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Kelly and David Mount

Kelly and David Mount, Loving Horses and Each Other

By Ann Bullard

When David Mount went to a Lexington Thoroughblades ice hockey game for a blind date with Kelly McElroy, one of the team dancers, little did he imagine he would fall head over heels in love with a Saddlebred fanatic - and become one himself.

"We fell in love pretty quickly," Kelly said with a fond smile in her voice. "We dated six months, then I moved to Louisville, changed my major and enrolled in the University of Louisville equine program." Shortly after they met, David went to his first academy show, and, in his words, he "was hooked." By the time they were ready to get married, both were so involved with Saddlebreds that David gave Kelly a unique wedding ring - the three-gaited mare Harlem Town Scandal. Actually, David gave her a choice between a traditional ring and the mare; the diamond followed some time later.

Neither David nor Kelly were raised in the Saddlebred world. David's grandfather, co-founder of the Kingfish Restaurant chain, was in partnership with Henry Burns. David had gained some Saddlebred experience from visiting their farm. Kelly's grandmother, Reggie McElroy, had grown up in a Tennessee Walking Horse tradition, and Kelly showed pleasure ponies on the Kentucky County Fair Circuit. She was first introduced to Saddlebreds through the Kentucky 4-H program and had the opportunity to show one for the Williamson family.

"They introduced me to Laurie Floyd and I dabbled around while I was in high school," Kelly said.

Their grandmother introduced Kelly and her sister, Kristian McElroy, to the Saddlebred horse show world through riding lessons at Adam and Desiree Clauson's Cardinal Farm. They found a home. Kelly soon hit the headlines with Pinewood's Master Charge and later David's first Saddlebred, Manipulated, in Western Pleasure. Although they have purchased performance horses, broodmares and are raising foals, David and Kelly have no intention of moving for bigger-name trainers.

"We have a lot of people who tease us," Kelly said. "There are many fabulous barns in our area, but we feel like Adam and Desiree are family. An hour's commute to Bonnieville [Ky.] is really nothing."

Avis Girdler, who has been photographing the Mounts' horses for several years, has also become a friend. "They're very friendly and very enthusiastic about American Saddlebreds. They're very dedicated - and love, love, love to breed horses as well as show them."

Girdler describes Kelly and David Mount as people who "are quiet when you first get to know them. Then she just bubbles over. Even with their involvement in the creative side of Louisville, the horses just come first. I'm really impressed with their enthusiasm," the successful photographer and friend said.

For Kelly, attending the Byers' riding camp opened new horizons and friendships. She and David enjoy being part of the Saddlebred group in their "Wednesday Night at Rumors" suppers, although Girdler had to talk her into joining the Louisville-area group at the popular Middletown restaurant.

"It was fun taking them out and seeing them get to know people on this end of town," Avis said. "Now they just love it and go on their own. They remain very loyal to Adam and Desiree."

Anyone would agree. Loyalty is a primary trait possessed by both Kelly and David Mount. "So few people in the business have that kind of loyalty," Kelly said.

Wild Woman - the 'Ugly Duckling'

During the time Kelly and David Mount were dating, Joan Hamilton called the Clausons about a filly who wasn't working well in their program. Hamilton thought she might make a broodmare prospect.

"We met Adam [Clauson] and Grandmother at Kalarama to look at her. She was raw, unfinished - the Ugly Duckling," Kelly recalled.

That was Harlem's Town Scandal - Wild Woman as she is known around the barn. Under the Clausons' guidance, she has matured into an outstanding three-gaited mare for Kelly.

"Grandmother wanted to buy her as a prospect for me or as an investment. David wanted to buy Wild Woman also. We were just dating and I didn't want him to buy a horse for me. Grandmother ended up with her; one of biggest fights David and I ever have had was on way home," Kelly recalled. "About a year or so later, the mare really had started to develop and we realized we could make some money with her. Grandmother wanted to sell, but I was attached and upset."

That is when David stepped in, buying perhaps the most unique "wedding band" ever given for his fiance. Neither has ever regretted it.

"I really felt like I was meant to have this mare," Kelly said. "It was a great way for David and me to get started in the horse business.

"Adam [Clauson] created her for me. Everyone thinks you have to buy a $50,000 or $100,000 horse to get started. You don't. There are many trainers out there like Adam and Desiree who are willing to work with people and find the horses that are right for them.

"Adam and Desiree did a great job starting us in western and building from that. We enjoy the fact that they started small and have watched them grow."

And the Mounts have grown with them. From one, then two western horses, they've added "Wild Woman" and Prince Town BH, a horse David drove and Kelly is now showing in country pleasure.

They also found Wild Woman's dam, the Hide-A-Way's Wild Country mare Carinosa at Herman Frederich's farm in Forestburg, Alberta, Canada. The colt she was carrying when the Mounts bought the mare - Harlem's Town Tango - was a reserve world's champion weanling.

Like many owners of good show mares, the Mounts chose to begin Wild Woman's breeding career through embryo transfer. Adam Clauson has started working Mind of My Own, a filly by his stallion Slam Dunk HG. They look forward to the debut of Dr. Dunkenstein, their black three-year-old by Slam Dunk and out of Worthy Son's Foxy Lady, in five-gaited classes later this season. The young stallion was tagged with University of Louisville basketball star Darrell Griffith's nickname.

Wild Woman's half sister, Harlem's Baywatch, yearling and weanling fillies by Slam Dunk and out of Carinosa round out the group of nine Saddlebreds the Mounts have at Cardinal Farm.

Owning Wild Woman has opened a lot of doors for the Mounts. "She's helped introduce us to so many people, particularly Tim and Joan O'Brien, owners of Harlem Town," Kelly said. We've really been lucky enough to get to know them. Joan doesn't show and one of the kindest things she has ever said to me is that when I'm showing Wild Woman we look like we're having so much fun!"

"They've invited us to their Brook Hill Farm in Lexington and I was fortunate enough to ride Harlem Town and some of his two-year-olds. Tim and Joan and the man who works at the farm actually break the babies before sending them to Rob and Jackie Tanner. And they always let us know if they've raised a Harlem Town baby they think would fit our program."

Kelly admits that David is the gambler of the team. "I'm the one who says maybe we shouldn't do this - like I didn't gamble on him the first time around," Kelly said. "He's willing to buy young prospects and bring them along."

"There's really nothing like a Saddlebred -they're so elegant and powerful," said David, whose appreciation of fine art has helped develop his admiration for the breed. "And it's fun to be around horse people, to meet new ones. It's really hard to explain to people not involved with horses. They think you're crazy..." (As if we all hadn't heard that one before.)

A life away from horses

There are many other sides to the Mounts. They own and operate Fusion Homes, a highly-successful furniture store located near the Cherokee Park section of Louisville. Their second location was scheduled to open in late May.

Their at-home lifestyle mirrors their various interests. They, and their two cats, live in a two-story loft, part of the downtown Glassworks project, which is comprised of three blocks of downtown development including glass blowing studios and galleries on the first two floors, retail space and offices on the next two and three floors of lofts. They enjoy a beautiful view of the Ohio River and downtown Louisville.

"Travel is our big thing when we're away from horses," David explained, adding that they had little time to do so. They have a family home in Florida where they spend Christmas and New Year's. Involvement with fund raising for the arts and the Glassworks project occupy whatever free time the Mounts may have. David, who received his undergraduate degree in finance from UK, is also pursuing a Master's degree at the University of Louisville. But it is the store and the horses that occupy most of their interest.

More than customers - friends

"Kelly is a truly genuine person. You'll know that when you meet her. And she's always a true friend," Desiree Clauson said. "David knew nothing about a horse when they met, but he quickly got interested in the business."

"They are our friends before they are our clients," Desiree continued, explaining that they vacation and enjoy spending many holidays together. "David and Kelly will do anything for anyone. She works hard to accomplish the goals she sets for herself. One other thing about her - what you see is what you get. Kelly has no hidden agendas."

Clauson described Kelly's workout regimen and pre-show quirks. "She is dedicated to accomplishing those goals," Clauson said. "If we say she needs three lessons a week, she'll take four. And she does a lot of work outside of her riding."

Yoga - more explicitly power yoga - and regular workouts with a personal trainer play a large role in Kelly's conditioning. "It has a lot to do with stretches and using your mind to control your balance," Desiree explained. "It's good for things like that and probably has been the key to her riding ability. She gets into all kinds of positions before she rides and shows."

Kelly also has several "musts" on the day she shows. "At one point, she had to eat pasta that day," Desiree explained. "She can't work on the day she shows and absolutely must get a nap, especially when she shows the three-gaited mare. It's become a large joke."

"If you travel with the Mounts, be prepared to eat - three, four or five meals a day. It's a wonder they each don't weigh 300 pounds," Desiree said. "When two hours have passed, it's time to feed Kelly."

A passion for eating dovetails well with one of David's hobbies. He's a "borderline gourmet" cook - when he has the time to do so. "Most of the time we eat out," he said. "There are a lot of good restaurants in Louisville, and we've found them all."

"I'm very blessed."

"I had a life in the horse business before David, but his passion for me sparked everything. He took to it really well - thank goodness," Kelly said, crediting her partner and husband with much of her show ring success.

"I've been really fortunate; everyone is amazed at how well David has taken to this. It proves the point that people can be introduced to the Saddlebred industry and really fall in love with it. It's not all about riding. He loves going to shows, watching people, studying pedigrees, breeding and talking to other breeders, including Don Spears, one of the Wednesday night crowd. I've been lucky - both to find him and to have the right horses cross my path. I'm very blessed."

While they have done well with their horses, Kelly and David Mount haven't been spared the bad luck that comes with being a horse owner. The Clausons named a Slam Dunk filly, born on the Mount's wedding day Suzanne Kelly, David's parents bought her as a prospect for Kelly to eventually show. Unfortunately, the accident-prone filly didn't remain sound enough for the show ring. Harlem's Town Tango, the colt Carinosa was carrying when the Mounts purchased her, broke his leg. The day before he was to come home, he broke it again above the cast and had to be put down. "I kid Dr. [Scott] Bennett that he has a wing with the Mount name on it," she said with a laugh.

Kelly still has things to dream about. Like every Saddlebred enthusiast, she dreams of blue ribbons. But she has things more important than ribbons and trophies.

"I go back to feeling really blessed," she said. "I have a supportive, devoted group of people around me. Scarlett [Mattson] is Desiree's aunt, Charlotte is her cousin. We all showed on the Kentucky County Fair Circuit together. We've been that amateur-owner-trainer who just loves the horses. That's why we do it - why we still are interested. It's all about loving and being around the horses.

"We understand how hard trainers have to work; their lives are horses - 24/7. People have asked why we don't buy our own farm. It's much more fun to drive an hour to Bonnieville, spend time with friends and really enjoy the day."

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