Barn names: Handsome and Sshamey.
What grabs us: This stallion only gets better with age--competing (and winning) against younger horses at 18 and having a Breyer figurine modeled after him at 21.
Owned by: Lisa Shover and Jerry Kackley, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Trained by: Chris Culbreth, Scottsdale.
H&R: What's his personality like?
Lisa: He's probably the most amazing horse I've ever been around, and not just because he's mine. I met him five years ago, and he's just got this amazing, expressive dark eye that just pulls people to him.
He's just got this soulfulness about him. He can be very gentle and quiet, which he is 99 percent of the time. And then he can fire up when you show him in halter and be the epitome of what an Arabian stallion is.
I just showed him last May. Literally people from all over the show grounds heard him going in to the arena. He was digging through the dirt, throwing it over his back. He went in that ring like I've never seen him, and he beat the 4-year-olds. He was 20 at the time.
He just came off the Scottsdale show where his Breyer model was introduced, and in five days, he met 700 children one on one. He's just got this incredible love of people. He has an affinity for those who've been troubled. I've seen it happen with adults and children. There's just something about him that draws these folks to him. They walk away with a sense of peace.
I've been working with animals my whole life, and I've never seen a temperament like this. That's what drew me to him. We weren't looking for a stallion, let alone a horse. I just fell in love with him. He was next to one of my mares at the show barn. That's how we met. I would just share carrots and apples with him. Then I started going in his stall and grooming him. My trainer, Chris, said you're just going to be broken hearted?his owners are taking him home to sell him. My husband surprised me with him. He's a magnet.
H&R: Does he do any events other than halter?
Lisa: We are the only team for the Arabians to ever win a performance national title (for Western pleasure) and a halter national title (stallion halter, amateur owner) at the same U.S. National competition.
He went polar opposites. He had to be really quiet and calm for Western and then he had to be bouncing off the walls for halter. He was competing against horses between three and 12 years old, he was then 18.
It's interesting. The gentleman who was his handler for the U.S. Nationals as a 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old--when he got his first titles--was at the last Scottsdale show when I presented the American flag with him for the opening ceremonies, and he said, "That horse looks better than he ever looked in his life; I'd never believe he's 21."
H&R: What do you think makes him special?
Lisa: He had some bad history before us, and he loves having his family. He lives at home with us, which is very unique for a stallion that's still breeding. When I first took him for his collection, I thought it was our true test: If he'd be able to deal with coming home. He's just truly a gentleman.
It's almost like a person who's been through tough times and appreciates all the good around them. It's a true appreciation for what he has. He loves being home. There's an appreciation about him.
When people ask how I treat him, I say it's with a level of respect. He responds to that. That's what we do with all of our animals. My kids are four-legged, not two-legged. It's just a blessing to have him in our lives. He returns that, too. It's an appreciation about him and an affinity for or understanding about what isn't so good. I think that's what he recognizes about people who are troubled, because in some ways, he's been there.
H&R: What is he like under saddle?
Lisa: Amazing! You can't tell if you're on the wrong lead--not that he takes it. He is so smooth. He's a big horse for an Arabian stallion------he's 16 hands, but he moves so softly. There's just such a dignity about what he's like under saddle.
When we carried the flag a the Scottsdale show, it was probably one of the biggest honors and most memorable moments of our year. He literally takes people's breath away; you can hear them gasp. When he breaks through the gate, they stand. Someone said, "I don't know if they're standing for the flag or if they're standing for Sshame." It's just a vision, and he's so respectful.
H&R: What type of riding do you enjoy the most?
Lisa: He spends the summers at our ranch outside of Flagstaff, and it's surrounded by national forest. He and I trail ride about three to four times a week, just the two of us. That's the most fun for me.
Most horse people think I'm crazy to do that, but he is the most sound trail horse I've ever been on. He's never taken a bad step, loves to do the hills and search game. We found some elk shortly born; he always finds the milking herds. He's amazing under saddle.
H&R: How did he become a Breyer model?
Lisa: I had a bucket list for him. First, I wanted to go to U.S. Nationals and prove everybody wrong, to take a horse back 15 years after he won his first national title is just not heard of, especially with an amateur. And I thought wouldn't it be so interesting to do halter and Western pleasure, because they're such polar opposites? That was the first item on the list, and he won a halter championship again the next year!
The second was presenting the American flag, which we did this year.
The third was the hope of memorializing him as a Breyer model. At our last U.S. Nationals,he was 19. He went reserve national champion again in stallion halter, a family who owns a Sshameless son came in to meet him. They were from Michigan. The mother and I were talking about what I else I wanted to do, and I mentioned making a contact at Breyer, and she had a friend who works there.
It all happened because of the "Sshameless family." Breyer was very impressed with his show record and his coming back after 15 years and winning in Western pleasure and halter. The more they learned about him and his work with at-risk kids, I think that was the tipping point for them. We sent the information about him and had two phone calls and then got the call that he had been selected.
It was amazing! I said to my husband, over and over, "Is this really happening? Pinch me because it must be a dream."
As a child, I wasn't a girly girl. I didn't play with dolls, I played with Breyer models. In my day they all had straight legs, and now they all have beautiful motion. It was this full-circle moment because my first Breyer horse, when I was about 2 years old, was pure white. To have this amazing, perfect image come into my life and do all these amazing things and have him memorialized as this pure white stallion. I have the living replica of what Breyer brought to my life as a youngster, and we were not a horse family.
I told Breyer that, in many ways, they set the course of my life that brought Sshameless into my life. It's still very surreal.