"I've taken a number of business calls while hanging on Tigerlee like this,” Ali DeGray said, her right arm flung over the withers of the reigning Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Champion of Champions Memories Of Cabo, as he rested in his stall at the American Royal.
The chestnut gelding and Ali had a nearly undefeated first season together, winning in nine of their ten show ring appearances, from River Ridge to Louisville, and earning another two blues that very week in Kansas City. He was, by all accounts, one of the most celebrated show horses of the year, but to Ali he is only “Sammy,” just as the multi-titled World’s Champion CH Tigerlee is simply “Tiger.”
Fanfare doesn’t mean much to Ali. At 26 years old, she is keenly aware that she comes from a privileged family, one that is able to provide her with horses like Sammy and Tiger, and give her the opportunity to show them at the highest levels, but there is much more to her than her background and show ring record would indicate. She is a woman of substance; fiercely in love with her horses and other animals, hard working, approachable, filled with unlimited appreciation for all her life’s blessings and determined to utilize those blessings to enrich the lives of others.
“You have to make a decision: motocross or horses.”
Ten-year-old Milo Jones had just asked for a new bike, and his mother’s reply made it clear that the bike would come at a cost. As much as he enjoyed motocross, it was not a cost he was willing to pay.
“Then I guess I’m doing horses,” he said, and that was that.
Though a career in horses might have seemed the obvious course for a child as smitten with them as Milo, his path to becoming one of the industry’s leading professionals was far from direct. Yet, with every road he started down, there was something that kept guiding him back. It took him a few years and many travels to realize that thing was true passion.
Milo grew up in Colorado in a family of equestrians, so horses were part of his life from the start. He began accompanying his mother on trail rides at the age of three, and soon started lessons at a local hunter/jumper barn. When he was six years old, his mother took him to visit a barn she had seen advertised in a brochure. That barn turned out to be Martin Cockriel Stables.
Trainer Martin put Milo aboard a nineteen-year-old Saddlebred, and allowed the young boy to ride the horse by himself in a full bridle. Milo was sold, and still remembers the feel of that mare today.
“I never wanted to ride anything else,” Milo said. “There’s no comparison.”
Martin referred Milo to a man named Les Pedicord who also had Saddlebreds in Colorado, and Milo learned the basics of saddle seat under his strict eye.
“He was very ‘old school,’ and he took his time with me,” Milo said.
Elisabeth spends lots of time in the Kubota at Visser Stables, dragging the ring between horses.When I arrived at Visser Stables that Wednesday afternoon to meet Elisabeth Goth, I was surprised to find her at the wheel of an orange Kubota RTV 500, dragging the indoor. I’m not sure where I expected her to be – socializing with other customers on the sidelines? Giving orders from the doorway? – but this wasn’t even close to what I had envisioned.
“Hop on,” she invited me. “We can talk while I drag.”
She stepped out to let me aboard, and when she did, I saw that she was wearing three-quarter length workout pants. I climbed, mystified, across the seat, settling next to someone’s cell phone and an empty coffee mug, and discovered it felt surprisingly natural to be bouncing along in a Kubota beside a woman I’d watched from afar since childhood. But that’s Elisabeth; she has no interest in putting on airs. Every ounce of her energy is focused on one solitary goal – being the best horsewoman she possibly can, and doing it all with class.
From March through December year after year, Beasom Stable “exhibits each month at horse shows from Texas to Tennessee, including the Lexington Junior League and the World’s Championship Horse Shows,” stable owner Michael Beasom told me.
“The average number of horses we take to a show is ten. We have a 15-horse van that I operate myself for each trip,” the third generation horseman said. Beasom Stable is located in Boerne, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio.
Michael’s riding started before he even started grade school.
“I began taking riding lessons at age five from my grandmother. My mom drove me to my grandfather’s place — Elton Cates Stable — which was about an hour each way every Saturday for the lessons. Prior to that, I would spend weekends with my grandparents where I followed my grandfather around like his shadow.”
Riding in horse shows began a year later when Michael was six years old.
“At first, I showed in Academy classes and then walk-and-trot equitation. My first horse was named Elle Dee that I showed in Equitation, and then in Show Pleasure, until she passed away at the age of 24. I won the 1988 Show Pleasure Championship at the Texas State Fair show with her when I was nine years old. There were 17 entries in the class,” he noted.
“Just before my 10th birthday, my grandparents found my first gaited horse named The Champagne Express. I showed him for over three years.”
Once Michael began showing in performance classes, he “was asked to catch-ride for many trainers at the shows.”
In the summers, “I travelled with my grandparents to many of the larger shows. Through the years, I continued to spend as much time as I could with my trainer grandfather at his stable learning from him,” Michael told me in our late May interview.