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Germantown Celebrates its Diamond Jubilee

By Ann Bullard

GERMANTON, Tenn. – June is bustin’ out all over. So Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote – and in June 2008, Saddle Horses ‘busted out’ of the proverbial gate at four of the most beautiful horse show venues in the country. Nestled among the greenery in this suburban Memphis, Tenn., suburb, Germantown Charity celebrated its 60th anniversary June 10-14, 2008, with the largest turnout of Saddle Horses, Tennessee Walking Horses and hunters and jumpers in recent years. Between the three breeds, an estimated 900 horses crowded the grounds. Saddlebred entries swelled by more than 50 horses.

Sandwiched between the Rock Creek/Indy weekend and that of Midwest Charity and the Chattanooga/Cleveland, Tenn., event, one might have expected a fall-off in quality if not in numbers. Germantown ‘regulars,’ including SGF Winning Ways Farm, Penny Lane Farm, Cardinal Farm, Buffalo Creek, Maranatha Stables, Wedgewood Farm, Fairhope Stables and Jeff and Christy Leech were joined by such ‘returnees’ as Cascade, Jack Magill, Don Judd and Paul Cates Stables and newcomers Tammy Devore and Lone Star Saddlebreds. Abel Vega carried on the John Shea tradition, bringing ponies for Golden Creek Farm, Stephany Monteleone and Jessie Pettie. Simply put, there wasn’t an open stall on the show grounds.

In these days of indoor, sometimes air-conditioned arenas, the beautiful outdoor show is becoming a thing of the past. Like its cousins in Shelbyville and Devon, Pa., Germantown always is at the mercy of the elements. This year, blue skies, sunshine with some welcomed clouds and a moon ranging from half to full in size hovered over the show oval. Rain did come, but primarily in the evening. Friday night’s deluge caught trainers and grooms still putting away horses. Rain puddles challenged Saturday morning’s academy riders and trainers putting them in the ring. However, by evening the Germantown groundskeepers had everything in tip-top shape for a grand finish to the week.

The show retains a bit of the county-fair atmosphere with spectators sitting on the hillside as well as the boxes and general seating that surrounds the show oval. Many spectators enjoyed lavish picnic baskets, containing everything from salty snacks and fruit to chicken and cucumber sandwiches. The concessionaire quality takes a back seat to none, so those without ringside spreads enjoyed barbecue and salads as well as traditional horse show fare.

“We had a good show and by golly we need it. The success is a tribute to what the Germantown committee is trying to get done,” said longtime exhibitor and trainer James Nichols. “There is a lot of reorganization that they need to do for sure. I think that should be adding another day. I’d rather have another day than to show until midnight every night.”

Kathy Barlow of Buffalo Creek agreed. “It certainly was a fun show, despite the weather and was one of the best Saddle Horse shows in a long time. The schedule gets a little long but I think it can be tweaked a little and help matters out some.”

Putting together a multi-breed show takes a lot of coordination. Germantown this year might be termed ‘bitten by its success,’ with only a few of the 356 total classes either being cancelled or featuring a single entry. Two outside hunter rings hosted many such classes during the day, with some starting as early as 7 a.m. Jumping competition in the main arena started in the morning, with daytime competition ending after the scheduled ‘show horse’ start time. On two occasions, the saddle and walking horse classes went through the gate a few minutes before midnight.

Not only did this make it long days for amateur exhibitors, it created major challenges for trainers and support staff. The warm-up closed at 9:15 and main arena closed by 8:45 a.m., requiring trainers to work horses until the ‘wee, small hours’ or shortly after daylight.

It’s a problem for which Show Manager Charles Byron and the outstanding Germantown Charity Horse Show Board were seeking solutions even before the show opened. Byron and show officers met on Sunday morning, discussing ways to shorten the schedule and make other adjustments to continue a strong Saddle Horse presence in the future.

Lynda Smith, whose aunt Frances Smith was one of the show’s original exhibitors, serves as its current president. She and the event’s executive director, Bobby Lanier, serve on a city steering committee working to purchase an adjacent piece of property. Smith says there is a 75 percent chance that purchase will occur, adding eight to 10 acres to the park at which the show in held.

She discussed the challenges faced by Saddle Horse (and walking horse) exhibitors. “We are open to any solution that is reasonable. There is a corner of the property we might be able to convert for a (Saddle Horse) work area.”

Southerners have a great feel for history and tradition. In many ways, Germantown is more Southern than most. This year, the event honored three ladies who have been part of the event since its beginning. Mary Jane Sledge, Audrey Taylor and Frances Smith have been exhibitors, riders, volunteers and supporters for the show’s 60 years.

Taylor’s family owns the 300-acre Wildwood Farm, where the late Eli “Sonny” Long trained numerous champions. The farm remains, but the family’s interests now center on polo rather than Saddle Horses.

Sledge’s parents, the late Everett and Mary Jane Pidgeon, operated Magnolia Farm, with the late Garland Bradshaw as trainer. Sledge herself was a world’s champion rider, ending her show career with the late Paul Raines, whose barn was in a nearby Memphis suburb. Her daughter, Philipa, represents Pidgeon Roost Farm in the arena today. She rode The Great Gaspar to win Germantown’s Amateur Three-Gaited Championship.

Smith claims never to have been a great rider, but supported the show in many ways. Her niece, Lynda S. Smith, is the show’s 2008 president.

In years past, Germantown offered fans an opportunity to see some of the horses that will contend for world’s championship honors later in the season. This year was no exception.

As might be expected, the open classes were comparatively light in numbers, but not in quality. Courageous Lord and trainer Mike Barlow continued their blue ribbon and tricolor streak by racking and trotting off with both five-gaited wins. Marjorie Judd had CH Mahvelous Asset in top form to earn both of the three-gaited titles. She and Mary Lynn McMains have fans wondering which way I’m An Early Riser will show later in the summer. McMains drove the three-times Reserve World’s Champion Adult Pleasure Driving horse to a pair of Pin Oaks wins. Judd changed the vehicle at Big D, winning the Fine Harness Open and Championship, a feat she duplicated at Germantown.

Not surprisingly, the park division was the deepest in the open ranks. Of the seven in the qualifier, only three returned for the championship. It’s Double O’Deuce and trainer Steve Chadick were right on the money to win both classes. The SGF Winning Ways Farm stallion’s initial victory pass, which began with enthusiastic applause from the audience, brought laughter as a small dog escaped from the stands and chased the horse’s tail as he exited the arena.

The Eyes of Texas (and other Texas-oriented songs) played many times for Winning Ways Farm during the week as Sherry Frankel’s team earned numerous blues and blue-dominated tricolors and reserves. Frankel and The King’s Champagne made a pair of victory passes in the adult country pleasure division. Frankel’s daughters, Lauren and Lindsey Greenwald, made their marks in the roadster pony and roadster under saddle divisions, with Lauren driving Regal’s Special Effort to win the Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony class and a reserve in the amateur championship. Lindsey and trainer May Chadick squared off in the two Road Horse Under Saddle classes, thrilling the crowd with their rides aboard High Velocity and Bunker Buster, with Chadick teaming Bunker Buster to the blue and tricolor. Lauren Greenwald and Out Go The Lights earned a pair of reserve titles in the most-competitive junior exhibitor show pleasure competition.

Tammy DeVore and her clients enjoyed an outstanding week. Cydni Simmons moved into adult divisions this year, showing Hey Joe to win both Five-Gaited Amateur titles. Tyler DeVore and Mallory Greaves’s Believe Her showed just why this mare carries that name, winning both Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Pleasure titles. DeVore picked up several blues aboard young horses and earned the Five-Gaited Reserve Grand Championship aboard Martha Pope’s Thunder Storm Warning.

Morgan King and Jackie De La Parte left Germantown for Chattanooga with blues and tricolors from the Amateur Three-Gaited Park and Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited qualifiers and championships aboard Meadowlark Jubilee and CH The Keeper Of The Stars respectively. Don Judd and Maria Gilman train the pair. Gilman was in the irons with a blue ribbon ride aboard Barbara Woods’s Walterway’s Church Me in Junior Five-Gaited competition and several reserve championships.

Texas songs rang out for exhibitors with Jack Magill and Paul Cates. Taylor Lafargue and Harlem’s Moving Man won both nine-entry Junior Exhibitor Show Pleasure titles. Becky Taggart and CH She-Bop added the Adult Show Pleasure tricolor to Magill’s collection. Cates rode Cathy Coleman’s Sigh to win the UPHA Five-Gaited Classic title and drove Madeira’s Will to the Junior Fine Harness blue. After Madeira’s Mystical Moment won the Three-Gaited Junior title with Cates in the irons, owner Kristen Dunn stepped up to earn good ribbons in the competitive Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited class.

Barbe Smith returned to Germantown this year with a very-competitive group of young riders. Holly Nichols enjoyed dual roles at Germantown, as William Nalty’s mom and riding aboard Irish’s Earth Wind And Fire to win the Adult Show Pleasure qualifier and a reserve grand championship. Victoria McHenry concluded an outstanding Pleasure Equitation career last season. At Germantown, the 2008 US World Cup Team member won the Adult Equitation blue.

Blue and red ribbons also flew from Cross Creek Farm, Penny Lane Farm, Lone Star Farm and Fairhope Stables.

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