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On The Road To Chrislar and Taylor River

by Bob Funkhouser

Quite possibly one of the nastiest days of a completely miserable winter, on Friday, February 25, nearly 250 AMHA Convention attendees traveled by buses and cars to visit iconic New England barns, Chrislar Farm and Taylor River. Like the breed they love, these hearty AMHA members didn’t let a consistent downpour dampen their spirits as they enjoyed the hospitality of the host barns and the camaraderie of their peers.

First stop on the barn tour was Rowley, Massachusetts. Thirty miles north of Boston and 30 miles south of Portsmouth, NH, Chrislar Farm sits right off of Interstate 95. Purchased in 1978 by Larry and Chris Cassenti, the then six-acre, 11-stall barn with a 12 x 12 tack room has grown to an expansive 40-stall training and lesson facility with a 72 x 132 heated indoor arena, complete with giant picture windows on three sides. Originally put in so Chris could keep an eye on the horses that were turned out while she was working horses, the picture windows have proved to be a great touch for several reasons, including giving them a light, airy arena. Individual pastures and outdoor training tracks and state forest with many miles of trails surrounded the facility.

The Chrislar family rolled out the red carpet and a nice, hot breakfast as the buses unloaded in the pouring rain shortly after 9:00 a.m. Attendees grabbed a bite of breakfast, toured the hallways of the barn and then gathered in the well-lit indoor arena where Larry gave them a history of the farm and its expansion.

Over the years Chrislar Farm has been a great promoter of the Morgan Horse through its lesson program, camps, attending local shows and hosting events such as this barn tour.

"Our goal is to introduce people to the Morgan Horse," said Chris Cassenti. "We have to let people see this wonderful horse and if they buy one from us or another barn, it benefits the breed as a whole. That is someone new owning and riding or driving a Morgan, buying feed, supporting the blacksmiths, vets, publications, it effects everyone in a positive way."

With 200 regular lessons a week, Chrislar has introduced many families to the Morgan Horse and in addition to the local communities they have people that come from New Hampshire and Maine.

The Cassenti family offered that same philosophy to the AMHA visitors, although they were obviously already introduced to the Morgan. Volunteers could sign up to ride one of the many Chrislar lesson horses in an "evaluated class."

Chris Cassenti introduced Sara Foy and Cheryl Marcelonis who ran and judged the classes, which consisted of four riders at a time. Some of the classes were judged as an equitation class and some were judged as a pleasure class. During the line up of each class, Marcelonis would ask for the audience’s response to each rider, asking if they thought the rider was first, second, third or fourth. The audience responded with applause and Marcelonis gave feedback on some of the individual riders and judging in particular.

After a handful of classes, attendees were also invited to take a ride on a couple of different horses that were made available. After a couple hours of Chrislar hospitality everyone boarded the buses and made the short trip just over the New Hampshire border to Hampton Falls, home of the 25-acre Taylor River Farm.

Owned by the Jeff Gove family, picturesque Taylor River Farm is a 42-stall facility with an 81’ x 202’ heated indoor arena. With Richard Boule and Sarah Gove at the helm, Taylor River runs a large, public training and show barn with a thriving lesson program run by Kristen Farley.

On this day, the Taylor River family opened its doors and invited everyone to a great lunch which was served in the center of the indoor area which had been chained off for lunch and seating. Following lunch, Jeff Gove, who is always Mr. AMHA, took the opportunity to sell a few more $100 raffle tickets before turning the program over to emcee, Tuffy Owens. Owens introduced Kurt Hufferd of Indian Creek Farm who gave a short presentation on the use of curb bits with emphasis on transitioning to the curb. He emphasized starting with a small curb that was easy on the horse’s mouth. He also said he like long lining in the curb bit to introduce them to it so he could release the pressure at any time, unlike being in a bitting rig.

Hufferd turned the microphone over to Steve DeBolt who gave a presentation on the correct way to harness a horse. With the help of a Taylor River model, DeBolt showed the audience where a harness should sit, emphasizing, "There’s a reason it’s called a back bad and not a wither pad." He also gave some pointers on the martingale and the over check of a bridle, stressing that it is an "over check," not an "over pull." DeBolt said his best success has been with letting a horse carry his head where it is a close to natural as possible and that meant not checking it too high or having the martingale too short.

After Hufferd and DeBolt shared their professional knowledge with the crowd and fielded a few questions, it was show time! Seven different Morgan stallions were scheduled to appear one at a time with Tuffy Owens giving some background on each stallion.

The first to enter the arena through a wall of smoke (thanks to Jared Gove’s newest play toy) was CBMF Crown Prince (Stonecroft Masquerade x CBMF Crown Jewel), the 2010 Grand National Champion Park Saddle Stallion ridden by Mike Goebig for Ann Hailey’s Copper Beech. Goebig rode the leg-waving stallion to much applause from the appreciative audience.

Next was one of the breed’s most decorated Western Pleasure World Champions, Treble’s Tanqueray (Tug Hill Commando x Treble’s Margarita). Ashley Fleck Morris gave an entertaining presentation with the beautiful stallion at one point dropping her reins as they galloped around the arena for the Fleck family.

A twice English Pleasure Reserve World Champion, Cherish Assets (Pondview Tres Bien x Nemour’s Elegant Flaire) never dropped and ear and marched with his chin on his chest as David Rand presented the Dan and Leslie Kelley owned star. Just like in the show ring, Cherished Assets thought a lot of himself on this Saturday afternoon.

From an English Pleasure star to a Pleasure Driving sensation, Sea Vu Justified was driven by Richard Boule for the Gove family. By Heyday Independence and out of a HVK Courageous Flaire daughter, Sea Vu Justified also had a regal head carriage as he did with Jeff Gove this past season to be named Amateur Master Pleasure Driving Reserve World’s Champion.

Keely Sogoloff entered the arena with the reigning two-time Hunter Pleasure World Champion MEM Bailamos on the lead. A product of royal breeding (Futurity French Command x AFF Beulah), the Nau Is The Time owned Bailamos was striking, especially when Sogoloff turned him loose and he performed at liberty.

Local favorite Cartier is a Morgan with a legendary pedigree and a great show record. The son of Cedar Creek Harlequin and Park Saddle World Grand Champion Schiaparelli was ridden by Sarah Gove for Gay Gove. A few of their top titles have included the English Pleasure Reserve World Championship and the New England Regional English Pleasure Grand Championship and he looked every bit the part today.

Bringing this wonderful exhibition of Morgan genes to a close was the 2010 Park Harness World Grand Champion Merriehill Home Stretch. Following that win, Home Stretch was sold by Stan Bodnar to the Jack Gatewood family with David Rand as trainer/agent. Today, Rand presented the athletic World Grand Champion son of Park Saddle World Grand Champion Tug Hill Whamunition and the Merriehill Chicagoan daughter, Futurity Chicago Whitesox.

What the audience didn’t expect was an encore performance. A few minutes after Rand and Home Stretch left the ring pulling a buggy, all seven stallions returned in hand to parade and model one last time. It was awe-inspiring to look around the arena and see so much grand horseflesh in one setting.

"It turned out to be a great day," said Sarah Gove. "We were glad everyone enjoyed themselves and are thankful for the different owners and trainers who brought their stallions."

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