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Richard E. Lavery Professional Horsepersons Of The Year - Rob and Sarah Byers

Helen and Jimmy Robertson and Mary Gaylord McClean

joined Rob and Sarah Byers for their presentation of the

UPHA Professional Horsepersons Of The Year Award.

Photo by Jane Jacobs.


(Editor’s Note: The following speech was read by Helen and Jimmy Robertson and Mary Gaylord McClean Saturday Jan. 5, 2008, at the UPHA/AHHS Convention in Roanoke, Va.)

(Read by Helen Robertson): The couple we are honoring tonight are some of our industries fiercest competitors. They are intense, whether it is coaching a rider, training a horse, or taking their friends on a 24-mile bike ride from hell in 90 degree weather in the Cayman Islands the day after Louisville. Needless to say, some of their friends have never been back. Some of them will never ride a bike again.


They challenge themselves and their riders to be the very best they can be, and they will challenge you to try to beat them at it. All the while cheering you on and having a great time doing it. They are driven to having fun and being happy, making sure everyone around them is enjoying it.


They are talented! Training champion after champion. What I think is their greatest talent is teaching by example, how to enjoy life and live in the moment. Whether it be making a victory pass at Louisville in the big stake Saturday night or swimming with a dolphin thousands of miles south of the Kentucky State Fairgrounds 24 hours later, keeping it all in perspective.


Someone once said, “Life is like a mirror. If you frown at it, it frowns back at you. If you smile at it, it returns the greeting.” Rob and Sarah, thanks for not frowning.


(Read by Jimmy Robertson): Kate Harvey Codeanne, Jenna Patterson, Nancy Orchelson, Kelly Gillian, Matthew Williams, Adolph Zell, Dakota Willimon, Ali Judah, this year’s World’s Grand Champion Senior Equitation rider Jill Brainard, Hayne Clifton, Calhoun Clifton, Barrett Clifton, Kelsey Olson, Lee Radford Middendorf, Lauren Nowell, Jill Feldman, Stacey Kipper, Mary Virnich, Kristen Myers, Allison Beard, Tre Watson, Mollie Kregor, Nathan Stein, Amanda Apesos.

Good Measure; their first world’s champion, CH The Billy Bob, CH A Taste Of Champagne, CH Swept Away, I’m A Treat who was this year’s ladies amateur world’s champion, Callaway’s Buttons And Bows, CH Lady Periana, CH Americana’s Jazz Man, CH Harlem’s Diamond Jim, CH Peruvian Princess, CH Lady Oracle, Top Spool, Callaway’s Exception To The Rule, a world’s champion this year, Callaway’s Will Gillen, a world’s champion but not under Rob and Sarah, CH Amusing, winner this year of the amateur mare class at Louisville, Prolific Memories, a world’s champion but not under Rob and Sarah, Harlem’s Gem, Stonewall’s Stargate, CH X’s and O’s, Winterfest.

CH Pas De Deux, What’s My Line, What A Wise Guy, Feng Shui, Our Fallen Angel, CH LA Boca Raton, CH So Audacious, CH Boo!, CH Bright Wind, CH Lucky Draw, CH Sarah Katherine, The Mustang Sally, Outrageous Courageous, Dunay who was the winner of this year’s Three-Gaited County Fair class at Louisville, That’s Exactly Right, Callaway’s State Senator, Callaway’s Annie C, CH Blue Chipper, CH Texas Fiesta, Stonecroft Verbena, Nurse Goodbody, Take Me Away, Strike The Gold, CH Vittadini, CH Java Sea, Chat, CH What A Memory, CH Laguardia, Drama, Trustworthy, Callaway’s High Roller, Certified Certificate, Sultry Heiress, CH (SA) K-Mon, Royal Caribbean, Venessa’s Fine Wine, Spirited Wing, Aces & Eights, Sultan’s Wing Solo, CH The King’s Man, CH Times Best, CH Jean Margaret, CH Another Lover, Top This, CH High Expectations, Worth The Trip, Digni-Phi, Cajun Magic, Razzle Dazzle, CH My Front Page Lady, CH Face Card, Boucheron, According To Lynn who was this year’s open UPHA horse of the year.

Over 100 equitation and performance treasures. Believe it or not, this is by no means a complete list of Rob and Sarah’s champion equitation riders and horses. Enough said? I think not.

One of these horses, Blue Chipper, won the Amateur Five-Gaited Stake at Louisville. One of these horses, Lucky Draw, won the Five-Gaited Pleasure Stake at Louisville. One of these horses, Face Card, won the Ladies Five-Gaited Stake at Louisville. One of these horses, Outrageous Courageous, won the Five-Gaited Pony Stake at Louisville. All in the same year, 1992, every single five-gaited championship available for a juvenile, lady or amateur. Enough said? I think not.

When we talk about teams lately, people might be talking about the New England Patriots as the greatest team. I used to think the best team I ever saw was the ’65 UK Wildcat Basketball team (Rupp’s Runts). Not lately. The best team I’ve ever seen is Rob and Sarah Byers. Together they have risen and remained at the top of our sport. This team has, their entire career, followed the belief “Aim at heaven and you get the earth thrown in. Aim at the earth and you get neither.” This team has been shooting for the stars as long as I’ve known them. Enough said? I think not.

It is so fitting that Rob and Sarah are so fond of the islands; they have made their fantastic journey through our sport riding two ships. The first ship is Horsemanship. Their horsemanship is legendary, not without obstacles. Well at least one obstacle, I’m not going to mention any Boucheron…err…names. How well they know if you find a path without obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.

When Rob won the Junior Five-Gaited Stake at Louisville with Boucheron it looked like he was heir apparent to be the next world’s grand champion. Following that great junior year, Boucheron became a huge obstacle in Rob and Sarah’s path. The next year, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next and the next. Rob stayed with Boucheron though and soon understood that while difficult things take a long time, the impossible takes a little longer. Bob Ruxer said Rob gave us all a six-year training lesson. The lesson paid off and Boucheron became one of our most popular and grandest world’s grand champions. Enough said? I think not.

The other ship Rob and Sarah have sailed on is Sportsmanship. My favorite poem, other than the one I wrote to propose to Helen is, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. There are two lines in that poem that “are” Rob and Sarah Byers. “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same” - that’s Sportsmanship. That’s Rob and Sarah.

How Rob and Sarah win shows something of their character. How Rob and Sarah lose shows all of it. Enough said? Maybe.

Now I’d like for Rob and Sarah’s good friend Mary McClean to say a little something and introduce our UPHA Horsepersons Of The Year.

(Read by Mary Gaylord McClean): Rob and Sarah, it’s been a great trip riding on your ships all these years. The horsemanship you’ve taught and the way you’ve taught it. Always teaching sportsmanship the best way – by example. However there is another ship I have been on with you and that means much more: Friendship.

I put a horse with you over 20 years ago. I really didn’t know you at all. I had watched you at the shows, I liked what you did and how you did it. Now I am proud to call you my best friends.

I would like to present the UPHA Horsepersons Of The Year, Rob and Sarah Byers.


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