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Remembering CH Gypsy Supreme

by Bob Funkhouser

Kim Cowart called him, "The King." Some of his earlier trainers used to call him a few other things, not quite befitting a King, however, those who worked the nine-time world’s champion and three-time reserve world’s champion of champions all had a deep admiration for the unique gelding. The recent death of the 23-year-old gelding brought back a lot of memories for those trainers who did work the son of Sultan’s Flashdance and Kalarama’s Gypsy Lady.

He was first brought out by Don Pugh for Jim Stewart. Nelson Green, who eventually trained CH Gypsy Supreme, was judging the then three-year-old in his show ring debut.

"It was the Boone County Fair," said Green, "and he was the wildest horse you ever saw. Donnie did a great job just to stay on him. He wasn’t trying to throw him or anything, he was just so big he didn’t know what to do and I never knew what gait he was doing or trying to do. He would go from one end to the other and curl his tail and blow his nose and then do it again. He was basically a loose horse."

Pugh did get the young gelding a little more contained by the time they got to the Illinois State Fair that year. Enough so, that it caught the eye of Lynda Williamson (Freseth) who called Andy in the middle of the night to tell him about the soon to be star that she just saw.

"Lynda and I were dating at the time and I was sound asleep and the phone rings at 1:00 a.m.," recalled Andy Freseth. "I hear, ‘Andy, you need to sit up and listen. You need to pay attention to what I’m about to tell you. I have found a gaited horse that needs buying and I’ve already committed to buying him. I know you’ve got two or three customers up there looking for gaited horses so we need to figure out who is going to buy him. He is a three-year-old that just lit up the Illinois State Fair.’

"I’m still trying to wake up and she is going on and on about this horse. So I listen and then on Monday I called Ann Marie Brickzen and mind you, this is the week before Louisville. She said she wouldn’t buy him without seeing him so we jump on a plane and go to Jim Stewarts to see him. Lynda had already warned me that I wouldn’t like a hair on him in the stall so I was prepared for that.

"They brought him out and went up and down the aisle and he never put his knee up or his head. We look at each other and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell?’ They finally took him outside and he trotted up this lane and it wasn’t much better. Donnie turned him around and slow gaited back and all of a sudden his head went in the air and he was going about two inches above level. I turned to Ann Marie and said, ‘Where did that come from?’ It was the most beautiful slow gait I had ever seen."

The deal was done and Gypsy was delivered to Freseth at Louisville where he worked him and again he didn’t use his legs or his ears. He gave him a day’s rest and still no better.

"Rob Tanner came to me and said he understood that I had bought a great three-year-old and wanted to know if we would sell him," said Freseth. "I told him he wouldn’t like him to watch him work, but he insisted. Well, I was right. If looks could kill I’d be dead right now with the way Rob looked at me when I showed him Gypsy.

"We finally got him home and things didn’t get any better. I couldn’t rack him, I couldn’t get him to trot with any motion, I didn’t know what I was going to do."

Slowly, Freseth started getting things worked out and on his program and they decided to take him to the Royal just to see where they were.

"We start to warm up and he’s so cold backed," continued Freseth. "I didn’t feel I was anywhere near ready to show but we went in and the first way he was so scared he did every gait known to man. The second way he started to relax a little and he actually slow gaited. Donna Moore was one of the judges and she told me afterwards, ‘Your colt might have been fifth but he was the best horse in the ring.’"

That winter Freseth broke Gypsy to jog and got him to settle in before he started riding him five days a week, just getting him to do his gaits, round and round. It took a little work to get him balanced, but he finally came around. Their first show the next spring was Des Moines and while warming up he wouldn’t do anything but jump and down.

"Finally, Lynda yelled at me and said I need to be heading to the ring, and I’m thinking, ‘Why?’" said Andy. "We start going up the pavement towards the ring and warm up area and he slips from the trot to the slow gait and we slow gait up the hill. They called the class and we turned and headed to the ring and his head shot 32 miles up in the air and he caught his trot. I had never felt a horse like that under me. We get in the ring and he was really good at the trot. Then I start slow gaiting and all of a sudden people are stomping and pounding on their seats and I’m thinking, "What in the hell are they making all that noise about?’ I look at Lynda and she says, ‘Keep riding, that’s for you!’

"He was a horse that I put a lot of miles on trying to figure him out. He just took a while to thaw out. The longer I had him, the earlier it would kick in, but many times we went to the ring not knowing what kind of horse I was going to have. The thing about him is he would always deliver. He would figure it out; he would never sell you out. It just took a while to have the confidence that he would show up. I told John Biggins when he bought him that Gypsy should have one of those emblems they put on Mercedes when they get 500,000 miles. I guarantee you he went 500,000 miles and I put the first 250,000 on him."

After winning the Junior Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding Stake and the Junior Five-Gaited World’s Champion Of Champions title with Freseth in 1991, owner Ann Marie Brickzen got her show on Gypsy, winning the Junior Five-Gaited Stake at the American Royal before selling him to Christine Broder with Hoppy Bennett as her trainer/agent. Broder had a short time with him, but long enough to win the Ladies Five-Gaited Gelding World’s Championship and the Ladies Reserve World’s Champion Of Champions title in ’92.

Jill Sando was the next owner and John Biggins the trainer. They were together for three years, winning three Ladies Five-Gaited Gelding World’s Championships, a World’s Champion Of Champions title and a Reserve World’s Champion Of Champions title in addition to many others, including three American Royal Ladies Five-Gaited Championships.

"He was quite different," chuckled Biggins. "Andy [Freseth] and I became great friends with all the phone calls I made to him trying to figure out what he had done to make him so good. I did change the curb bit; using one Charlie Crabtree had given me for Lillie O’Lee. It had a flat port, but was welded solid.

"He was much more horse at a show. I finally got a pattern down with him, but I still didn’t know if we were ready or not when we got to a show. He was I horse I couldn’t read but he always delivered, he was always better the second way when he’d let his back down. He had a lot of personality, so strong, so game and he learned to keep that energy together."

Sunny Florida was the next stop for the king as Jackie Stred purchased him with Don Judd as her trainer.

"Jackie wanted to buy as nice a gaited horse as we could find and he had always been a favorite of mine," explained Judd. "I had no idea he would be all the work that he was. He came with a few issues like bad feet and a bad tail, but he always gave you everything he had when he went to the show ring. When he went to the ring, he was just bigger and better than everybody else. He knew when to puff up. I was also lucky to have a good rider and very proud to have been a part of his career."

Back to Kentucky, Gypsy came under the tutelage of Nelson for the next few seasons with Stred still as the owner.

"He was a real campaigner," said Green. "I got him later in his career, certainly not at the end of it, but he was settled in by then. He knew what this whole thing was all about. At home he would make you wonder if you would get to the ring, but he knew exactly when to turn it on. It amazed me. That horse had some good riders throughout his career. They were all different types of riders, but they had talent."

CH Gypsy Supreme’s show ring days would wind down at West Wind Stables with Kim and Peter Cowart and owner Emily Hess. Having already won in the open (junior) and ladies divisions, now his job would be as a juvenile horse. Like his other gigs, the King came through with world titles here as well.

"We had him at the end of his career but he had the biggest heart of any horse we ever had," said Kim Cowart. "He was 12 when we got him and he had a lot of miles on him but he was still sound and he never did anything wrong. He was either good or great, but never bad. His staying power was incredible.

"He was 17 hands and had incredible body mass with the deepest, biggest shoulder I had ever seen. He dominated the ring with his presence. I feel like I was pretty lucky to have a horse like that and then be able to give him to the Kentucky Horse Park was cool. He might not have been the model American Saddlebred as far a looks, but what he had is why we all love the American Saddlebred; it was in his heart."

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