by Morgan Moore
Photos by Suzanne Sturgill and Cookie Serletic

2016 U.S. Sport Horse Nationals

I returned from the huddle around the scoreboard to the liver chestnut stallion that was standing in the sea of people and horses in the warm-up arena under the overcast skies of Nampa, Idaho. The suspense hung on the shoulders of owners, trainers, and handlers alike in the pen. This is how it always is during the in-hand goes. A seemingly simple five-minute presentation spirals into hours waiting for each horse to go, the scores to post, and the results to be announced. Some handlers rush off to other arenas, some horses trot back and forth between divisions, but many stand in the warm-up waiting for the news. While Sport Horse Nationals is certainly known for the performance divisions, the in-hand classes draw large (sometimes more than 30) groups of competitive equines.

“He’s in and he’s currently leading,” I said to the women, trainer Wendye Gardiner and owner/breeder Tracy Vann, standing next to the perfectly groomed and conditioned stallion.

Tracy turned and looked at me wide-eyed, “Are you sure?” she whispered.

“I’m sure, he’s definitely Top Ten. Too many scores are posted for him not to earn his ribbon, but there’s a lot of goes left until we know exactly where he falls.”

Tears welled up in her big, brown eyes and she began to sob out of disbelief, excitement, and hope. She was rigid, in shock, but stroked Vanguard Mordechai’s (Cavu Malachi x Promise Lawshaysa by Lawmoss) face again and again.

Read the complete story from our January 2017 issue.


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