Thank you to everyone who told me how much you enjoyed my previous blog entries about Finding Sawyer (Part I and Part II)! It was really fun to hear from so many horse people who had similar experiences in finding their perfect horse. Since Sawyer has developed quite a fan club (not surprisingly, given the cuteness factor of his ears…) I thought I’d post an update about our progress.
I’m excited to report that I brought Sawyer to his very first horse show, and it couldn’t have gone better! We attended the Lippitt Country Show, which is hosted by The Lippitt Club at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds in beautiful Tunbridge, Vermont. This was the 39th year of this annual event, which celebrates the Lippitt Morgan horse. Lippitt Morgans are a segment of the breed with the most bloodlines tracing back to Justin Morgan, the foundation sire. Lippitts retain the most original breed characteristics of the Morgan Horse because they have no outcrosses to other breeds in the 20th or 21st centuries, and there are only about 2,000 left in the world. This show is dedicated only to Lippitt Morgans, which makes it pretty special.
Although I’ve been competing with horses on and off throughout my life, this was my first time attending a show hosted by such a close-knit community of horse people with a common mission: to promote and preserve these remarkable and endangered horses. I was blown away by how warm and welcoming everyone was to both Sawyer and I. This event felt more like a gathering of old friends than a competition, and I couldn’t have asked for a better environment for our first show. We competed in several in-hand breed classes, as well as the Adult Walk-Trot division (which I was thrilled they offered since Sawyer had only had about 25 rides at the time of the show!)
We arrived at the gorgeous Tunbridge Fairgrounds on Thursday afternoon, with plenty of time to settle in before our first classes on Saturday morning. Sawyer got to travel with his best Morgan buddy, Newt, and they both loaded and made the four hour trip as if they’d done it a million times. During the four days we spent at the fairgrounds Sawyer saw TONS of new stuff and took everything in stride. We encountered RV campers, horses pulling carts and working on a race track, we had to walk between livestock barns and scary grandstands, we showed in-hand with five stallions in the ring, and we waded in the White River each evening to cool off. Every time someone commented on what a happy, cooperative youngster Sawyer was, I beamed on the inside. I honestly couldn’t have been more proud of him, and this experience was wonderful validation that the previous four months of ground work and putting our relationship first had been the right approach; we have established a true partnership based on trust, and that is what set us up for success. Well, that and the fact that he’s got a few extra “awesome-and-extra-lovable” genes mixed in with Justin Morgan’s DNA…
Although I wasn’t worried about ribbons, I was definitely thrilled that Sawyer was recognized as Grand Champion Gelding in hand, and we ended up with the Adult Walk Trot High Point award. Even though our division was small, he was SO willing (despite being understandably worried at the “scary end” of the arena) that he really earned those ribbons, so that’s what they mean to me. One special highlight was winning our Pleasure class against five older horses… Because I’m not sure there was a horse on the show grounds that was more of a pleasure to ride than mine.
Another really cool memory from this show was that legendary horseman Denny Emerson, whose own farm is not far from Tunbridge, spoke to a gathering of Lippitt Morgan owners on Saturday evening. Denny, a native Vermonter like me, is one of the most influential horsemen of our time, primarily in the sport of eventing, but also in endurance riding. Many people don’t know that Denny grew up riding “old type” Morgan horses, and is still an avid supporter of these bloodlines today. I was excited and inspired to hear his old stories of working with these horses at the Green Mountain Stock Farm. He reminded us that our Lippitts are true “using horses”, and that we need to get out there and “do stuff” with them, in order to keep these original bloodlines going. That’s exactly why I sought a Lippitt Morgan to begin with… I wanted a versatile, sensible, athletic horse that is up for anything. Happily, that’s exactly what I got, and I can’t wait for my next adventure for Sawyer! On the docket next: a hunter pace in September and a dressage show in October.
The weekend ended with a very fitting visit to the grave site of Justin Morgan. After taking this picture I took a moment pause and thank Figure, as he was originally know, and for passing down his “awesome –and-extra-lovable” genes to Morgans like Sawyer.