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Shelley Silbur - People’s Choice Amateur Of The Year


Bill, Shelley and Ariella Silber and their dog,

Rosco, enjoy time at home in Maine when not

at horse shows or practicing with their horses.


by Ann Bullard


Fearless, talented, humble and capable of riding anything: those are but a few words trainers Tim Roesink and Kristen Cater use to describe Shelley Silber, your Amateur of the Year. Since the time she was riding ponies and grade horses “by the seat of her pants,” Silber has been passionate about horses.


That passion and her hard work helped Shelley win back-to-back world championships in classic pleasure and amateur English pleasure in 2006. In 2005, she won her first Grand National titles: classic pleasure with Intrepid Immortal Beloved and an amateur park saddle title with MEM Heart And Soul.


Showing, much less winning at a show like the Morgan Grand National and World Championships weren’t even a dream for the young Shelley. Her father was a Maine potato farmer; her grandfather raised Shetland ponies and Standardbreds.


“He gave me an untrained pony when I was five,” she recalled. “No one was out there saddling, brushing or grooming for me. I learned a lot on my own; a lot probably was not correct. My dad always was going to area auctions. He bought horses from who knows where that he thought would be good prospects for resale. I rode them because they were available. It was crazy; I know all the mistakes I made.”


Her dad finally spent $50 for a palomino mare. Riding at local competitions and pony club events was her introduction to the show ring. That mare’s death ended her horse participation until after her children were born.


“I started them as soon as they could walk,” she said of her two children from her first marriage. “When they wanted lessons, I took them to Stephen Kinney in Bangor, Maine. He let me watch. I learned a lot listening to their lessons.”


Shelley divorced when her children entered high school. When she and Bill Silber met, she warned him of her love for horses, that they would always be part of her life. She says Bill was a trouper. Rather than fight her or ignore her hobby, he decided to join in. A little over 12 years ago, they established Kourt Jester Morgans.


In time, the Silbers moved their horses to Rick Lane. Bill was driving; Shelley’s daughter, Amanda, rode and drove such horses as Bery B Sis Boom Ba with whom she won a Junior Exhibitor Driving World Championship. For 10 years, Shelley remained on the sidelines, learning from the ground.


“I began to take lessons with Lisa Jensen when she was giving lessons to show riders at the farm,” Shelley said. “I was so excited when I had my first lesson. Learning to put all the things I’d learned into practice was incredible for me. My body was older and I didn’t have the balance I did as a kid. She was tremendous.”


The Jensen/Cricket Hill connection opened another door for the Silbers. They purchased the Hackney pony roadster, Heartland City Boy. Bill showed him successfully throughout the country.


When Shelley and Bill’s daughter, Ariella, was young, Shelley willingly stepped aside.


“I was content to go to shows and support Bill,” she said quietly. “Just being around the horses was enough.”


The Silber family is very outspoken about their Christian faith. When they elected to move to a new trainer, finding one with like beliefs with a barn atmosphere conducive to families was most important.


“That was Grove Pointe. We prayed about it and God directed us there,” Shelley added. “I said, ‘It doesn’t seem right, God. How are we going to ride in Ohio? But that’s where He wanted us and it’s more than worked out.”


“Tim took us and two of our horses, MEM Heart And Soul and KJM First Lady. He found me my first show horse to lease. I was afraid, inexperienced and relied on Tim to get me around the ring. I learned that riding trail and lesson horses was a lot different than show horses.”


“My impression was that no one had stepped up to the plate and gotten her a horse to put her in the ring. She wanted something to show,” Roesink said. “They bought a mare [RKB Sizzle] that I had here, showed her three or four times and sold her.


He describes the Silbers as “very trusting, great people. They bought Intrepid Immortal Beloved off a phone call and Dragonsmeade Carnegie Hall sight unseen. Bob Hughes sent me a video, I said buy and they did.”


In 2003, their first year at the Grand National and World Championship Horse Show with Grove Pointe, the Silbers watched Roesink drive MEM Heart And Soul in Three-Year-Old Pleasure Driving competition. Shelley made her Oklahoma debut aboard Classic Pleasure Mare SPA Elegant Gem the following year.


“Beloved put me on the map,” Shelley said of her multi-titled classic pleasure mare. “We bought her just before New England and took her to Michigan to get in the ring for the first time. I’d had only one practice ride, showed up at the show, got on and went in the ring. She was so experienced; Tim had her ready for me.”


 They went to Oklahoma City and won the world championship. Shelley rode MEM Heart And Soul to win the Grand National Park Amateur title and stepped up on Primary Investment GP, her husband’s road horse, to earn a reserve in the Grand National Roadster Under Saddle Finals.


Shelley picked up the story. “When I won the world championship, I remember sitting in the middle of the ring … for me, it wasn’t the winning but that God had given me the opportunity to be in that ring. I started to cry, thanking and praising God before they called my name. I remember telling Tim ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do next year. I don’t know how God is going to top this.’”


“At the barn Christmas party in 2005, Tim said, ‘I have a mare for you. I think Ann Hailey is willing to sell Paradigm Hot Chocolate.’ Although she was going to be four in the spring, Tim said, ‘I know you can ride her. She is small, can trot and is beautiful and black.”


Buying Hot Chocolate meant Shelley’s trips to Ohio became more frequent; she spent more time taking lessons with Kristen Cater in New Hampshire. They began the season at Tampa Charity; by the time they reached Oklahoma, the team had amassed 11 blues and one reserve at six shows. They were ready.


Shelley headed into Saturday night with the Grand National Classic Pleasure Saddle Ladies Mare and Grand National Amateur English Pleasure Mare championship ribbons already hanging from the Grove Pointe tack room.


“Tim had six going that [Saturday] night,” Shelley recalled. “The plan was that I would ride Beloved and, when the class was over, head to the warm-up ring, get on the other mare and warm up and bring Hot Chocolate (Mae) in the ring. Beloved and I won that class. Tim came in for the victory pass, and then ran out to warm up Mae. I left the ring trembling with Tim’s dad running with me.


“They already had opened the in-gate. They pulled off my stirrups and put them on the other saddle,” the only 5-feet tall lady said. “Tim climbed off, threw me up and said go. There was no time to warm up. I didn’t have the time to get worried or concerned about riding a four-year-old in the world championship. She was wonderful! Tim was on the rail on one side and Kristen on the other. We won back-to-back world championships with two black mares!


“I remember saying I never should have doubted the Lord. He just reminded me ‘I’m still on the throne and you’re not.’”


Those wins were a bright spot in what was a difficult second half of the year. The faith that has carried Shelley and her family enabled them to go on.


Dr. William Silber had an outstanding season with his Morgan roadster, Sting, with wins at River Ridge, Southern States and Mid A. They tied reserve at the New England Regionals. All seemed well until the 50-year-old physician became quite ill. Shortly before Oklahoma, doctors diagnosed him with a lung disease.


“He was supposed to have a lung biopsy and start treatment. He was so sick I said, ‘I don’t have to go to Oklahoma this year.’ He told me I was meant to go. He flew with me to Oklahoma. He was in a wheelchair and on oxygen the entire show. He was a trooper the whole time. People were wonderful to us!”


They returned home to Maine knowing Dr. Silber faced a long road back to health. They put their faith into action and continue to look ahead. They sold Hot Chocolate back to Ann Hailey but still have several others with Roesink.


Ariella’s riding is another bright spot. Recently, the Silbers purchased Outrageous Courageous for her walk and trot mount with Kristen and David Cater. At the most recent Grove Pointe Christmas party, Roesink put Ariella up on Beloved. Whether she, her mother or both will show the mare this season remains to be seen.


Kourt Jester Morgans has stepped into a big-time breeding program. In the early years, they “played” with breeding. The program has grown since the Silbers' move to Grove Pointe. The trainer currently works several promising youngsters. MEM Heart And Soul, by Futurity French Command and out of Miss Bluegrass, is proving himself as a sire. The farm expects to have nine foals on the ground this spring, bringing their total of Morgans and assorted other horses and ponies to 35.


Perhaps Kristen Cater described Shelley best of all. “She is about as sincere as they come. Her great strengths as a rider come from her being very humble and hard-working. She’s her own biggest critic. She comes out of the ring after winning back-to-back world championships and asks what she can do to fix any mistakes.”


"Faith, hope and love … these three …" In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to abide in those ideals. No words could better describe the way Shelley Silber and her family live their lives.

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