No one bid on the chestnut yearling when he went through the sales ring in Timonium, Md., last winter, so the colt went back to the barn unsold.
But something about the leggy Thoroughbred caught Kenny Wheeler’s eye. “He looked nice, and most important he had four good-looking legs, which can be hard to find,” recalled the veteran handler.
Even after the yearling left the ring Wheeler couldn’t get him off his mind, so Wheeler found the colt’s owner and bought him. His late decision paid off, as the yearling was awarded Best Young Horse at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show in Upperville, Va., on June 10.
The unnamed colt (Mojave Moon—Check Out The Flag) took reserve Best Yearling honors two weeks earlier at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.). “He showed a little better here at Upperville than he did at Devon,” said Wheeler, of Cismont Manor Farm in Keswick, Va. “He stood pretty good. He was pretty calm, but he does like to nip a little bit!”
Cismont Manor’s other entry, Capitol Hill (Nob Hill—Pardon Me Mister) topped the 2-year-old colts and geldings, other than Thoroughbred class and took reserve honors in the other than Thoroughbred breeding championship.
Capitol Hill was crowned Best Young Horse at Devon. “Capitol Hill is a beautiful colt and a really nice mover,” said Wheeler of the flashy bay colt. “He’s such a good mover I may be tempted to put him a chute and see if he can jump.”
These days Wheeler isn’t too concerned with amassing points for year-end awards. “I used to show more, but I don’t think it’s good for them hauling them all over every weekend,” he explained. Wheeler plans on showing the two colts at Keswick Hunt Club in Keswick, Va., June 13-17.
“I don’t have a preference for Thoroughbreds or non-Thoroughbreds one way or the other, as long as they’re good looking. I’m a sucker for a good-looking horse,” he added with a smile.
While Wheeler has been winning on the line for decades, Dr. Barbara Sheffield is new to the game. So when her Cameo Appearance (Paparazzo—Squeaky Spring) took home the top honors in the other than Thoroughbred championship and finished as the reserve Best Young Horse at the show, she was ecstatic.
The Sheffield family took up breeding on a bit of a whim. Dr. Sheffield, a small animal veterinarian at the Middleburg Animal Hospital (Va.), had grown up pleasure riding but had never delved into serious competition with any of her horses. When her daughter, Bethany, began riding and showing hunters six years ago, Dr. Sheffield first expressed an interest in hunter breeding to a few of her friends.
“One day a friend called us and said ‘You just have got to come look at this mare. She’s so cute and she’s for sale,’ ” recalled Sheffield. “We just fell in love with her.”
They left the Thoroughbred mare, Squeaky Spring (Hasty Spring—Blue Motel), open for a year while they searched for a suitable sire.
“I knew I wanted something that would be International Hunter Futurity-nominated,” said Sheffield. “So we just started looking online and getting DVDs, asking anyone who knew anything to look and give an opinion. Paparazzo was perfect, and everyone loved him. So one day when my husband was in the area, I asked him to stop by and visit the farm to see what he was like.”
After a nod of approval from her husband, David Sheffield, Paparazzo (Pablo—Dejavu) was enlisted to sire the Sheffield’s first foal, a pretty chestnut filly they named Premadonna. The Sheffields were so pleased with the foal that they recruited Paparazzo again the next year, this time yielding the lovely bay colt Cameo Appearance.
Both horses have been consistent winners for Sheffield. Premadonna finished second this year at Upperville in the 2-year-old filles, other than Thoroughbreds class, and won the same class two weeks earlier at the Devon Horse Show. Sheffield plans to let Premadonna take over broodmare duties for Squeaky Spring, who they call Annie.
“When we started this I knew nothing of the handlers,” recalled Sheffield. “I just got online and found out who was winning.”
That was how the Sheffields met top handler Oliver Brown, who has been handling the Sheffield’s horses since they started showing. They talked to Brown on the phone and arranged to meet him at the show grounds the morning of their first competition.
“When we arrived we didn’t know what Oliver looked like,” confessed Sheffield. “We just started asking people who he was and everyone said: ‘Just look for the man with all the blue ribbons!’ ”
Sure enough, the Sheffield’s young horses blossomed under Brown’s skillful guidance. This year, Brown’s success in the ring with Cameo Appearance and Premadonna helped earn him the Upperville’s Best Handler award.
The Sheffields have been learning about the performance aspect of the hunter world as well. David and Barbara Sheffield joined their daughter Bethany during her first winter at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit (Fla.), where she showed her gelding Call Me in the modified adult hunters.
“Bethany has been my right hand throughout this journey,” said Dr. Sheffield. “This has been a wonderful mother-daughter project; we’ve just had so much fun doing it together. And we all just love the babies so much.”
After Cameo Appearance won the other than Thoroughbred breeding championship over Cismont Farm’s Capitol Hill, David Sheffield couldn’t contain his elation. “It isn’t very often you get in front of Mr. Wheeler,” he said. “This is one great colt.”