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SANDY SESSINK INTERVIEW From May 21 – May 23, 2010, Sandy Sessink conducted clinics for horse/rider teams in the area. She also gave a talk on “Fashion Sense” to the OMHA membership at a dinner presentation. For any readers who may have missed this presentation, Sandy also graciously consented to answer a few interview questions. There is a possibility of more clinics and/or presentations in the autumn so keep checking the Ohio Morgan Horse Association website for further details. What follows are the interview questions answered by Ms. Sessink: We advertised you as “successful trainer, instructor, judge & clinician, Sandy Sessink. “ Would you like to fill in a bit more detail about your experience in the horse business? Most people who have been in the Morgan business for a while probably remember me from the OId Orchard Farm days, when my brother Calvin and I ran a large training stable in Michigan. We trained World Champions in all divisions. Calvin kind of specialized in the young horses, and my forte was equitation and teaching all of our riders (junior riders as well as adults) the concept of horsemanship. We worked together on it all, though. And, I miss those days very much. Through the years, I have had many wonderful opportunities to do some amazing things. For instance, in 2006 I went to South Africa to judge the World Cup Finals, and while I was there, they asked me to judge the horse show that hosted the event. It was amazing. I have also traveled to England three times to teach clinics and judge horse shows. This year (2010) will be my fourth time judging the Morgan Grand National and World Championship Horse Show. It’s always an honor. I’ve always been a big believer in staying involved in breed and the business in other ways, too. I have been the chairman of both the UPHA Morgan Committee and the AMHA Professional Committee for much of the last many years. I teach the AMHA and USEF Judging Seminars quite often…both for Morgans and for Saddle Seat Equitation. What were some of your proudest moments in the Morgan show horse world? The one thing that probably influenced my career the most as far as show ring success was when I trained back to back Triple Crown Morgan Saddle Seat Equitation winners Karen Maile and Mary Carlton in 1990 and 1991. Both girls won the Senior Saddle Seat World Championship, UPHA Senior Challenge Cup Finals and the AMHA Saddle Seat Medal Finals in the same year. It had never been done before that. And no one did it again after that for eleven years! I also experienced a fairly long winning streak as a driver of Ladies World Champion harness horses. I won, or got reserve in at least one Ladies Park Harness, or Ladies Pleasure Driving World Championship every year from 1989 until 1995. In another winning streak, from the year 2000 until 2005, we won at least one, and often several equitation world championships every year. Several of my riders were able to win 2 of the three legs of the triple crown during that time. Any embarrassing moments that are now funny, in hind sight, that you can laugh at now and share with us? I have a Jack Russell Terrier, Bruiser, who has always traveled with us to horse shows. We were always stabled in Barn 6, and when he would sneak off, I would quite often have to yell his name to get him to come back to our stalls. In an attempt to make fun of me, several of the other trainers in that barn would yell “BRUISER!” right along with me. This always set off a lot of laughing and carrying on. In 2004, I judged the Morgan Grand National. While I was judging an in hand class, several of my peers from Barn 6 decided to really make fun of me, and they gathered at the gate and began to holler, “Bruiser!”, all in unison. Of course, the dog was at home in Michigan for the first time since he was a puppy. You have conducted two series of clinics here in Ohio in assoc. with the OMHA. What do you think of our Ohio riders and their Morgans? I think the enthusiasm among the Ohio Morgan exhibitors is very encouraging. It takes that kind of passion to succeed in this sport. The fact that the riders that I worked with were so interested in bettering their skills is a positive thing. There are some wonderful riders and horses in Ohio, and the ones I worked with seem to understand that you can ALWAYS get better. You spoke extensively about how to improve appearances in the show ring. During your presentation you shared that seeing a gap between hat and hair bun or seeing a number incorrectly attached to a jacket are a couple of things that rub you the wrong way when they are spotted in the show ring. Any other pet peeves that just drive you crazy when you see them on an exhibitor or his/her horse? Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? How can a gap between the hat and bun make such a big difference! Well, I’m here to tell you that the details make the total picture, and the overall picture is exactly what the judge has to be positively affected by in a flash as you pass by in the show ring. Some of the other things that I didn’t mention in my program are the horse’s tail (please don’t simply take the braid out and send your horse in the ring with a kinky tail, that is not picked out HAIR BY HAIR!), and the rider’s boots. Taking the time to present yourself and your horse in the best possible way is without a doubt what will give you tri-color ribbons over earth tones (like 6th place green and 8th place brown). You have the somewhat unique perspective of viewing the Morgan show world at its highest levels all across the country. First, are there any regional differences of which those of us who focus in the Midwest might be unaware? Second, what impact has the current economy had on horse showing in general and the Morgan community in particular? How coincidental that I am answering this particular question as I sit on a plane going home to Michigan from just judging a show in San Diego, California. And, last week, I judged a show In Springfield, Massachusetts. I think there are so many things that effect the health of our industry regionally, and I can’t really fully explain why this show in California was so much stronger in both numbers and quality than I’ve seen in a long time. But, it was! There were 20 (yes, I said 20!) riders in the Saddle Seat Equitation Championship! The amateur park harness championship was one of the best classes I’ve seen in a long time. The overall quality was unbelievable. It was extremely encouraging. On the contrary, one of the things that I noticed at the Connecticut Morgan show was that they had what I believe to be too many classes. There were more Limit rider classes than anything else…including limit championships in most every division. What ever happened to COMPETITION? Isn’t that what we all got into horses for? Why is everyone so scared to get beat? I miss the days when we would all show in our divisions together, and let the best horse win? The value of any ribbon, let alone a blue one has decreased over the years because of this “let’s make sure everyone gets a blue ribbon” mentality. Even the Morgan Grand National is guilty of this mistake, in my opinion. It has become so watered down that there are just too many horses that can brag about a title at OKC that if the truth be known, are just not of the quality that we should be striving for in our breed. Yes, the economy has hurt the horse business. But, I believe there is a much more invasive and debilitating culprit among us, and that is ourselves. Trainers have been trying so hard to keep owners happy that they have almost done whatever it will take to win. Owners have put so much pressure on trainers, vets and farriers that those professionals are afraid to be honest with them. It is going to kill us. It may already have. Somewhere I read that one of your strengths is considered to be the ability to pair the proper horse with the proper rider. What gives you the edge in doing this? And can you tell us some of the factors that go into a successful match. Honestly, I think the fact that I have a bit of an artistic side gives me a little bit of edge in this endeavor. Yes, there are factors like size, personality and ability that rule the matching process. But, there really is just a “feeling” that I get when I see the right “look”. It’s a little like my mother’s cooking. She never used recipes…she just had that “feel” when she put her ingredients together to create a culinary masterpiece. I consider my horse/rider combinations to be my masterpieces. What else does the 2010 horse show season hold for Sandy Sessink? I just finished up teaching saddle seat riding for a school year at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri where I was filling in for vacationing Gayle Lampe. It was a great experience, but now I am a in a bit of limbo. I will not be able to go on a job search until after I judge the Morgan Grand Nationals in October. So, in the meantime, I am doing a lot of clinics and judging. I’ve already judged two shows, and I have 3 more coming up. And, I am leaving for my third clinic in a few days. I won’t be letting any grass grow under my feet! If similar equine clubs or individuals would like to contact you to conduct a clinic, training session or seminar, what is the best way to contact you? I am always happy to do clinics, seminars and anything that you think would help make your riding or your horse better. My number will always remain the same, no matter where I go. It’s 248-207-4956, and that’s my cell phone. I carry it with me all the time. The other way to reach me is by e-mail. That address will always stay the same, as well. It’s email@example.com . Many Morgan people are my friends on Facebook, too. I check there for messages fairly often, too.
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