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"I Was Going To Have To Find A Way"

David Barger, of Barger Stables in Newton, N.C., fell in love with Saddlebreds when he was in the seventh grade. He grew up in Hickory, N.C. His sister Kathy [Barger] Sumpter had a friend that showed Saddlebreds. David went to a show and was completely hooked.

At a local farm, there was a pleasure mare by Private Contract, Dan Valley Diane, that Barger begged his father for three months to own. "I worked at the local farm to pay her board," said Barger, "then I brought her home and trained her myself."

Barger shared the mare with his sister Kathy. He showed her in the junior exhibitor division and she showed in the adult division.

"My mother Kathleen and father Everette supported my involvement but always with the attitude of, if I wanted to train horses, I was going to have to find a way myself to do that. My dad wanted me to get a "real" job, one with benefits and insurance. I did that for five years. I worked at a furniture company and would come home in the afternoon and work horses."

Eventually, Barger realized that he wanted to work with horses full time and make a living at it. He worked in Statesville, N. C. for Johnny and Nancy Payne, then for Peter and Kim Cowart when they first came to the Carolinas. When Bob Vesel was at Flying V Farm, Barger worked there as well. He eventually ended up working with Mike Tunstall in Newton, N.C. and moved his training horses to Tunstall's barn. When Tunstall left North Carolina to go work for Donna Moore, Barger leased the facility that he still runs today. He trains the horses and ponies and breeds Hackney ponies. The facility, formerly known as Fashion Acres, is owned by the W.L. Sigmon family. The Sigmon family formerly owned Worthy Son with Randy Tabor.

"I love to show but don't show that much anymore. I love to watch the kids come along. I enjoy seeing them start and progress and then turn into showmen. I also enjoy working with and watching young horses. It's rewarding to see them progress. My favorite horse of all time is Imperator."

Barger shows throughout Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas but admits he has some favorite horse shows. "I love Bonnie Blue and ASHAV. I enjoy getting out of the Carolinas but I also really love Blue Ridge Classic."

Barger and his customers have had plenty of success at the above-mentioned shows and at others in the southeast.

Megan Barrett shows Sunkissed Supreme in the English Pleasure Pony division and has had a great season so far in 2004. The pair won both the qualifier and championship at ASAC and were the Tar Heel Classic grand champions. They captured the reserve tricolor streamers at both Blue Ridge Classic and N.C. State Championships. At Clemson, they were in the top three both trips out.

Megan's mother Barbara Barrett showed Magic Under The Stars in the amateur three-gaited division and claimed the reserve grand championship at both ASAC and Bonnie Blue this season. She has just purchased Luxury Tax from former owner Mrs. Alice Lyda, to show in the amateur three-gaited division in 2005. Greg Barrett is an avid supporter of Barbara and Megan's involvement with the horses and is almost always in attendance at the shows they travel to.

Customer Brenda Brewer owns the four-year-old Destiny A Dancin', a top five-gaited pony contender, and the yearling New Star Rising. Stephanie Leidenheimer rode Destiny A Dancing to a top three finish in both the five-gaited pony qualifier and championship at Bonnie Blue. The gaited pony is out of a full sister to the dam of Jewel's For A Lady.

Roadster pony Bubble Gum and western pleasure horse Texas Flood TSN are both owned by Kathy Sumpter and in training with Barger. Catherine Moore Hartness and Rhonda Boone are also customers of Barger Stables and own Irish Chain, by The Irish Connection, and Solar Sun, respectively.

Thomas and Lauren Bailey are brother and sister and show their roadster pony Barbarett in the junior exhibitor division. Thomas drives the pony and Lauren shows under saddle.

Sumpter also owns the ponies Judy Jetson and harness pony stallion Cadetson's Little Nick. In addition to training the show horses and raising and breeding Hackney ponies, Barger also has junior exhibitors in the barn who are starting their show careers and competed in the academy division this year. The mother-daughter team of Selina and Audrey Sigmon, Ellie Reeves and Abby Bailey are well on their way to a career in the show ring under Barger's instruction. Bailey will show her horse next year in the 12 and Under Walk and Trot Pleasure division. Audrey Sigmon rode in the leadline class at Bonnie Blue before moving on to the 8 and Under Academy Walk and Trot Equitation On The Lead division.

David Barger was challenged many years ago to find a way to make a life training horses. Many years later, he has proven that he did indeed meet that challenge and make a life that he loves in the horse world. As he guides young horses and young riders along a path to success along with his loyal group of customers, Barger succeeds at his "real" job.

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