Voices were a little shaky and eyes perhaps not dry as the brothers Douglas and Kenny Wheeler, Jr., gathered outside the Alltech Arena ring. They’d just stood for photos with their horse, Queen Lattifa, as she and rider Hunt Tosh collected the grand hunter championship at the Alltech National Horse Show.
As they spoke, the realization set in that they’d just added their names to the Isgilde Trophy, a trophy donated to the National by their parents in the name of their great hunter mare Isgilde. The National Horse Show itself is part of the legacy of their mother, Sallie, who worked tirelessly to lead the show as its chairman in the ‘90s and passed away in 2001.
“It is special. For me, it really hasn’t sunk in yet. This horse show is super special for us because of our family involvement. To do this together, the next generation, with Hunt and Kenny is very special,” said Douglas. “To have a grand hunter champion with that trophy and to do it as a family—it means a lot.”
The Wheeler boys grew up with the great Isgilde in their back yard at the Wheelers’ Cismont Manor in Keswick, Va. They have fond memories of the mare, who lived into her 30s and is buried on the farm. Isgilde had a remarkable show career with both Kenny Sr. and Sallie Wheeler–she was the hunter of the 60s and 70s.
“She was the backbone for my parents’ operation when they first started. The connection my mom and dad had with her I can’t even begin to describe,” Douglas said. “I can’t even tell you how incredible that horse was and what she meant to our entire family. She was a big winner, but also she was like the family pet.”
Hanging on the wall at Cismont Manor is a treasured family photo of Kenny Sr., riding Isgilde with Kenny Jr., in the saddle in front of him. “I saw her show and there are pictures of me riding her when I was a kid, but I don’t remember it,” Kenny Jr., said.
Kenny Sr., a hunter legend in his own right, called his sons repeatedly throughout the day to check on Queen Lattifa’s results. “How’s that mare doing,” Kenny Jr., said his father would query in his slow, Southern drawl. “He has so much respect for Hunt and everything they’ve done together,” Kenny Jr., said. “It’s just a wonderful full circle kind of thing.”
Tosh rode Queen Lattifa to three blue ribbons over fences and a red one in the under saddle to claim not only the second year green hunter tricolor, but also the grand hunter honors. “I’m spoiled rotten right now, having the two of them supporting me with these horses,” Tosh said. “To do that and be part of something that’s such a part of their family, it’s something very special. She was great all through indoors, but to come here and be grand and finish like that, it’s just fabulous.”
Tosh, of Cumming, Ga., paired up with Queen Lattifa in June. Kenny Jr., who is primarily a Saddlebred trainer and rider, spotted her showing at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.) under Jamie Taylor and bought her in partnership with his brother. Queen Lattifa, a Westphalian mare of unrecorded breeding, got her start in California with Sharon Blake in 2010. She showed in the first year division with Blake last year with occasional forays into the adult amateur and junior rings. In October, Jamie Taylor took over the rider, and she showed the mare at the HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.) in the second years before bringing her to Devon.
“Hunt’s done an amazing job just as he always does,” said Douglas. “She just exceeded every expectation we could have had for her. She was fantastic all through indoors. She jumps every big jump you put in front of her. She’s done more than we could have asked.”
• Quotable just barely missed out on his fourth consecutive indoor grand hunter championship. He and Kelley Farmer claimed the green conformation and regular conformation tricolors, but were a few points shy of grand honors.
• Peter Lombardo rode Janie Andrew’s Ante Up to the high performance hunter championship. Lombardo also rode Typecast to the 3’3” performance hunter championship honors.
• Melissa Feller and Serafino topped the first year green hunter division.
• Kelley Farmer earned the Leading Hunter Rider title.
• John French guided Small Affair to the top of the 3’6” performance hunter division.