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People’s Choice - CH Blackberry Delight

(Editor’s note: A complete list of all People’s Choice winners is posted in a separate news item.)


by Jennifer Styskal


When breeder Jim Aikman marched his weanling colt into the ring of the 1993 All American Classic Weanling Open class, he knew he had something special in the Blackberry Winter son. But just how special, no one would have ever guessed. Fourteen years later, that same weanling has accumulated eight world’s champion of championships and nine world’s championships in seven different divisions. For each owner, trainer and rider who has partnered with him, CH Blackberry Delight has given his all every time he’s stepped foot in the show ring.


“He’s a magnificent animal,” said breeder and first trainer Jim Aikman.  “He was a star every time you touched him.”


Aikman prepared CH Blackberry Delight for the weanling division, but did not take him to Louisville that year, feeling he was not quite ready. Instead he debuted CH Blackberry Delight at the All American Classic, showing him against the World’s Champion Weanling.


In the words of Aikman, who handled both babies, “He [CH Blackberry Delight] whipped her butt!


Breeder Jim Aikman started the young

CH Blackberry Delight on the road to stardom.


“In all my years of showing colts and winning some pretty nice classes, I’ve never had people follow me back to the barn the way they did with him. I sold him for $7,500 to David Kerger for Karen Waldron. Looking at it now, it was probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my life.”


CH Blackberry Delight continued his tutelage with Kerger, earning a fourth place ribbon in the Junior Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding Stake at Louisville.


It was about that time Lisa Strickland moved her operation into Kerger’s facility and watch the trainer work the young horse. Although she had seen CH Blackberry Delight jog, she had never seen him under saddle and didn’t pay much attention to him. Then one day she saw Kerger ride the big going gelding and knew right away she had to have him.


The Piemonte family bought the big chestnut, who eventually became known as Jim. He went on that year to win at River Ridge, Indy, Lexington and Kentucky Fall Classic in the park division with Strickland in the irons. He also claimed his first two of many world’s championship and world’s champions of championships.


In 1999, Strickland guided CH Blackberry Delight to park wins at Milwaukee, Indy and Midwest before Alex Piemonte took over the reins and started to rack up wins in the junior exhibitor show pleasure driving division. He earned his second set of world titles, with Tom Pettry catch driving in the qualifier. CH Blackberry Delight and Piemonte returned the next year to repeat their world’s champion of championship drive with Kelly Oselka winning the qualifier with him.


CH Blackberry Delight truly proved his versatility and superstardom in 2001. He started off in the show pleasure driving division with Piemonte, then switched gears at Louisville to take the Park Stallion/Gelding Reserve World’s Championship. This was his first world’s championship defeat in a four-year span. After that, they finished out the year in the ladies fine harness classes.


Next year was a time of change in CH Blackberry Delight’s life. After Strickland won a pair of park titles at Lexington, Lynda Freseth finally got her wish of having the world’s champion in her barn.


“Every time I’d seen him show, I’d ask Lisa for a price and every time she’d tell me she didn’t think they’d sell him,” explained Freseth. “Finally after a couple of years she came to me with a price.”


The Gaiswinkler family purchased Jim for their daughter, Ericka Gaiswinkler Nelson. Freseth debuted on the gelding to win another world’s championship in the Three-Gaited Park Stallion/Gelding class. They came back in the championship to earn the reserve.


“That was a special moment that I’ll never forget. Nobody can imagine what it feels like to ride this horse without having done it. It’s so unique. He puffs up and makes you feel important,” said Freseth.


The next year, Nelson and Jim went into the show pleasure adult division, his fourth division thus far. They went undefeated until that last class of the year, adding a fourth pair of world titles to CH Blackberry Delight’s resume.


Nelson, however, had always wanted a ladies three-gaited horse. After searching for one, Freseth realized that she already had one in her barn—in CH Blackberry Delight. They trimmed his mane at Oklahoma Centennial, and the team went undefeated all year. By September, CH Blackberry Delight was the record holder of 11 world titles, and he was only getting started.


A new chapter came in CH Blackberry Delight’s life when Shannon Sewell bought him in 2004 for her daughter, Rachel Machamer. They dominated the 13 and under three-gaited division, making two trips down victory lane on the green shavings. For Freseth, this might have been his biggest accomplishment.


CH Blackberry Delight and his final partner,

Rachel Machamer, first teamed up at Midwest

in 2004 in the three-gaited 13 and under division.

“To take a horse of this magnitude and have the same exceptional performances with a 13-year-old kid is amazing. I think it adds another aspect to his talent,” said Freseth.


In 2006, it was the same story, but a different division. Machamer moved up into the 14-17 division and experienced the same undefeated success.


This year, however, proved to be the crowning point in CH Blackberry Delight’s storied career. It would be his final year in the show ring. Machamer and the Hollow Haven team put everything they had into it, opening the season in the three-gaited show pleasure 14-17 division at Bonnie Blue. They returned with a pair of blues and went on to earn more from Midwest, Blue Ridge and finally the World’s Championship. The American Royal was the last show ring appearance CH Blackberry Delight would make. Seeming to understand this was his final time to shine, he put all he had into his final two performances, arguably making the best shows in his lifetime.


CH Blackberry Delight and Rachel Machamer

making their final victory pass

at the 2007 American Royal


He was crowned the National Champion after he and Machamer won the qualifier. This great horse had gone undefeated in four divisions since April 2004.


Leaving the show ring in the same brilliant fashion he entered as a weanling, Blackberry Delight will be officially retired at the 2008 World’s Championship Horse Show. It seems only fitting that he should bid his fans farewell in the same ring he made himself a legend. And while he may no longer appear in the show ring, Jim will continue to represent the American Saddlebred by serving as its ambassador. Already he has been invited to attend the Washington International Exhibit in October 2008.


Named the 2007 People’s Choice Three-Gaited Show Pleasure 14-17 Horse as well as the Reserve Overall Horse of the Year, Blackberry Delight leaves behind a legacy that will last for many years to come.



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