Lakeside Arena Kick-Starts Kentucky Show Season

Hunter and cattle classes make a mark at the Lakeside Arena Winter Classic mid-February in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Special to The American Quarter Horse Journal

Lakeside Arena continued its tradition of hosting well-attended, exhibitor-friendly shows with a six-judge AQHA event February 7-8 and 14-15. 

Officiating the Lakeside Arena Winter Classic were David Connors, April Devitt, Casey Devitt, Jessica Gilliam, Robert "Bob" Johnson, Jennifer Leckey, Cindy Reddish, James Rudolph, John Tabb, and Robert Tweedlie. Judges and exhibitors alike appreciated the amenities of Lakeside Arena, which features two large, heated indoor arenas and more than 200 stalls under the same roof, making it an ideal venue for wintertime exhibition.  

The highlight of the western show was undoubtedly the cattle classes, including ranch riding, boxing and working cow horse, events that are not typically offered at many approved shows in Kentucky. 

AQHA judge Bob Johnson was on hand at Lakeside Arena to officiate the Winter Classic. (Credit: Forever Photography)
AQHA judge Bob Johnson was on hand at Lakeside Arena to officiate the Winter Classic. (Credit: Forever Photography)

AQHA Professional Horseman Bob Johnson, a judge for nearly 30 years, marked the cattle classes at Lakeside Arena and was thrilled with the level of competition. 

“The quality was really good. I was very impressed with the boxing at the show, especially the youth contestants.  The youth had very talented horses, and can compete nationwide and do well,” said the AQHA judge from Burns, Tennessee.

Aside from his role as a judge, Bob was enthusiastic about the possibility of participating in cattle classes at future Lakeside Arena shows. 

“It's getting harder to find cattle classes at our shows due to cattle costs, limitations of facilities, and the time necessary to schedule them into already long show days,” Bob said.  “I hope Lakeside Arena continues to hold cattle classes, as I think these classes will continue to grow bigger and bigger.”

From a historical perspective, the hunter classes at Lakeside Arena are chock-full of quality, and the February show proved no exception. AQHA Professional Horsewomen Amy Hanssen-Keyes and Virginia Beaton of Amy Hanssen Training Center in Middleport, New York, make the pilgrimage to Kentucky each February. 

Amy and Virginia, who brought six horses to the show, cite the show’s accommodating, forward-thinking management as key factors in heading south for the weekend. 

“The show-management team is so obliging on every level, and the team really tries to make the shows run smoothly and efficiently. More than that, though, the management embraces the positive changes that AQHA is making in the hunter division,” Virginia said.

Lakeside Arena offered a full schedule of AQHA-sanctioned hunter classes, with some classes having more than 20 entries. Of particular note, management opted to use a handy-hunter course in the open, amateur and youth working hunter classes. Although a handy-hunter class is judged similarly to a traditional hunter class, where jumping style, manners and way of going are paramount considerations, the class differs in that additional significance is placed on choosing the most efficient track, often relying on balanced, tight turns to get from jump to jump. Another aspect that contrasts somewhat is pace, as handy-hunter courses are often ridden with a touch more gallop, though always with safety in mind.

Exhibitors expressed full-out approval for the handy class. 

“I loved it. I am all for anything that challenges the horse and rider to be better,” Virginia said. “The evolution we are seeing in the AQHA hunters is so refreshing, and it’s nice to come to a venue that incorporates new concepts. It’s exciting!”

Do you have news about your weekend show or circuit event? Contact AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler at tmatsler@aqha.org to have your show highlighted on AQHA.com's Showing page.

Debbie Furlong-Byrne, who operates Pople Ridge Farm in Mexico, New York, with her family, has been attending shows at Lakeside Arena for more than a decade; the hospitality and customer-first philosophy of the management keep her and her family coming back year after year. It was the handy-hunter courses, though, that really caught Debbie's attention this year. 

“My daughter, Cassi Hall, rides professionally for our farm, and she is crazy-excited about the opportunity to demonstrate the handiness of our hunters, as it reminds her of her time as an equitation rider,” Debbie said. “My brother, Tyson, feels the same way about the new courses – that it’s a great chance to show off the brilliance of our hunters.”

The hunter judges also voiced their approval of the handy courses. AQHA Professional Horseman David Connors, a longtime exhibitor and judge of AQHA hunters, was pleased to see the option being used. 

“The show management did such an amazing job with the hunter courses; the jumps are visually appealing and the courses are laid out meticulously,” David said. “The real ingenuity of the course design became apparent during the handy rounds, when the jumps came up beautifully for the riders that rode well. Executed properly, the handy class is another way to spotlight the athleticism of Quarter Horse hunters.”

Kentucky Blue Sky, owned and shown by Alissa Zwelling, claimed victory in the NQHL Non-Pro Low Derby at the Lakeside Arena Winter Classic. (Credit: Forever Photography)
Kentucky Blue Sky, owned and shown by Alissa Zwelling, claimed victory in the NQHL Non-Pro Low Derby at the Lakeside Arena Winter Classic. (Credit: Forever Photography)

In addition, Lakeside Arena hosted several National Quarter Horse League classes throughout the weekend, including four hunter derby classes and four medal classes for youth and amateurs. Hunter derby winners included My Secret Past with AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Team Wrangler member Jessica Johnson in the irons for owner Abigail Hardy ($1,000 NQHL Open Derby); Classic Circle and AQHA Professional Horsewoman Virginia Beaton for owner Amy Hanssen-Keyes ($1,000 NQHL Low Derby); Speaking Softly and Kelby Kane (NQHL Non-Pro Open Derby); and Kentucky Blue Sky and Alissa Zwelling (NQHL Non-Pro Low Derby). NQHL Youth Medal winners were Madison Eichstadt and Natalie Vargo. 

The Lakeside Arena Winter Classic high-point winners for the February 7-8 show included:

  • OpenKats Thelma Rose, a 2011 red roan mare (PS Good Bars Cat-Thelma Thermo Doc by St Thermo Doc), bred by Vincent W. Welch and owned by Sherri P. Baker of Elizabethton, Tennessee
  • AmateurAbsolute Purple Haze, a 2010 chestnut gelding (Hes Absolutely Sure-Sheza Fancy Zippo by Zippo Pine Bar), bred and owned by Dr. Katherine A. Draughon of Mount Vernon, Indiana
  • YouthMr Dual Brooksinic, a 2003 sorrel gelding (Mister Dual Pep-Brooksinic by Reminic), bred by Ward Ranch, owned by Leslie A. Kent, and shown by Emily Ann Kent

High-point winner winners for the February 14-15 show included:

  • OpenClassic Circle, a 2005 brown gelding (Regal Circle-Classic Rival (TB) by Affiliate (TB)), bred by Danielle de Nike Evans and owned by Amy Hanssen-Keyes of Middleport, New York
  • AmateurWhenitallgoessouth, a 2005 sorrel gelding (Black Sky Affair-Impressive Alliance by Alliance Royal (TB)), bred by Chris Thompson and owned by Kelsey Moody of Roswell, Georgia
  • YouthSuitable Impression, a 2004 chestnut gelding (Julies Impression-Suters Gold Strike (TB) by Kentucky Gold (TB)), bred by Swenson Farms, owned by C. Fike and J. Fournier-Fike, and shown by Catherine Fike of Lockport, New York

Lakeside Arena holds many AQHA-approved shows throughout the year. More shows are scheduled for March, April and October. Visit the Lakeside Arena website for show details, and be sure to like Lakeside Arena on Facebook

At the Lakeside Arena Winter Classic, Dive, owned by Bruce Brown, shows with David Warner in the first-ever open working hunter class that used a handy course. (Credit: Forever Photography)
At the Lakeside Arena Winter Classic, Dive, owned by Bruce Brown, shows with David Warner in the first-ever open working hunter class that used a handy course. (Credit: Forever Photography)