It's exciting what New England Quarter Horse people are doing in the show ring. Here, in our relatively small area of the country, a 200- acre farm is considered big and 20 or 30 horses is considered a sizeable stables. Nevertheless, we find ourselves competing against western ranches and farms frequently consist of thousands of acres and hundreds of horses -"out West"- the place where Quarter horses are expected to reign supreme. Yet, here in New England, we've got horse men that are not only winning nationally, but are winning big. Winning and breaking long held traditions.
Bringing Home The Ribbons:
1994 Quarter Horse Congress
Quarter Horse people who have been to the Congress know it to be the "Show of Shows." But you don't have to have been there to appreciate just how large and varied a group of competitors it attracts or just what an extravaganza it really is. Held annually since 1967, the "All American Quarter Horse Congress" has grown to become the largest single breed show in the world.
This year's congress drew half a million people to Columbus, Ohio, watching or participating in two weeks of activities sufficent to please any Quarter Horse fan. Features included three rings kept busy with competitions, demonstrations, and lectures, a swank million dollar stallion row, a National Youth Association tournament, judging contest, and, lined up as far as the eye could see, acres of vendors selling everything from furniture and artwork to tack and horse trailers.
When Jane Curry unloaded her horse trailer into the fanfare of '94's Congress, she joined more than 12,000 other entries competing in the classes where the field could easily top 100. But Jane had two horses that could hold their own in any competition: her large brown stallion, Chips Hot Chocolate, and her handsome chestnut gelding, Berrys Image.
Chips Hot Chocolate is a four-year-old stallion by the American Quarter Horse Assocation (AQHA) World Champion Junior Western Horse, Zips Chocolate Chip, and out of the World Champion Western Pleasure Horse producer, Ima Blister Bug. An eye appealing horse with world class disposition, look and movement, Chips Hot Chocolate went into 94's Congress a serious contender. Since Jane bought him as a three -month- old, he's been consistently and successfully in the show ring spotlight. The fall of '94 would be no different.
Trained and ridden for Jane by Cleve Wells of Burleson, Texas, Chips Hot Chocolate won the Junior Western Pleasure class over a field of 150 horses as well as the Western Pleasure Maturity.
Jane's 16.3 hand gelding, Berry's Image, got a notable fifth in the Miller's World Hunter Classic at the Congress. The following month, at the "Quarter Horse World Championship Show" in Oaklahoma, national attention was brought to Jane, Berry's Image, and the New England town of Merrimac, Massachusetts, when the team rode to a coveted Amateur Working Hunter World Championship title, competeing against some of the toughest horses and riders in the Quarter horse industry today.
Championship at The World
While the Congress is the Quarter Horse breed's largest event, the World show is the one that tops the 23,000 events sponsored by the AQHA each year. Its wins are among the most highly regarded in the industry because it is the only show in which AQHA world championships are awarded. Jane has one word to describe competing at the World- "incredible!"
Showing at the World is very different than at the Congress, she explains. The atmosphere is different. The frenzy is gone. Here, because you have to qualify to enter, the classes aren't as big and only the best horses are competing. Because of this high level of competition, winning at the world is always a thrill. And because the final placings are called from 15th to first, the excitement has really built up by the time the winner is annouced.
The World Championship Quarter Horse Show in Oaklahoma last November drew entries from 49 states and from countries as far away as Canada, Mexico, England, Germany and Italy. For Jane, like her fellow competitors, the show represented the culmination of a year's hard work accumulating enough points to qualify.
In spite of it's toughness, Jane likes to compete at the world, "It's all so well run and the scheduling is so good." But the lights and the jumps are very bright, she points out, and riders have to be sure their horses are very confident. Jane trains Berrys Image herself, and to prepare him for the World show she brought him to several regional indoor shows, including Eastern States and Syracuse.
The year 1994 wasn't Berrys' first experience at the World. In '92 he took eighth in the Green Working Hunter. Their second attempt at winning in '93 was shelved when he became ill in Oaklahoma and couldn't compete, however; last fall would prove different.
Riding the powerful chestnut gelding, Jane won the prestigious title of "Amateur Working Hunter World Champion" on what she refers to as "... one of the best rides I could have had".
By Year's end, Berrys Image had achieved the Amateur Working Hunter Championship at the World show. The year before, 1993, he was high point in the nation in three events as well: Amateur Working Hunter, Amateur Hunter Hack, and Senior Working Hunter.
Jane's '94 successes with her stallion Chips Hot Chocolate and her World Championship tilte riding Berrys' Image were no fly by night wins; it was a culmination of a lifetime with horses and horse shows. she began riding Quarter Horse type horses as a child and got her first horse at age 12. Her first time at the Congress was as a teenager when she rode as part of the New England Youth Team aboard her own black Quarter Horse mare, Flash Bulls Gal. She rode Western then, but turned to hunt seat during her college years at the Colby Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, where she competed on the intercollegiate team.
Jane has since competed on and off for most of her life, comparing her love of showing to an addiction. "Once you began to show, the more you want to do it," she shares.
Jane and Berrys Image have been a team since she bought him four years ago. She does all of his training and begins each day with a mornings ride that often means taking to the trails or trailering to an indoor. To sharpen her own skills, she trailers to trainer Linda Kossick Langmeier in Worcester, Massachusetts, for jumping lessons and works with trainer David Connors of Auburn, New York, at shows. In her words, "because Jack", as she affectionately calls Berrys Image, "is a real nice horse, a good horse to be around, and one that knows his job," their preparation for the world of showing is as much play as it is work.
Where do you go when your Quarter Horse stallion has had a successful year and you can claim such honors as the 1992 highest money earning two-year-old in the nation and the 1992 National Snaffle Bit Assocation Hi point Champion? When your stallion has held the title of Gulf Coast and Gold Coast Circuit winner two years in a row? And when you've ridden to a World Championship on your Quarter Horse gelding, a horse that you can and do enjoy each day?
When you're Jane Curry, you just set your sights higher. Her goal for '95, she says, '... is to finish a few under saddle' superiors." These she explains, are awards given by the AQHA to horses who have aqquired 50 points in one AQHA recognized event. Her long range goal, she says is to train and ride one of Chips Hot Chocolate's babies, possibly Chips Hot Cross, a 1994 gray filly that she has now at Gene Parker's stables in North Carolina, where Chips Hot Chocolate stands. "In the long range," Jane concludes, I'll just basically try to get better."
This new year of 1995 will undoubtedly find Jane hard at work with her business, Riverview Trailer Sales in Merrimac; showing her Labrador Retriever, Katie, at dog trials; working actively to promote the Quarter Horse breed ( she's past director of the Massachusetts Quarter Horse Association); and continuing to ride Berrys Image each morning.
And it will undoubtedly find her helping to keep our Northeast Quarter Horses firmly in the National spotlight.
Berry's Image (Left), Chips Hot Chocolate & Jane Curry
Photo by Harold Campton