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Dickie Gardner Stables earns top WHTA honors

Trainers awarded 35 sets of roses

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 12/28/21

Owner, exhibitor and trainer Gardner and assistant, Victoria Kalosis, were doubly blessed with Dickie being named Walking Horse Trainers’ Association’s “Trainer of the Year” and Victoria as “Assistant Trainer of the Year.”  

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Dickie Gardner Stables earns top WHTA honors

Trainers awarded 35 sets of roses


Dickie Gardner Stables in Wheel kind of looks like Santa’s workshop, not just this time of the year, but all year long. But instead of reindeer, trainers and stable hands work nonstop with Spotted Saddle Horses and Tennessee Walking Horses.  

Owner, exhibitor and trainer Gardner and assistant, Victoria Kalosis, work side-by-side through rain, snow or sleet.  

There are currently 60 stalls at DGS needing attention, daily. Their hard work has certainly paid off for them this year.  

They recently shared how it is nearly impossible to put into words how “incredibly blessed” and thankful they are to have had such an “amazing” show season.  

They were doubly blessed with Dickie being named Walking Horse Trainers’ Association’s “Trainer of the Year” and Victoria as “Assistant Trainer of the Year.”  

While Dickie is a veteran trainer and exhibitor, Victoria is only 22, but is already making her own mark on the industry; she graduated last year with a business degree from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Dickie notes how Victoria has certainly earned her spurs in the literal sense.  

As she brings a horse out of the stall, she notes this is, however, her real passion.  

“I’ve been fortunate to work with Dickie,” she says. With that association in 2020-2021, DGS showed 980 times. Both proudly admit they’re running a “well-oiled machine.”  

Dickie also credits his daughters, Cheyenne and Dakota, for pulling their own weight within the industry. The two of them are busy exhibiting, working and grooming horses these days, right by their dad’s side.  

During this record-setting season, the trainers put in hundreds of hours at the stables and in shows each week.  

“It has been worth every minute to sit here and say what all we were able to accomplish this season,” said Victoria.  

Their accolades this year include 297 champions; 29 reserve champions; and 138 top three champions. And what lady trainer wouldn’t be proud of 35 sets of roses in a year. The team has shown 63 different horses—all presented by 50 different riders at 35 different shows. That makes a total of 75 days of just shows.  

With these numbers, DGS placed in the top 3, or, 67.7% of the time they entered the show ring.  

“None of this would be possible without our amazing customers-those who trust us with their horses. We are looking forward to an even bigger and better 2022,” says Victoria.  

DGS is a full horse training facility, specializing in flat shod Tennessee Walking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses. As well, their stables affords opportunity, he says, for a lot of youth riders.  

As for COVID-19, it really didn’t put a hitch in their successful year. All time lost was easily made up, Dickie explains.  

At DGS, the title of “Trainer of the Year” carries a lot of weight. It signifies the DGS team has been at all the shows and went beyond in their efforts to succeed.  

Just this year, DGS has won in the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) with Dickie earning “Best in Show” class, along side trainers Anna Cloutier, Victoria and her fiancé, Michael Jamison.  

Life-long career  

A native of Fort Myers, Fla., Gardner grew up with horses and became a professional trainer at the age of 18.  

In 1993, a friend introduced him to Spotted Saddle Horses. Gardner was named Trainer of the Year for the first time in 1999, and for the second time in 2004.  

In 2006, he and the horse “I’m Benny Too” won the World Championship in trail pleasure. Gardner served as the 2007 SSHBEA president and has served on the board.  

Down and back up  

As sometimes with operating a farm/large operation, there are some years of disappointment. While he doesn’t dwell on those days, Gardner recognizes it made his operation much stronger, in the end.  

While Santa may have his picture on Wikipedia online, Gardner can say he has his own page there as well.  

Sadly, that site mentions how in November 2007, Gardner’s stables were destroyed in a fire that killed over 30 horses. The Gardners, who live off-site, were notified but by the time they arrived the barn was destroyed.  

Shelbyville and Wheel supported Gardner and his wife as they rebuilt their stable and eventually resumed training horses.  

Gardner’s office wall signifies his dedication to his profession.  

Gardner has been named Trainer of the Year a total of 11 times. In 2010, he was inducted into the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association Hall of Fame.  

The same year, he and the horse, “Generatin’ a Trail of Fire,” won a World Championship. Three of Gardner’s Trainer of the Year awards were from the National Spotted Saddle Horse Association (NSSHA) in the years 2012-2014, and three more from the SSHBEA in 2009-2011.