National champions will be crowned this week as Fall Festival comes to an end
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first time Mandy Martin arrived in this twin city, it was to participate in a horse show at the American Royal.
She returned countless times since, then moved to Kansas City. She’s been as close as anyone to the United Professional Horsemen’s Association’s National Championship, which takes place annually during the American Royal. It continues during the UPHA’s showcase event, which takes place Tuesday, Nov. 13-Saturday, Nov. 17. The best saddlebreds, Hackney ponies and road horses from chapters across the country converge on Kansas City to compete for nearly $200,000 and the national championship.
“Kansas City is always special to the saddlebred community because it hosts the national championship,” said Martin, an assistant trainer and riding instructor at Ever Glades Farm, run by Landon and Sarah Rowland of Kansas City. “I am originally from Indiana, where I rode and worked at one of the best saddlebred farms in the world. I worked there for about five years, then I came to Kansas City.”
She worked at the American Royal before joining the Rowlands and helping with the family’s saddlebred farm.
“I already knew I loved Kansas City, but I’m really happy to be living here now,” Martin said. “I think it’s very special to have the national championships right here in our hometown. In the past, the Rowlands have won a lot at this horse show.”
Though she will likely show this week at the American Royal, Martin’s primary duty is to assist Rowland family members with show preparations and to have the horses ready for the competition. The week begins with Missouri-Kansas Night on Tuesday, followed by the Junior Challenge Cup National Equitation Championship Wednesday. The UPHA Classic Grand Championships are Thursday, while the Amateur and Junior Rider National Championships and the Open, Amateur and Junior Rider National Championships take place Friday.
The final day is chalk full of prestigious event, from the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, followed by the National Championship Matinee at 11 a.m. The American Royal’s Fall Festival includes with the National Championship Stake Night, featuring the crowning of national champions in 14 classes.
“The UPHA is another one of our wonderful and traditional heritage events,” said Brant Laue, chairman of the American Royal. “It’s a top flight event and unique among our events. It draws some Hollywood celebrities.
“Our saddlebred horse show is part of a triple crown, and the national championship is a very prestigious honor for everyone involved.”
This is the 11th year that the American Royal has hosted the UPHA’s national title event. It’s something that brings great pride to Carol Carlson, who grew up in the Kansas City metro area and is involved with the UPHA committee.
“My first time to the American Royal, my father was a rodeo rider who rode broncs, but he had a passion and this story for Loula Long Combs,” Carlson said of the Kansas City woman who was best known for showing magnificent Hackney ponies. “She would dress in her finery and had these elaborate buggies.
“My father always had this fantasy of these horse shows. All of these horses are very proud and noble and have a spirit about them.”
That’s just one of the drawing cards for the Rowlands and Martin.
“Many of these horses that go to this show are already accomplished in the divisions they show,” Martin said. “They don’t show up at the national championships without a history of success. To be able to show what we feel are our best horses is really exciting.
“Turning my love of horses into a career is awesome. I’ve been passionate about horses and have been showing horses my whole life. It’s just an honor and a thrill to be part of it.”