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Symphony of Horses Returns to the UPHA 14 Spring Premiere


by Bob Funkhouser


“It takes a lot to give me goose bumps but I had them watching Night Sight in that spotlight parading around the ring with Lynn [McNamara] driving,” said Blythewood Farm trainer Sam Stafford who was one of many notable guests and visitors attending UPHA Chapter 14’s Symphony of Horses. “We both thought the promotion for the breed was wonderful and all the breeds represented themselves well. We were so proud to have been a part of it,” added Anne Stafford.         


Sam and Anne Stafford brought defending World’s Champion

of Champions Night Sight from Tennessee for Lynn McNamara
to drive in the spotlight.
Photo by Jason Molback.


The seed had been planted long ago in New England and by the time the 2007 Symphony of Horses reached a finale that featured Hall of Fame trainers Don and Judy Whitney Harris going head to head aboard the equally famous Callaway’s Criterion and HVK Bell Flaire, it was a production that had grown to heights unimaginable in the early days. The technology, the 35-piece Best Of Boston Orchestra, the truly world class performers from the Saddlebred, Morgan, Hackney and Friesian show worlds all meshed into a show that, under the direction of Raye Lynn Funkhouser, was suitable for Broadway.


The setting was that of a major theater production. Of the 3,000 people who attended, most dressed as if they were going to a Broadway show, and that’s exactly what they got.


“Someone said, ‘I have never seen so many tuxedos and evening gowns, must have been over a thousand. What a top notch presentation from the audience, to the orchestra, to the performers, you’d think you were in Hollywood,’” said Symphony of Horses Chairperson Larry Cassenti.


Putting on the Symphony of Horses event of this caliber was not for the faint hearted. It took great belief from the people who put their spot money up front to finance the enormous undertaking and it took great belief by chapter members that they had the time, energy and manpower to tackle something of this nature.


Carson Kressley opened the evening and his star-power attracted the local media and spectators alike. Wearing a parade outfit used by Scripps Miramar Ranch each year in the Rose Bowl Parade, Kressley rode the gray western pleasure horse CH A Magic Surprise and had the crowd screaming from the very beginning. Gary Garone and I’m Sky High burst through the black curtain as Ambition did all those years ago and with his unbelievable performance, everyone there knew they were in for quite a night.


Carson Kressley acknowledged the crowd while

opening the show aboard CH A Magic Surprise.

Photo by Jason Molback.


What followed over the next two hours was an array styles and disciplines from the different breeds represented. Morgans filled the Big E Coliseum with great pride as they performed to patriotic themes; walk-trot horses paraded like they were on stage at Louisville; the elegance of fine harness and park harness came through strong; tiny, young riders had the little girls and boys in the audience wanting to do the same; the powerful strides of the Friesians wowed many; and the boundless energy of the Hackney pony was at its best. Pleasure, western, dressage, driving, in hand, it was all there for the world to know just what goes on at a horse show. However, this was no typical show.


Janet Crawford Hicks and Miss Excellence were one of 
four teams representing the Hackney Pony with an
enthusiastic showing. Photo by Jason Molback


The powerful Friesians were a hit with the crowd.
Photo by Bob Moseder


Lauren Lagasse displayed her equitation skills  
under the bright lights. Photo by Jason Molback.


The lighting, the styles of music, the timing of horse, rider and music… it all made for a night that had even the most bored “horse show dad” scooting to the edge of his seat eagerly anticipating the opening of the black curtain for the next performer.


Singers like American Idol’s Ayla Brown also performed on the big stage, others accompanied a couple of the horse acts. Who wouldn’t want to own a show horse with the words of New York New York cascading throughout the arena while the sleek black gaited gelding The Echo Of Thunder shifted into high gear or the talented, young Morgan riders waving to the crowd with the sounds of We Are The Champions giving them star status.


When David Rand and Lamborghini In Black rode through the fog to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera to open the second act, the feverish pitch of the evening was taken to a new level. That was matched by the closing which started out by 3,000 riding to their feet as My Old Kentucky Home was played by the trumpeter before the gates opened and Judy Whitney Harris burst through aboard HVK Bell Flaire. Husband Don Harris followed shortly thereafter, slow-gaiting into the ring one-handed, tipping his hat to the crowd.



Lamborghini In Black and David Rand appeared out of the fog

and brought down the house with their second act opening.

Photo by Jason Molback


These were two masters of the show ring, promoting our great sport like it’s never been promoted before. The ringmanship, the power and athletic abilities of the horses as well as their natural elegance appealed to those who knew what they were witnessing as well as those who bought tickets to see what it was all about.


Even as they were supposed to exit the ring, these veteran trainers who had succeeded on the show world’s largest stages many times over, couldn’t get enough. Judy and Bell Flaire headed out the gate but when Don and Criterion reached it, Don circled back around for another lap. No to be outdone, Judy reentered and went in pursuit of her husband. With the crowd on its feet, screaming and stomping, no one wanted this night to end.           


Having the time of their lives, Judy Whitney Harris
and Don Harris rode side by side bringing the entire
audience to its feet.
Photo by Bob Moseder


“You might have them check the bolts in the morning. I think we loosened the roof in that place tonight,” chuckled Don Harris following his ride. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”


Nor had the members of Chapter 14 and thousands of others who filled the seats in celebration of the horse. As they filed out the doors repeating their favorite moments of the evening, spectators stopped by the breed booths and picked up promotional materials on the Saddlebred, Morgan, Hackney and Friesian horses. They also took home with them in their show bill, a directory of barns throughout New England, New York and Canada so if they were inspired they could locate a barn near them and experience first hand the wonderful world of show horses.                    


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