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UPHA Tom Moore Hall Of Fame: Denessa Harper

Our honoree tonight is not only one half of a very successful husband and wife team but is also a woman who has been enormously successful in her own right. She has trained numerous world’s champions and world’s grand champions as well as horse and pony of the year award winners, in four different breeds; American Saddlebred, Hackney, Standardbred, and Friesian for stables including Iron Horse Farm, Cismont Manor Farm, Frickey Farm and most currently Harper Stables.

The list of winners she has trained is a long one, just to name a few: Surprised By A Kiss, Azure Wish and Let’s Go Again. Reserve world’s champions include Cherish the Moment, Starlike Airs, Roller Coaster  and world’s champions include Little Sport Model, Sir Talmage, Love Them Roses, Oprah Winfrey, American Wine, Classical Dancer and Kalarama’s Blue Mac.

World’s champion of champions include Merlin’s Magic, Spirit Stuff, Winterfest, Fury, Double or Nuttin’ and world’s grand champions Brass Lass, Mark of Success, One For The Road, Abe, Tjebbe, Heartland Expectation, Razzle Dazzle Me, Expensive Hobby, Catch Me If You Can and Speed ‘N Spirit. Current world’s champions Samuri Lady and Alexus Texas are also on the list.

Denessa trains horses alongside her husband Randy at their farm, Harper Stables, in Shelbyville Kentucky. They had admired this beautiful farm for many years and made a lifelong dream come true with the purchase in 2017.  

Coincidentally, one of Denessa’s all-time favorites and one the first world’s champions she trained, 1986 Three-Gaited Pony World’s Champion Little Sport Model, came from this farm.

Denessa finds time to serve the United Professional Horseman’s Association in a variety of ways, serving as the secretary for UPHA Chapter 15. 

While in Indiana served as the treasurer for UPHA Chapter 11 and spent six years running the chapter’s main fundraiser, a very profitable golf tournament. For 15 years she and Mike Felty have organized the UPHA Memorial Golf Tournament which has raised thousands of dollars for the UPHA Benevolent Fund. As the Benevolent Fund became financially solvent, the tournament is now a fundraiser for the UPHA Chapter 9.
Denessa helped to organize golf tournaments for the UPHA National Conferences, procuring the famous Budweiser golf bags for the winning teams.  

During the Las Vegas conference there were extenuating circumstances and no one was available to organize the tournament. Denessa jumped in, got it organized and pulled it off without a hitch. 

A women of many talents, she served behind the scenes as a personal secretary for Randy during his term as president from 2004 to 2006 and again when he served as the president of the Hackney Horse Society for three years.  

One of her biggest accomplishments during this time was finally persuading Randy to get rid of his “flip phone” and join the 20th century.

Accolades seem to follow our honoree wherever she lives; she was voted Horse Person of the Year in 1986 and again in 1990 for UPHA Chapter 15.  

In 1998 and 2002 she was awarded UPHA Horse Person of the Year for Chapter 11. At the Super Convention she was voted 2015 UPHA Horse Person of the Year for Chapter 9. 

In 2003, she was awarded the American Hackney Horse Society’s Bill G. Robinson Trainer of the Year Award. The following year she was inducted into the American Hackney Horse Society’s Hall of Fame, presented during the Kentucky State Fair. 

An award she holds very close to her heart is the UPHA Shirley Parkinson Professional Achievement Award which was presented to her in 2014.

A couple of very special moments for Denessa and Randy; they were the first trainers to win both the inaugural Amateur Roadster Horse Under Saddle World’s Championship with Oprah Winfrey, and the Open Roadster Under Saddle World’s Championship with Happy Landing in the same week.  

Under their guidance Tijuana Starlet was the first Hackney to win the Amateur Roadster Pony qualifier, the amateur world’s championship and the open world’s grand championship in the same week. 

A versatile trainer, Denessa has often swapped horses or ponies with Randy. In 1992, Denessa piloted Speed ‘N Spirit to be crowned the Open Roadster Pony World’s Grand Champion and minutes later Randy rode One For The Road to his second Three-Gaited World’s Grand Championship title. At the tack room that evening, when everyone had gone they sat down and Randy looked at Denessa and said, “You know, I really wanted to win that road pony class,” and Denessa replied “You know, I really wanted to win that walk/trot class.”  
Partners, friendly rivals, best friends, each other’s staunchest supporters, Denessa and Randy are true representatives of the saying “team work makes the dream work.”

Randy has already been inducted into the UPHA Tom Moore Hall of Fame and now it is only fitting that Denessa join him, on her own merit. Congratulations to the newest member to the UPHA Tom Moore Hall of Fame Denessa Harper.

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