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Moses - He Parted The Green Shavings

by Bob Funkhouser

For a three-time world’s champion of champions and a four-time UPHA Horse Of The Year, he wasn’t the most gifted American Saddlebred to ever wear a curb bit... something along the lines of a Giddy-Up-Go, CH Imperator or CH Valley Venture. Like the aforementioned, what he did have is that God-given intangible that can’t be taught or coached and very few equine stars or human athletes/entertainers possess: exceptional heart. In both equines and humans, exceptional heart comes with a commanding presence and an extreme will to succeed. In fact, it was because of those Imperator-like qualities that Tom Galbreath, the second owner of CH Moses, coined him "a poor man’s Imperator" when he put the gelding through his 1986 Castle Hills Sale.

There are many endearing descriptions of Moses who went on to achieve legendary status in the show horse community. Following several world titles, he enjoyed just as much fame and attention in retirement. May 25, just a few days shy of his 29th birthday, Moses was euthanized at Susi and Bret Day’s Grey Ridge Farm, leaving behind a close-knit family and legions of adoring fans.

A 1980 son of World’s Grand Champion Sultan’s Santana and Kilarney’s Windsong (by Broadland’s Kilarney), Santana’s Windsong, as he was first registered, had the heart of a champion that gave him a "look at me" presence early on. He was slow to develop but it was his attitude that made those around him extremely hopeful that one day he would blossom into a star. That presence gave him a regal way of going; he just had to get stronger ,and stronger he got.

"I guess I was in my teens and we were small time in the horse business but Moses was one of the first great horses I remember. He was the one who did it for me and made me want to be a part of this industry," said Saddle Horse Report staff member and American Saddlebred owner/exhibitor Katherine Hansil. "Going to Louisville to watch was a treat for us and I guess it was one of the first times that I really paid attention, but Moses stood out to me. I showed a gaited pleasure horse at home so at Louisville that was one of the classes I really paid attention to. I thought to myself, ‘I want to have a horse like that.’ To have that kind of charisma and dominate a ring the way he and Susi did was amazing. Susi always made it look so easy. That horse epitomized the gaited pleasure division to me."

C. Thomas Galbreath purchased Santana’s Windsong from Louise and James Hart of Chicago’s famed Hart Stables as a four-year-old. A year later, Galbreath changed his name to Moses and trainer Steve Joyce debuted the gelding at the 1985 Rock Creek show, taking reserve in the Novice Five-Gaited class. They went on to Lexington and were fourth in a strong gelding stake.

"Dianna Rannells was working for Jim Hart at the time and had this big, gawky colt that was very interesting," recalled Tom Galbreath. "He was so gangly with those long legs and big head. Imagine Wilt Chamberlain at 16. Well, I had made a mistake once before turning down Imperator for what turned out to be not a lot of money so I kept thinking about this colt at Hart’s and wound up buying him as a four-year-old."

Galbreath also had a name change in mind for Santana’s Windsong. He so reminded him of Imperator that for a while he considered changing it to Impersonator. But with deeper thought, Galbreath went another direction.

"I really wanted to change it to Impersonator but then I remembered something that the great Christian speaker Norman Vincent Peel once said which was, ‘Every child should have his own identity. They need to be different.’ I thought he would be special enough that I didn’t want him to always be known as ‘a little Imperator.’ So, you know me, I was thinking about something from the bible and the magnitude of Moses fit this horse. I couldn’t imagine him parting the Red Sea, but I could see him parting the green shavings.

"He was a special horse that had the ‘it factor’ that only the mega stars have," added Galbreath. "They have that little something extra that separates them from the others with talent. He also had some quIrks and insecurities. That’s the thing I remember most about him developing over the years; it was gaining his own confidence of self. Moses finally got the confidence of working with his riders. Steve [Joyce] helped him gain his confidence and explore the ‘it factor’ to its fullest.

"Because he hadn’t yet gained all of his confidence, Moses presented some challenges to Craig [Kurz]. Craig had the harder job. Susi [Day Rambler] was there during all this and she watched all the time. She is a great observer, still to this day. Susi sees things that a lot of people can’t feel. So from spending time around him and observing him, when she got Moses she was able to go with him and use the bridle in a more efficient way. It was all about time and maturity for Moses."

"I’m really proud of Susi," added Craig Kurz. "He [Moses] was a complex horse that I never totally figured out, but Susi did. He had such a big presence. Command is a good word for the way he would show. He would take command of a ring but he used his power in such a graceful way."

The Kurz family’s Honey Baked Ham was indeed the third owner of Moses, as he stayed in the barn at Castle Hills. According to Galbreath, he and George Kurz never discussed them buying Moses but the final bid went to the Honey Baked Ham family.

It didn’t take long for Craig Kurz and the personable gelding to hit the ring in a competitive way. They started out winning the Amateur Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding class at River Ridge and went on to place reserve in the Amateur Gentlemen’s Five-Gaited classes at Rock Creek, Lexington and Louisville. In 1987, they came out sweeping the amateur division at Asheville, repeating their reserve amateur gentlemen’s ribbon at Rock Creek and then winning the Amateur Gentlemen’s Five-Gaited class at Lexington Junior League. Kurz and Moses came back for a third place finish in a 13-horse amateur championship.

"One of my best memories was that first year taking reserve to Sinatra at Louisville," stated Kurz. "I look over and there was [William] Shatner riding Sinatra, a horse I was riding just a month earlier and sold to them. I was on a neat, new horse and while we weren’t perfect, I thought we had a good show. Moses got his share of applause that night though. My hat was off to Sinatra, he beat us, but the way the crowd responded to my horse I’ll never forget. Moses captured the audience. He had a way of doing that with his presence and power. When he would slow gait he would get 10 times bigger."

Two months after Kurz and Moses, in their second season together, won the amateur gentlemen’s class at Lexington, new owner Susi Rambler (Day) entered the ladies gaited division. She tried him at Louisville that year and then showed one class each at the All-American Classic and the Kentucky Fall Classic. They had it all together by the American Royal finishing the season with reserves in the ladies gelding class and the ladies championship, defeating the current world’s champion.

Trainer Steve Joyce stepped back on for a third place finish in the Five-Gaited Championship at the 1988 Asheville Lions Club Show and then turned the reins back over to Day and she had good ribbons in the ladies division at Rock Creek and Lexington.

At Louisville - in the days before qualifying - Day and Moses made the transition to the five-gaited pleasure division and never looked back.

"Steve and Susi and I had all been talking about moving to the pleasure division. We thought he would absolutely be a star there," said Galbreath. "Our only problem was convincing Rita [Rambler] to let us do it. We had a conference call about it and she said, ‘Tom, I didn’t buy a pleasure horse; I bought a ladies gaited horse.’ I responded with, ‘I know you didn’t but you will enjoy him as a pleasure horse. We think he could be the one.’"

"Mom was the one who fell in love with Moses. She was the one who pushed the issue for us to buy him," said Susi. "I always liked him but then when I tried him at Louisville I fell in love with him as well. He was a complex horse on many levels, we just happened to form a great relationship.

"It was three against one on our vote to move Moses to the pleasure division so mom really had no choice," added Susi. "She just took a hard swallow and said, ‘okay.’ In the ladies division we had been knocking on the door but couldn’t seem to catch a break. Our only concern about moving to the pleasure division was would he be too chargey?"

That question was soon answered. At that time the gaited pleasure championship at Louisville was known as the Five-Gaited Pleasure National Championship and Moses wore his first roses defeating the likes of reserve grand champion CH Caravelle with Michele Macfarlane and third place finisher, Dr. Gene Scott’s Highpoint’s Irish Lace.

Moses and Day won their next four classes at St. Louis and the Kentucky Fall Classic. Division one of the Five-Gaited Pleasure class at the American Royal would make it six consecutive wins starting with the championship at Louisville. The last class of the year would be the American Royal championship with a reserve.

"I’ll never forget that first year at Louisville," said Susi. "We were fourth in the qualifier because we were too strong. However, in the championship everything was channeled in the right direction and we won, beating Michele [Macfarlane] and CH Caravelle. She had won everything that week, including with Sky Watch and it was an honor to be in the ring with her and other great riders. Showing Moses in that division, especially against Michele, taught me discipline: not to chase people and not to get rattled if people were chasing me. Showing with Michele makes you a better competitor.

"One of my biggest let downs also involved Michele. I think it was the last time we won the championship at Louisville and I was in the make up ring. Michele and I would always seem to qualify in different splits and then meet in the championship. The two of us would hang back and be the last ones in. We would jockey for that last spot. Anyway, everyone had gone in and we were waiting and waiting and there was no Michele. I thought maybe she had slipped by us and the gate had been open a while so we thought we should get in the ring. The first way at the trot there was a time out and when we stopped I looked around and couldn’t find Michele. For some reason it was a big let down not to get to ride against her."

After wearing the roses in their first attempt, the next two years the "poor man’s Imperator" went undefeated, winning his second and third world’s champion of champions title. Day and Moses also made victory passes at shows all across the country, while at the same time being great ambassadors of the American Saddlebred. At Pro-Am one year they won the one gaited pleasure class offered and the pleasure driving classes. According to Day, Moses was a cool horse in harness and when the show just had the one gaited pleasure class, Steve said, "Let’s drive him also."

From those in the Castle Hills camp, Susi was given a lot of credit for getting on the same page with Moses. According to those involved, he had his share of idiosyncrasies and insecurities. From going bonkers if he saw a cow from his stall window to always needing to be able to see another horse, the lovable Moses had a manual that came with him. As Susi put it, he could be very neurotic and very insecure. A few years ago when Moses had to go to the clinic due to some breathing problems, his pasture mate pony had to go with him as the concrete stalls at the clinic prevented him from seeing another horse. The pony had to go with Moses to his different tests. After a few days Susi and Bret [Day] were asked to take him home as he was tearing the place apart.

"Yes, he and [SS] Music Man could not handle the cows at Castle Hills. They had to be put on the side of the barn that didn’t face the cow pastures," said Susi. "Stopher Walk was another adventure. You never worked him up and down Stopher Walk. You just did what you could to get up to the small area at the entrance ramp and that’s where we worked. Every day was a new day for Moses. He was such a trip; he didn’t miss anything.

"Another unique thing about him was we only cantered him at home in a good sized circle. We never cantered a straightaway and never practiced at a show; only circles at home. The whole thing with Moses was keeping him relaxed so he didn’t push up out of the bridle. You had to take the time to get inside his mind and he was always entertaining. Moses taught me so many things with his little oddities that help me as a professional today. We frequently try something on a horse that we did with Moses."

Susi said getting together with Moses was a process and that in the beginning he took her for a ride. They eventually bonded and formed a relationship, "connecting on a different level. He was definitely a one-rider, one-trainer kind of horse. Voice was huge with Moses. As a rider you had to learn to handle his explosiveness without pulling back. It was done with voice."

In addition to their many inspiring performances and show ring triumphs, Moses and Susi were also fondly known for their bareback trail rides around show grounds. While it looked and was extremely cool to see a powerful show horse strolling around a variety of backdrops at different shows across the country with great poise and ease, it was more of a training aid.

"When I first suggested to Steve that I ride him bareback at the shows he kind of humored me," said Susi. "Then, after he saw him relax, he was okay with it. It took a lot of trust for him to think I wouldn’t ruin months of training by riding him like that."

The two ladies in Moses’s life loved him through and through. While having plenty of opportunities to sell her beloved gelding, Rita Rambler held on so he could stay where he was comfortable. She and Susi also made the decision to retire him while he was on top. If any horse deserved it, it was Moses.

"First of all I couldn’t believe I had a horse worthy of retiring at Louisville." And of course riding bareback had to be a part of the ceremony. "We wanted him to come in like a show horse and go out like the pleasure horse and family horse that he was. I didn’t get real emotional during the ceremony as I was more focused on trying to stay on and not make a complete fool of myself. I started thinking, ‘Great, what if I fall off trying to ride him bareback?’

"His was the first retirement ceremony I produced," said Gail Kline who has since coordinated several ceremonies. "It was easy to do as he was so special and Susi was adorable.

"Riding him bareback just evolved. Someone had mentioned it and I asked, ‘Can we do that?’ You know Steve; he said, ‘Sure we can.’ Pat Borders told me that when she saw Susi take her coat off and put on a ball cap, she said to herself, ‘Oh my God, she’s going to ride him bareback.’ The crowd had a collective gasp when she got on him. So many people followed them back to the barn and it was a huge party. Tom [Galbreath] cried all the way back to the barn."

There are so many memories when anyone shares two decades of their life that closely with another being, be it human or equine. From showing against and defeating legendary exhibitors to seeing her son, Griffin, pat her closest friend’s nose for the first time, there is a memory bank filled with smiles, laughter and tears. Some of the fondest include thoughts on the gelding’s place in show horse history.

"Looking back I think he took the five-gaited pleasure division to another level. He raised the bar in a good way," said Susi. "We always worry about a horse that looks to be too much for a division but Moses could be so commanding in a class and such a pleasure. He proved you could have a show horse, a pleasure horse and a family horse all in one. I hope that others can have a horse like him. It is a special feeling; a partnership that would be hard to achieve again."

The special feeling Susi had for Moses outweighed all of the accolades and show ring successes. And now with his death it has hit her even harder as to how much he also meant to others.

"I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the response from the horse community in regards to Moses passing," said Susi. "Our house looks like a funeral home with all the flowers. His gravesite is covered with flowers. The cards and letters have been so unexpected. I would have thought people might have forgotten about him as it has been a while since he was in the show ring.

"He was such a tremendous part of my life and my family’s. He took me from childhood to motherhood. He has been with me for so many important passages in my life and I am truly grateful. We talked about all the show ring memories today, but it is all the memories I have had with him since his retirement that have been just as gratifying, even more so at times. Seeing him with Griffin has been one of the most gratifying experiences. I am so glad Griffin had a chance to get to know him and spend time with him.

"I am honored and grateful to have been his owner and he will hold a place in my heart that cannot be replaced."

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