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Remembering Shining Brightly

by Bob Funkhouser

This fall, Walnut Way Farm lost one of the all-time greats of the not only the road horse division, but of the show horse industry. Shining Brightly died at the age of 30. He left behind many great memories and performances to go with his 15 World’s Championships and 10 UPHA Horse Of The Year honors.

Bred and shown to most of his victories by the late Steve Macfarlane, Shining Brightly was the first foal of one of the most celebrated road horse families of all time. He was sired by Wee Scott and out of Macfarlane’s World’s Champion Wagon mare, Rightly Surprised.

"When he was a yearling he was turned out with Thoroughbred yearlings and when those yearlings would be racing around the pasture, Shining Brightly would keep up at the trot," recalled Marilyn Macfarlane.

As a young horse he showed mostly on the west cost with Rob Tanner of King’s Row Acres. There he won under saddle, to wagon and to bike before going east and taking the 1984 Open Roadster To Bike Reserve World’s Champion title.

With his full brother, My Heart, also in training with Tanner, Macfarlane decided to keep Shining Brightly in Kentucky and train him himself at the farm he shared with his wife, Marilyn, Walnut Way. That fall they went to Raleigh and won two classes before going to Kansas City and winning the Amateur Roadster To Bike Championship and qualifier. That was the start of something great; something that would continue for a decade.

Shining Brightly was one of the few road horses to have the complete package: speed, athletic ability, quality and expression. Very few have ever rated high in all of those categories. Starting in 1985, ’86 and ’87 they were World’s Champion Of Champions Amateur Roadster To Bike and World’s Champion Amateur Roadster To Bike. In ’88 they won the qualifier and then illness prevented the gelding from coming back for another World’s Champion Of Champions title.

The next year was a tough one, taking third twice in Freedom Hall. They returned in 1990 with a vengeance, again sweeping the division at Louisville only to repeat those titles in ’91. In 1990, his full brother, My Heart, was the Open Roadster To Bike World’s Grand Champion. Mind you, the titles up to this point weren’t via a cycle of easy years in the roadster division. They showed against and defeated some of the greats of the division including So Lovely, Dynasty, Red Chips, Maximillian, Shane and Ellery. No cupcakes among this group.

After another World’s Champion Of Champions title in ’92 and two amateur reserve world’s titles in ’93, it was time for a new challenge. Shining Brightly emerged in 1994 with Marilyn in the bike he found just as much success in the open division. Marilyn and Shining Brightly made the victory pass as the World’s Grand Champions having defeated The Invader, Impact, World’s Champion Roadster To Bike Mare Heart To Heart (a full sister to Shining Brightly), and Special Rose, among others. It was their second victory pass of the week. They would close the season and Shining Brightly’s career by being honored as the UPHA Open Road Horse Of The Year.

"His beauty and his desire to do well are what made Shining Brightly so special," concluded Macfarlane. "He never put a foot out of place and worked just as hard at home as he did at the horse show.

"Steve had a special bond with that horse. He gave him a reason to go to the barn every day. After Steve worked him and unhooked him, he would follow Steve back to the barn or wherever he wanted to go without leading him. Steve always thought that was a neat trick.

"He was such a smart horse. In fact, in his last few years he had a hard time getting up after he had been laying down so we moved him from his flat pasture to a hilly pasture. He would lie down on a hill so he could roll and get up. He knew how to take care of himself."

No matter what breed or division, 15 world’s championships against the best in the business is a remarkable feat. And like many of the greats, the charismatic individual known as Shining Brightly provided so many lasting memories for those who were closest to him as well as the legions of fans he left behind.

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