What's the Most Memorable Performance Witnessed in Show Pen?
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Dasi said she had goosebumps and tears in her eyes while watching Jason Martin's final ride on Harley D Zip bridlelesss. Photo ©

Many of us have watched countless classes at the horse show but some classes have left a bigger impression on us than others. However, for many, there is one performance that had such a profound effect on them that they can remember every detail from each step the horse took to how each judge placed them. assembled some of the most accomplished trainers and exhibitors in the industry and asked them, “What’s the most dominant or memorable performance you have ever witnessed in the show pen?”

The answers came from both past APHA and AQHA events and covered most disciplines from the reining, working cow horse, western riding to the halter, longe line, and hunter under saddle. Let's take a look back at some of our industry leaders' favorite performances.

If you have any standout runs or goes you would like to share with our readers--please post them in the comment section of this article!

Shelley Donovan--Being a little prejudiced Kim and I would have to say Ernie (Too Sleepy To Zip) and Doug Pratt winning the Congress Two Year-Old Limited Western Pleasure. By the time they had reversed, we were both balling like babies. He had that special look. We still cry when we watch the video. He was a big boy. You could see his entire saddle over the white wall, but he had such a slow soft cadence--he sure didn't look like a big horse moving!

Tina Price--My most memorable class to watch, as an exhibitor, was the very first longe line class at the APHA World show. They had just approved the class that year and it was a futurity class at the show. It was a good class with a lot of really nice horses, but two stood out. One was RC Big Ben, by Red Charisma who was owned by Deb Jarvis, and the other was Zippos Sensation, owned and shown by Andrea Simons. Both horses had outstanding runs, and the quality of each horse was evident to all. Big Ben was a hunt seat horse and was as elegant as they came. Zippos Sensation was the picture perfect pleasure prospect. The only kink in the whole thing was the rules were written so that a hunt seat horse had to be shown by an exhibitor attired in hunt seat clothing. He was not. So, we'll never know how those two would have ended up. As it was, Zippo Sensation was the class winner, going on to become the outstanding sire he is today, and RC Big Ben went on to be one of the winningest hunt seat horses of the breed, dominating those classes for several years. I'll never forget seeing them together in that class.

Catherine Jennings--I would have to say my moment was in 2003, at the AQHA World Show. The Last Captive had won the Junior Hunter Under Saddle at the Congress the year before, but we really wanted that World Show win. We hadn't shown him all year, so he would be fresh and ready. In the finals, I was a nervous as a cat, but, June Warren rode him flawlessly, and they won. I had won the World a couple of years before, with a different horse, but this was even more special. When their names were called out as World Champions, the feeling was indescribable!

Leonard Berryhill-- In the late 90s, I am judging in Bakersfield California. Mike McMillan and I are doing a special, all breed, evening working cow horse class. I was a pretty green judge but even in the 12 or so years since then, I've not seen anything to quite match the performance I saw that night. We are moving along pretty well when about midway through the draw Todd Crawford completes his dry run on Hesa Dark Star. Really nice go but nothing earth shattering. Then the fun starts. Todd calls for his cow and after quite a ruckus and a bit of delay behind the gate, out jumps this white steer that looks like he might be part brahma and part albino fighting bull, and he is mad at the world. You just knew, this cow was gonna be tough. In fact, I already had my whistle in my mouth anticipating having to give Todd a new cow. Todd and his horse just begin to trot right toward that cow standing in the middle of the pen. This is going to be good, I'm thinking. As they meet at about a quarter of the way down the pen they stop; cow sticks its nose out to smell the horse; horse sticks its nose out to smell the cow. Then, as if someone shot off a roman candle, that steer blew snot on them and erupted--and Todd's horse horse reacted as if he knew every move that thing was going to make. As they positioned themselves to make the first turn and the horse dropped in front of it, that steer had another snot attack and it jumped in the saddle with Todd! I must admit that I am not quite sure how, but somehow that little horse was able to shake that cow off and remain in control and in good working position and they went on to complete the most spectacular cow work I have seen to date. I marked them a 77 and still feel like I may owe them points. That was fun!

Charlene Carter--Luckily, I have had the great fortune to have numerous experiences involving the show pen, from the inside judging and showing, to the outside coaching and cheering. However, I would have to say that watching my husband, Mike, win the Three Year-Old Western Pleasure Class at the Congress was one of the most memorable. We had turned down a huge amount of money for Really In Trouble several weeks before the Congress and then the farrier accidentally cut her too deep and we had to load her on the trailer with three hoofs working. Mike had to miss the entire first go just to get her sound. Thanks to Danny Terry and his special corrective shoe, we made it to the second go, then on to the finals and then on to win the whole thing. The rest was history, as she was sold then and there. I thought that I had really messed up, but it wound up to be a very unforgettable show pen experience!

Tina Anderson--I appreciate all great horses but one of my earlier memories was watching Guns Flash Bull in the late 80's and early 90's. He was so strong and stunning every time he entered the pen. I just loved that horse. Probably my most favorite live performance to judge was the 2008 AQHA Youth World Horsemanship finals. Elizabeth Borders and Courtney Chown duked it out for the top two spots. There were two great runs from two great riders. Also, a few years ago, sitting in the Will Rogers Coliseum for Champions Cup for 50th Anniversary NCHA Futurity was a thrill like no other-so many legends and such great horses. The whole Coliseum was on their feet when legendary Buster Welch rode into the herd at age 83!

Garth Gooding--For me it would have to be watching Ms Eighty Proof and Bob Roane winning the western riding at the 1986 Quarter Horse World. She was so far ahead of her time. Back when she showed most of the western riders were shown on a tighter rein and were handled a lot. She showed on a big drape and looked like a pleasure horse doing it.

Troy Compton
--Todd Bergen on Todaysmyluckyday at the 1995 NRHA Futurity. I had never seen anybody ask that much of a horse and the horse respond so willingly. Todd was a young trainer who had no fear. I knew I wanted my pleasure horses to perform with that much concentration from there on. It really made me want to step my game up so I started riding with Todd and Bob Avila and it totally changed my way of training, thinking and showing.

Jenna Dempze--The most dominant performance: in 2008 when Sure Am Hot won the Equine Sports Medicine Two Year-Old Western Pleasure slot at the Reichert under all six judges. Most memorable is when Kenny Lakins showed Krymsun N Gold in the Open Two's at the Tom Powers and the crowd went wild when he didn't win. They were yelling, cheering, and honking their horns, he loped a victory lap- it was really cool to see everyone cheering!

Kelley and Gary Roberts--I think for me it was Stacy Westfall when she did that freestyle reining with no bridle or saddle. It was incredible. For Gary, he said when Al Dunning would show the great horse, Expensive Hobby.

Jason Wanderer--At the 2010 AQHA World Show, when Jason Martin set the all-time Western Riding high score of 239 aboard Vital Signs Are Good. It was like watching poetry in motion with each step and each change precise and perfect.

Don Bell--For me, it was when Buster Welch rode in the Will Rogers Coliseum for the last time on Bet Hesa Cat two years ago. It was electric!

JR Reichert--The time Diversified was shown by Ted Turner and Noble Tradition was shown by Jim Fuller in the Open Aged Stallions at the AQHA World Show--unbelievable excitement in the stands and arena. Also, when RL Best of Sudden and Bret Parrish won $100,000 in St Louis at the first Reichert Celebration Two Year-Old slot class. It was the first pleasure horse to win $100,000 in one class, and it was an amazing class to watch!

Suzy Jeane--The most memorable one is easy for me. Rugged Lark.... Backwards!  Also, last year when I was judging in Las Vegas and the girl lost her pants during showmanship and it was broadcast on the closed circuit TV all over the hotel. We were all straight faced until one judge snorted to keep from laughing and we all lost it. That's a visual that's gonna last!

Cheryl Hawkins--I have watched so many great riders and performances over the years. I can't just pick one. I will tell you the most memorable class for me to watch is the finals of the Jr. Working Cow Horse at the AQHA World Show. It's takes a great horseman, it's nail biting, on the edge of your seat exciting! There is two parts to the class, wet work and dry work and you better be good at both parts. I love it when they turn the cow loose in the pen and you see that horse respond to that cow and you know that horse knows his job.

Jadasa Jablonowski a/k/a "Dasi"--That's an easy one! It was the last ride for Jason Martin on Harley D Zip when they performed a bridleless Western Riding at the 2011 AQHA World Show after winning the Senior Western Riding. I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes!

Dakota Diamond Griffith--Without question, Whizards Baby Doll and Stacy Westfall are the single most impressive team I've ever witnessed. I'll never forget their memorable freestyle reining performance which resulted in not one dry eye in the Coliseum at the Congress. Their partnership, skill level and trust was beyond extraordinary.

Bonnie Miller--I believe the most exciting live performance I witnessed in the show pen was at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in 1975. Bill Horn rode Miss White Trash and his brother's (Paul Horn) horse Im Great Too in a run-off for first place in the NRHA Open. It was electrifying! Bill ran both horses 110% and won the class on his brother's horse. I'll never forget that excitement.

Laurel Champlin--A few years ago at the open world show they had a special event where professionals tried an event not in their expertise. The famous jockey G R Carter was picked to do the hunter hack. I donated my horse Skys Blue Eyes for him to show. He wore his silks and rode in short stirrups. My horse " Skyler" took it all in stride. when the results were announced Mr. Carter did his famous back flip off Skyler's back. I was very proud of my world champion pony.

Candace Jussen--Oh. No question...the AQHA World Show when Ted Turner showed Diversified in Halter as a three year-old (after he had won the pleasure as a two year-old) against Jim Fuller showing Noble Tradition who was going for an undefeated five-time world champions.

Karen McCuistion--I've been lucky enough to have witnessed so many great horses over the years that it's hard to narrow it down to just one. Probably the one that stands out above all others, though, is Les Vogt's run in the Open Hackamore at Reno in 1988. (I think it was on a mare called Tux N Tails.) Not only was this an incredibly dynamic run, it actually changed my life. Up until that point, I had been told it was only possible to have a good cow horse fence work when the cow drawn was a good one. Les and his mare proved that to be so wrong! He had an amazing work on a very tough cow. It came charging out right at him, with no intent to yield, yet Les and that mare managed to maintain control from start to finish - demonstrating that a cow-savvy rider on a talented horse can score big. Les was gracious enough to talk to Carl and me afterwards, explaining strategy and encouraging us not to wait for the "perfect cow" but to figure out how to make a silk purse out of a cow's ear, so to speak. Seeing that one run and talking to Les afterwards gave me a whole new understanding of the event. It's a lesson I've never forgotten.

Diane Chilton-Harper--My life changer was watching Hotrodders Jet Set show in 1983 with Tommy Manion where he ended up be third in the Junior Western Pleasure. I made my life decision to get this pedigree in my life. The second moment was seeing Vital Signs Are Good in western riding for the first time. She is an amazing mare.

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