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War Image Returns To South Africa

Larry Hodge led War Image in a special presentation

at the South African Saddle Horse Championships

 in Bloemfontein. (Photo by Toppy Hunt)

Editor’s Note: At the recent Saddle Horse Championships in Bloemfontein, South Africa, a special ceremony was held Thursday evening, April 26, 2007 to present South African National Champion and 2000 World’s Champion Five-Gaited Stallion War Image back to his native South Africa. The following speech was written by his new owner Luci Nouwens and read by Leeann Mione of Saddle Horse Report.

The Saddle Horse has indeed captured the interest of horsemen and women way beyond the American borders.


The first Saddle Horses spent weeks on board ship crossing the ocean to South Africa. Over the years, the breed thrived in South Africa – so well in fact, that some South African Saddle Horses, exported back to America have claimed top honors in the original land of the saddle horse.


War Image was one such horse. An awesome dark bay stud who first turned heads in South Africa as a junior three-gaited horse then as a five-gaited performer of exceptional brilliance.


One of his most memorable shows would be the Five-Gaited Stake at the South African Championships in 1997 against his sire Warlord. There could only be one winner, but to this day there are still different opinions about that final battle where War Image took second place only to his father.


From there War Image crossed the ocean to triumph on the green shavings of Freedom Hall as World’s Champion Five-Gaited Stallion in 2000 and Reserve World’s Grand Champion Five-Gaited in the same year. He looked awesome on that Saturday evening and his fans will remember how the favorite brought the house down when he was stripped and stood up in perfect form. An African statue, looking way above any other being in Freedom Hall that evening.


War Image excelled in harness with owner Elisabeth Goth and it was Larry Hodge who rode him to the glory of his world’s crown.


War Image was successfully bred to a very select number of mares in the states and the value of his offspring is only now becoming evident.


But his story goes on as Joan Hamilton, of Kalarama Farm, took over ownership from Ms. Goth. War Image stirred in his new owner a strong feeling to send this war hero back to his homeland to spend his last days under the African sun.


Those privileged enough to have known him will know that he is a truly special horse. Sensitive, proud and so ready to give, in return for respect from his handler.


On her visit to Kalarama Farm he met Luci who would return him to his homeland to share some special moments with those who care, because he has still has so much to give and rather in South Africa where his roots are.


Tonight we salute War Image, our very own hero who did us proud on the world stage and is the only Saddle Horse to return home to live it up in the African sun.


He wears his traditional American rose blanket and his world’s championship ribbon and what a great start to his ice cream days in South Africa.


On Tuesday, April 24th, the 21-year-old War Image won the 2007 Grand Championship Stallion In-Hand title, only days after being released from quarantine and his long trip from Springfield, Ky. back to South Africa.


Larry Hodge and Joan Hamilton this evening present our World’s Champion to his new owner Luci Nouwens and reunite him with his trainers of years gone by, Johan Kotze and Koekie de Villiers.


It is indeed good to witness such a happening in times when we all too often do not stop to smell the roses.


We invite the Saddle Horse exhibitors to join us for a glass of champagne to celebrate with War Image.


Former owner and trainer, respectively, Johan Kotze

 and Koekie de Villiers joined new owner Luci Nouwens

and former owner Joan Hamilton of Kalarama Farm

for a champagne toast to War Image.

(Photo by Toppy Hunt)



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