Skip to content

World’s Championship Horse Show Celebrates Its 100th Show

By Melissa R. Stevens

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The World’s Championship Horse Show (WCHS) celebrates its 100th show this year during the Kentucky State Fair. The WCHS is considered the pinnacle of competitions for many and features several classes for American Saddlebreds, Harness/Hackney Ponies and Standardbred Road Horses. Each year the WCHS awards over $1.2 million in prize money.

Held annually at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, Ky., the World’s Championship Horse Show was first held in 1902. The Kentucky State Fair itself took place at various locations until 1908 when it was moved to the State Fairgrounds, which is now the site of Whayne Supply. The horse show took place at the amphitheater at those fairgrounds from 1908 until it was moved to Freedom Hall in 1956.

The WCHS grew out of the first $10,000 stake for five-gaited horses, which was held in 1917. A man by the name of C.P. “Jumps” Cauthorn of Mexico was upset by the fact that there was at that time no real world championship show, so he raised $5,000 in donations that was matched by the state hosting the competition. The governor of his hometown rejected the idea, so Cauthorn pitched the idea to Governor A.O. Stanley and Commissioner of Agriculture Mat. S. Cohen of Kentucky. They loved the proposal and the rest is World Championship Horse Show history.

The $10,000 in prize money was split between the winners of the stallion, mare and gelding preliminaries and the winner of the grand championship competition. Easter Cloud, shown by John T. Hook and owned by Longview Farm of Lee’s Summit, Mo., was awarded the honor of being crowned the first Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champion.

The show’s other two grand finales, the three-gaited and fine harness, were not established until the 1930s. The reports vary somewhat, but the Three-Gaited World’s Grand championship was first held in 1936 or 1937. The first Fine Harness World’s Grand championship was also instituted in 1936.

The show has only been cancelled one time and that was in 1942 during World War II. It was held the next year at Church Hill Downs. Over the years, several shows have claimed to hold world’s championship classes, however, the Kentucky State Fair is acknowledged as the home of these prestigious titles and in 1988 the fair copyrighted the title.

This year the WCHS will hold its 100th show and is appropriately billing it as “The Centennial of Champions”. In commemoration of this grand occasion, WCHS will award a total of $100,000 in prize money in the Five-Gaited Grand Championship. This is to be the largest prize ever awarded in an American Saddlebred performance class. The show will run from August 17-23, in Freedom Hall with the Five-Gaited Grand Championship being held Saturday, August 23.

This year’s “Centennial of Champions” judges are David Cunningham of Knoxville, Tenn.; Brent Jacobs of Georgetown, Ky.; Lisa Jensen Richardson of Bedford, N.H.; Michael Richardson of Bedford, N.H.; and L. Thomas Oxley of Richmond, Ontario Canada.

The American Saddlebred classes will be judged by Cunningham, Jacobs, Richardson and Richardson. Hackney/Harness Pony classes will be judged by Oxley, Cunningham and Jacobs, while Roadster Horse and Roadster Pony classes will be judged by Oxley, Cunningham, Jacobs and Michael Richardson. Marking the world's champions in the equitation section will be Jacobs, Richardson, and Richardson.

Rules for entry can be found in the WCHS premium books and are available online from the official KSF website or by calling in or mailing a request to the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show Office in Louisville, Ky.

Scarlett Mattson, show manager, and Mary Anne Cronan, Kentucky State Fair Board chairperson, have put a great deal of effort into making this year’s show something special and different from past years. “Because it’s the 100th year of the show, it will be more impressive than the other shows,” said Cronan. “There will be some special trophies and we are introducing some new elements into the show.”

One of the new things Mattson and Cronan are excited about is the new three color logo that will appear on t-shirts, programs, etc. A special commemorative pin will also be available for purchase at the show this year. In addition to the commemorative pin, a smaller pin that mimics the new logo will be handed out to everyone at the show.

In an attempt to make this year’s show even more memorable, organizers would like to encourage anyone who has ribbons, pictures, programs or other items that might be of interest from World’s Championship Horse Shows of yesteryear to use those items to decorate their tack rooms instead of using the standard fare.

Also, Alan Balch, president of the USA Equestrian Federation is creating a “Centennial of Champions” video presentation to be aired during the show. In order to do this he needs your help! Please send photos, videos and any other memorabilia that you might have from the WCHS no later than July 15, 2003 to the USA Equestrian Federation, 4047 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511, attn: Karen Fish. All items will be scanned and returned to you within 10 days of receipt.

Show manager Scarlett Mattson has attended the WCHS for as long as she can remember. “It’s so exciting to be a part of something like this,” Mattson said. “If you are old enough and have attended the show most of your life, you’ve probably seen all of the top horses perform there.”

Kentucky State Fair Board chairperson Mary Anne Cronan is also thrilled to be a part of this year’s events. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this horse show. It has touched so many people’s lives in so many ways,” Cronan said. “It’s going to be a spectacular year.”

For many the green sawdust and yellow mums formed in the shape of a horse shoe have become synonymous with the WCHS over the years. What began as the dream of a gentleman from Mexico to have a true competition for world champion horses, the World’s Championship Horse Show, has successfully evolved into the culmination of the show season for American Saddlebreds, Hackney/Harness Ponies and Road Horses and a must attend event for everyone in the industry.

Get To Know The Judges...

David Cunningham

David Cunningham began training as a teenager in Knoxville, Tenn. He has been manager and trainer of Beaver Brook Stables most of his adult life. Under his direction, Beaver Brook has presented such national and world’s champions as Diamond Hustler, Mad Max, Rusty Russ, Whistle Stop and Parker in the Road Horse division; Eloquence, Batman, Dunhaven’s Model King and Late-Nite’s Magic Moment in the road pony division; El Toro in the Harness Pony division; Colour Guard in the cob-tail division; Sunday’s Coming, Super Masterpiece and Secret Service in the fine harness division; Roselawn’s Magnificent Lady in the pleasure driving division; Danish Dream in the walk-trot division; Dixie Wing in the ladies five-gaited division; and Rush Act in the gaited pony division.

Cunningham is a member of the UPHA, American Road Horse and Pony Association and a lifetime member of the ASHA. He holds his judge's license in the American Saddlebred, Roadster, Hackney/Harness, Saddle Seat Equitation, Morgan and NSH divisions. As a judge, he has tied cards at the American Royal, Lexington Junior League, Toronto Winter Fair, Morgan Grand Nationals, the National Show Horse Finals and almost every Saddlebred show more than once, including the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championships.

Brent Jacobs

Brent Jacobs has been showing horses since he was 10-years-old. He was the World’s Champion Boy Rider in the '60s under the tutelage of Helen Crabtree. He lived with Don and Roz Harris for two summers while studying his trade with Don and showing his five-gaited stallion Commander Denmark.

Jacobs transferred from Northwestern University in 1968 to the University of Kentucky when his family purchased 400 acres in Georgetown, Ky. He started training at their Werk Way Stables while at UK. Jacobs graduated from the University of Kentucky with high honors and a degree in Agricultural Economics in 1971.

Since 1968 Jacobs has trained such World, Reserve and National American Saddlebred Champions as CH Ramses, twice Three-Gaited Pleasure World's Grand Champion CH Choice Lady, CH The Irish Lord, CH Lover’s Heir, CH Monster Man, CH Bright Lights, CH The Lord’s Affair, CH Gamin, CH Callaway’s Blue Spirit, CH Sultan’s Flight, Saturday Night, CH Supreme Quality, CH Jasper Love Song, CH Bartlett’s Victory’s Lady, All Roses, Irish Linen, Spirit Seeker, What About Bob, Centerfold’s May Issue, Crescendo In Black and Royalty In Black.

Jacobs has also trained such top champion ponies as Arabesque, Texas Tommy and Fit To Be Tied.

He has instructed his daughter Brooke to world champion titles in Equitation and National Pleasure Equitation Championship honors, his brother Andy to the 10 and under Equitation World Championship and Martha Bosken to the top ten in all equitation finals. Jacobs coached the 2003 USA Three-Gaited International Invitation team to a gold medal in Uniondale, South Africa.

He started judging in 1971 and has judged several of the top shows in the nation. This is his second time to judge the World’s Championship Horse Show; the first time being in 1993. He has judged all of the equitation finals at least once... the NHS Good Hands, USA Equestrian Medal, UPHA Challenge Cups, Saddle & Bridle Pleasure Equitation Finals and the Pleasure Equitation Olympics.

Jacobs has been a member of the United Professional Horsemen’s Association since 1971. He was on the UPHA’s Board of Directors for 20 years, and was the president and vice president for two terms each and the treasurer for 14 years. He is also on the USA Equestrian Federation Hearing Committee.

Lisa Jensen Richardson

Lisa Jensen Richardson developed a passion for American Saddlebreds and saddle seat equitation soon after she began riding at the age of ten, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. After competing successfully as a junior exhibitor in New England, Richardson decided to pursue a career in the American Saddlebred industry and entered William Woods College. She returned to New England with a degree in equine science to open Cricket Hill Farm in Bedford, N.H. Several years later, she was joined by her husband, Michael Richardson. His dedication to training allowed her to focus her efforts on her true love, instruction of both children and adults. Lisa Richardson’s talent and guidance have led many riders to world, national and regional titles. A member of the USA Equestrian and United Professional Horsemen’s Association Committees, Richardson continues to serve the industry with enthusiasm and dedication.

Michael Lane Richardson

Michael Richardson grew up in Evansville, Ind., where he developed his skill as a horse trainer early on by helping his father on the farm. He spent his early years working with trainers throughout Southern Indiana. He opened Richardson Stables where he became recognized for his ability to work with young horses. Currently, Richardson owns and trains horses at Cricket Hill Farm in Bedford, N.H. He and his wife, Lisa, combine their talents to produce a winning crop of horses and riders every year. His legacy continues through his daughter, Ashley Richardson, who has ridden many horses to world and national championships in several divisions.

Thomas Oxley

L. Thomas Oxley of Richmond, Ontario, Canada will officiate at the 2003 World’s Championship Horse Show in the Hackney and Roadster divisions. A native of Jacksonville, Ill., he has had a lifelong commitment to the horse industry, breeding, starting and showing some of the top individuals of each division in the past decades. Two time World's Grand Champion Amateur Road Horse Ellery, World's Champion Dirt Devil and Westgate Villian are the most notable in the roadster division. Reserve World's Champion Harness Pony mare Cockleburr's Lady Love, World's Champion Futurity Weanling Cockleburr's Allegra, Alyssa Lopez's Going My Way and UPHA Classics Grand Champion Pleasure Pony One More Time are just a few of the top Hackney ponies that Oxley has produced. He has had the privilege of owning one of the most prolific sires of the Hackney world, Dun-Haven's Crescendo, who passed away March 26, 2003, at the age of 33.

Having previously officiated at such shows as the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Canada, the All-American Classic and the Ohio State Fair, Oxley is looking forward to the experience and honor of judging this 100th World Championship Horse Show.

More Stories

  • FoalsNFocus

    This week’s group of photos left us jumping for joy with the exceptional quality of foals among the different breeds from around the country. Submitted by owner/breeder Margaret Gladstone, this week’s Champion #foalsNfocus photo went to a shot of a Morgan foal, Newmont’s Bugle Boy (Rowenda Boogie On Down x Dragonfire Fourth Dmension), full of energy. Read More
  • Latest Issue 5 27 24

    Read More
  • Latest Issue 6 24 HW

    Read More
  • Morgan Masterpiece Update

    Morgan Masterpiece prize lists are now being mailed and can be viewed on the website: The 2024 show will be held on July 18-20 and offer a full schedule for all Morgan divisions. Read More
  • Latest Issue 5 20 24 Asheville

    Read More
  • Latest Issue 5 20 24 BB

    Read More
  • UPHA/American Royal Judges Announced

    Kent Moeller, manager of the UPHA/American Royal National Championship Horse Show announced the judging roster for the 2024 event, which will be held November 11-16 in Hale Arena, Kansas City, Missouri. Read More
  • UPHA Caretaker Hall of Fame Nominations Now Being Accepted

    The United Professional Horsemen's Association is currently accepting nominations for its annual Jesus Gonzales Gomez UPHA Caretaker Hall of Fame Award. The UPHA is proud to offer two awards each year; one at the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky in July and the other at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in October. Read More
  • ASHBA Special Release

    The American Saddlebred Horse and Breeders Association (ASHBA) is announcing several decisions around recording the results for the Kentucky State Fair (KSF) Horse Show in 2024. Read More
  • Robertson Equine Announces Pop Up Sale

    Jimmy Robertson announced Robertson Equine Sales will hold a sale Wednesday, June 5th at the Shelbyville Fairgrounds, Shelbyville, Kentucky. This will be the Wednesday of Rock Creek. Read More