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A Very Special Road Horse

by Eryn Carter

As the road horse division continues to grow in the United States, there has been one that has reined the division for years now. Special Rose has been the queen of the roadster division for many years. Her age is never said. No one would believe it if it was known. This beautiful bay mare is sired by Oppy's Brother and out of Angel Tip. She was bred in Canada and was registered as Oppy's Only before having her name changed to Special Rose. She may be small at 15.1 hands, but when it comes to the show ring, she is larger then life.

Special Rose, or “Rose” as she is known at MJO Stables in Riverview, Fla., was bought off the track after a few years of racing. Bob Vesel took her into training, and began preparing her for the road horse division. His first win with her was at the Asheville Lions Club Charity Horse Show. Following the win in Asheville, N.C., she won the novice class at Lexington. She was purchased for Dr. Peter O'Knight when he decided to return to the business after an extended leave. His daughters were riding at that point and he wanted something he wouldn't have to practice with all the time.

Mary Jo Schmidt has been her trainer since she was purchased for the O'Knights in 1990. She took her to Louisville that year and showed her in the new ladies road horse to bike division. There were 14 to 16 lady drivers that year. Schmidt came out with a second place finish. It was her first time showing a road horse. Dr. Robert Grindstaff was her second owner. Schmidt was her third and final owner.

To this day, Schmidt is still her trainer. Under her direction, Special Rose has won several more blue ribbons at shows across the country, along with a few more wins at Louisville. She's also collected reserve world titles, including two in the youth roadster to bike division. She was driven to them by Devon Garone and Whitney Hahn.

Rose's best accomplishment to date was her win in the Roadster to Bike Mare class at Louisville in 2002. Up until this point, she had always been second in the class. Schmidt described her as “a bridesmaid” in that class. All that changed, however, when she topped the field that year in the mare class. She won the same title again 2004.

“Everyone has life goals and to win at Louisville with your own horse is just exciting, said Schmidt”

Along with her wins at Louisville, she has had several other notable accomplishments. Rose retired the 23-year-old Stingray Challenge Trophy which was set up in 1976. It must be won three times in row in order to be retired, like many challenge trophies these days. No horse had been able to do it until Special Rose did at the 1999 Southeastern Charity Horse Show. She won it for a third consecutive time and made history. She took the trophy home.

Personality wise, Special Rose is like most mares. She has her sweet side, and she has her moody side. If the veterinarian or the horse show van comes, she must be caught with her regular halter. Otherwise she can get mean. Once she is caught, her fleece halter can be put on.

When it comes to being worked, Schmidt said she has no problem with the mare.

“She never has a bad day. When she works, she works consistently,” said Schmidt. "She just makes my day.”

Special Rose has also decided something else for herself. She is “The Queen." She has a ton of personality, and knows she is the best at what she does.

Schmidt laughed when describing one of her other nicknames. They call her “The Alligator” on the days that she doesn't want to go out. Schmidt said she'll even chase the person trying to get her out of her stall.

Special Rose is one road horse that is here to stay. She has proved herself in many sections of the division and has given great joy to those around her. Schmidt said everything involved with the mare has "been an honor."

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