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Peter and Lynn Via Presented Two UPHA Awards

Nancy Trent presented the UPHA Associate Of The Year

Award to Lynn Via on behalf of both Peter and Lynn Via.

Photo by Jane Jacobs.

UPHA Associates of the Year


(Editor’s Note: The following speech was read by Nancy Trent Friday, Jan. 4, 2008, at the UPHA/AHHS Convention in Roanoke, Va.)

Once in a great while people cross our path who are extraordinary - they are people who, by their actions, lead by quiet example. Sometimes, they are people who make a difference in many areas. Tonight's recipients of the Associate of the Year Award are wonderful people who have made a wonderful difference in many lives-both horse and human. Peter and Lynn Via of Roanoke, Va., have made such an impact on the UPHA in total that they were selected and voted to two awards. Each award was based on different criteria and each selecting committee had no idea the other had come to the same conclusion that Peter and Lynn Via were the perfect choice for both the Associate of the Year Award and the Sally Wheeler Award.


This evening I am joined by Sally Jackson who will present the Sally Wheeler award in a few moments.


The Associate of the Year Award is given most deservedly to Peter and Lynn for their strong support on many levels to the UPHA. How these two came to the role of strong supporters of the Saddlebred horse and the people involved in the sport deserves a quick explanation. Flash back a few years and Peter was a young handsome horse crazy guy. Lynn was a busy teacher, mom, then real estate agent. Let's talk about Lynn first.


Lynn spent her life before Peter pursuing a college education, marrying, having two wonderful daughters, Owen and Clare, divorcing, and launching a real estate career. After her divorce, Lynn credits her mother for "giving up her life" to help Lynn keep her life and her children's life going in the right direction. Her mother made Lynn's transition to a new career much easier by always being there for Owen and Claire.


During the years of Lynn's very successful real estate career, surprisingly another career was budding - Owen was learning to ride hunter ponies. Successful over fences Owen was undefeated on the flat winning all of her age group equitation classes. As Lynn says, "the writing was on the wall". Was it ever from CH Sunforest who started Owen's Saddlebred career to CH My Chanel to Parker Road and beyond.


Peter during those years was likewise marrying, raising two girls (Suzanne especially loves to attend the World’s Championship Horse Show every year), divorcing and just enjoying life to its fullest. This true lover of the breed proved as camera shy as he was devoted to the horses-so this man of mystery has no pictures of those early horsey years. Peter hung around and rubbed horses as a kid-did just about anything he could to soak up the Saddlebred world. He also ran with a set of young "cool" horsemen that included Neil Scruggs and the late Don Stafford.


In true Hollywood fashion and in a larger than life moment Peter wandered in to a local drugstore, sat down at the soda fountain and found himself sitting next to a "living doll". It took Peter (and I quote with both Peter and Lynn's permission) six years to convince Lynn to marry him. I quote Peter, ”It took Lynn six years to decide whether to marry me because all I did was drink and talk about Saddlebred horses.” Lynn disagrees slightly, "That is not true. Sometimes he talked about trout fishing."


Happy together since their 1987 wedding, Peter and Lynn have lived an amazing life, which no speech is long enough to highlight. But Saddlebred-wise it has been quite a ride. A ride Sally will discuss in a few minutes. One thing is for sure, Peter, and later Lynn, have through the years seen the great horses, the great owners and the great trainers. They have enjoyed the horse world fully except that Peter over the years also noticed along with the good times that great personal tragedies did befall some trainers in the industry.


It was those memories in that motivated Peter to actively support the Dewey Henderson Benevolent Fund. When approached concerning the Fund’s "need for funds" Peter made a decision immediately-Fox Grape Farm and Peter and Lynn Via would donate $150,000 to a matching funds program. The original $150,000 has now grown to $225,000 and that is just the amount that Lynn manages for the Benevolent Fund. A lasting contribution that will assist deserving UPHA active members experiencing illness, accident, excessive medical bills and other tragedies. Peter and Lynn have made a contribution to the welfare of tragedy stricken UPHA active members. Their kindness toward the UPHA is a lasting legacy to two compassionate and caring individuals.


Lynn's wisdom has been a backdrop to many activities of the associate group over the past two years. Lynn, my personal thank you for your advice from fundraising to marketing, for always being just a phone call away and for advice that was always sound and always right.

Peter and Lynn the Associate of the Year Award is so deservedly yours.

Lynn Via (2nd from left) was joined by Nancy Trent,

Sally Jackson and Jim Taylor as she received her

second award of the night, the Sallie B. Wheeler

Distinguished Service Award.

UPHA Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award

(Editor’s Note: The following speech was read by Sally Jackson Friday, Jan. 4, 2008, at the UPHA/AHHS Convention in Roanoke, Va.)


The Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award goes to two very special

friends of the American Saddlebred horse – Peter and Lynn Via.


Lynn was a cute kid who was born in Little Rock but moved as a toddler to Richmond, Va., where being a high school cheerleader prepared her for a lifetime of cheering for horses. After graduating from Mary Washington College with a degree in biology and chemistry, Lynn got married, taught school and Owen and her sister, Claire, were born. When single motherhood took over Lynn sold real estate for the next ten years.


Cheerleader Lynn became horseshow mom when nine-year-old Owen got a grey hunter pony. Owen says, “Mom would take me to the barn before shows to bathe him and get his tail all snowy white. She didn’t realize then what a serious addiction she had started for both of us.”


Peter is a true renaissance man who, not only has a lot of different interests, but is extremely knowledgeable about all of them. He is a superb fly fisherman, target shooter, watch collector and has a museum-quality mineral collection. This generous man with a brilliant mind and a keen eye for a good horse is one of our breed’s best historians and likes to help quietly from behind the scenes.


Owen stopped showing at 14 but when she was 30 she got the chance to show again and this time it was on a Saddlebred. As Owen put it, “Thanks to Peter Via, I have had the opportunity to show such truly great horses as CH Sunforest, Himalaya, CH My Chanel and now Parker Road. Peter Via has unselfishly supplied me with the best times of my life and I am forever grateful.” 


Together Peter and Lynn formed Fox Grape Farm and have had such stars as CH Our Canary Diamond, CH Kalarama’s New Sensation, CH Callaway’s Forecaster and Callaway’s Carnation. CH Garland’s Dream won the Big One not just once but twice and then there is the incredible record of the six time World’s Grand Champion Fine Harness Horse, CH Callaway’s Copyright and John Jones


Peter is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Saddlebred history and bloodlines. Deep Blue, by Callaway’s Blue Norther, was the first stallion in their breeding shed.


For years Peter has been a great advocate of the South African breeding program and lobbied for the ASHA to recognize their registry. In fact he was so impressed with their breeding that in the early 1990s he sent Don Stafford to South Africa to find something to buy and import. The trip produced some great videos but no horses.


So when John Jones gave them a tape from the 2002 South African Championships and Peter saw the Five-Gaited National Champion, Dorian Wild Temper, he said,

“Lynn, if you don’t buy that horse, you’re not serious about breeding.”


When I called Lynn and asked her to help me with a fundraiser for the ASHA Foundation by roasting Donna Moore she said sure and jumped right in. Toast n’ Roast turned out to be one of the most successful fundraisers ASHA has ever held.


Lynn always buys at the art auction for the American Saddlebred Museum, which is near and dear to the hearts of both Peter and Lynn. When Lynn went on the Museum Board in 1998, the Vias challenged a matching campaign of $100,000. The matching money was raised and the museum was remodeled.


They founded Heritage Venture within the ASHA. The McClaskey photo collection was obtained. The Masters of the Roundtable Series for the Saddlebred Magazine was a huge hit and Heritage Venture is now supporting Jim Aikman’s interview series.


Peter and Lynn are involved in many things and last year they were inducted into the Roanoke Valley Horse Show Hall of Fame. The program that you enjoyed yesterday at the Virginia Horse Center is just another example of the Vias’ generosity.


Lynn and Peter don’t want to be in the show ring, they are more comfortable on the sidelines as breeders, spectators, supporters and cheerleaders. They are thrilled when a horse they have sold does well or when a Fox Grape horse wins. In fact they are thrilled to just be cheering on the Saddlebred.         

Tonight we are cheering for Peter and Lynn Via as they win the Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award.

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