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General Mills Obituary

He Brought First Louisville Titles To Several
General Mills

by Bob Funkhouser

Not many horses or ponies accomplished what General Mills did during his relatively short 11 years of showing. He delivered first time Louisville wins to three different amateurs and one trainer. Forever known as a trooper, he died earlier this month at the age of 14. He was taken to a clinic with colic type symptoms, and doctors found out that his stomach had ruptured.

"I couldn’t believe he died. I thought for sure that goat would die long before the pony would," said General Mills’ former trainer Gene van der Walt who referred to Honey Nut, the pony’s longtime companion. "I thought we would be seeing ‘Cheerio’ showing until he was 20."

Cheerio, as General Mills was affectionately known, started life in Iowa where he was bred and raised by Jim Stober of Kirksville. Mike Roberts bought Cadet’s Land-Dow (Ace Cadet x Juliet’s Fancy Dancer by Flashing Decision) from Stober as a yearling. When he was a coming three-year-old Roberts sent Cadet’s Land-Dow to Roger Lucas to work.

"We just broke him and got him ready to show at Oklahoma Centennial," said Lucas. "He was really nice, one of the nicest cob-tails I’ve ever worked. His carriage was excellent and he had a natural ability with a lot of attitude."

Lucas and Cadet’s Land-Dow won the UPHA Classic at Oklahoma Centennial and it was there that Ed Frickey purchased the young cob-tail.

"Ed had talked to Roger about him before the show so he and Randy [Harper] went out and looked at him," said Karen Frickey. "They liked him and brought him home."

It was under the Frickey ownership that his name was changed. Since the name Cheerio had already been taken, they named him General Mills – the company who makes Cheerios. While it was a short ownership for the Frickeys, it was a successful one.

"We didn’t lose a class with him," added Karen. "Then he won the UPHA Classic at Lexington and the Johnsons bought him."

Mark and Mary Lou Greenwell trained for the Johnsons at the time and had General Mills for nearly two years.

"He was a really neat pony to work. He always thought a lot of himself," said Mary Lou. "We showed him at Louisville and were in the top ribbons and then took him to Kansas City with I’ve Arrived and were fourth in the Classic championship. The next year, Elise [Johnson] and Susan [Johnson] showed him.

"We went through a few trials and tribulations but I’ve always been a big fan of his."

General Mills and the Johnsons also spent time at Chris Gantley’s and Majestic Oaks. It was at Gantley’s Winding Creek Farm that Elise won her first Louisville title ever, driving General Mills to the Kentucky County Fair Championship. They repeated it in 2004.

Cheerio had another stop under the Johnson ownership, this time under the direction of Rich Campbell, Maureen Lydon and Juan Rios at Majestic Oaks. Susan Johnson took over the lines and they enjoyed wins all over Kentucky. That August, General Mills made it three in a row wearing the roses and tricolor as the Kentucky County Fair Hackney Pony Grand Champion. This was Susan’s first Louisville victory pass.

"He had a big heart, very game and took a lot of patience," said Maureen Lydon. "He could be tough; you had to spend a lot of time being quiet. He was so much fun to drive though, and a joy to show. You never had to worry about him quitting."

"General Mills is the only pony I ever worked who made my day, every day," added Majestic Oaks co-trainer Juan Rios.

"Just being around him, he was a misunderstood pony," explained Susan Johnson. "We got him as a four-year-old and he had a quirky personality. He could be super loving or pin his ears and be a butt-head. Nothing mean, just being a pony.

"Driving him was exhilarating. He was like a little keg of dynamite; he kept you on your toes. The longer he went the harder he went. Cheerio was a lot like I’ve Arrived, his heart was bigger than he was. It wasn’t necessarily that he was trying to please you, but rather he was trying to do his best, all the time.

"It was funny that Juan [Rios] was the only person he fully trusted. That pony loved Juan and Juan loved him."

General Mills had a new owner in 2006. Dr. T.J. Blevins and his family’s Blevins Farm added the champion to their already impressive string at Majestic Oaks. Mia Blevins had the honor of showing him and they won at May Classic, Asheville, Rock Creek, Shelby County and more. Their blue ribbon season was on its way and then Singing Hills Stable stepped in and bought General Mills for Barbara Blacklaw to show under the direction of Gene van der Walt.

Blacklaw had a test drive, winning the Hackney Pony Championship at the Mercer County Fair before taking on the green shavings of Freedom Hall where she drove Cheerio to his fourth consecutive Kentucky County Fair Championship. It was also her first and the farm’s first Louisville blue. That fall she won both classes with him at the NW Fall Classic before she died unexpectedly in January of ‘07.

Van der Walt sold General Mills to Helen and James Rosburg in July of 2007 and kept him in training through Louisville where he drove Cheerio to his fifth consecutive Kentucky County Fair Championship and van der Walt’s first personal Louisville victory pass.

"He was just a bright, shiny light to work," said van der Walt. "I loved him. He had such a great attitude. It was huge that Barbara [Blacklaw] got to win with him at Louisville. She had never won there before and I’m glad he could do it for her."

In addition to van der Walt debuting and winning with General Mills for the Rosburg ownership, he put James Rosburg in the viceroy for a third place finish in the Amateur Gentlemen’s Hackney Pony Stake at Louisville. The Rosburgs would have one more show with Cheerio. James took third with him in the Open Hackney Pony class at ASHAV before Ruth Gimpel Stables trainer Ronnie Graham took him back to win the championship.

"We loved him," said Graham. "He was just a special, special pony. We were ready to beat them all with him."

"After [Heartland] Heiress I swore I wouldn’t get this attached to one again," added Ruth Gimpel. "He got in my heart big time though. Just like Heiress, he came out every day giving you every ounce he had. Heck, we let him down this winter and he would trot just as high barefooted with a little dog chain on as he did with his show shoes."

Owner after owner, trainer after trainer, General Mills was loved by everyone who was ever around him. He had a unique personality and did things his way, but the rewards were great for a great number of people.

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