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Get to Know A World Champion! Breaking News

World’s Champion Breaking News, a 6-year-old flashy chestnut, and his owner/rider 18-year-old Megan McClure are making headline news in Saddle horse country.

Extra, Extra... read all about it! What a gal. What a horse. What a meteoric rise to the top of the Saddle horse world. They took the blue at the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show in Louisville, Ky., in the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited 16-17-Year-Old qualifier. “He's explosive and powerful, and a lot of fun. I think he’s awesome. I just love him,” said McClure, of Taylorsville, N.C.

How did she meet the horse? Kim and Peter Cowart, her current trainers at West Wind Stables in Statesville, N.C., saw him at Merrill Murray’s stables in Versailles, Ky., about two years ago. They told McClure about him, and thought she might like him as her juvenile gaited horse. McClure went to Kentucky to ride Breaking News.

What did she think of her first meeting with him? "I loved him right away. I knew he could teach me a lot. I knew he could go the distance," she said. Unknown to McClure, her grandmother Beth Arndt collaborated with Peter Cowart on a secret plan. “It was Christmas Eve morning, and my whole family and I were going to the barn where I was going to ride. All of a sudden, I saw Kim riding News (Megan calls him News) around the corner. He had a red bow around his neck. My grandmother bought him for me as a Christmas present," she said. "I was speechless."

"We spent the winter getting to know each other," she said. And that's an understatement. They did more than that.

In 2003, Peter Cowart rode Breaking News in the ASAC Horse Show to first place in the five-gaited qualifier and also first place in the Five-Gaited Grand Championship. That show was in Clemson, S.C. A month later, McClure debuted with News at the J.D. Massey Classic Horse Show, also in Clemson, S.C. There he won first place in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor 17 and Under class and also reserve in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor Championship. But they didn't stop there.

They won first and second places at the Asheville Lions Club Horse Show in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor stake and Five-Gaited Junior exhibitor class, respectively. Then it was back to the Bluegrass State for the Lexington Junior League Horse Show where she and News picked up two reserve places in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor qualifier and championship. She placed reserve in the qualifier at the North Carolina State Championship Charity Horse Show in Raleigh, N.C., in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor division before Peter rode News to the Five-Gaited Grand Championship. That ended their season last year.

McClure has been the only one to show him this year. They placed first at the J.D. Massey Classic Horse Show in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor Championship, first in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor Championship at Asheville, reserve in the 15-17 qualifier at Lexington, first at the World's Championship Show in the 16-17 class and were the 14-17 reserve world's grand champions.

Breaking News stays at West Wind Stables in training with the Cowarts. The talented equestrienne goes to Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, N.C. where she is a freshman majoring in communications/print journalism. The school is close to the West Wind barn, and she goes twice a week to see News. She saw him every day this summer. Every Saturday she goes to see him too. "If I saw him any less, I don't think I could handle it," she said.

Megan began riding little ponies when she was age 5 at a local stables, and rode "whatever the barn had." Later, she rode jumpers. Then she met Dora Huie, a North Carolina trainer who transformed her from jumpers to a saddle seat rider. She also introduced Megan to the show ring. She was with Huie for four years. "She gave me a really good foundation in saddle seat."

Does she prefer Saddlebreds over hunters? "Most definitely. Without a doubt. They're more exciting and fiery," she said.

What does she think about in the ring? "I'm so into the moment. I try to show him off to the best of my ability. He's extremely game," she said. "He's just like a big dog. He has the sweetest personality in the stall. He nuzzles and licks my face and neck. He thrives on attention. He gets very jealous if I pay attention to another horse," she said.

What does he eat in addition to hay? Apples, carrots, mints? "He'll eat just about anything. He likes animal crackers," she said with a laugh.

McClure says her parents are very supportive. Her grandmother comes down and watches her ride him. She's also supportive. She said her trainers are excellent. "Peter is amazing. He does an extraordinary job with him and with getting me ready for him. They're very good trainers and teachers. Without her (Kim) I wouldn't be able to ride News. She helps me with my ring presence and showmanship as well as teaching me skills that I'll use on other horses. I feel like I've come so far under their direction. I don't know where I'd be without either of them." She said News' groom, Jack McCray, also deserves a lot of credit and is meticulous in getting News ready at home and at shows. "His turnout is second to none. He's the reason News looks so good."

Megan has two other horses in training: a three-gaited show pleasure mare, Cloverleaf 's Pocketful of Miracles (called Chloe for short), and a 2-year-old five-gaited filly, I'm A Music Girl (I'm a New Yorker x Theme Music), who'll make her debut in 2005 in the three-year-old five-gaited division.

Right now plans are uncertain for Megan and News. She would like to show him in amateur classes next year, but she doesn't know what her school schedule will allow. "This year has been so wonderful, it will be hard to top, but I'm excited to see what 2005 has in store."

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