Kaye Bowles Durnell and the elegant Definitely Dianna paraded around the ring by themselves for the title. They had also won the qualifier over Bob Beede and It’s All There.

Durnell as well as Sheri Wechsler, the winning driver in the Amateur Fine Harness Championship, were beautifully turned out for their classes. Wechsler drove Arthur Aitken’s Beelzebub for the Amateur Fine Harness honors. Beede and The Magic Touch were second in the Amateur Fine Harness Championship. They had also been reserve in the qualifier in which Brad Lukens and Tornaado’s Tidal Wave made the victory pass for Joellen Fisher Blount.

Gary Guz was back with another good young star in UPHA Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Classic Champion In The Breeze. Driving for Hallston Manor, Roger Kearney presented reserve champion Elusive Love Affair.

Thanks to Raymond Shively there was a roadster division. He brought current world’s grand champion Big Red to take both the open and championship winnings. He also brought along his own competition. Shively let Kaitlyn Grom drive his When & Where to be reserve grand champions.

“I told Kaitlyn, I know Raymond’s weaknesses and we’re going after him,” laughed Todd Miles.

It did make the class a lot of fun and the crowd appreciated the speedsters greatly even if they didn’t know this was the best of the best.

The Amateur Roadster To Bike class featured another star from the Ruth Gimpel Stables. BA Humdinger and James Rosburg turned it on to win the amateur title ahead of Kaitlyn Grom and When & Where.

Penn National audiences love the speedsters and the pony division was no exception. They cheered when Ronnie Graham and Heartland Special Special set sail down the straightaways as the Road Pony Grand Champions for Janet Sterba. Chelsea Simon and Whims and Wishes were reserve grand champions.

Entertaining was the word for the well-filled Amateur Road Pony Championship. This was one of those classes where the crowd picked up on different teams and cheered and screamed the entire time. A large section was for eventual Amateur Road Pony Grand Champion Seize The Moment. Ali DeGray responded to the cheering with a big smile and a great drive for their second win of the week. The crowd also went crazy over a young man by the name of Alex Ververeli. This youngster was at the controls of Mastercraft’s Gambler LF to receive a huge ovation for reserve championship.

Angela Utecht and Heartland Celebrate Celebrate have made a winning combination throughout the country and Penn National was no exception. They were two for two in the Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Championship and qualifier. Heartland Celebrate Celebrate had to be sharp as the multi-titled world’s champion Heartland Heiress was twice reserve with Helen Rosburg at the whip.

It was another tricolor trip for Kate Ryan and CH Rastafarian. They racked and trotted up a storm to take both the Five-Gaited Pleasure Championship and qualifier from the Gary Guz Stables. Representing Mercer Springs, Robin McKenzie Vuillermet and Callaway’s English Toffee earned reserve honors in both classes.

The reunion of Abby Campbell and CH Undulata’s Jimmy Hollywood was a good one. They took the Adult Three-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship back to Cape Cod Farm with a big time performance. Victory was also theirs in the adult qualifier. Kelly Vernon and I’m Simply Divine marched away with the reserve championship, while Erin McCracken and My Dakota scored the reserve prize in the adult qualifier. Diana Kressley Billig and Steeling Home led the way in the Three-Gaited Show Pleasure class where Jessica Bernier and Dark Heiress were reserve.

Callaway’s Torch Bearer has been a sport all year long with Tara Grom and Penn National may have been their best show yet. They ruled as the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Show Pleasure Grand Champions and qualifying winners. Tiana Tapper and Highpoints Merlot were twice reserve.

Not only did Tapper have two good rides, she also turned out to be the winning driver from the Show Pleasure Driving Championship. Teamed with CH Lover’s Heir for Wentz Stables, Tapper turned back a strong field of contenders including reserve grand champions Callaway’s Tobar and Ali DeGray and third place finishers James Salerno and It’s Tea Time. Salerno and It’s Team Time had won the qualifier.

Helen Rosburg and Kalarama’s High Roller swept the Country Pleasure Championship and qualifier giving the Ruth Gimpel Stables two more winning ribbons. Worthy’s Heirloom moved up several notches to take reserve grand champion honors. Dr. Geraldine Meanor and Itchy Foot Moe were called out for reserve in the qualifier.

Worthy’s Heirloom and Joelle Bennett emerged from the lineup first in both the Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure Championship and qualifier. Reserve placings alternated with Berry Berry Good and Lauren Gradwell picking up the red ribbon in the qualifier and reserve grand champion honors going to SS Inner Vision and Loewe Kasprenski.

After a few years of show pleasure driving titles for the Gumenick family, CH Shamanic Dream is now a country pleasure driving champion for Helen Rosburg. They won both the championship and qualifier. Also a proven champion, CH Cat Cracker was twice reserve with Vernon Wise.

An icon of the Western division, CH A Magic Surprise jogged through both classes with the look of a champion. The popular gray gelding won both classes offered with owner Pat Johnson riding. Stablemate Tropical Night was twice reserve with Kate McCracken.

Another great addition to the show schedule was the Penn National Horse Show Equitation Challenge, a championship designed to give all the equitation riders a chance to showcase their talents a couple times. Those that did not make the Good Hands final cut competed for this crown and it belonged to one of Fairfield South’s young champions, Ashley Stine. Reserve champion honors belonged to Kristen Thomas.

All in all it was a strong year for the Saddlebred participation at Penn National. The management and all those involved hope it wasn’t a one time deal and that barns will keep coming back to show in front of large and versatile crowds in an extremely nice facility. It’s one step at a time and this was a huge step in the right direction.

Complete results may be viewed, searched and printed by clicking on Show Results.


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