Carolinas Show Hunter Hall of Fame
Every effort has been made to ensure the following biographical information is correct;
however, the accuracy and completeness of the information is not guaranteed.
Charade with Scott Hofstetter photo by Buck
Charade was a registered Appendix Quarter Horse foaled in Florida in 1985. He started his show hunter career with Nardeen Henderson and Peg Seals in VA in 1991. In 1992, he won many championships in the VA and MD area and ended the year as Reserve Second Year Green Hunter Champion at the WIHS. In 1993, he was purchased by Bud and Jean Rae Holmberg for their daughter Helen, and moved to their Fox Knoll Farm in Southern Pines, NC. Under the training of Don Stewart, he went on to many wins in the Small Junior Hunter division with Helen, and the Regular Working Hunter division with Scott Hofstetter. In 1993, in the Regular Working Hunter division, he was Reserve Champion at the PNHS, and, in the Small Junior Hunter division, he was Champion at the WIHS, and Reserve Champion at the NHS, winning the stake class at all three shows. In 1994, he was Regular Working Hunter Champion at Duke Children’s, and the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. Charade was also Small Junior Hunter Champion at Raleigh Indoors and Reserve Champion in the Small Junior Hunter division at Suncoast International in Tampa.
In 1995, he was sold to Neely Bates and continued his winning career with Neely in both the Junior and Amateur Owner Hunter divisions. From 1995 to 1999 he racked up wins at shows all over NC, SC, FL, TN, KY, MI, OH, CT, MD, PA, DC, and NY. Highlights included being Small Junior Hunter Reserve Champion at Devon, Ox Ridge and Kentucky National Indoors. In 1998, he was Amateur Owner Hunter Champion or Reserve at both the Detroit and the Motor City Horse Shows, Ocala, Memphis, Brownland Farm, Charleston, Blowing Rock, Biltmore, and the WIHS. Among his many wins in 1999, he was the Amateur Owner Hunter Reserve Champion at Palm Beach Masters in Wellington, FL. Charade retired at the Bates’ Farm in TN, where he lived out his life cared for by Nick Bishop, who had been his groom since December of 1992, when he first drove to VA to pick Charade up for the Holmbergs.
Dreamboat with Holly Hayes photo by Cathrin Cammett
Dreamboat was a bay large pony mare by Woodlands Dream Cloud out of a paint mare named Fancy Darling. She was bred by Mary Chisholm. In 1989, Tony Albertson spotted Dreamboat at the VA Pony Breeders Sale in KY. She was 3 years old and only 14.3/4 hands, but when Tony saw her beautiful walk and canter he knew he had to have her, so he convinced Lou and Katherine Miracle to purchase Dreamboat. After the Miracles bought her, Dreamboat lived with Tony at Stepping Stone Farm in Oak Ridge, NC, and then the Miracles’ farm in Stoneville, NC.
For two years, Tony patiently trained Dreamboat, preparing her for Katherine. In 1991, Dreamboat began showing and had immediate success. She was Champion at The Barracks before heading to Palm Beach, where she was Reserve Champion in the Large Pony Hunters with Holly Hayes and Champion in the Green Pony Hunters with Katherine. That set the stage for an unbelievable year. Dreamboat, lovingly called “Mary,” was champion almost 30 times that year in the Green and Large Pony Hunters. She was Reserve Large Green Pony Hunter Champion at the National Pony Finals and ended the year as AHSA HOTY Reserve Large Green Pony Hunter Champion.
In 1992, she was sold to the Lindner family of OH who trained with Tom Wright. That year Mary continued her spectacular career and was Circuit Champion at WEF. From 1993 to 2002, the Lindner children rode her to Champion or Reserve at Devon (3 times), the PNHS (6 times), the WIHS (3 times), the CCHS (2 times), and once at the NHS. Tom Wright said,”Dreamboat was probably the best animal I ever trained. We were so fortunate to have had her for Blake, Cory, Clara and Christie. She won at every venue offered and I always thought that she should have been a Chronicle Horse of the Year.” She was retired in 2002 and had three foals; one called Rock the Boat was the 2009 USEF Pony Finals Medium Green Pony Hunter Champion.
High Hearts with Julia Matheson photo by James Parker
High Hearts was a chestnut Thoroughbred mare whose extraordinary junior hunter career began in the Carolinas. In the early ‘90s, Russ Walther sent the mare to Finally Farm in Camden, SC, for Jack Towell to sell as a 3-foot horse. Instead, she was purchased by Julia Matheson from Hickory, NC, remained at Finally Farm and began winning in the Small Junior Hunters with Julia and Liza Towell. From 1993 to 1995 while owned by Julia, High Hearts (aka Rita) was Small Junior Hunter Champion or Reserve Champion at shows such as Blowing Rock, Camden, Charlotte, Chateau Elan, Deep Run, Pinehurst, Sedgefield, Palm Beach and Upperville. In 1993, High Hearts was co-ridden by Julia and Liza to Reserve Champion at the PNHS. At the end of 1995, High Hearts was sold to Molly Crossland, another Finally Farm customer, and ridden by Liza to Reserve Champion honors at both the PNHS and WIHS.
After indoors, the Lindners purchased High Hearts and from 1996 to 1999 she was champion or reserve at least 35 times at top shows including Devon, CCHS, PNHS, the Hampton Classic, Lake Placid and Upperville. In 1999, 12-year-old Clara Lindner qualified to ride High Hearts in the highly coveted AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular held in Wellington, FL. The pair took the title in an unprecedented win by such a young rider in a class where seasoned professionals, amateurs and juniors all compete against each other on a level playing field. Lindner’s trainer Tom Wright noted, “High Hearts had only one rhythm so when Clara picked up that rhythm she just never changed.”
After the NHS in 1999, High Hearts was purchased by Paula Polk Lillard and continued her winning ways. She retired to Lillard’s estate in Chicago at age 21, where she was ridden 5 days a week until she passed away at age 30. During her career, High Hearts was Champion or Reserve Champion at Devon, the CCHS, the WIHS (2 times), the PNHS (4 times), Upperville (3 times) and the Hampton Classic (3 times). As a Small Junior Hunter she earned over 24,000 points. In the words of Tom Wright, “High Hearts won for everyone who showed her.”
Leisure Time with Val Haynes photo by Buck
Leisure Time was a 16.3 hand brown Thoroughbred gelding that Jack Towell remembers as “beautiful and elegant. A big horse with good bone that reminds you of todays Warmblood.” Leisure Time was stabled in Tryon, NC, at the old Comoco Farm. In the early ‘80s, he was trained and shown very successfully in the professional divisions by Valerie Haynes. In 1982, he was Second Year Green Working Hunter Circuit Champion at WEF and Second Year Green Working Hunter and Grand Green Working Hunter Champion at the PNHS. After the NHS that year, Leisure Time was very close to being the AHSA HOTY Second Year Green Working Hunter Champion but needed some additional points. According to Val’s partner Ronnie Tetterton, one more show at Ramblewood in Aiken, SC put Leisure time over the top as he won all four classes. Not only did he end the year as the AHSA HOTY Second Year Green Working Hunter Champion, he earned enough points to be AHSA HOTY Grand Green Working Hunter Champion.
In 1983, Leisure Time was once again Circuit Champion at WEF, this time in the Regular Working Hunter division. After another victorious year, he was AHSA HOTY Reserve Regular Working Hunter Champion and qualified his owner Elizabeth Frady in the Amateur Owner Hunter division at all three indoor shows. Leisure Time was known as a beautiful mover with numerous wins in the under saddle classes. Judy Sutton, who was a good friend of Val Haynes, remembers Leisure Time well saying that “Leisure Time was unbeatable at the 4-foot height. Through his Green and Regular Working Hunter years with rider Val Haynes, their styles matched perfectly. Val was able to gallop to the jumps and get the most out of this wonderful Thoroughbred. He was truly a beautiful and special horse.”
Lestat with Elizabeth Solter
Lestat was a bay Thoroughbred gelding Ron Danta bought off the track for $2,500 from a trainer in Eloree, SC, in the mid ’80s. Using a broom across two buckets in the barn aisle, Ron tested Lestat’s jumping instincts. He was skinny and a terrible mover, but Ron thought his jump was good enough, so he brought him home to his farm in Camden, SC. In his 40 years in the industry, Ron said he never had a stronger bond than the one he had with Lestat. “Snooze” (his barn name) didn’t like a stall so Ron kept him in a pasture in front of his house. Every time Ron drove by, Lestat would call to him. Even after he sold him, Lestat neighed whenever he heard Ron’s voice at shows.
As a pre-green horse, Lestat never won an under saddle class, but with more flat work things changed dramatically. As a First Year Green horse, he was the hack winner at most shows including the PNHS and the WIHS. In the late ‘80s, Danny Robertshaw rode him to First Year Green Champion all over the Carolinas. He was First Year and Grand Green Hunter Champion at the PNHS, and Reserve Champion at the NHS. That same year, Ron’s then-wife Julie piloted him to Champion in the Amateur Owner Hunters at the WIHS. Snooze had his quirks and Ron spent hours grazing him near the ring to relax him before he showed. Despite his rough look in the beginning, Ron said he turned out to be a great and beautiful horse.
In 1989, Bert and Diana Firestone purchased Lestat for their daughter Alison. Alison and Lestat were extremely successful in the Large Junior Hunter division, winning Championships in VT, Wellington and many other top horse shows. In 1990, Lestat was Large Junior Hunter Champion at Devon. Lestat passed away in 1992, and in 1993 Alison donated the Lestat Memorial Challenge Trophy to the Devon Horse Show, a trophy which is still awarded today. When asked about Lestat, Alison fondly remembers him as “special, a horse that always tried” and says she “was lucky to have had him.”
Billy Haggard on Bold Minstrel
William (Billy) Haggard was, according to The Chronicle of the Horse, “a man who competed at the highest levels of sport. From steeplechasing to show hunters to eventing, Billy proved himself over and over again as one of the top riders of his time.” He was born William D. Haggard III in 1927 in Nashville, TN. Both of his parents died when he was young, and he was raised by his grandmother. Fortunately for Billy, Calvin Houghland stepped in as a father figure. It was at Houghland’s Bright Hour Farm that Billy first learned about foxhunting and steeplechase riding. While in his 20s, Billy hunted, rode steeplechase races and did 3-day eventing. In 1957, he was the leading amateur steeplechase rider.
When Billy was 29 he found his horse of a lifetime – Bold Minstrel. It was at a horse trial on the outskirts of Cincinnati that Billy first saw the stunning 5-year-old. Billy traded his experienced horse, Trecla, for Bold Minstrel. Shortly thereafter, he began showing him with success in the Green Hunters while also foxhunting and eventing him. Billy and Bold Minstrel went on to have mammoth success in multiple disciplines. During the years between helping the U.S. Eventing Team win a Pan Am Games Silver medal in 1959 and Gold Medal in 1963, Billy continued showing Bold Minstrel in the hunters.
Some of their highlights were being Conformation Hunter Champion at The Royal Winter Fair in 1960, Reserve Champion at the PNHS in 1960, Champion at Milwaukee Hunt Club in both 1960 and 1961, Champion at Fairfield Hunt Club in 1961, Reserve Champion at the NHS in 1961, and at Devon winning the Newbold Ely Class for horses that hunted regularly with a recognized hunt. Bold Minstrel was the first Conformation Hunter to win the prestigious class.
In 1967, Billy moved to Aiken, SC. After taking a long break from competing, Billy began showing hunters again with trainers Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw. From 1992-95 he showed successfully in the Amateur Owner Hunter division on his horses, including Palandrome, Persimmon and Albemarle. In 1996, Billy experienced a tragic riding accident that left him paralyzed. Billy faced his limitations head on and learned to accept life in a wheelchair. In 2004, he passed away in his home in Aiken, SC, where he lived with his wife Janet Harkins. At the time of his passing, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) referred to him as “one of the nation’s notable horsemen.”
Horsewoman Carol Kent, based in Camden, SC, has been a fixture in the Carolina Show Hunter industry since the ’50s. She rode gaited horses as a child but switched to hunters in her 20s. When she married and had children, there was no question that her daughters, Laura and Mary Elizabeth, would also ride. Her own riding took a backseat and her focus became teaching her girls and taking them to shows on their ponies.
Eventually Carol got involved in show office management. Her husband, Laurence, saw her laboring over all the entries by hand. He had computer skills and decided to write a computerized program to do horse show entries, the first of its kind in the U.S. The project burgeoned into a full-time business for both of them until Laurence’s death in 1989. At one point they were running the show offices at most of the North and South Carolina shows, as well as other major shows throughout the U.S., including the WIHS and Upperville. Carol managed the show offices for the NC State Fair H/J, Duke, Raleigh, NCHJA and SCHJA shows. The success of the Carolinas Hunter Circuit in the ‘70s and ‘80s was in large part due to Carol’s hard work, networking and enthusiasm for the sport.
Carol was also instrumental in getting Bob Bell into the horse show business, having brought him in to help when Laurence was ill, since Bob knew the DOS computer system. Carol and Bob got the ASPCA Regionals in Camden for a number of years, which they also managed together. According to Bob, “Carol was always helping someone in the industry. She had the knowledge and expertise and was always willing to share what she knew, a real horsewoman.” Bob went on to be one of the foremost horse show managers in the country, thanks to his introduction to that role by Carol.
Carol’s daughters have both gone on to become professional horsewomen. Laura (Kraut) is a member of the U.S. show jumping team, Olympic champion, and seasoned inter-national competitor. Mary Elizabeth works besides her sister managing Laura’s business and assisting with all aspects of barn management both at home and on the road. According to both Laura and Mary Elizabeth, “Our mother not only taught us to love and respect horses, but the involvement of our parents in the management side of the industry helped us with the business side of our careers. Our mother’s love of the sport inspired us to find a way to pursue a career doing what we love.”
Jeanne Smith on Abelour photo by Shawn McMillen
Jeanne Smith has played a leading role in the show hunter community since 1978, when she first moved to the Carolinas as a protégé of the legendary trainer Gordon Wright. As a trainer herself, Jeanne has long maintained and shared one of Wright’s primary philosophies: “If you don’t learn what to do, learn what not to do!”
For over four decades Jeanne has taught aspiring equestrians not just how to ride, but the true art of horsemanship. Professionals such as Daniel Geitner, Mike Rosser, Danny Robertshaw, Ron Danta, and Jack Towell all agree that Jeanne has had a tremendous impact on the sport. Danta notes, “Trainers like Jeanne Smith are a dying breed. They start with horsemanship before all else and this is the true foundation of a good rider.” One former pupil said, “She taught me everything I know about riding and how to care for horses. It’s a point of pride that I learned from Jeanne, ‘You always take care of your own horse because that is how you build the relationship.’”
One of Jeanne’s greatest contributions has been starting young horses. Robertshaw said she could break a 3-year-old better than anyone. Calling her a “trainer’s trainer” he said, “If a professional is having trouble with a horse, they always send it to Jeanne.” Geitner said, “I had some horses I thought would never come around, but I sent them to Jeanne and she taught them their lead changes and more.” Towell said, “She’s the best there is at lead changes. Many horses would not have been successful or marketable if it wasn’t for Jeanne.” Jeanne holds a USEF ‘R’ license and regularly judges top competitions across the country. Though always a contender at top A-circuit shows, her dedication to the grass roots of the sport is exemplified in the five or six schooling shows she hosts every year at her Clear View Farm in Landrum, SC. Smith has always understood the importance of a strong solid foundation in both horses and people. Towell said, “Jeanne was talented enough to succeed at any level of showing but deliberately and carefully limited the shows and distance she traveled to have time to raise her son.”
Judy Young on Close-Up
Judy Young was born in Pittsburgh, PA. As a young girl she rode saddle seat and won the Good Hands Saddle Seat Trophy at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. This broad background spanning different disciplines eventually contributed to Judy becoming a lifelong professional horsewoman. Classic photos of Judy in her 30s show her winning the Green Working Hunter Championship aboard Close-Up at the 1972 Oneida County Charity Horse Show in Clinton, NY, and the Amateur Owner Hunter Champion-ship on Balmoral at the 1975 Detroit Horse Show in Bloomfield Hills, MI.
Based in Upstate NY, Judy and husband Roger ran Roger Young Stables. In the early ‘80s, they moved the business from NY to Camden, SC. Their farm was located on the same road as the Towells’ Finally Farm and so they became close neighbors. Jack Towell said, “When Roger and Judy moved to Camden they raised the standard in the Carolinas. Judy was a complete horsewoman. She did it all and she did it well.” Roger was known to make the horses but Judy was especially gifted at making riders, many of whom went on to have careers as professionals, including Aaron Vale, Hunt Tosh, Liza Towell-Boyd, Holly Hayes-Orlando, Susie Schoellkopf, Jenny Jones, Keith Powell, and Karen Kelly. Judy’s son Gary was also a gifted rider. He won the AHSA Maclay finals in 1979 and later joined his parents in the business, making it a complete family affair.
Among the many show hunter champions trained and shown under the Youngs to
AHSA HOTY titles were Wildcat, Never Again, King’s Castle, Leonka, Empty Wallet, Toy Town, Peter Gunn, Numbers Game, Coming Attraction, and All Mine. In their day, Roger Young Stables sold a tremendous number of horses, but Judy did not stop there. She also ran A-rated horse shows in Asheville, NC, and Camden and Columbia, SC. Judy was also very involved in the AHSA and served on numerous committees. She had a solid reputation as a well respected “R” judge, and she traveled the country officiating at major shows until her death in 2016 at age 78.
Elma Garcia Award
This award is given to an exemplary Adult Amateur/Children’s Hunter.
Bling Bling with Sarah Ward photo by A. Wendt
Bling Bling was purchased in 2005 for Sarah Ward. He came from Peter Leone, whose daughter rode him in the equitation division. Despite his equitation background, it quickly became apparent he also made an excellent Children’s Hunter. Sarah had only been showing at small local shows, but in 2006 she moved “Bling” to Finally Farm in Camden, SC, and started training with Jack Towell. Soon the pair became consistent winners in the Children’s Hunter division despite the fact that they never competed in the under saddle. Bling won numerous championships and classics, often with scores in the 90s. In their first summer riding with the Towells, Bling was Grand Champion in the Children’s Hunter division at Blowing Rock and won the Classic. They also went on to be Champion at the CCHS in a very competitive division with over 30 horses, as well as 3rd at the NAL Children’s Hunter Finals held at the PNHS; 5th in the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Hunter Championship; and Zone 4 Reserve Champion of the Children’s Hunter 15-17 division.
Bling then competed in some equitation classes with Sarah, and even showed in the Children’s Jumpers before being leased to other customers of the Towells. He had great success with all his riders. Sarah considers herself fortunate to have been able to continue to show Bling in the Adult Amateur Hunters and Adult Equitation. During his career in the Children’s/Adult Amateur Hunter divisions, Bling was also Champion or Reserve Champion at shows such as Aiken Spring and Fall, Atlanta Spring and Summer, Camden Fall, Château Élan, SCHJA Benefit, Tryon Riding and Hunt Club and the PBI Inaugural in Wellington, with 40 horses in his division. Sarah said, “Whenever I had a bad day, even if Bling was leased to another student, Jack would put me on him to reset me.” Bling taught many riders the ropes. He was always (and still is) a barn favorite. The grooms often referred to him as “Numero Uno.”
In an unusual twist, Bling was the ring bearer at Sarah’s wedding. She reports “when he saw me walking down the aisle, he whinnied. It was adorable. He even made it into the New York Times!” Bling is retired at Sarah’s farm in Georgia.
Devise with Maddie Gardner & Jack Towell
Devise was imported by Mindy Darst in 2000 and in her early years was in training with Skip Thornbury, Hunt Tosh, and Robbie Hunt. Maddie Gardner, who at the time trained with Robbie, tried Devise in 2003. There was an instant connection so her parents bought the mare as a Christmas present. Only 13-years-old, Maddie had just one year showing a medium pony in the Short Stirrup division under her belt. Devise was her first horse. Maddie’s mom said “Devise took care of my daughter. She was the epitome of a children’s hunter: Honest, easy, beautiful jumper, gorgeous mover, and very sweet.” When they began training with Jack Towell, Jack told Maddie to let Devise make all the decisions because she was smart and knew what she was doing.
Devise and Maddie were Champion at their first show in April 2004. Over the next four years Maddie and Devise would win at shows in Wellington, Atlanta, Tryon, Aiken, Blowing Rock, Camden, Biltmore, Greensboro, Raleigh, Pinehurst, Roanoke, Charleston, Queen City (Charlotte), and Zone 3 Finals. The combined total of Champion and Reserve titles, Classic wins, and Circuit Championships between 2004-2008 was impressive including TR&HC Grand Champion, NCHJA Grand Combined Children’s/Adult Hunter Champion, WCHR SE Champion, Aiken Spring Classic Circuit Champion (3 times), Blowing Rock Charity Challenge of the Champions qualifier (3 times), NCHJA and SCHJA Year End Champion (4 times), NAL and WIHS Children’s Hunter qualifier (5 times), USEF HOTY Zone 3 Children’s Hunter Champion (4 times) and Reserve Champion (1 time).
Devise lived in Waxhaw, NC, the entire time the Gardners owned her until Maddie left for college. She was then leased and sold to the Mateo family for their daughter Meredith. Meredith showed Devise successfully for several years in the Pre-Children’s Hunter Division before she was retired at Reflections Farm in Charleston, SC. The Blowing Rock Pre-Children’s Hunter Championship trophy was donated and named in Devise’s honor.
Rip Van Winkle with Rachel Bergman
RIP VAN WINKLE
Rip Van Winkle was a chestnut Quarter Horse gelding that gained great success and notoriety in the Children’s Hunter division in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Tony Albertson first discovered Rip at Flintrock Farm in Reidsville, NC. He was originally bred to be a Western Pleasure horse, but luckily for Tony, he wouldn’t jog slow enough. Tony sold Rip to a customer of Jack Towell’s in the late ‘80s, but shortly after that, the Bergman family – one of his own customers – bought Rip back, so he returned to be under Tony’s tutelage once again.
From 1988 to 1991, Rip lived either with his owner Leah Bergman in Durham, NC, or with Tony at Stepping Stone Farm in Stoneville, NC. Leah rode Rip to numerous championships in the Children’s Hunter division. Then in 1991 he was leased to Katherine Miracle. From 1991 to 1993, Rip and Katherine, who also rode with Tony, were Champion or Reserve Champion at shows such as Raleigh Indoors, Raleigh Finale, The Barracks, Southern Seminary Classic, Asheville Spring, Lexington Spring Premier, Duke Children’s Benefit, Constitution Classic, and the Camden Spectacular. They also won top ribbons at Littlewood Farm and won the 1992 Zone 3 Finals Children’s Hunter Championship held in Culpeper, VA. In 1994 Rip was leased to Stacey Weiss, who successfully showed him in the Adult Amateur Hunter division where he won several championships. Before his retirement, his last times in the show ring were in the Short Stirrup division with the youngest daughter of the Bergmans riding. Tony remembers, “It was the cutest thing to watch, with the reins swinging under his neck!”
According to Tony, “Judges loved Rip because of his steady, relaxed way of going and
his classic jumping style. He was a master at lead changes and if his rider ever happened to pick up the wrong lead he would quickly perform a beautiful flying change to correct it. He was truly a classic Children’s Hunter and one of the best I ever had.”