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Great River Benefit Continues To Grow

by Leeann Mione

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Great River Benefit Horse Show once again cemented its reputation as one of the Heartland’s most enjoyable and hospitable shows. The Iowa Equestrian Center at Kirkwood Community College provided a great venue for the Saddlebreds, Hackneys, roadsters and Morgans that made the trip May 18-20, to compete in front of Judge Sandy Currier.

With plans to add an additional 100 stalls by next year, Great River Benefit seems poised to continue its growth. One of the show’s charms however, is the fact that it retains its “hometown feel.”

Show manager and ringmaster Mark Weber and show secretary Nancy Weber are instrumental in the success of the show because they make it so apparent that they are happy to have each and every competitor attend.

Exhibitors are asked often by Weber and his staff if they have all they need, can management do anything better and are they enjoying themselves. Making everyone feel appreciated and welcomed goes a long way in keeping people coming back and it’s one of the things that Great River Benefit does best.

The Webers were joined by a great group of staff to keep things running smoothly. Carolyn Helton served as ring secretary, David “Tuffy” Owens was the show announcer and Roy Patterson was the show farrier. Al Helton, Fay Coulthard and Larry Paetz served as paddock managers. Terri and Kirk Washburn, of Washburn Photography, returned as official show photographers and made digital proofs available to customers all weekend long.

Although some classes were light, many divisions saw great numbers and competition was fierce. That’s one of the nicest things about this show. It retains a laidback atmosphere even though competition may often be quite tough.

A great staff, facility and weather all came together to keep Great River Benefit on an upswing and poised to continue its growth and success for years to come.


Competition in the five-gaited division was fast and furious with a strong group competing in the Five-Gaited Stake to conclude Saturday night’s session. The amateurs would come back for their stake class Sunday afternoon.


The New World Man and Bob Griffin made it two for two when Currier named them the winners of the stake class to follow up their blue ribbon from the open qualifier. Griffin rode for Brown-Anderson Farms, Ltd. Fight Night and Louis Louw took the reserve streamers for owner David Nierenberg and was followed in the ribbons by stable mate Reedann’s Top Notch. Amanda Simpson rode the Reedannland entry for third place.        

The New World Man and Bob Griffin were the

Five-Gaited Open and Grand Champions

for Brown-Anderson Farms, Ltd.


Abbey Gessmann and Covered In Sable, directed by Rob Kritzler, took the tricolor in the Amateur/Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Stake. They were followed by The Perfect Face and Jana McConnell showing from Heartland Stables. McConnell and The Perfect Face came into the stake having already won the five-entry amateur qualifier. Handsome Harley and Melissa Miller won the junior exhibitor class prior to showing in the stake.


Silver And Blue topped a nice group to win the Junior/Novice Five-Gaited class for owner Barb Vincent. Tom D. Pettry was in the irons from Country Meadow Farm.


The three-gaited division wasn’t quite as large as the five-gaited division but Ashley Johnson did a nice job with her Champagne’s Branson to win the Three-Gaited Stake and open class.


Allison Rohloff swept the amateur division with The Velvet Cat. Directed by Mark and Renae Van Zomeren, Rohloff took the tricolor in the amateur/junior exhibitor stake and amateur qualifier. April Wish trotted away with the reserve tricolor in the amateur/junior exhibitor stake with owner Jenny Carlsen up.


Bucky Brannon, trainer for Daybreak Farm in Princeton, Ill., headed to the winner’s circle in the Junior/Novice Three-Gaited class riding Daybreak Farm’s In Perfect Taste.


Xitlatle and Louis Louw kept the ribbons coming for Reedannland when they got the nod in the Three-Gaited Park Stake, one of the open division’s most competitive. Their win followed up the blue in the open class.

WV Sultan’s Radiant Vision and Ryan Rongers were named the reserve grand champions for Lee Mar Farms. Rongers headed to the winner’s circle in the junior/novice class but this time he was up on Meg Knowles’s Born Bodacious to top a trio of competitors.

Fran Streeter rode her entry I’m Out Of The Blue to the blue ribbon in the amateur class and I’m Out Of The Blue also won the junior exhibitor class.

The entries of Dr. Denise Terese Koch had a great show under the direction of Roger Lucas. Winsdown Celebration won the Fine Harness Championship among good company including reserve grand champion Harlem’s C My Radiance, with Dr. Mary Jensen driving. Winner of the junior/novice class, A Lemonade was third for owner Jack McDougall and was shown by Graham Gould.


Roger Lucas drove Winsdown Celebration

to the Fine Harness Grand Championship

 for Dr. Denise Terese Koch.

Caveat’s Who Da Thunk It won the open class with Tim Lockard driving for Oakwoods Farm.

Winsdown Celebration also claimed the blue in the amateur class for Koch with Megan Heath making the winning drive.

Heartland Victory Maker and Toni Nastali added two more ribbons to the Northern Tradition Farm tack room wall when they won the Amateur Roadster Pony class then came back to win the open championship. Rio Lobo and Cindy Ireland took the blue in the open class and finished in second when they returned for the open stake from Gib Marcucci Stables.


Kenny Guell drove Fitz’s What A Guy to the win in the junior/novice road pony class for Kenny and Valerie Guell.


Kenny Guell and Susan Ellis joined forces

to lead Eagle Bluff Training Center

to a very successful show.


Susan Ellis had an unbelievable Sunday afternoon at Great River to continue Eagle Bluff’s great show. When open class winner Pretty Impressive was called out as the winner of the Harness Pony Stake, Ellis took her fifth victory pass of the day and she wasn’t done yet. Muffy Ernster’s pony, Extremely Supreme, was reserve in the stake with Gib Marcucci driving.

Wait & See’s Winter Day won the amateur class with owner Randy Wells driving from Reedannland.

Gib Marcucci picked up a blue in the division with his winning drive behind Image Of Sophistication in the junior/novice pony class.

Heartland Alluring, also from Reedannland, took three wins in three appearances in the Hackney Pony division with Deborah Jahn driving. They teamed up to win the Hackney Pony Stake, open class and amateur class.

Romeo’s Top Secret LF and Gib Marcucci took the final win of the division with their victory in the junior/novice class for Gib Marcucci Stables.

CC Rider topped a good group in the Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving Stake with Ellis to add another tricolor to the Eagle Bluff total. I’m A Teacher’s Pet and Cindy Ireland won the junior/novice pleasure driving class as well as the open class and returned to take the reserve in the stake for Gib and Betty Marcucci.

Erich Aschenbrenner was unstoppable on his way to the win in the Five-Gaited Pleasure Stake with Collective Soul. Showing under the direction of Vikki Vogel, he added the tricolor to his blue from the qualifier and faced great competition in both classes. CH Chandler was right on the money in the stake to take the reserve with Lisa McClaren in the irons for Elaine McClaren, showing from Country Meadow Farm.

Shamrock’s Special Memory added yet another blue to the Heartland Stables total when Audrey Smith’s number was called out as the winner of the junior/novice class.

The park pleasure division was quite competitive and six strong teams came through the gate for their open championship. Winnepeg Parks and Jenny Carlsen won the stake for Penny Eckert after previously winning the junior/novice horse class. Can I Phly was the reserve grand champion with Louis Louw up for Reedannland.

Stonehedge Supreme took the blue ribbon in the open class with Ryan Rongers up for Jill Volkman and topped a big group in the process to add another blue to the Clean Sweep total.

It was victory pass number six for the day when Brilliant Starlet turned in the winning effort in the Open English Pleasure Stake with Susan Ellis. Eldert, the only Friesian in the group, took the reserve streamers with owner Pam Dice riding.

Gabrielle Zimmerman had a great go to win the open class with Tantara’s De-Phi All Odds. She topped 12 other competitive teams for the victory under the direction of Country Meadow. Miss Elizabeth Bennett was reserve with Sheri Brandl up from Equitate LLC and rode for the Marcyan family.

Callaway’s Maeve MacQuillen and Kristen Johnson won the novice rider class for owner and trainer Fonzie Del Rio and they also had their work cut out for them competing with a big group.


Kristen Johnson on Callaway’s Maeve MacQuillen.

Maeve MacQuillen and Johnson also added a tricolor to their total when they went to the top of Currier’s card in the Adult Three-Gaited Pleasure Stake which was nicely filled with a competitive group. Sonoran Select and Sarah Bosshard were the reserve grand champions under the direction of Monty Wallen. Sarah Keil rode Perazzi to the blue in the big 13-entry adult class.

Bonnie Kegley’s grandson Bobby Kegley took his first victory pass ever and he did it in tricolor fashion at Great River. Kegley rode The Majestic to the win in the junior exhibitor stake under the direction of Northern Tradition Farm. The Majestic also carried Tom Thorpe to his first personal world’s championship last year in Freedom Hall. The Indigo Girl and Sarah Karaba followed in the ribbon count in the junior exhibitor stake for Sarah and Cristy Karaba. Bonnie Kittredge directed the reserve grand champions.

Erich Aschenbrenner headed back to the winner’s circle but this time with Callaway’s Queen Of Crimson. They won the junior exhibitor qualifier for Susan Aschenbrenner.

Courageous Reflection and Julie Roberts won the amateur owned and trained class and Walterway’s High Enough took the division’s final blue ribbon in the novice horse class. Kathy Rhoades rode to the winner’s circle.

Sophisticat and Curt Kligora made it a clean sweep for Clean Sweep Farm to take both the tricolor stake win and open qualifier win in the show pleasure driving division. Top Boat and Ron Roberts finished next in the ribbon count in the stake, showing for owner Meadowood Farm. Marilyn Merlot won the junior/novice horse class with owner Katie Ahern driving to close out the division.

Endless Summer, owned by Mike Arnston, followed up a winning performance by novice rider champion Adam Hritz to claim the tricolor in the Adult Country Pleasure Stake for Country Meadow Farm. Stand Up & Shout and Annie Roberts teamed up for reserve for owner Kathy Roberts to give Country Meadow Farm a one-two finish. Salty Dog and owner Mary O’Keefe won the adult class from Heartland Stables.


Tom D. Pettry and Julie Anne Wroble met Adam Hritz

after he won the Adult Country Pleasure Stake

for Country Meadow Farm and Mike Arnston.


Just A Smudge, from 7 Oaks, won three classes in the country pleasure division including the junior exhibitor stake and qualifier with Rachel Potter riding. Great River marked Potter’s first show with the five-year-old mare. Jenny Paetz was in the irons for the win in the amateur owned and trained class. Aptowin and Rachel Morgan took the reserve streamers in the junior exhibitor stake for Joe and Patty Morgan.

The blue ribbon in the novice/junior horse class went to A Kiss Farr You. Katie Ahern rode for owner Janette Wanner.

CH The Edge has been a consistent performer under the direction of trainer Rick Schotthofer and he took the tricolor in the Country Pleasure Driving Stake with Karen Schotthofer driving for Rick Schotthofer. Justa Smudge was reserve for 7 Oaks after winning the driving qualifier to add a fourth blue to the 7 Oaks total.

The western pleasure division featured a strong group of entries in both the open division classes and the Saddlebred classes. Sharon Vuinovich and Winsdown Cosmos followed up their open blue ribbon and won the Open Western Pleasure Stake for Insanity LLC. They were followed in the ribbons by novice horse winner Spirited Talk with Stephanie Clausen.

Corie Allen won the Open Western Horsemanship class under the direction of Linda Wallen and topped five other teams for the win.

Harlem’s Mojo and Toni Nastali won the Western Pleasure Stake for the Saddlebred competitors and put another western tricolor on the tack room wall. Tubac and Jan Canine followed with the reserve tricolor streamers.

Super Rooster and Lisa McClaren won the adult qualifier and captured yet another blue in the Saddle & Bridle Shatner Western Pleasure class. I Told You and Corie Allen were victorious in the Junior Exhibitor Western Pleasure class.

Jenny Paetz rode A Touch Of Rhythm to the blue in the amateur owned and trained class for 7 Oaks and turned in a strong effort with A Touch Of Rhythm to also win the Saddle & Bridle Shatner Working Western Pleasure class.

The Open Hunt Seat Championship, like the open western division featured amateurs and professionals presenting their entries in front of Sandy Currier. Choirboy’s Bay Knight and Kelsi Keith won the class and were followed in the ribbons by Radiant Peach Schnapps VF with Rick Schotthofer up for Eleanor Fauber. Keith and Bay Knight had previously won the open hunt seat class.

Classy News and owner Kimberly Moore won the Saddlebred Hunt Seat Championship class and the Saddle & Bridle Hunt Seat Classic.  No jump was required in the qualifier but riders were asked to jump in the championship, which was a bit unusual, but they handled it well. Caraman and Erica Mundt took the second spot on Currier’s card in the championship.

Several different classes were held for the halter/model division, one of the divisions that adds to the appeal of Great River. So often halter classes are not included on the show schedule and it made a nice change for the audience to see the confirmation judging.

Perazzi and Sarah Keil won the Halter/Model Championship for Dr. Jane Keil after having already won the show pleasure model class. Kenny Guell showed Susan Ellis’s EBM Diamond Lady to the reserve tricolor. Phine Prowler and Judy Steenhoek won the Saddlebred Open Model class. Stand Up & Shout and Annie Roberts won the country pleasure model class for Saddlebreds.

Fanciful Heir SS, with Tom Thorpe showing, won the Two- or Three-Year-Old Training class for owner Toni Nastali. The youngster overcame a mild case of nerves to take the blue ribbon.

Eileen Molzberger teamed
Lethal Weapon to the blue ribbon in the Youth Showmanship class for Anne and Eileen Molzberger.

A trio of young ladies came through the gate for their Saddle Seat Equitation Championship. Winner of the 17 and under class Hali May Steenhoek took the tricolor after all three riders completed the workout. Steenhoek rode Open All Night for both wins. Meaghan MacQueen and Tantara’s Magic Blessing teamed up to earn the reserve grand championship. Kelly Creech won the UPHA 17 and Under Challenge Cup riding Alpha Priority.

Four walk and trot riders competed in the 10 and under championship class after a six-entry walk and trot challenge cup class. Lexi Friedrich won both classes with Royal Crest Captivating Stone. Brooke Boyer was the 10 and under reserve grand champion riding The Crowd Favorite owned by The Boyer Girls.

Shannon Koffler rode Worthy One’s Final Touch to the winner’s circle in the UPHA Adult Challenge Cup.

The leadline class was so difficult to tie that Currier was left with no choice but to award eight blue ribbons to the hardworking group. Rylan Rimpala, Necessity Tuttle, Susanna Kritzlow, Jason Kritzlow, Sydney Gale, Abby Fowler, Emily Hunziker and Tammy Paulson all exited the ring as lead line champions.

The Pleasure Equitation Championship featured six teams competing. Samantha Ruth Thomas, riding My Amarillo, won the championship after having won the Saddle & Bridle Pleasure Equitation Medallion. Sara Stucker was reserve in the championship with Dekermania, owned by Lesley Stucker. Mallory Hartigan won the 14-17 class and her Country Meadow teammate Margaux Walker won the 13 and under class.


Samantha Thomas rode My Amarillo

for the Pleasure Equitation Grand Championship

under the direction of Mark and Renae Van Zomeren.

Lexi Friedrich was back in the winner’s circle in the pleasure equitation division. She won the 10 and Under Walk and Trot Pleasure Equitation class.

Susan Ellis and her Morgans earned numerous wins at Great River including Cyderbay Sassafras’s wins in the Morgan English Pleasure Stake and qualifier. EBM Diamond Lady and Ellis won the Morgan Pleasure Driving Stake and qualifier and she rode Hylee’s Red Fox to the blue ribbons in the Morgan Classic Pleasure Saddle class and the Classic Pleasure Driving class.

Alakazam was the Morgan Western Pleasure Grand Champion and champion with Ellis on board. Coal Creek’s Black Stetson won the Amateur Morgan Western Pleasure class before returning to take the reserve tricolor in the stake.

Summit’s Socialite and Charles Berzins won the Morgan Hunter Under Saddle class for Charles and Arlene Berzins and EMB Diamond Lady won the Morgan Halter class with Kenny Guell showing.

This concludes the highlights of the 2007 Great River Benefit Horse Show. Complete results be seen and searched by clicking here.


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