Gardner is a familar face in SSHBEA
The opening of the Spotted Saddle Horse World Championships on Saturday saw many familiar faces in and around center ring. One of those was Dickie Gardner, Trainer of the Year in 1999 and again in 2004, who is this year's president of the Professional Spotted Saddle Horse Trainers' Association. He's also a board member of SSHBEA.
Gardner, 45, whose stable is near the western Bedford County community of Wheel, has grown up in the horse business and been a professional trainer since the age of 18. His parents had a barn in Florida and rented barn space here in Tennessee.
"I grew up in it," he said. "My family's always had horses."
Gardner grew up showing Tennessee Walking Horses at the Celebration and started out working in the Walking Horse industry, for Joe Fleming and then for Ray Martin in South Carolina. He broke colts for a while and trained a few horses.
Then, 14 years ago, his friend Phil Dunivan talked him into working with Spotted Saddle Horses, and he's been involved with them ever since. He likes the versatility and color of the breed.
He has 32 horse in training, and several for which he has high hopes at this year's show. I'm Benny Too, a dual-registry horse which has also shown at the Celebration, was last year's Trail Pleasure World Grand Champion and hopes to repeat in the division.
In the stake class, the Open Shod World Grand Championship, Gardner has high hopes for Chasper's Buster, who won the Mid Season show a month ago.
Gardner has Pusher's Pride in the 14.2 and Under Trail Pleasure division, and in the amateur division Calvin's Crown Royal, trained by Gardner, will be ridden by Adrienne Helt.
With so much professional interest in horses, you might expect someone like Gardner to seek his enjoyment elsewhere. But for Gardner and his wife Misti, horses are pleasure as well as business.
"If we're not showing horses, we're trail riding," said Gardner.
Of course, there has been something else to occupy the Gardners' time since July -- two things, in fact: Cheyenne and Dakota, their twin daughters. They're a little too young to enjoy the show this year, but it seems likely they'll join dear old Dad in his love of horses at some point in the future. After all, it's a Gardner family tradition.
The Spotted Saddle Horse Championship Special Section is included in today's T-G.