Billie Steffee compares watching the offspring of her stallion, All The Gold, perform to “watching your grandchildren. And they come in all shapes, sizes and colors,” she said.
Steffee’s prodigies outdid themselves at the International Hunter Futurity Finals, in Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 22-23. Two full siblings, Gold Digger and Gold’s Gone Fishin’ (All The Gold–Silver Surf, The Silver Prince) claimed the 3-year-old grand championship and the 4-year-old reserve grand championship, respectively.
“We felt a little greedy when we backed the car up to the ring to pick up all the prizes,” Steffee said wryly. Her Craighead Farm owns both youngsters, and her daughter-in-law, Laura, rode Gold’s Gone Fishin’, while Olin Armstrong rode Gold Digger.
“We’re very proud. It goes without saying that when you take a baby to the International Hunter Futurity, you don’t have expectations. You don’t know what they might do, so winning is even better,” said Steffee.
“It’s fun to have brother and sister trained in two different parts of the country by two different people and have them both do so well. Neither of these has campaigned or drilled. They’ve been started just the way I would hope everyone would start a baby, which is to take them to a few shows and expose them and go slow.”
Steffee raised and broke both horses on her farm in Novelty, Ohio, but she sent Gold Digger, or “Phoebe,” to Cismont Manor Farm in Virginia this spring as a green-broke 3-year-old. There was a buyer there interested in her, but the deal didn’t happen, and Steffee kept Phoebe in training with Armstrong. The move paid off with the IHF grand championship.
“This is the first time I’ve had one of mine go [to the IHF Finals] as a 3-year-old,” Steffee said. “We just had such a good feeling from working with her, from the time she was a little pipsqueak on the ground. It was so easy to break her, and she was so balanced. Three is an early age to go away from home, but we thought she could handle it.”
Phoebe won the conformation and working over fences classes on her way to the tricolor.
Phoebe’s older brother, Gold’s Gone Fishin’, has taken a bit longer to mature into his winning ways. He currently stands 17 hands, and “every time you look at him, another part of him is growing,” said Steffee.
“Hap” was broken at Craighead Farm last year, then traveled to Wellington, Fla., with Laura and David Steffee for more training, though he didn’t make his show ring debut until July of this year. He stays with Laura and David at their farms in Wellington and Lexington, Ky.
Close To The Heart
The two IHF stars were sentimental favorites for Steffee. She bought All The Gold in 1988, and the chestnut Hanoverian (Gepard–Gotthard, Goldfisch) showed successfully in the regular working divisions. Steffee’s daughter, Sarah, also showed him to many amateur-owner, 18-30, champion-
ships. They retired him in 1993 because of the increasing demands of his breeding schedule.
Phoebe and Hap’s dam, Silver Surf, is by the sport horse stallion Silver Prince, who stood at Jessamy Rouson’s farm in Keswick, Va. Sarah had the mare in training in California, and she was showing real promise for the hunter ring. But after Sarah’s death in August of 1997, Billie shipped Silver Surf back to Craighead Farm.
Silver Surf served as a turn-out companion and babysitter for a few years, but in 1999 Steffee bred her to All The Gold. Hap was the result of that cross, and Phoebe came a year later. Steffee has a 2-year-old and weanling full siblings as well.
“Sentimental attachment plays a big part in having this mare,” she said. “She was the last one that Sarah was working with. But she’s also a big mare and a lovely mover.”
Steffe has thoroughly enjoyed her years of standing All The Gold. “He’s just the greatest guy ever to eat grass. He’s going to be 23 next year, and he’s still in wonderful health,” she said.
Billie shares caretaking duties at Craighead with managers Carol Lewis and Megan Taft.
“He has trained his women well. We cater to all his whims and needs. He’s been an absolute delight to own, and one of those horses that you never in your wildest dreams could duplicate. It’s so nice to see his offspring doing well, and doing well all over the country and in whatever environment the owner puts them in. They’re everywhere, doing all kinds of different things.”
Watching her horses win wasn’t the only thrill Billie got while attending the IHF Finals. “For me, the fun of it is seeing all the other All The Gold babies who have come from all over the country and to meet, for the first time in a lot of cases, my breeding customers. We talk on the phone all the time, and we recognize each other by your voices. You could be sitting next to someone all morning and then suddenly realize that you’re clapping for the same horse, and that you know each other,” she said.
Melissa Achenbach’s Victoria (All The Gold–Keep It Simple, Interchange) won the Challenge Series 2-year-old fillies class on the line. And Lita Wangensteen’s Money Talks (All The Gold–Grand Words, Grand Prospect) won the Challenge Series 3-year-old fillies class and won the IHF Mid-West Regionals 3-year-old grand performance championship. Winter Gold (All The Gold–Winter Rode, Schoenfelder), the winner of the IHF West Regionals 4-year-old grand championship, took second and fifth over fences at the finals.
“It’s very exciting because the worth of a stallion is determined by the success of his get, and I as a stallion owner have to be extremely grateful and very appreciative of my breeders and owners because of the way that they’ve chosen to start them and campaign them and the kind of training that they put in. That’s what gives you the success,” Billie said.
Sands Of Time Repeats
Last year, Sands Of Time made history by becoming the first offspring of a former IHF Finals winner to claim the title when she took the 3-year-old grand championship. And she repeated the feat this year, earning the 4-year-old grand championships by placing first and third over fences.
“It was even exciting this year. We were elated,” said Kim Queener, daughter of “Sandy’s” owner, Jane Queener. Sandy (Jones Hall–Take The Heat, Fire Break) was bred and raised at Far Cry Stables in Texas, and the Queeners bought her as a yearling. They sent her to Kenny Wheeler’s Cismont Manor Farm for training, and Olin Armstrong rode her to both titles. Armstrong had also ridden Jones Hall when he took the IHF reserve grand 3-year-old championship in 1995.
“We just took it easy with her. She was good last year, so she didn’t need to practice much. She just walked in there and went around. She’s gotten much stronger and jumps the bigger jumps well,” said Armstrong. “She always was straightforward and tries to do whatever you want her to do. It’s all been easy for her. She learned to switch leads and go to the jumps without any problem. I think the best thing about her is that she tries to please.”
Armstrong also credited Wendy Kirschnick, who rides for Cismont Manor, with schooling Sandy. The pretty bay mare would work five times a week, jumping once, in preparation for the competition.
“The finals were her fourth show this year. Mom and I believe that a horse only has so many jumps in them, so you need to use them judiciously. All told, she’s only been to eight horse shows in her life,” said Queener. “She just seems as unflappable as ever. Her desire to go in and jump the jumps is phenomenal. I can’t imagine any horse being bigger in heart.”
For Queener, traveling from home in Montgomery, Texas, to Kentucky to watch Sandy show was a definitely worthwhile. “It was nice to be there to thank all the people who make it possible, the people who stay up all night and braid, and the grooms,” she said. “And I’d love to thank everybody who works to make this opportunity to showcase young horses. They made it a wonderful, gracious atmosphere, with prize money unequaled in the hunters.”
Queener isn’t sure what the future might hold for Sandy. “We’ve had a few people knocking on our door, but it’s my parents’ decision to make. It will have to be a very specific and exceptional home for her, though. They’re very particular,” she said.