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TASHA Holiday Horse Show

Editor’s Note: The following piece was submitted by long-time Saddlebred exhibitor William E. Marple. The article highlights a couple of special combinations appearing at the recent TASHA Holiday Horse Show.

Judge: Armon Effinger, Chandler, IN
Show Manager: Janie Hamilton
Announcer: Melissa Cole
Organist: Gail Frasier
Photographer: Jim Wright
Videographer: Horse Flix
Farrier: Joe Bradshaw, Jr.

The TASHA Holiday Horse Show in Katy, Texas, just outside of Houston, has always been a fun "little" two-day show. This year it shed the "little" label and became a model for the Saddlebred world on how to put on a nice two-day show that has something for everyone.

Held at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center on Dec. 3-4, TASHA featured more than 100 horses, a beautiful center ring surrounded by Christmas trees, a large seating area that was "standing room only" on Saturday, and lively holiday music. Free food was available to exhibitors at all times. Veteran TASHA announcer Melissa Cole kept the audience involved in the show with her infectious enthusiasm. The craft table that helped keep “restless” youngsters occupied was a huge hit.

Show manager Janie Hamilton led a friendly and accommodating management team. TASHA board president Koren Mercer and volunteer coordinator Teri Beaty were just two of the many hard-working volunteers who kept everything running smoothly. All this and more were great inducements for several new-to-TASHA instructors and trainers to attend this year's show. In fact, a few barns had to be turned away as it was sold out.

The academy classes were filled with nice, well-behaved horses and a lot of new riders, enjoying every minute. Yet, the show featured competitive and entertaining performance classes that had the large audience cheering loudly, not so much for any particular horse, but because the horses and riders were "putting on a show" in a new wave of enthusiasm and unabashed pride. Highly respected judge Armon Effinger had much to choose from.

Two special young horses, new to Texas with riders new to Saddlebreds, stood out among the many nice horses. Mr. Belaphona ("Fonzy"), a colorful, correct, lofty, animated chestnut four-year-old, with a perfect head carriage, natural tail, and light shoes without pads, was the epitome of a Saddlebred country pleasure horse. Fonzy was born and raised into the division.

Fonzy always looked where he was going with his eyes bright and his ears forward. Despite being a young horse, Fonzy’s confidence shined each and every pass at TASHA. However, this trusty mount seems to enjoy his greater purpose: Fonzy sees everything because his rider, 14-year-old Megan Weise, is almost totally without sight. It was nearly impossible to tell this about Weise, however, because she is poised and confident in the saddle, and trusting of Fonzy, who does the looking for both of them. Fonzy and Weise won the Country Pleasure Junior Exhibitor class and were reserve in the 13-entry championship.

Weise is the only person to ever show this talented youngster. The first show for each of them was at the Texas State Fair in September. They went on to earn top ribbons at the American Royal at their second show -- all under the masterful training and instruction of Koren Mercer and Milo Jones. Mr. Belaphona is by the spotted Saddlebred Circus Prince and is a full brother to the black and white Prince's Black Tie Affair, who has been a consistent winner since he was a yearling and later in show pleasure.

At First Sight lit up Freedom Hall as a yearling in 2002, when he was crowned world’s champion in the breeders' stake with Sam Stafford for Sally Parker. Now just four, At First Sight has grown up into the same near-perfect Saddlebred that he was as a yearling. His neck naturally rises high, his tail rises straight and high out of his short and perfectly level back, his ears are alert, his eyes are big and expressive, and he is a beautiful red chestnut, marked with three white legs and a white stripe on his face that extends over his nose. His motion is lofty and square and, like Fonzy, he has the elusive magical "It."

Several people said, "I want a horse like that one!" At First Sight’s breeding is royal, but unusual in that he has CH Status Symbol on both sides of his pedigree. This appears to be a golden cross because At First Sight is a full brother to world’s champion Night Sight and reserve world’s champion At Night.

Pam Langford, who grew up barrel racing on the Texas rodeo circuit, is a real horse person who understands communication and rapport between horse and rider. She and her family have a home in Round Top, Texas, also home of Mike Breeggemann's Mill Creek Stables at Chardonnay Farms. Pam saw the beautiful farm and soon was taking lessons in an English saddle.

Quite a change for this elegant cowgirl, but she caught on fast. A few weeks ago, Langford and Breeggemann visited Blythewood where they saw At First Sight. Breeggemann said (like nearly everyone who sees him): "I want that horse!" After several conversations between Breeggemann and Langford, and more than a little agony on Langford's part, she told her husband Tom that At First Sight was her  dream horse. Tom responded, "Buy him -- now!"

At First Sight has also turned out to be an owner-friendly horse. Langford is still feeling her way along with her wonderful new horse, but because she has great respect for him and excellent communication with him, after only about five times together, she and At First Sight were flawless in their victory in the Adult Show Pleasure qualifier at TASHA. At First Sight was the epitome of a show pleasure horse, marching squarely down the rail with his ears forward. He also showcased his unique lofty four-beat flat walk prior to stepping into a collected, animated canter. He posed in the line-up like he did in Freedom Hall as a yearling.

These two ideal Saddlebreds performing as one with their inexperienced, but respectful and savvy riders are great ambassadors for their Breed. They were among several highlights from this year-end show.

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