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WCHS Inducts Wightman and Brannon Into Hall of Fame


                           Randi Wightman and Sam Brannon

Randi Stuart Wightman

                                    Randi and Fred Wightman

Because of her love of horses, parents Mr. and Mrs. Harold C. Stuart, of Tulsa, arranged for their 12-year-old daughter to have four days of instruction with Helen Crabtree in 1961. Returning home, Randi won her first blue ribbon at an academy show. The young lady's talent was immediately obvious, and it inspired the Stuarts to purchase property adjoining the Crabtree Stables in Simpsonville, Kentucky, which they named Burning Tree Farm.


Under the management of Charles and Helen Crabtree, CH I've Decided was purchased as her juvenile/amateur three-gaited mount in 1961. The following year, five-gaited gelding CH Legal Tender and Randi began their domination of juvenile, ladies and amateur classes. Added to the string was the legendary equitation horse Storm Cloud, with whom Randi won the American Horse Shows Association Medal Final in 1963 and the National Horse Show "Good Hands" Final in 1964. In 1965, CH Sensational Princess and Randi set a record at the World's Championship Horse Show that has never been equaled – eleven amateur-shown World's Championships in the five-gaited division (Juvenile, Ladies and Amateur), shown by the same person. At the age of only nineteen, Randi received the 1967 "Horsewoman of the Year" Award from the American Horse Shows Association (USEF) – the first amateur Saddlebred rider so honored. Another horse of note was Hall of Fame mare Oman's Anacacho Maytime, dam to CH Yorktown – developed by Charles Crabtree into the World's Two-Year-Old Five-Gaited Champion in 1966, and later the winner of three World's Grand Championships for Jean McLean Davis and trainer, Tom Moore. CH Summer Melody, CH Yankee Robinson, CH Dow Jones, CH Burning Tree's Big Country and CH Cedar Creek Cactus Flower continued Randi's list of World's Champions. CH Admiral's Mark, purchased in 1987, was already an eight-time World's Champion with Mary Gaylord. Under the direction of Redd Crabtree, Randi became one of the few amateur women to win the Five Gaited Gelding Stake. In the World's Grand Championship they placed Reserve – then the highest award ever achieved by an amateur woman in the historic class – and the judges' decision was split for the first time in a decade. Four additional World's Championships later (the last with Randi's son Malcolm), CH Admiral's Mark's twelve World's Championships shown by an amateur had eclipsed the record of CH Sensational Princess by one – but it had taken three different riders to do it.


More recently, Burning Tree has shown CH Attache's Three Of A Kind, with Marilyn Macfarlane guiding Randi's daughter Kate to World's Championships in 1995 and 1997, and Randi to success in the Hackney division. Still a resident of Tulsa, she continues to own Saddlebreds. The American Saddlebred Horse Association received the immense benefit of her wisdom, experience and knowledge of the industry during her service as President from 1993 through 1996.


It is with great respect and pride in her accomplishments, always achieved with the epitome of good sportsmanship, that the World's Championship Horse Show welcomes Randi Stuart Wightman to the Hall of Fame, where she appropriately joins her mentors Charles, Helen and Redd Crabtree.



Sam Brannon

                                          The Brannon Family

While no one begins his career anticipating one day being inducted into a Hall of Fame, Sam Brannon's talent and life decisions put him there. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Sam gravitated to Saddlebred nursery Carolanne Farm. Guided by Harold Childs, H. C. Barham and Jimmie Thompson, he learned the look of a quality horse. At 15, he became assistant to Glenn Lanning at Maddux Whitley's in Asheboro, North Carolina. When the world-famous Biltmore Estate was chosen as a locale for the film "The Swan," Sam performed in the riding scenes. After six years at Whitley's, he was hired by C. Y. Thompson of Greenwood, South Carolina, and had the gaited pony Mighty Houdini, Amateur Five-Gaited Reserve World's Champion CH Dixie Aristocrat, Jackie Boyd [two juvenile World's Championships in 1952], and breeding stallion Society's Crown Jewel.


At Odee Farms in St. Louis, Missouri, he trained CH Sea Beauty, Song Of Ridgefield’s Genius and Georgie's Miracle. Later, at Senator T. N. Wood's Brynfan Tyddyn Farms at Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania, the personable Virginian showed Indiana Peavine and guided his career at stud. In 1964, he won the Three-Gaited Reserve World's Grand Championship with Flavor Taste, and in 1965 the Junior Five-Gaited with CH Lily Merrill. That year, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Hutcheson Jr. purchased Flavor Taste, and in 1966 Sam moved to their Happy Valley Farms at Rossville, Georgia, bringing Indiana Peavine, CH Lily Merrill and several top broodmares. He put together the multi-titled partnerships of Marion "Little Bit" (now "Bit") Hutcheson with CH Lily Merrill and Precious Princess, and the Henley sisters, Cathy and Tricia, with CH Grape Tree Limelight, CH Dream Hill's Ann Thompson and CH Princess Blanchita. Dunhaven's Inspiration was their champion Hackney, and Sam and CH Valley Witch were brilliant in the three-gaited division. Put in the mix Fine Harness World's Grand Champion CH Reata's Virginia Wolf, CH Wind-Sir, CH Buck Creek Precious Princess [Broodmare Hall of Fame], CH Sea Of Secrets, CH Hayfield's American Beauty … there's no room to mention them all. While Hall of Fame inductees have often been responsible for some of the greatest thrills enjoyed by World's Championship Horse Show audiences, it would be difficult to find any more heart-stopping than those provided by legendary road horse stallion Eyre Lad and Sam, when the sliding wheels sent up great plumes of tanbark as they powered around the turns.


For some time, Sam Brannon has been located in Georgetown, Kentucky, and has contributed to the industry by organizing the first trip for Saddlebreds to Equitana in Germany, and producing more winners, especially in the road horse and various pony divisions. Sam was inducted into the American Road Horse and Pony Association Hall of Fame in 1994. Most recently, Unclaimed won Reserve World's Champion Ladies Fine Harness [with his daughter Nancy] in 2004 after a RWC in the Two-Year-Old Stallion/Gelding Stake in 1999.


Thank you, Sam, for all the special moments you have given our audiences over many decades. We just wish you could "play it again," and it is with deepest appreciation that we welcome you to the World's Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame.


[written by Cynthia Hecht, Historian and Archivist for the American Saddlebred Association, Inc.]

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