Equestrian team from Pepperell leaves a big imprint at nationals

by Marcia Boundy

Pepperell - Ten-year-old Jillian Bass has big plans for the fall.  The diminutive Dunstable equestrian ("One judge thought I was 7!") hopes to compete in the world's biggest horse show astride Sheza DJ Lady.

Jillian, who trains with Sheza at Twin Pine Farm, knows it will be an honor to be on the Massachusetts team at the annual All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio.

But last fall, the honor was all Pepperell's.  All four members of the Massachusetts team hailed from Pepperell.  And the local team made its hometown proud by finishing 17th in a field of 95, representing all 50 states, Canada and Austrailia.

"It's never going to happen again that the whole team is from one town," said Cathy Tyler, who with her husband Toby, owns Twin Pine Farm, where the youngsters trained.  "It's really a freak of nature."

Garett Hawe of Pepperell on his horse There Will Be Time at the annual American Quarter Horse Congress in Ohio.

The four locals were Garett Hawe, 12, who attends Varnum Brook Middle School; Kelty Auger, 12, a student at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro; Sandy Tarr, 13, who attends Twin-City Baptist School in Lunenburg; and Jared LeClair, 18, a freshman on an equine studies scholarship at the University of Findlay (Ohio).

Garett and his horse, There Will Be Time, and Sandy, who owns Tyler's Deluxe, still train at Twin Pine Farm.

Tyler, who drove to Columbus with the young contestants last October, said the four made the team by besting 40 fellow equestrians in the Massachusetts Youth Quarter Horse Association.

The Pepperell youths beat the competition on the state level by riding in at least eight shows in the regular New England circuit and placing in the top two positions in one of six riding disciplines.  They also had to meet specific personal obligations, such as fund raising and community service.

The four locals were the only Massachusetts competitors to fulfill all obligations to earn a slot on the state team.

Under the rules, each state can send two members to compete in each event -- showmanship, horsemanship, hunter under saddle, western pleasure riding, barrels and reining.  Tyler said the big riding states, such as Texas and Ohio, field teams with 10 or 12 members.  When contestants were introduced at the outset of the competition, Tyler recalled hearing the

Sandy Tarr of Pepperell astride Tyler's Deluxe at the Columbus competition.

 names of 12 riders from 12 California communities.  But when the Massachusetts team was introduced, "We heard Pepperell four times!"

"That's when it really struck me," she said.

The Quarter Horse Congress, now in its 33rd year, is the world's largest single-breed horse show.  Held in Ohio every October, it features more than 8,000 horses and attracts more than 550,000 people over its three-week duration.  The Pepperell contingent competed in the National Youth Activity Team Tournament, which brings together more than 600 young riders representing about 100 state, regional and provincial Quarter Horse associations.

Tyler estimated 32,000 people watched the equestrian events -- a far cry from the 1,000 a show might draw in New England.

"The Congress is the sure cure for nerves," she proclaimed.

At the Congress, Garett competed in showmanship, horsemanship, and western pleasure; Sandy, in showmanship, hunter under saddle, and barrels; Kelty, in hunter under saddle; and Jared, in horsemanship, reining, and barrels.

Young Jillian speculated that if she makes the state team, maybe she and Sheza would compete in horsemanship, but her trainer offered a word of advice.  "What does your horse excel in?"  Tyler asked, then added, "She looks good in western pleasure."

Tyler said that Jillian, who "is really working hard," went to Ohio  last fall as a spectator.  Jillian can't wait to go back -- as a competitor.

"She got a taste of it," said Tyler.  "She's super gung-ho."

From The (Lowell, MA) Sun, Monday, March 29, 1999.