Devon, Pa.—May 28
The crowd looked different at the Merion Cricket Club than the one dotting the Devon Horse Show just a few hours before—but make no mistake they’re still horse people. No riding clothes were in sight other than Jimmy Torano’s “formal attire” white breeches worn in that night’s Jet Run Devon Welcome Stake, as the best trainers and riders of today and decades prior met to honor this year’s installment of the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.
“Tonight is all about tradition,” said Walter “Jimmy” Lee. “We take time each year to remember and honor the past and honor the present and to look forward to the future. We thank those that went before us, those that rode the best horses of their day, and they rode them the best. And to those of you in this room who continue to ride down that trail decades later, you all are making memories every day, and your accomplishments add to the history and the tradition of the sport that we cherish so much.”
For trainer’s choice awards, trainers of champions at the top 10 horse shows of the year determine the winners. Brad Wolf’s Private Practice earned Horse Of The Year distinctions along with the 3’9″ green working hunter award, with the gelding’s pilot Tori Colvin earning the Rider Of The Year award. In 2018, the pair captured tricolors in the 3’9” green hunters at Devon and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in addition to topping the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Kentucky), a victory that made Colvin the first rider to win on two different mounts.
“I’m lucky enough to be the trainer of Private Practice, which I have to tell you is actually a really easy job. He makes my life look like a walk in the park,” said Tom Wright. “[Owner Brad Wolf] truly loves this sport, and for him to have this horse at this time in his career is so special to all of us.”
To a standing ovation, three generations of the Wheeler family accepted the Owner Of The Year award for horses like Flamingo-K, Bastogne and Lights Out. The trainers also named Devon as the Horse Show Of The Year and Deeridge Derby (Florida) as the Hunter Derby Of The Year. Cheryl Olsten’s Lafitte De Muze was voted 3’6″ green working hunter of the year with Now We’re Talkin’ earning the green conformation hunter award. Laura Wasserman’s Boss took the junior hunter award for the second consecutive time and his fourth time earning a National Show Hunter Hall of Fame award.
“He goes in the ring and tries 100 percent regardless of his record. If it’s cold, it’s hot—he gives 100 percent,” said trainer Archie Cox. “He has every quality of a show horse. He’s beautiful; he’s athletic, and he has the desire to win.”
Betsee Parker’s Private Life earned the high performance conformation hunter award, with his barnmate Catch Me taking the amateur-owner hunter and high performance hunter award.
“I feel very humbled tonight to be in this room with all these great horsewomen and men,” said owner Becky Gochman. “It’s just amazing to see the photographs and the elegance of yesteryear, and I’m so glad to be a part of it now.”
Classic Importer, Watership Down, Carleton Brooks, Bill Ellis, Marguerite Taylor and Meredith McLaughlin added their names to the hall of fame which includes legends like Rodney Jenkins, Patty Heuckeroth, Champ Hough, Rox Dene and Protocol. Here are the highlights of the night:
Danielle Torano on Classic Importer: “He really was a partner of a lifetime. I got him before I had kids, so he was like my child, my best friend. He was special. I’m thankful to have a horse that special—we just trusted each other. I’ll never forget sometimes it came down to that last class. And I knew, I knew he’d be there for me, and he always was.”
Carleton Brooks: “The most important thing I can do is encourage all of you to teach horsemanship to riders. Challenge our younger, up-and-coming professionals to raise the standards. Encourage them to learn things from the horse’s point of view. Be sensitive to the horse. Put the horses first always. Teach these young professionals to treat their clients, employees and fellow exhibitors with the utmost of respect. One comment, one piece of encouragement can make a difference. It could be the deciding factor for whether those who make up the next generation good people and good horsemen.”
Marianne Taylor on Marguerite Taylor: “My mother has dementia now, and she lives in a nursing home. And doesn’t remember much past the present second that you are talking to her. Doesn’t remember any of her ponies, but Nardeen Henderson goes in once a week to show her pictures on Facebook. My mother loves seeing her pictures and says, ‘I wish I could do it all over again.’ So I know when I take this plaque to her, it’s going to mean a tremendous amount to her, and it means a great deal to my family.”
Meredith McLaughlin: “Thank you again and if possible, would you vote for me again next year?”