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The West Wind Blew Through Raleigh

by Bob Funkhouser

There was no Louisville hangover at the N.C. State Fairgrounds Sept. 15-18 when the 53rd Annual North Carolina State Championship Charity Horse Show, hosted by the Raleigh Lions Club, took over the famed Raleigh show grounds. Although it had only been a few short weeks since the World’s Championship Horse Show crowned Courageous Lord as its World’s Grand Champion for the second consecutive year, trainers and exhibitors were back at it and they brought their current world’s champions and contenders for a shot at a N.C. State Championship title. This year’s Morgan division had a couple new barns on hand for their last tune up before making the trip to Oklahoma City for their World Championships.

"Stalls were full and the quality was really good," said show manager and longtime force behind the State Championship, Bill Whitley. "It took a good one to win here and I’m very thankful to all the trainers and owners who support the State Championship Show."

This show, like many long running events, has been through the peaks and valleys but lately they have all been peaks. USEF rated, the N.C. State Championship has so many things going for it, including history and tradition. All you have to do is walk into the arena and see the names of the past Five-Gaited Grand Champions and their owners and trainers on the signs that encircle the ring and you know this is something special. If you’ve been around for a little while you know what an impact those horses and people have made on this industry. If you’re newer, you’ve probably heard the tales.

The Carolina horsemen (and women!) are family, both literally and figuratively. Second, third and fourth generations are in abundance among the trainers and exhibitors. And when it comes to honoring the new inductees into the Carolina Horsemen’s Hall of Fame, the entire grounds becomes one big family. The Carolinians swell with pride and escort the new inductees - this year’s group included Bill and Sandra Murphy, Steve Hanks and Steve and Julia Joyce - into the ring for their respective ceremonies. Afterwards, their names are added to a granite monument that stands in front of the entrance to the show arena. Dedicating your life to the horse show industry in the Carolinas does mean something!

Following each evening’s ceremonies, receptions put on by John and Erin Hall Fann’s EventMix Promotion were greatly enjoyed as they were done in a first class manner. The highlight of EventMix Promotion’s parties was the Friday night barbeque hosted by the Matt Shiflet Stables. Last year this party was the talk of a busy social calendar at the N.C. State Championship Horse Show. This year topped that by a long shot.

A huge tent was erected in front of the Matt Shiflet Stables with a stage for Chad Graham, Gabe Deknatel and their band who had the tunes cranking well into the evening while a full dance floor urged them to cut loose. You put a good band, free food and 20-some Shiflets together with a horse show crowd and you’ve got the recipe for a great time.

Exhibitors enjoying themselves are at the top of the list for Bill Whitley and his Lions Club committee. In addition to the Shiflet party and the receptions for the Hall of Fame inductees, Ingleside Farm and Daughtry Stables provided breakfast each morning and the show hosted a Wednesday night exhibitor’s party. On Thursday evening the Marcum and Orr families teamed up to give World’s Champion CH Dr. Deker an official retirement ceremony followed by a wonderful reception at their tack room.

In between all these receptions and parties there was a heck of a horse show. World titleholders were commonplace and if a class didn’t have a world’s champion in it, there were usually three or four on the way up the ladder of success. Whitley went to a three-judge system with Ricky Harris, James Nichols and Lisa Waller holding the cards. Waller became extremely ill during the show and had to sit out a couple of sessions. For one of those sessions Harris and Nichols rotated judging individually. For the other, Waller’s husband Bill was on the Outer Banks enjoying some fishing but came in to substitute for Lisa. By Saturday night she was back in action and there was plenty of action to be found in center ring. Some of that action came from organist Stacy Beam. Whenever Beam is the organist at a show, the entertainment value goes up several notches.

In 52 years of showing, a woman had never won the N.C. State Championship Horse Show Five-Gaited Championship. It had pretty much been the "good ole boys club," but that all changed this year and how fitting was it that Kim Cowart from West Wind Stables took the title? Her husband Peter had won the championship four different times with a few different horses and earlier on this Saturday night, Peter had won the Three-Gaited Championship with this year’s Junior Three-Gaited World’s Champion Of Champions Real Action and the Fine Harness Championship with the newly acquired World’s Grand Champion Lace’s Last Tango. New owner Sharon Lackey debuted Tango two nights earlier to win the open class.

Anyway, with two of the three open championship tricolors already hanging on the burgundy curtains of West Wind Stables, Kim Cowart hit the gate in the seven-horse $10,000 Five-Gaited Championship aboard Twilight’s Maxamillion and she had that look in her eye that this was going to be a riding clinic. Picking her spots, hustling Barbara Quinn and Josh Wall’s gelding down the straightaway and then collecting him to fire again, Cowart took complete control of the ring and the tricolor was hers. As announcer Mark Farrar said, "Kim’s name will be added to wall of fame."

It wasn’t a cakewalk for Cowart as she was pushed every step of the way by Jerry Hutson who was looking to add his name to the wall. Open Five-Gaited Champion Joe Fabulous was his contender and Hutson put him in the right spots, but on this night it was a unanimous decision for Cowart and Twilight’s Maxamillion who were greeted by photographer Doug Shiflet in the winner’s circle. Joe Fabulous would be reserve.

For the third time in the past five years, Megan McClure and CH Breaking News stood in the winner’s circle as the Amateur Five-Gaited Grand Champions. World’s Grand Champion Breaking News had also previously won the open stake a few times with trainer Peter Cowart.

Besides hosting a most memorable party, Matt Shiflet also filled the gaited division with stars. In addition to directing Phyllis Brookshire to the Ladies Five-Gaited Championship and qualifying blue, Shiflet captured both the Junior and Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Stakes. Showing for Brookshire and Gendron, Shiflet rode the ground-covering, high going Nuttin But A Dream to take the junior stake. He then knocked off a current world’s champion to win the Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Class with the beautiful Cavalia, owned by Christine Athanasuleas. Speaking of the Shiflet/Athanasuleas team, Andrea Athanasuleas rode her athletic world’s champion, CH Juliett’s Deja Blue to the their third consecutive Amateur Three-Gaited Championship at Raleigh.

Allie Wellington was another Raleigh exhibitor with multiple wins. You know her late father, Johnny Wellington, was smiling down on her as she swept the junior exhibitor three-gaited division with Prom Dress and the junior exhibitor five-gaited division with Suddenly Single. Just to make it interesting she also drove Hawkeye’s Chatter Box to the Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Championship. All of this came under the direction of Lewis Eckard who won the Three-Gaited Park Championship himself with Sonita’s Only You and the Morgan Park Saddle Championship with Flintlock’s Testarosa.

The Saddlebred park division was extremely tough at Raleigh. CH Justa Rascal has won all four junior exhibitor classes offered at Louisville over the past two years and he and Camille Cowart kept a long string of victories alive with two more commanding performances for West Wind Stables. Ingleside Farm had Michelle Holbrook and First Asset at the top of their game to sweep the amateur division.

We already mentioned that current World’s Grand Champion Lace’s Last Tango won the Fine Harness Championship. Well, Raleigh also had former World’s Grand Champion CH Mother Mary floating down the rail with one of the happiest exhibitors around, Anita Simpson, to sweep the amateur division. The Mercer Springs trained team beat a host of seasoned champions for the titles. Mercer Springs was also home to an extremely gifted Junior Fine Harness Champion Caraway’s New York Minute, shown by Smith Lilly for Bill Beckley.

Jon Walker had the hot hand in the roadster division, sweeping the open and amateur classes with Debra Clark’s entries Where’s Reuben and Imnotacow.

Ruth Gimpel’s first visit to Raleigh in a while was highlighted by James Rosburg’s debut with the newly acquired current Amateur Road Pony World’s Champion Of Champions Romeo’s Kristy Lee LF. Their career together began with two trips down victory lane.

The biggest road pony classes of the show were the under saddle events in which Drew Love and Power Of Attorney poured it on for the tricolor ribbon and championship title. They were reserve in the five-pony qualifier behind eventual reserve grand champions Mastercraft’s Surefire LF and Bijorn Brinkley.

Also from the pony division Tamara Arndt had a big time in Raleigh as she won the Harness Pony Championship and qualifier with It’s Showtime and the Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony class with Heartland Parade Time; both trained at West Wind.

Pleasure classes were filled with talent, beginning with gaited pleasure where the 2010 and 2009 Ladies Five-Gaited Grand Champion, CH And I’m Stickin’ To It has made the transition to pleasure in tricolor fashion for owner/rider Susan Orton. Tearing up the track in both junior exhibitor classes Megan Bush Barrett aboard the highly decorated Mojo.

Chestnut Lane’s Nicole Immonen had the hot hand in the Park Pleasure section, winning the Junior class with Don’t Know Nuttin and the UPHA Classic with Standing Guard. Jerry Hutson had the winning ride in the Open Championship aboard Madeira And Bourbon, while Grant Shiflet had the upper hand in the open qualifier with Royally Made.

World’s Champion after world’s champion strolled through the gate in quest of yet anther title and CH Sweet Virginia did just that with Barbara Woods. The 39 & Over Show Pleasure Championship and blue belonged to them. Stacey Halloran and Santa Ana Wind did the same thing in the 18-38 division. Sweeps seemed to be the norm for the pleasure division as the Cash Lovell trained Majestic’s Wingmaster and Chandler Gray were two for two in the 14-17 division and High Caliber Stables’ Ellie Kangur and Brookhill’s Kool As Ice repeated among the 13 & under competitors. Keeping that string of sweeps alive, the absolutely adorable Grace McDonell and CH Keeper Of The Stars were champs twice in the Walk and Trot Pleasure section.

Two more pleasure sections, two more sweeps. Lynne Hege was the top Novice Rider both times out on her pleasure horse, Unpretentious. Patricia Bonati and Heart Of Steel found all the right gears as the Show Pleasure Driving Grand Champions and qualifying winners.

The Admiral’s Genie (Pleasure Pony), CH Riva Diva (Adult Country Pleasure) and CH Monsignor (Country Hunter Pleasure) all came back with performances worthy of the tricolor with their respective riders, Ashley Stewart, Donna Finch and Marie Gwinn. The same was true for Callaway’s Letter To The Editor and Erin Ohning in the 14-17 Country Pleasure Championship and then it was back to sweeps: CH Uwharries Patriot Sage and Laura Plant (13 & Under Country Pleasure), Midd’s Hilton and Sydney Barnes (Novice Rider Country Pleasure), CH Stevie Nicks and Pat Yeatts (Country Pleasure Driving) and Cosmic Son with Judith Gandarillas (Country Western Pleasure).

Not only was Ellie Kangur a star in the pleasure division, she also excelled in equitation, namely as the Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion for High Caliber Stables. For the younger set, Cashlyn Lovell made instructor Kathryn Rodosky proud as she rode to the Walk and Trot Equitation titles. Meredith Macy was tops in Pleasure Equitation and the USEF Medal, while Drew Taylor Hewitt also crossed over from the performance ranks to take the UPHA Challenge Cup blue.

A big part of the N.C. State Championship each year is the Carolina Futurity. Smith Lilly had the upper hand in the yearling division, taking the top prize money with Anita Simpson’s Eli’s Coming. He was also reserve with Sharon Anderson’s Rockband. An Amateur Yearling blue went to Trey Prasse and Paradoc’s Kaboosh.

Matt Shiflet’s young Arborlane Tango’s Wee Pee stallion, Tango’s Parting Kiss, dominated the weanling section, with his get winning all 3 classes. The Tango Chief and Matt Shiflet were the Carolina Futurity Grand Champions, Matt Shiflet and Heartbreak Warfare were the Carolina Futurity Weanling qualifying winners and Chris Bishop led Kiss Of The Gypsy to the amateur blue.

Although light in numbers, Raleigh’s Morgan division always features some talented performers that have fans from all breeds cheering. Tim Roesink and the Dragonsmeade entry, And The Beat Goes On, did just that in their one warm up performance for the World Equestrian Games.

Phil Lanier and Captivation Of Foxridge got to make two victory passes as the Morgan English Pleasure Grand Champions and qualifying winners. Representing Woodbridge Farm, Claridge Freedom’s Spirit and Natalie Tetterton captured the Amateur/Junior Exhibitor English Pleasure Championship. In the qualifier it was the Cheri Barber trained HVK Bold Monarch at the top with Erica Dorwart aboard.

Graywood’s Lennox is no stranger to Raleigh’s winner’s circle and he did it again as the Morgan Pleasure Driving Grand Champion and qualifying winner with owner Mary Daughtry at the whip. She also drove another veteran of N.C. State Championship victory passes, Morgan Classic Pleasure Driving Grand Champion Hollybrook Independence.

Krista Dent put Jason Harrell and TSL Starcraft together as the Morgan Amateur Pleasure Driving Grand Champions, their second victory pass of the week.

Harry Daughtry had a good week both showing himself and putting horses in the ring. He greeted June Davis and Hollybrook Walk In Tall in the winner’s circle of the Classic Pleasure Saddle Championship just as he did in the open qualifier.

As she has done many, many times before for Jerome and Shirley Modell, Cheri Barber jogged to the Western Pleasure Championship and qualifying blue. Her mount was the multi-titled Gradell Ring My Bell.

Natalie Tetterton was back on top, this time with Glorious Answer in the Morgan Hunter Pleasure Championship and qualifier to wrap up the competition from the 53rd Annual N.C. State Championship Charity Horse Show. When you have tradition, a great bunch of horses, a top facility, and officials second to none, you have all the ingredients for success and that’s exactly what this year’s show was...a success!

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