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Is There a Perfect Field Trial Horse?


By Ken Blackman

We moved to Collierville, TN in 1995 and I rode in my first National Championship at Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, TN in February 1996. I was extremely lucky to have made the acquaintance of Kerry Kimmery from Grand Junction, TN. He put me on one of his very broke string of “field trial” horses. His remuda was well heeled and dependable. Kerry’s been providing the public with the experience of riding in an event that is unique and known worldwide – the National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs.

I’d ridden horses over my lifetime, but mostly at farms and stables where I grew up in Pennsylvania. I was amazed at the durability and calmness of the horses I saw at Ames Plantation that first day. A gallery filled with horses of all sizes and colors carried riders that morning in conditions that began as cold and blustery and, after three hours, broke into vibrant sunshine and warmth that turned the ground into the consistency of brown peanut butter! 

Now, 18 years later, I own three of these wonderful, smooth, intelligent, strong and biddable animals that trace back to horses used on farms and estates from Florida to Virginia, and westward into Missouri.  I’ve also made the friendship of some of the best horsemen and women in the field trial community. Their livelihood depends upon these steeds being ready and able to carry them through the field, handling the canines that seek out game and exhibit the style, class, and training to achieve championship status.   

One of the people I was most fortunate to meet is Brad Harter.  He is the guy who rides every brace of the National Championship, films the action, and edits the work into the only video production in the world of this event.  He’s been at this since 1988 and has received critical acclaim for his technical and editorial work on the films. 

Unlike most of the experts who teach and provide video and web based products to the horse owning public, Brad has, since the early 1980’s, developed, organized, and presented an equine centric curriculum at the College level. His program at Hocking College in Ohio, which now numbers more than 50 classes, deals with subjects such as basic through advanced horsemanship, wilderness backpacking, colt training, draft horse driving, tack repair, equine first aid and so much more.  He’s also organized and led wilderness back packing trips to remote areas of Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.  Now retired from Hocking, his video production company, Pleasant Hills Productions, produces the National Championship Video. He offers wilderness backpacking excursions and equine products that he’s used and tested over his 50 years of experience in hunting, fishing, forestry, and camping. 

When I decided to start writing this monthly column, I turned to my friend and mentor for guidance.  Brad has written for several publications, one of which was the former Field Trial Magazine owned by Craig Doherty.  In the spring 2006 issue, Brad wrote an article about the characteristics of the perfect field trial horse. Brad described the seemingly combination of contradictions that make up the perfect field trial horse. He covered the following characteristics: gait, size, gender, color, feet, temperament, endurance, heart, and conformation.

That article will be reprinted in the 2014 issue of the Field Trial Review, available February 10, 2014 at Ames Plantation and many other locations throughout the Grand Junction, La Grange, Bolivar, and Hickory Valley, Somerville, and Oakland, TN area.

The 2014 National Championship begins February 10 and runs for two weeks at Ames Plantation, Grand Junction, TN.

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