Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023



Von Perrier, winner of the 1992 Rolex Kentucky CCI***, died in his sleep on March 19. He was 26.

The Thoroughbred—Welsh Cob cross got his start in Great Britain, where he placed second at the 1990 Windsor CCI** (Great Britain) with New Zealand rider Vaughn Jefferis. He was imported to Canada later
that year.   




Von Perrier, winner of the 1992 Rolex Kentucky CCI***, died in his sleep on March 19. He was 26.

The Thoroughbred—Welsh Cob cross got his start in Great Britain, where he placed second at the 1990 Windsor CCI** (Great Britain) with New Zealand rider Vaughn Jefferis. He was imported to Canada later
that year.   

Much to the consternation of his new owner, Canadian eventer Robert Schinke, “Grumble” had the unfortunate tendency to stop while on course, miles from the jumps. At the same time, fellow Cana-dian eventer Stuart Black was struggling with his own woes, as his horse, Fascination Street, tended to pull and run off with him. Black and Schinke started talking at a horse trial and decided to exchange horses right then and there.

Grumble and Black clicked immediately. They placed second at the Checkmate CCI*** (Ont.), qualifying them for a spot on the gold-medal team at the 1991 Pan Am Championships in Chatsworth, Georgia. The pair made history when they won the Rolex Kentucky, with Black becoming the first foreign rider to win the event. The pair also represented Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“Grumble was a funny horse,” recalled Black. “He could beat anyone out there when he wanted to, but was also terrified to trailer alone (and never did!)”

In 1994, Grumble transitioned from international competition to lower level eventing with Janet Mitchell, who owned him the rest of his life. As he grew older he became a schoolmaster to many before retiring to Winter Hill Farm in Farmville, Va., where he’s buried.     Staff


Kurth Sprague, historian for the National Horse Show, poet, novelist and popular professor of English and American literature died March 18 in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 73.

Mr. Sprague, Johnson City, Texas, was a graduate of Princeton University (N.J.). He went on to earn his doctorate in English from the University of Texas at Austin where he taught from 1977 until his retirement
in 1996.

Mr. Sprague and his wife Bushie owned and operated Blackacre Stable in West Lake Hills, Texas, from the mid-1970s until 1993. After his retirement from competition in the jumper divisions, Mr. Sprague rode for pleasure around the hunt course, taking an active interest in the riding careers of his children and of the other students at the farm. His experiences at Blackacre inspired the backdrop for his 2003 murder-mystery Frighten The Horses.

Mr. Sprague’s exhaustive knowledge of horse sports is illustrated in his definitive volume The National Horse Show: A Centennial History 1883-1983 (1985). He served as the show’s historian until his death.


Mr. Sprague earned a reputation as a jovial and roguish professor at the University of Texas, renowned for injecting vitality into English poetry. Years after taking his courses, his students recall dressing in period
costumes for class and engaging in spirited discussions about Shakespeare that continued long after class.

He published three volumes of poetry, including The Promise Kept, which won the Texas Institute of Letters poetry award in 1976.

During the past 10 years, Mr. Sprague lived in the Texas Hill Country in a home that reflected his epicurean hospitality and his love of books, horses, art, food, drink and good friends.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth McNamara Sprague. His survivors include: sons Mark D. Chambers, Trophy Club, Texas, Quin John Sprague, London, and David Chase Cameron Sprague, Temple, Texas; daughter Charlotte Clare Ratliff Sprague, Atlanta, Ga.; and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to: The National Horse Protection Coalition, P.O. Box 1252, Alexandria, VA 22313.    Staff


The horse world lost one of its few remaining old-school horsemen when M. Edgar “Eggie” Mills Jr. died on March 20 at his home in Marathon, Fla., after a long battle with cancer. He was 76.

Mr. Mills was known for giving many horsemen a “leg up” in the show ring and on the racetrack. He volunteered countless hours to Pony Club and was the last unpaid manager of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (Va.). In Pennsylvania and Virginia, his Friendly Schooling Shows were legend.

During the first half of his career in the 1950s and ‘60s, from his base in Chester Springs, Pa., Mr. Mills trained and showed a successful string of show hunters. His final and perhaps most distinguished show ride was Beverly Steinman’s American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year Not Always, which dominated 1963 with such accomplishments as winning every second year green and open working hunter class at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.).

When he and his wife Sally moved to Virginia in the 1960s, Mr. Mills turned Not Always’ reins over to Rodney Jenkins and began another successful career as a race horse trainer. A partner in the Middle-
burg Training Center with such friends as the late Paul Fout and Lewis Wiley, Mr. Mills specialized in starting young horses and reconditioning older runners, including his stakes winner Palace Ruler, which he stood at stud.

In 2005, Mr. Mills was recognized for his contributions when he was elected to the Upperville Horse Show Wall of Honor.


Mr. Mills is survived by: daughter Skylar Walker, Tryon, N.C.; son Matthew Mills, Delray Beach, Fla.; and stepdaughter Eva Randolph Talbot, Sarasota, Fla. He is also survived by his sister, Peggy Winans, Elverson, Pa.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, 1250 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401.    Staff


Mary Davis Gardner died on March 21 at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md., due to complications from pneumonia. She was 91.

Mrs. Gardner was a fixture on the Maryland horse show scene as a parent, trainer, show secretary and friend. Her family’s Oak Knoll Farm was home to many local and national champions from the 1950s until the 1970s. All of her children went on to have professional equestrian careers.

From the day her husband Rufus Gardner brought home the family’s first horse, Mrs. Gardner and her children were hooked. Before long, the family was competing throughout Maryland and the East Coast.

Mrs. Gardner quickly became an enthusiastic “horse show mom,” helping in the barn, braiding her children’s horses and cheering them on.

Mrs. Gardner and her husband were active in the early days of the American Horse Shows Association and the Maryland Horse Shows Association. Mrs. Gardner frequently worked as a show secretary in Wellington, Fla., and in Maryland, and she worked for the Washington International Horse Show at the D.C. Armory and the Capital Centre.

To honor her many contributions, Mrs. Gardner was inducted into the MHSA Hall of Fame and the Combined Eastern Shore Horse Shows Hall of Fame.

Mrs. Gardner is survived by three children: Bobbie Gibbon, Mt. Airy, Md., Billie Ann Smith, Poolesville, Md., Wilson T. “Butch” Gardner, Easton, Md., and three grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband and her children Gary Gardner, Wayne Gardner and Randy Gardner.

Memorial contributions may be made to any animal welfare organization.    Staff




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