Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Sittin' Pretty for Saddlebreds
If you have never met Sandy and Bill Marple, well you have truly missed something. This couple has a passion for American Saddlebred horses like few you have ever met. Add to that the fact that they work in unison showing their wonderful horses and yet they are never too busy to stop and lend a helping hand to others, or assist in advising anyone who is searching for a solution to a problem with their own horses.
Well, it was in such a circumstance that Sittin’ Pretty for Saddlebreds was born! Bill Marple is a frequent contributor to a popular Saddlebred forum called Trot.org. It is here that I was requesting advice about keeping motion at a slower trot. Bill offered a few suggestions and mentioned a problem he knew I was having with balance, as I had just started to show my Saddlebred sidesaddle and we were in some of the same classes. Brita Barlow (Smart Alex) started the ball rolling by offering to pay money to see Bill ride aside. A multitude of requests followed and then the idea was born to use this money to Saddlebred Rescue. SASHA horse show board members quickly approved the idea to include this event with their upcoming show and now Bill was on a deadline to present a memorable exhibition! Lesser men would have bowed out, making some kind of excuse, but that is not Bill. He took the challenge head on and started to prepare right away. I offered my horse Oliver and my sidesaddle for Bill to use, but he told me that he wanted to ride WC Colonel Clarence, a horse Bill knew and trusted. Pamela Fricke, who was not using her more modern Steele sidesaddle at the time, sent Bill home with it so he could get in all the practice time needed.
WC Colonel Clarence is a lifetime member of the Marple family. He was actually won by his first owner in a poker game. A special bond developed between the two and when Colonel Clarence Nunn passed away WC Colonel Clarence, formally named Lee’s River of Jordan, was inconsolable. It took the special handling of trainer Nez Ratterman Weber to bring him into the amazing show horse that he has been for so many years. Bill and Sandy purchased him in 1999 and have shown him in 5-gaited, 5-gaited show pleasure, show pleasure driving, model and adult equitation.
I corresponded with Bill in between the time the challenge was made and the SASHA show. He openly admitted that riding aside was much more difficult than it looked, but that he was working hard to strengthen the specific muscles needed to get the job done. I admired him for this. Under the secure watch of Nicole Foster, owner of Foster Farm, Bill practiced with Clarence.
Costuming this event was in the works right up to the show, as the red hat flowing with tulle was brought to the show by Kathie Dunn. She was working at SASHA as an Associate Judge for the Saddlebred classes and is an accomplished sidesaddle rider herself.
“I walked into Clarence’s stall with that red hat. He pulled his head up and jumped back snorting and blowing the whole time. It was not until I put the hat on, that he settled down!” Bill said laughing. “Sandy had a full skirt for me to wear, but Kathie loaned me her self designed riding apron, which was probably better since I am so tall.”
When Bill and Clarence hit the show ring, an explosion of flashes went off. He had so much make up on, he mirrored the famous puppet Madame, dawning loads of blue eye shadow, white base, red blush stripes and even redder lips! Executing all 5 gaits, Bill later revealed to me that the canter was the most difficult for him to execute. Going around the ring several times as the announcer told the crowds about the important work Saddlebred Rescue does to save useable horses from going to slaughter. Volunteers passed collection bags around and by the end of the show it totaled just over $1000.00! Those who donated $50.00 or more were allowed to submit name suggestions for Bill’s ‘alter’ and the winner…Almost unanimously Mr. Bill Marple was renamed Sugar Lips!
“I hope more than anything for this to become a challenge for others to step up and do something fun and even a bit crazy to raise money at these shows for Saddlebred Rescue. It does not have to be sidesaddle riding, but I know that there are some really imaginative people out there that would love a challenge and who could generate some real money!”
Our hats are off to you Sugar Lips! You are truly a man (or should I say woman??) of character!