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Who was that guy at the Tom Bass Classic?

By Karen W. Coup

After judging the Tom Bass Classic Five-Gaited Stake, Tom Scott was perplexed. He walked back into the judge's stand and said to announcer John Owens in reference to the winning rider, “I don’t know who the hell that guy is, but he sure can ride a horse." There were a lot of folks around the rail thinking the same thing – after all, it had been just about 25 years since Kirk Osburg had last shown a gaited horse to the tri-color.

At about at the age of eight, Osburg first showed in equitation. Through his youth, Kenny and Irma Rogers, Fern Bittner and Dale and Glenda Pugh were vital influences and took great care in molding him into a fine equitation and then outstanding performance rider. Helen Crabtree chose him to star opposite Randi Stuart in her AHSA film "Saddle Seat Equitation" and he went from a successful equitation career with the cute bay mare Auntie Mame to a winning juvenile gaited career with Liz Stonewall, trained by the Pughs. He rode both Saddle Seat and Hunt Seat for Gayle Lampe while attending Westminster College in Fulton. After graduation, he married a William Woods rider, Cathy Cusick. With the Pughs, Kirk Osburg last showed a gaited gelding by the name of Ajax The Great and Cathy showed Shelby’s Folly and other pleasure horses before they both quit showing to raise their three children, Daniel, Brian and Alison.

But horses were either in the barn behind their country home near St. Louis in Labadie, Mo., or just down the road, and daughter Alison liked to ride, so they never stopped thinking about Saddlebreds. They attended the St. Louis show last fall, and saw many old friends. A couple of those friends, Gayle Lampe and the author, urged a comeback. During the winter, Alison started taking lessons at Gateway Manor, and all three rode at William Woods University during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Eventually they accompanied Lampe to Mike Roberts Stables in Columbia, Mo., and suddenly they were the proud owners of a junior park pleasure horse, The King’s Chardonnay (Vino). Kirk had barely showed Vino at the Missouri Kick-off when Gayle offered William Woods horses for the summer and the family went from zero horses to four and possibly five, with three of them at home. Summer by the pool had evolved quickly into a busy horse show schedule with purchases of derbies and tack, a trailer and more.

The horse that brought Kirk such comments from the judge and instantly renewed fame from the Tom Bass show crowd is now owned by William Woods University. Swatch Watch is a come-back story himself. In a freak hauling accident several years ago, his jaw was fractured, and he had to undergo multiple surgeries. Most horses wouldn’t have survived such damage to the mouth area as a show horse, but Swatch, according to past and now present trainer Mike Roberts, “just has a really big heart.”

Young Alison is determined to match her parents’ abilities, and blessed with those Osburg long legs, is showing in fine form in Academy Equitation under the guidance of Jeff Vogel and Kent Swalla. She won two reserves at her first show, the Missouri Kick-off. At Tom Bass Classic, she proudly matched her dad’s ribbons by winning her Academy Walk-Trot-Canter class and championship with the 22-year-old Pro Bono. She will continue showing him until she's ready to move up a notch. Her mom, Cathy, is slated to show the Woods’ Who Ah in Show Pleasure and Callaway’s Adam, who is on loan from Betts Coup, in Country Pleasure, while Kirk continues with Vino and Swatch Watch. They’ll all be at the major Missouri shows this summer, so watch for them ... and this time, you’ll know who that guy and his ladies are!

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