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UPHA Herman Miles Horse Show Manager of the Year - Ray Cloninger

Bret Day and Bill Whitley joined Ray Cloninger,

the only two-time recipient of the Herman Miles

Horse Show Manager Of The Year Award.

Photo by Jane Jacobs.

(Editor’s Note: The following speech was read by William G. Whitley III Friday, Jan. 4, 2008 at the UPHA/AHHS Convention in Roanoke, Va.)

Throughout the years sports have played a significant role in our honorees life. From baseball to basketball to the equestrian arena, he has been a lifelong participant and a sponsor of sporting events. He was a member of the Class A State Championship baseball team that played in the World Series. Following that game, he was named to the coveted All State Team.


His career also included playing semi-pro baseball in the Carolinas for many years. His love of the game continued after his playing days were over as he coached and instructed youth teams. He played basketball and his team was crowned the Little Ten Conference Champions. After his playing years, he was a basketball official for high school and small college conferences through out the Carolinas. He also coached youth basketball in his hometown for a number of years. He is the most recent inductee into the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame.


In addition to the other sports, our honoree has made a name for himself in the equestrian world, from humble beginnings where horses were used for work, to managing some of the biggest and best horse shows in the country. One thing has remained the same, his love of horses. While serving as president of his local civic club, the club decided they needed a fund raising project. It was only natural for him to be the club’s appointed manager, since he had served as a horse show judge and exhibitor for many years.


So, his new career began as a horse show manager following his very first show. Knowing full well that this show had to be successful for his civic club, he worked extremely hard to limit the expenses. He was the manager in addition to being the announcer. That year was 1969 and he has been managing ever since.


Other civic clubs recognized his most important virtues in life: honesty and integrity. Many began calling on him to manage their shows. He has always produced a highly competitive horse show, attracting many exhibitors with quality horses; therefore, producing a successful event for the sponsoring organization. His understanding of sports and competition have helped greatly in the manner in which he handles people. He is always there to help someone in need, putting the horse show first and always taking time to listen.


He manages or has managed such award winning shows as the Tar Heel Classic, Raleigh Spring Premier, J.D. Massey Classic, Asheville Spring, Asheville Lions Club Charity, Dallas Summer Classic. Blowing Rock Charity, North Carolina State Championship, Carolina Classic, Dallas Fall Classic, Challenge of Champions, Southeastern Charity and the St. Louis National Charity.


His managerial style played a major role in two shows bringing home the UPHA National Honor Show Award for the best show. Those were North Carolina State Championship and Southeastern Charity.


Our honoree has been selected as the People’s Choice Manager of the Year, inducted into the UPHA Chapter 12 Hall of Fame for North and South Carolina, and the J. D. Massey Hall of Fame in South Carolina.


Impressive credentials for sure; however, they do not even begin to tell the story of this gentle man. Success has not changed our honoree: it has made him better. He is a wonderful person to work for. He is intensely loyal and supportive of his staff. He is fair, generous and organized-all-important aspects of a successful manager. But more importantly than that, he is interested in taking care of your problems, always there with a good word. Like many in his generation, he keeps going.


He has intimated he wants to cut back a little and has named several of his staff members as assistant managers at various shows hoping that they succeed him when the time comes. They are Joyce Wilson, Dan Shirley, Steve Hanks, Peter Fenton and Bill Whitley. Each one of them is looking forward to beginning their managerial careers, when the time is right.


He is a devoted family man married to Ann, his wife for over 51 years and the proud father of four children: Cindy, Kent, Karla and Ginger and granddaughters, Reagan and Reese.


In his warm and caring manner, he credits Ginger with providing him with the inspiration to persevere through any and all situations. She was the horse person in the family and helped her daddy at the shows. Ray and Ann lost Ginger to cancer when she was just 15 years old. Ray says, “If you can face that situation, you can handle anything that life has to offer.”


That family tragedy created an individual who has continued to help the less fortunate and given so much of himself to others having a similar experience. He has never met a stranger and tries to acknowledge everyone. He is a stereotypical southern gentleman. It is that caring quality that draws you to Ray, as he speaks with a slow southern drawl that has the warm caring personality of a grandfather.


If you want to see a real sparkle in his eye; ask Ray about his granddaughters, Reagan and Reese. You will quickly learn that they are the  “Number One World’s Greatest Granddaughters”. An event that makes his day is Reagan’s visit to “Paw Paw’s” house to feed her pony and practice for those all important lead line classes.         

Ladies and gentleman please welcome the only two-time recipient of the UPHA Herman Miles Horse Show Manager of the Year Award, Ray Cloninger.


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