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Great Weather, Good Times at Western New York Morgan

by Mary Puthawala

HORSEHEADS, N.Y. - Sunny skies and breezy days dawned for owners, breeders, participants and their guests at the A-rated Western New York Morgan Horse Show, an annual event sponsored by the New York State Morgan Horse Society.

The show was a study in contrast, offering the charm of a small town atmosphere, but with the talent of a national level show that attracted competitors from New York and beyond. Making the trip from Pennsylvania were two top show barns: Jennifer Mason representing Mark Mason Training Stable and Scottfield Stables of Montrose.

Judges Cheryl Manahan, Josh Merritt, Kathy Crone and Leonie Fernandes made a great show possible. The unflappable management team, headed up by Show Manager Sharon Skelly and Show Secretary Marilyn Ackerman, kept the three-day event running smoothly behind the scenes. The team also included USEF Steward Roger Cabic, the always humorous ringmaster Robert Kleinfelter, farriers Dan and Chris Rossiter, veterinarian Dr. Jeff LaPointe, paddock marshall Helen Tucker, seasoned photographer Tami Johnson and Greg Harrington for first aid. Working tirelessly (and with a great sense of humor) to keep the show on track was announcer David "Tuffy" Owens, a new addition to the WNY team.

In hand classes were slated for a bright and beautiful Friday morning. The title of Grand Champion Mare went to the elegant bay Turning Pt Simply Divine. The English pleasure mare, granddaughter of Wham Bam Command, showed off her champion lineage under the expert handling of Will Vidler and owner Olivia Doutt.

Margaret Brown will need to find wall space for all of her new ribbons. Her recent acquisition, CBMF Streetwise, is an in-hand veteran with a long and shapely neck that is clearly a gift from his sire, DBA Street Talk. Shown by Lindsay Perry, this gelding proved himself as a serious competitor when he took home the tricolor for the Grand Champion Gelding class.

If Carey Churchill was present, she must have been proud of the show her punchy bay stallion put on. With beautifully animated movement, Hyland Acre's French Flair, shown by trainer Travis Neidlinger of Lingering Hills Stables, displayed his stunning best to win the Grand Champion Stallion title.

Scottfield Stables gave a solid performance in the park classes. Making her show ring debut a good one and going on to win the Open Park Saddle Championship was Castleridge Que Sera, an impressive mare who was trained and shown by Alicia Fraser of Scottfield Stables. Owners Robert and Deborah Boies of Landrum, S.C., have plenty to be proud of with this exquisite black mare, who clearly enjoyed putting on a horse show prior to modeling beautifully to take home the top tricolor. Alicia Fraser also guided Ultra’s Special Intention to the Junior Horse tricolor.

And there’s also no doubt that owner and rider Cathrine Ehnle enjoyed her impressive ride in the big outdoor arena to win the Open Park Saddle Championship reserve spot with CBMF Leading Man, under the direction of with Travis Neidlinger.

Owner and rider Jessica Gray took the high-stepping AMHF Belle Pepper out of harness and expertly guided her to a well-deserved first place finish in Park Saddle Amateur.

Not to be forgotten was the Western New York Classic on Saturday evening, a class designated for two-year-old and under in-hand horses. With a purse of $2,500, the class attracted high-quality entries who kept the three judges busy and the crowd guessing. And it ended up being a banner night for Sunny Acres Farm. Owned by Kathyrn Gallant and with Will Vidler at the lead showing, it was the smooth-bodied Sunny Acres Miss Scarlet who took home the top cash prize. Second place belonged to Sunny Acres Magic Man, a striking stallion shown by Dale Vidler for his wife, Nancy Vidler.

The Amateur English Pleasure class was won by FCF Immortal Affair, who was owned and shown by Patricia Castler. Watch for this promising new team to continue a winning streak in 2009.

In the open hunter pleasure division, it was the curvy and handsome Legendary & Noble, owned by Jackie Ross, who swept the competition to take top honors. This Nobility son was all ease and elegance as he took Kirsten Qua up for the winner’s photo. Another new team on the circuit, composed of the talented Will Vidler riding Brisco County Jr., earned the reserve spot.

Jennifer Mason, riding the Mizrahi daughter MNM Original Design, owned by Nancy Galusha, used the mare’s feminine looks and soft gait to jog right up for the top honors in the Open Western Pleasure Championship, just ahead of the ladies qualifier winner, Candlelite Superette, a gorgeous black mare who was shown by Alicia Fraser for owner Kathy Larcheveque.

To follow up on his first place finish in the qualifier, the proven team of Mike Kropp and Treble's Double Exposure stood out in an impressive field to take home the ribbon in the Amateur Western Pleasure Championship.

After a win in the qualifier, owner and rider Patricia Casler followed up to take top honors in the Amateur English Pleasure Championship, with FCF Immortal Affair, son of the unforgettable Immortal Command, in a large and talented field. This team, which is new in 2009, is sure to set the mark high for future competitors.

The English Pleasure Championship featured two top performers against each other. WTS Simply Outrageous, a stunning gelding ridden by Alicia Fraser for owner Kate Kielceski edged out a very impressive HB Miss Intimidation, owned by Donna Lee Brown and with Jennifer Mason in the stirrups, who took the reserve ribbons.

No show would be complete without featuring the stars of tomorrow. Quite possibly the most competitive class of the show as the Saddle Seat Equitation Championship, which showcased world and New England-titled riders competing in the same ring. Multiple world-titled Julia Strier, riding MLF Merlin under the instruction of Travis Neidlinger and for owner Mari Neidlinger, had to ride, not only with her usual elegance, but also with incredible precision to take the tricolor ribbon. Kate Kielceski, a rider who has laid claim to New England Regional Championship titles in the past, showed her own faithful partner, Hermitage Avatar, to advantage, giving Strier a run for her money and finishing with the reserve. With world-titled Amber Brown, who trains with Vintage Valley on AMHF Photo Op, finishing third but giving the first and second place riders a serious challenge, this was the class to watch.

Veterans also noticed some new faces in the stands and in the ring. One of them belonged to 18-year-old Andrew Beiler, a member of the Old Order Amish, who travelled up from his home in Bird-In-Hand, Pa., to get his first peek at the show ring. Although new to the circuit, Beiler has been a professional trainer for the last four years, training horses for, among others, Lee Hewett of Lee-El Morgans in New Paltz, N.Y. When asked what brought him to Horseheads, Beiler answered that he’s always had a dream of showing, having followed the shows in magazines. It will be interesting to see this soft-spoken trainer become more of a participant than observer in the sport.

After the horses were put away, their people gathered for a good time for ice cream socials, wine tasting parties, youth contest and even a stick horse class for the youngest future exhibitors. And of course, the fabulous pig roast party, held on Friday night, will likely go down as the out-of-ring highlight of the show. All in all, everyone had a great time.

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