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The Maine Attraction




by Paula Brown

SKOWHEGAN, Maine- After several unrelentingly soggy spring months, it seemed like Mother Nature finally roused herself just for the benefit of Morgan lovers here in the Northeast. Opening day of the 54th annual Maine Morgan Horse Show dawned bright and warm on Thursday, July, 6, at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds in
Skowhegan, Maine. Exhibitors and spectators alike enjoyed sunny skies, balmy breezes and good company straight through Saturday, July 8.

Approximately 174 entries turned out to vie for top honors in 147 classes over the three-day period, and were keenly assessed by Judges Anne Judd of Land O’Lakes, Fla., (Breeder’s Cup, In Hand, Lead Line, Walk Trot, Park Saddle and Harness, Natural Park, Equitation, English Pleasure and Road Hack), Anne Lawter of Rochester Hill, MI (Breeder’s Cup, In Hand, Equitation, Classic Pleasure Saddle and Driving, Hunter Pleasure, Western Pleasure, Carriage and Trail), Janet Black of Kingston, N.Y., (Dressage, Justin Morgan, Sport Horse Cup, Sport Horse In Hand), with trainer Jaisen von Ballmoos drinking it all in as a learner judge.

Unfortunately, one familiar face was missing from center ring, Larry Wahl, the long-time ringmaster who adds just the right touch of levity to the proceedings. A knee injury sidelined him early on, so Christy Balch took Wahl’s place while he was shanghaied into helping wife and Show Secretary Mary. We all hope the leg’s better soon Larry!

As usual, Show Manager Pauline Richard and division managers Janine Hawkins (Carriage) and Vicki Harriman (Dressage) kept the organizational end humming, while announcer John Bennett called classes and Nancy Roberts provided musical accompaniment. Capturing wins for posterity were photographer Debbie Uecker-Keough and videographer Peter King. Trophy coordinator Linda Leavitt, stabling manager Judy Dorr and Steward Marilyn Ackerman rounded out the officials. ABC Vet Clinic was on call for any equine medical issues and EMT Gloria Bagley to attend to human bumps and bruises, while farrier Mike Sandvil had his forge fired up and ready to go for shoeing (and wondering how much this was going to cost him next year when wife Cyndee gets her two new young horses into the ring!).

Maine is by no means a huge Morgan show, but it can always be counted as one of the most welcoming. Special events run throughout the event, beginning with an old-fashioned down east lobster and clambake Thursday night with fresh from the sea lobsters, mussels and clams (or chicken for the landlubbers) were followed by mouthwatering cake (baked, of course, with those famous Maine berries). It was enough to have anyone unbuttoning a top pants button!

Club members staffed the hospitality booth, so that those who rolled out of bed early in the morning could find enough caffeine and Dunkin’ Donuts to get their engines running as they headed off to prep horses. Thursday morning, classes began at 8:30 a.m., with Sport Horse Cup entries trotting the triangle center field, and in-hand fillies and colts heading down the rail in the main ring. Three sessions that day and two on Friday led to the show’s highlight Friday evening, the Maine Breeder’s Cup.

The Breeder’s Cup has been immensely popular since its inception in 1999, drawing quality horses from a diverse number of breeding programs and training barns. This year was no exception, as eight entries and their handlers heeded the call for the Breeder’s Cup Weanlings at the opening of the evening session. All were beautifully turned out and well handled, and this year drew several challengers who couldn’t have been more than five-six weeks of age. When Mr. Bennett began the reverse countdown to first place, tension grew and the crowd cheered wildly for their favorites. Then came the familiar phrase, “And then there were two.” The two just happened to be homebred Maine foals hailing from farms only six miles apart from each other in Woolwich and Dresden!

The tricolor went to Susan and Shane Oliver’s Silver Lake Signature (RAF), a feminine bay filly by (Maine-bred) World Champion Pondview Tres Bien and out of Ken Mar Victoria. In hand wins run in the family, as Signature’s dam was a New England Morgan All American Futurity Reserve Champion, and her two-year-old maternal half brother was the 2005 Maine Breeder’s Cup Yearling Reserve Champion and People’s Choice Award winner. Reserve honors were called for David Peterson’s Bluefields Ace (RAF), a handsome big bay colt who already seems to resemble his sire, Peterson’s own Bluefield’s Ostentatious and out of Coalitions Ooh La La. The People’s Choice Award went to longtime Breeder’s Cup supporter Joanne Galvin, who presented the charismatic DRF Mr. Majestic (Gladgays Excalibur x Cabot Custom Made).

Next to take center stage were the eight Breeder’s Cup Sport Horses, ages one to three, who’d been evaluated by Judge Black earlier in the day. The familiar countdown took place all over again, and triumphing in a brand new division was young Josh Noble of Burkland Farm with his smooth homebred chestnut filly, Burkland French Champagne (Highover Oaklynn Command x Burkland Fancy Flight). Reserve in this competitive group went to trainer Judy Martin of Quebec, showing George Phinney’s handsome Vigilmar Time To A T. A Better Soldier (Suite After x TSL Victoriaís Secrets) was called to receive the People’s Choice Award, shown on the triangle by Erin White and presented that evening by trainer Katrina Crie for owner Holly Butterman of Snowview Farm.

Last, but certainly not least, were the Breeder’s Cup Yearlings. Sentiment regarding this class ran high among Mainers in the crowd, for many knew that Charlie and Judy Dorr would be showing their lovely Riverside Rhapsody (Beethoven x Maximilian’s Dream), full sister to the incredible Riverside Radiance. A former Breeder’s Cup Yearling winner, “Angel” recently passed away due to colic, leaving her owners devastated but thankful to still have her younger sister.

Nine trotted in, and soon there were only two left, Riverside Rhapsody and the equally gorgeous bay MEM First Joy (Liberation First Star x Cabot Joie de Vivre), presented by trainer Rick Lane for owner George Schott of Maine Event Morgans. Both were outstanding entries and modeled well, but the final nod from Judges Judd and Lawter went to MEM First Joy. Rhapsody made first victory pass in reserve, and then returned to the ring to collect the People’s Choice Award.

Spirits were high as the crowd filed across the show grounds to the ever-popular exhibitors’ party and Breeder’s Cup Benefit Auction. A number of items ranging from Jeanne Mellin Herrick prints to gift certificates to bags of Poulin Grain (and yes, including the infamous ugly horsehead day coat with pockets stuffed full of goodies and vampishly modeled by trainer Sarah Gove) were auctioned off, raising approximately $5,000, while attendees enjoyed an open bar and buffet spread.

Also taking place on Friday during the evening break was the Youth Contest Party hosted by Owlwood Farm and Kourt Jester Morgans, as three days of competition drew to a close for 26 participants who hailed from three states. The divisions continue to grow, and this year brought six beginners, 11 juniors and seven seniors.

One senior, Lindsay Dubois, already qualified for the AMHA Youth Finals at the Granite State Morgan Horse Show in June. Dubois was a repeat winner of the Nicole White Memorial Sportsmanship Award during her last year of eligibility.

The youth overall awards were sponsored by Justanotha Farm. Other sponsors included: King of Kings Farm, the AMHA, LaSalle Harness, the Horse’s Maine, the Shanley family, the Baileys, the Dubois family, Sturgeon Creek Enterprises, Dr. Michael Blackman, Kalypso Run Farm, GK Morgans, the Monarch Morgan Youth Group, Broadfields-Highover Morgans, Sea Grass Farm, Cynthia Pierce and Conrad Farr, Highover Boxers at Sturgeon Creek, Kass Booth Training at Highover Morgans and William and Satin Bartle. Volunteer horses used for the youth judging qualified for a special raffle of a quick hitch bridle donated by LaSalle Harness, which went to contestant Caitlin Dubois and Meadow Bay Rosemary. Sponsors were entered into a raffle for a Maine Morgan tote, claimed by Cyndi Pierce, and volunteers were entered into a raffle for a 25th Anniversary Grand National Anniversary Book of the Grand National, donated by The AMHA and taken home by Paula Brown.

The senior winner of the Maine Morgan Youth of the Year Contest traditionally receives a $500 scholarship to compete in the finals at Oklahoma. Two of the last five AMHA Youth of the Year winners (who are sponsored on a month-long trip anywhere in the world) have represented Maine! In 2001, Sarah Miner won the finals and traveled to Australia and New Zealand. In 2005, Kerry Shanley won the title and traveled to New Zealand. Shanley just returned on July 7, and came directly to the show to assist with the contest. This speaks volumes for the tradition of excellence and high level of dedication set by not only the contest participants, but by organizer Selina Skelton-Cloutier.

Cloutier’s contributions seem to grow every year, from making gorgeous hand painted ornaments to give as thank-you gifts, to soliciting sponsors and volunteers, to attending every detail in the luau-themed party. She is to be wholeheartedly commended for the program’s success.

This year’s Youth Contest overall winners included: Jamie Plummer (Beginner Champion), Steven Faith (Reserve Beginner Champion), Victoria Valway (Youth Champion), Emily Spofford (Youth Reserve Champion), Angela Savoie (Senior Champion) and Magdalena Mahoney (Senior Reserve Champion).

As the final day of competition dawned, there were still pleasant surprises in store, more blue and tricolor awards to be handed out, more victory passes and a very special dedication ceremony prior to the evening session.

Longtime breeder/trainer Kay Thompson of Highover Morgans is responsible for any number of horses and riders (including Selina Skelton-Cloutier and her own daughter, trainer Kass Booth) who have passed through the in-gate at Maine Morgan. In addition, Thompson has been a cornerstone of the Maine Morgan Club for many decades. Highover prefixed foals have won from coast to coast over the years, and become cherished members of families and other breeding programs, all based on her uncanny ability to predict which bloodlines would cross best. Above all, Thompson is known for her good humor and unfailing optimism.

Therefore, it seemed only fitting to pay tribute to this wonderful lady by dedicating the 2006 Maine Morgan Show in her honor. The speech lauding Thompson began with an apt comparison to the breed she loves.

“The AMHA standards define the Morgan Horse using the descriptive terms type, conformation, animation, attitude, alertness, adaptability, tractability, stamina and vigor. The Hall of Fame inductee embodies each and every one of these virtues.”

When Thompson and Kass Booth were called forth to accept applause, flowers and a token of appreciation from the club, there weren’t many dry eyes in the crowd. Our many thanks for all you’ve done, Kay! Best wishes for many more great years to come.

Next up was the Maine Morgan Versatile Sport Horse Award, presented in memory of Miss Margaret Gardiner’s wonderful gelding, Kennebec Russel. Coming full circle, the named called was another horse of her breeding, Kennebec Ladyhawke. This athletic black mare has been trained and ridden by young Margaret Bailey, who is currently in the process of purchasing her.

Before the final round of championship classes, John Bennett had two more announcements to make. Who would be taking home the $500 Winner Take All Jackpots so graciously sponsored by Chrislar Farm and the Maine Morgan Show? After several false starts (you must still be present on the grounds to collect, and several people left prematurely), the lucky winners were drawn: Tammy Levesque of Winged Spur Farm won the trainer’s drawing, while Karen Marlin won the owner’s drawing.

As another year draws to a close for Maine Morgan, the show committee is hard at work ensuring a stellar event in 2007.

 

Complete results can be seen and searched by clicking on SHOW RESULTS.

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