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John Chester (Chet) Sowle - Obituary

John Chester (Chet) Sowle passed away as a result of a massive heart attack on January 31, 2014, at the home of his longtime friend, Sammi Hazen. Chet was born on September 29, 1948, in Gloversville, New York. His passion for horses began at an early age. The earliest picture of him with a horse is at the age of three.

Chet learned to ride at his dad and stepmother’s farm in Glen, New York. As a teenager, he very successfully showed his Quarter Horse and was involved in 4-H. He graduated from Mayfield Central School, New York, in 1966. After graduation, Chet joined the US Coast Guard in September 1966. He was discharged in 1970 with a rank of US Seaman 1st Class. At this time, he returned to New York and his passion of training horses.

He worked for Jan Lukens at Misty Hills Farm in Troy, NY and JR Ragsdale at Roger Dean Stables in West Palm Beach before returning to Gloversville in 1970. On January 2, 1971, he married Susan Dean of West Palm Beach, Florida. Chet and Susan had one son, John Christopher Houston Sowle on May 30, 1972. Chet and his family relocated to Tampa, Florida in early 1973. He stayed involved with the Saddle Horse and Morgan industry in Florida.   He accepted a training position in 1979 at Kendalwood Morgan Farm, Glenpool, OK and trained the youngest rider, at the time, Laura Ashmore to win the AMHA Saddle Seat Equitation Medal.

Chet’s involvement in the horse industry took him all over the country. Over the course of his career he worked for James Ragsdale, Roger Dean Stables, Whitney Stables, Kendalwood Farm, Roadshow Morgans, Tom Harkins Stables, Silver Maple Stables, Black Gold Morgans, Sun Bolt Morgans, Sunleaf Morgans, Hainlin Mill Farm (Suwanee Morgans), LaMirage, Hazen Training Center as well as training under his own stable banners of Sedgewick and Chet Sowle Stables. 

After a tragic fire at Tom Harkins Stables, he lived with Don and Dorothy DeBolt in Claremore, Okla., and was guilty of spoiling their dog, Bubba. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with the DeBolt family. 

The list of riders influenced by Chet’s talent is a lengthy one. Chet had the distinction of preparing the first Champion and Reserve Champion Walk and Trot riders (Mark Dorwart and Tisha Dolan) at the Morgan Grand National Horse Show. His riders included: Laura Ashmore, Tisha Dolan, the Dorwart family, Jamie and Gina Green, Shanna Gish, Steve DeBolt, Brody Hickman, Debbie Hemingway, Mary Spain, Whitney Hazen, Lynn DeBolt Schroeder, Donna Zimmerman, Mark Bodnar, Pat Rush, Kathy Menard and Julie Irvine.

While at Black Gold Morgans, a young gelding caught his eye. At this time, Steve DeBolt and Chet joined forces to introduce the Morgan world to Black Gold Windsor.  Windsor went on to carry Rosalie Leary and Nikki Rae Woodworth to multiple Equitation World Championships. Windsor always held a special place in Chet’s heart. Other horses benefiting from Chet’s expert training were Sweet Georgia Brown, Reland Big Eddy, Suwannee Sophisticate, AFF Elusive Dream, Kendalwood Inflation, Kendalwood Intrigue, Dixieland Jazz, Jim Beam, Dare to Beam, Bell Shazar, and TSL Starcraft.

While at Hazen Training Center, Muncie, Indiana, he met Dan Redman. Chet and Dan made their home in North Carolina for 15 years.  They had recently returned to Playmor Farm in Lexington. In addition to Dan, Chet is survived by his son, Chris and his “nieces”, Jennifer Hazen, Whitney Hazen Downs and Lexie Schroeder and “grand-nephew” Aiden Downs. In addition to his “nieces” and “grand-Nephew”, he left behind two lifelong friends, Sammi Hazen and Lynn Schroeder as well as many others. He also leaves behind siblings, Rex and Rick Ruby, Mike Sowle and Amy Sowle Karas. Chet was preceded in death by his parents, Violet Vreeland and John Sowle and dear friend, Emmy Mangles.

Chet’s last day was spent doing what he loved, working horses and being with the people he cared most about. In the words of Sandy Sessink, “Every great horse that comes along after you will surely miss its greatest fan.”

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