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J.D. Massey Classic Provides Another Stop On The Road To Freedom Hall

by Leeann Mione

CLEMSON, S.C. - The J.D. Massey Classic Horse Show hosted just over 300 horses at the T. Ed Garrison Arena from April 21 through April 24. Seventeen states were represented by the 639 entries. Show manager Ray Cloninger commented, "I thought we had a good horse show. I know we were down in entries, but that was due to a variety of factors. Our dates changed this year and that hurt us a little bit. Now we're in this cycle for the next few years until the dates can move back to the third weekend in April. Our judging panel did a good job and overall it was a good horse show."

This year's show was not the early season contest that it has been in the past. Many classes had only one or two entries or were canceled entirely, but leap year has skewed the show calendar this season and most likely, next year the show will be the tough competitive event that it has been for many years under Cloninger's direction.

A trademark of a Cloninger managed show is a well run horse show office. Show secretary Joyce Wilson and entry secretary Barbara Woodlief again made sure that the office ran smoothly. Ben Phillips and Dan Shirley served as ringmasters to keep order in center ring and in the paddock. Peter Fenton traveled from Somis, Calif., to serve as the horse show announcer and Dale Stone put everything to music as the official organist. Horse Videos, Inc., was the show videographer.

Buddy Julian and Allen Julian took turns as the show farriers. Dr. Andy Holland served as the official veterinarian. Josie Forbes was the USEF steward and Sybil Miller was the majority opinion system tabulator.

On Saturday evening, with his family present, manager Ray Cloninger was inducted into the J.D. Massey Hall Of Fame for his years of service to the show. (See separate sidebar in this issue).

A special memorial trophy was presented to the winner of the Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony Championship Friday evening. Ben McDaniels, owner of Cleveland Park Stables, sponsored and presented with his daughter Elizabeth the memorial perpetual trophy in honor of Frank Mann. Mann, the father of Mary Lou Greenwell, recently passed away after a short illness. He showed roadster ponies and Saddlebreds on the Carolinas circuit for more than 30 years.

The judging panel of Melissa Moore, Nancy Troutman and Paul Cates marked the cards and did a great job of keeping the 137 classes on schedule. Most evening performances ended by 9:30 p.m., which was great for everyone. Trainers and exhibitors were able to attend the parties, relax and socialize at their stalls or go out to dinner.

One of the great things about having a three-judge panel at a horse show is that they all have a different perspective on what's happening in front of them. Cards were posted during the show and there were several unanimous decisions by the show's end as well as several classes with numbers all over the place. That's not as surprising as many people thought. Standing in three different areas of the arena, each member of the panel saw different things in each class. Horses that made a great pass in front of one judge and may have won a class in front of a single judge, were usually seen by one of the other two judges if they made a mistake on the other side of the ring. Earning a unanimous decision from the hard-working panel of judges was therefore especially impressive.

Many barns came home with a bounty of blue ribbons including Boones Farm, Mercer Springs Farm, Cash Lovell Stables and Drowning Creek Farm. West Wind Stables went home with several blue ribbons including the wins in two of the three open stakes. Johnny Lucas Stables had a winning weekend and captured the third open stake as well as numerous other wins.

Steve Hanks Stables, Clover Leaf Stables, Gentry Crest Farms, CSI Farms, Hibriten Stables, Soquili Stables, Mountain Laurel Saddlebreds, Cameo Stable, Jon Walker Stables, Woodbridge Farm, Cleveland Park Stables, Schoeman Stables, Crockett Springs Farm, Ingleside Farm, Buffalo Creek, Maple Top, Summer Chase, Cardinal Farms, Chestnut Lane, Stonefield Farm, Forever Farm and C & C Stables all had winning ribbons on the tack room wall by Saturday night. Judine Kerr, Diane Ohning, Dan and Jeana Hein, and Chris Long also had winning entries at Clemson.

Shiflet Stables, Pat Borders, Heads Up, Nightfall Farm, Fairhope Stables, Harrison Shiflet Stables, Jodi Weathers, Glenn Smith, Rachel Stroud, Parade Rest Acres, Lewis McHenry, Susan Douglas, Don Scott and Thorn McKibben claimed reserve honors in a host of classes during the weekend.

The Five-Gaited Championship provided a nice finish to the weekend of competition. The five entries in the class fought hard to impress the panel and all five have an impressive resume´. Peter Cowart and She's A Red Hot Chili Pepper went to the top of the cards after qualifying in the amateur mares class with Stefanie Sanchez for Sharyn Lackey and Sanchez.

Paul Boone rode The Great Gazoo for Alice Lyda and Kathy Lyda Berger to the reserve finish after winning the Carolina-Owned class.

The amateurs and juveniles also put on great shows for the crowd in their respective divisions. In addition, the junior five-gaited class was one of the best of the show. Bill Schoeman went to the winner's circle with Red Hawk Red Hawk, but not without a hard-fought contest with a top group of seven other young stars. Sandy Lilly and Seajay Lewis claimed the reserve ribbon for Mercer Springs Farm. It was a treat to watch Claude Shiflet put Midnight Senor through his paces. Shiflet rode hard with Melody Murphy's entry. Shiflet left the ring with the third place ribbon and lots of applause.

The Three-Gaited Championship belonged to MJB High Fire and Steve Gassen. The pair earned the win with a unanimous decision for Carol and Heck Newton. Phyllis Brookshire rode to the win in the Ladies Three-Gaited class earlier in the week.

Luxury Tax was the reserve championship winner with Smith Lilly up for Alice Lyda and Kathy Lyda Berger and qualified for the class with a unanimous win in the junior class.

The amateurs had nicely filled classes for their division while the junior exhibitors competed in classes that were smaller than usual but still competitive and entertaining.

The park division was competitive across the board. The division just keeps getting bigger and tougher at shows around the country and Clemson highlighted that fact with great championships and qualifiers for the open, amateur and junior exhibitors.

People are still talking about the Fine Harness Championship, which featured seven entries. It was great to see a competitive group in the championship instead of the usual one or two entries that is so common in the open fine harness division. New York Trend gave Lackey and Sanchez their second open championship tricolor after Kim Cowart drove to the title. Candle Dan and Kathryn Nichols teamed up for the reserve finish from Clover Leaf Stables after a unanimous win in the amateur class.

The open road horses faced the biggest classes in the road horse division, but the amateurs put on a good show for the appreciative crowd. The youth road horse to bike class had only a couple of entries, but provided the opportunity for the young drivers to get some experience under their belts as one of the few shows that offers the class prior to Louisville.

The road pony division at Clemson was very competitive in the amateur, open and junior exhibitor classes. So often, pony classes at shows around the country are lighter than other divisions. J.D. Massey highlighted the fact that the winners of the roadster pony championships and qualifiers topped great classes each time.

The Hackney pony and harness pony divisions had only one competitor each. The Hackney pleasure driving division, which seems to keep getting bigger each year, hosted only a couple of entries at Clemson.

The pleasure division for the five-gaited horses was well filled for both classes. The three-gaited pleasure division featured several classes and the 14-17 riders faced the biggest classes of the division.

The Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Pleasure 14-17 Championship was the largest class of Saturday evening and ended with a change in results from what was announced at the end of the class. After all 12 entries put on an entertaining show for the crowd, the computer indicated a tie for first and second place and the judges called both entries back to the rail for a workout.

Results were announced and the winner called to take a victory pass and wear the tricolor and garland of flowers. CH Santana's Night Moves and Catie Hawley took the victory pass. Later on in the evening, it was announced that the decision had been reversed. After consulting with steward Josie Forbes, the workout was thrown out and results officially posted as they were before the workout. CH It's Yabba Dabba Doo Time and Sydney Carter finished as the official grand champions followed by Catie Hawley and CH Santana's Night Moves.

The equitation division was light with only two riders in the Saddle Seat Equitation Championship. Early season horse shows seem to struggle each year to fill equitation classes because most students are still in school.

The academy division in the Carolinas is one of the biggest in the country. Academy classes at Clemson were split in many cases and were, for the most part, well filled.

The J.D. Massey Classic Horse Show in years past has been one of the toughest and most competitive in the Carolinas. This year's show was a good horse show but suffered fewer entries in almost every division perhaps due to the change in dates and proximity in the schedule to Tar Heel Classic, Bonnie Blue and Asheville Lions Club. Hopes are high that next year will see a return to the great early season classic that this show has traditionally been.

The great weather and nice facility helped keep everyone in a good mood. Many classes were added upon request and show manager Ray Cloninger worked to accommodate schedule change requests. It remains to be seen whether the schedule will be pared down for future shows and whether the show will continue with a three-judge panel or go back to a single judge. In any case, the show, named 2003 Chapter 12 Honor Show Of The Year, provided one more early season opportunity to showcase new teams, nice young horses and veteran campaigners on the way to Freedom Hall.

This highlights only some of the winners from the 71st annual J.D. Massey Classic Horse Show.

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