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UPHA Harry Sebring Morgan Professionals Award: Shanna Gish

The United Professional Horsemen’s Association is pleased to present the first recipient of the Harry Sebring Morgan Professionals Award. Harry was a trainer of countless show ring champions and an avid promoter of all things Morgan, something our recipient has mirrored.

“I have been very fortunate to have a lot of opportunity in the horse world, and I have shown a variety of horses,” said our honoree in an interview for The Morgan Horse. “I think I have done well at all different levels. I love to win, and I have, but the people that I have been able to learn from are my highlights.
“Morgans have literally given me a life that I love and because of them I have so many wonderful people in my life.”

Her story began in Oklahoma, riding with her grandfather on his cattle ranch. That western connection has stayed with her throughout her career, a career that has become extremely well-rounded. 

She first rode and competed with POA’s, which she and many children in her neighborhood had in their backyards. Her parents’ luck encounter with Marlene Petersen of Tulsa introduced them to Morgans. They purchased an unbroke three-year-old for $750, broke her to ride and eventually ended up showing at the Morgan Grand National.

“We broke her to ride by me sitting on her and my dad leading her around. I was only seven,” recalled our honoree in an earlier interview. “I guess it was beginner’s luck that we didn’t get me killed, but she was a great horse. I never looked back or away from the Morgans. they gave me my passion and the opportunity to make a living doing what I love. I owe it to this breed to stay with them as long as I am able.”

That first Morgan, Queen’s Ransome, was eventually put in training with Jonalyn Gwinup and she took our recipient to the Morgan Grand National for the very first time. In high school she would go on to ride with both Chet Sowle and Tom Harkins.

Going to college at the University of Kansas, she majored in accounting so she could pay for her horses when she graduated. About halfway through school she started realizing making a life in an office wasn’t going to be her thing. She switched to a business communications major with a minor in journalism and, with a classmate of hers, moved to Chicago upon graduation to start an ad agency called Gallop Communications, specializing in the equine industry. 

Some of her early clients included Merriehill Farm, Indian Creek Farm, SpringMill Morgans, Lowry Stables, the Prairie State Classic and the Mid-States Morgan Horse Club. Some of these clients became lifelong friends. At the same time, she had horses with Stan and Paulette Bodnar at Merriehill.

As things progressed she was at Indian Creek for a week helping them prepare for an auction benefitting the World Morgan Futurity. She never left. That was 1996.

“It was extremely hard for me to leave Merriehill, but it was an opportunity for me to be honest with myself and commit to what I had really wanted to do all along, which was to organize, teach and train at a show stable.”
For the Quilhots who own Indian Creek, the decision to hire our honoree was one of the best they ever made. She came with an addiction to horses and a driving motivation to share her love of Morgans with both kids and adults. 

Joining forces with Kurt Hufferd turned out to be an amazing experience with both of them learning and growing. They balanced one another and fed off of each other’s strengths. Indian Creek became a well-rounded facility: breeding, developing young horses, training amateurs and junior exhibitors, lessons, sales and lots of blue ribbons.

Some of their stars together included MEM No Inhabitions, Key Criterion, Springmill Souvenir, AMHF Bal Du Masque GCH, MEM Exotica, NDT French Impressionist, DMH Grand Voyage, Indian Creek Warbird, Indian Creek Miss Margret, Indian Creek Broadway Joe GCH, Indian Creek Bellaire, Indian Creek Lady Elizabeth, Springmill Encore, Indian Creek Quantico, Long Acres Broadway, Springmill Renaissance, Springmill Sequel, MEM The Patriot, Springmill Superstition GCH, IndianCreek American Girl GCH, MEM Chill Factor, Springmill Ring Of Fire, Indian Creek Bellagio, Indian Creek Cachet, Springmill Stardust GCH, Springmill Love Shaq, Trebles High End Piece, FCM No Boundaries, Indian Creek Mastermind, IndianCreek Recordbreaker GCH, and Indian Creek Major Finney.

“She had started her Morgan advertising promotion business and I got to know her through that,” recalled Kurt Hufferd. “I was looking for someone and I called Howie Schatzberg and ask him about her because she was also working for him some and he said, ‘Dude, I hate you’re thinking that way because I would really miss her. She’ll do things for you you didn’t know you needed done. You won’t find a better person.’

“She came to Indian Creek and we were just like ying and yang. The things I wasn’t good at, she was. I grew up a barn rat, grooming horses always wanting to be a trainer. She came up through the lesson program route and that is a side I had no idea about. As far as training she was always good with a horse, she just needed confidence.

“As far as this award, she is the perfect person for it. I am so proud of her.”

2015 was their final season together as Kurt left for Oklahoma to join Kelly Kraegel at Cottonwood Creek Ranch. Since that time, our honoree has trained and shown world and reserve world champions Indian Creek Major Finney, Indian Creek Sashay, Hollywood Steve McQueen, Late Night Decision, Indian Creek Seahorse Sam, Stoney Point Cimarron, Cherrydale Galileo, and Grand National Champion Tomeri The Regalest CH.

And these were only the champions she showed and doesn’t include the many junior exhibitor and amateur stars under her direction.

The decision to take Tomeri The Regalest CH to the 2019 Royal Winter Fair for the prestigious Battle Of The Breeds proved to be another shining star in our honoree’s crown. There, she defeated 15 other contenders from breeds such as the American Saddlebred, Arabian, Friesian, and Dutch Harness Horse to represent the Morgan Horse as the best of the Battle Of The Breeds in front of 7,000 screaming fans. This was an experience she, owner Renee McLean and assistants Shea Zepke and Mallory Stacy will never forget.

Outside the training barn, our honoree also strives to give back to the industry by way of show and association committee work, including the AMHA Registry Committee, Jubilee Regional Horse Show Secretary, Morgan Weanling Gala Director and she was also instrumental in getting the new Indiana Spring Classic Horse Show up and running in 2017.

For all she has brought to the Morgan Horse breed, this former AMHA Professional Horseman award winner will now add the UPHA Harry Sebring Professionals Award to her storied career. The UPHA is pleased to present you, Shanna Gish.

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