Skip to content

Range Rover Covered Ground With Power and Excitement



by Bob Funkhouser

The first part of 2008 saw the loss of several great horses, both past and present show ring stars. On April 20, the five-times World’s Champion CH Range Rover was humanely put down at High Hickory Farm by his longtime vet, Dr. Scott Bennett. The grand gelding was 22.

Bred by Mr. and Mrs. J. Haury of Woodstock, Ga., Range Rover was owned by Michael McIntosh, Kenneth Weaver and finally Alice Burgess before being purchased by Elizabeth Deknatel as a Christmas present for her then teenage son, Gabe. Range Rover’s career began with Terry Stephenson who had been second with him at River Ridge, third at Rock Creek and won at Dayton, all in the junior five-gaited division.

The powerful gelding then went to Ray Pittman’s and that’s where Billy Greenwell purchased Range Rover for Alice Burgess.

"I heard about him from Dad [Carol Greenwell] who had heard about him from Redd Crabtree. I called Redd and he said he was the nicest horse in the country for the money," recalled Greenwell.

"He ended up being one of my favorites, if not my very favorite horse of all time that I worked. He never had a bad day. You couldn’t ask for a better horse to work. That first year I had him we probably showed him a dozen times and when he would win and I would go up to get the presentation picture and he would stop and snort."

Greenwell had great success with CH Range Rover. They won the Five-Gaited Championships at UPHA Chapter 5, St. Louis National and the Illinois State Fair for a few consecutive years. They also won the stallion/gelding class and reserve grand championship at Midwest Charity.

"I don’t think Alice [Burgess] had a board bill for almost two years with the prize money he won at Illinois State Fair and St. Louis," added Greenwell.

In December of 1992, Elizabeth Deknatel and trainer John Conatser selected Range Rover as her son, Gabe’s, junior exhibitor horse. It was an ambitious project but she had the right trainer and rider for it.

"I liked the horse because he had gameness and ways of a stake horse and never dropped an ear. He was the best moving horse off both ends that I’ve ever trained," said John Conatser. "You had to work him like a pleasure horse, just quiet and steady. We would also put him in a bitting rig in the curb bit and he would work himself up and down the wall of the arena. That was something we got from Billy [Greenwell]. He would fly trotting to one end; stop, snort, turnaround and go to the other end and do the same thing, over and over."

Gabe and Range Rover debuted in 1993 but that first trip didn’t go so well as the high-powered gelding was extremely nervous.

"This horse was a little afraid of Gabe when they first started," explained Conatser. "About six weeks before Louisville, I had Gabe come every day and he would get on him and trail ride for nearly an hour before we started work. Once we got him to relax underneath Gabe, it was all over. We went to Shelbyville and won there and then went to Louisville and won both classes. The rest, as they say, was history."

It was a juvenile combination not to be forgotten. CH Range Rover indeed possessed stake horse ways, but with junior exhibitor manners once he learned to relax. That first year at Louisville, they defeated some of the greats of the day as Cindy Sherman and CH Blue Chipper were reserve, Lee Ann Tipton and CH Swept Away were third, Bradley Zimmer and CH A Touch Of Champagne for fourth, Kristen Meyers and Forever Famous were fifth and Jeff Priebe aboard Town Rose were sixth. They went on to finish the year undefeated at St. Louis and the Kentucky Fall Classic.

When Deknatel and CH Range Rover hit the ring in 1994, for the most part they were like a fine tuned engine – an Indy car engine at that. The year began with four victories at Bonnie Blue and Rock Creek. At Louisville, they gathered their third world title, winning the 15-17 qualifier and then were third back in the championship behind Lindsay Lavery aboard CH Specialty Item and Cindy Sherman and Forever Famous in reserve.

They closed out 1994 winning the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited 15-17 class at the American Royal before taking reserve grand champion honors behind Ashley Richardson and Swept Away.

Their final junior exhibitor season would be 1995 and there were wins at Rock Creek and Lexington before taking on the best of the best in Freedom Hall. CH Range Rover and Deknatel left Freedom Hall for the last time, winning one division of the 15-17 qualifier and then the World’s Champion Of Champions title. Erin Boggs was catch riding CH Callaway’s Hot Copy for Dr. Gene Scott to take reserve grand champion honors, Kate Wightman and Banter were third and Andrea Nelson aboard My Korbel were fourth.

"Range Rover was a Christmas surprise for me from my mom. He was the only horse I ever got like that," said Deknatel. "He didn’t have a mean bone in his body but was so incredibly game. He was pretty small, but contained so much energy that he never looked small. And, he was the same every time he came out.

"It took some time for me to be able to ride him. I would get on him and walk around trail riding for 45 minutes before we ever started working.

"It was a great couple of years as a junior exhibitor team. We weren’t dominant but for those few years there was an incredible level of competition going against Lindsay Lavery, Jeff Priebe and Cindy Sherman. It seemed like we would take turns winning and we all had large fan clubs so it made it pretty exciting. The crowd was always into it."

CH Range Rover was retired to the good life and green pastures of High Hickory Farm and was cared for throughout his retirement by the Deknatel family.

"Working with Range Rover cemented a relationship between John [Conatser] and Gabe [Deknatel] that has continued for 20 years," added Elizabeth Deknatel. "In retirement, Range Rover was wonderful in the pasture and as happy as he had been as a show horse. In fact, he would get ticked when he had to come inside. He certainly lived a good life and we’ll miss him dearly."

More Stories

  • Dayton Horse Show Update

    After speculation that 2017 would be the final Dayton Horse Show, officials have announced that there would indeed be a 2018 show. Held at the historic Montgomery County Fairgrounds, Dayton, Ohio for many years, the does have to change locations for its 151st edition due to the Fairgrounds being sold. Read More
  • Obituary - Dr. Ronald A. Hendricks

    Dr. Ronald A. Hendricks, age 66 of Lenoir City, formerly of Clinton, passed away on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 from complications following a stroke in November. Ronnie had degrees in engineering and dentistry. He was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Memphis, Memphis State and Cleveland State Community College... Read More
  • Did You Know?

    Our interactive website offers a variety of useful and unique tools for our readers. We aim to help our readers learn to navigate our new website, as well as gain a firm understanding of all the comprehensive features that it offers. Check in weekly with our Did You Know news series, as we show you the ins and outs of www.saddlehorsereport.com. Read More
  • ASHA Announces Partnership with US Equestrian in the new USEF Competition Lite Program

    ASHA is pleased to announce the partnership between United States Equestrian Federation (US Equestrian) and ASHA to offer the new USEF Competition Lite category... Read More
  • Schedule Set For 33rd Annual Wisconsin Limited Breeders Stallion Auction

    The 33rd annual Wisconsin Limited Breeders Stallion Service Auction will be held Sunday, January 7, 2018 at the Thunder Bay Restaurant in Milwaukee Wisc. The event begins at 11:00 AM with a buffet brunch followed by the annual meeting at 12:30 PM. The live stallion service auction will begin at 1:00 PM, featuring the nation's top producing stallions... Read More
  • Beamer Helps Rescue Horses from Lilac Fire

    Barbara Beamer joined scores of neighbors, friends, volunteers and community members to help transport and shelter horses and pets displaced in the Lilac Fire which decimated the San Luis Rey Training Center and is still burning in San Diego County. Read More
  • Latest Issue Dec 11 17

    Read More
  • Morgan Weanling Gala 2018

    Plans are underway for the 10th edition of the Morgan Weanling Gala to be held in 2018. In the years since the Morgan Weanling Gala (MWG) was launched, it has become a much-anticipated event each year. The program individually promotes each of the Nominated Stallions on both the MWG Facebook Page and website... Read More
  • Selection Trials at William Woods University

    After impressive showings at the U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team Trials, 12 riders were chosen to represent the United States at the 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup. Thirty-two aspiring athletes from 18 states tried out at William Woods University on Saturday... Read More
  • American Saddlebreds to Light Up Kannapolis Parade of Lights This Weekend

    The Carolinas American Saddlebred parade unit will be leading this year’s Kannapolis Parade of Lights Grand Marshal, Mrs. Martha Earnhardt during the event on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 6 PM at the intersection of Main St. and Dale Earnhardt Blvd in Kannapolis, NC. Read More