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Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show

"Totally Worth the Effort"
By Helen McMenamin

Two weeks of 18-hour days, ten days of competition, over 2,700 horses, a quarter of a million spectators – the Scottsdale Arabian Show, held every February, kicks off the North American Arabian show season in a big way.

Sandy Rebalkin Hester, of SR Training at Fort Macleod, Alberta, celebrated her annual trip to Scottsdale with a grand championship in snaffle-bit junior working cow-horse with KC Crescent Moon, ridden by her husband, Gord. Gord, who takes time away from work for shows, also rode the four-year old mare to a fourth place finish in the reining competition.

“KC Crescent Moon did so well, she’d have placed third in the open competition and she's only four," says Rebalkin Hester. "When she started training last March, she was really green, only halter-broke. Her only previous show experience was at a reining show in Olds last October."

KC Crescent Moon has no reining or cow-horses in her pedigree, but Rebalkin-Hester was impressed with her will to perform and her talent. Pedigree is important, but a trainable mind coupled with some athletic ability is more important. For Nadine Cusack, owner of Crescent Moon along with her husband Kevin, the win is a dream come true. They not only saw one of the biggest horse shows in the world, they took a championship. Hesters are used to competing with young horses. Last year, their four-year old mare, “Mickey,” missed reserve grand championship in open working cow horse by a single point. She was beaten by horses that were 15 and 16.

"You feel good when you take someone's horse to that level and they really appreciate it," says Gord. "It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

For the spectators, the Scottsdale show is part of a winter holiday in the Arizona sun. For the Hesters, it's hard work. Classes run from 8a.m. until 10p.m., and they have horses and clients to look after, as well as keeping up with many friends and clients from across the country.

"That's a big part of our trip," says Gord. "It's an opportunity for us to show and market our top horses."

"And, we hear about horses we've sold," says Sandy. "This year, renowned judge and trainer, Tony Boit, stopped by and told us SR Whirlwind, a colt he bought from us last year, is the best horse he's ever ridden or trained. It makes me feel good to know our horse has gone to a good home and is appreciated."

Despite all the work, shows have become family time for the Hesters. Brady, their son, travels with them and helps out a lot. He rode and showed as a teenager, placing well in youth and open competitions now however, he prefers to help with horses and clients.
At home, Sandy offers breeding, foaling and training for everyone.

"We've had every kind of horse from Belgians to sport horses and Nevada mustangs, Quarter Horses and Appaloosas as well as Arabs," she says. She trains horses with all levels of experience for all disciplines, although she leans towards showing in the western events. She explains that they will start any horse towards any discipline.

"Sandy has the patience and takes the time to get just about any horse started and ready for whatever an owner wants them to do," says Gord. "You always know when they say 'good luck,' as they leave, that it's going to be tough, but she works with them and gets them going.

"I enjoy working cow-horse best. It's who I am. I was raised on a ranch, working cattle. Some people think Arabs can't work cattle, but we've never had an Arab that didn't like working cattle. They're more eager than some other breeds."

Getting away from a busy stable for two weeks is never easy, and Sandy is quick to express her appreciation for her staff, who keep training on track while she's gone.
"I'd be lost without my assistants," says Sandy. "They're key to any success I've had. No matter who you are, you're only as good as your staff."

Some of her assistant trainers have gone on to become professional trainers with their own stables.

"It's great, to see them start from knowing very little," she says. "They learned, and now they're able to make a living from their passion." Sandy always wanted to spend her life with horses. She got her first horse, a Welsh pony, when she was five. Champion the Wonder Pony wasn't an easy ride, but with help from her mother, a riding instructor, Sandy kept him tuned up. She entered her first Arab show at age 11 and just kept going. She's been giving riding lessons and training horses since her teens, and after more than 30 years, she still loves it."

"I've never done anything else," she says. "I never had to waitress or babysit. Busy as we are, I wouldn't change it for any other lifestyle. I'm living my dream every day."

Check out Scottsdale 2009!


U.S. Nationals, Tulsa Oklahoma - 2008

featuring our Stallion and our client's talented Mare
SR Dellta Force (Joker) - Working Cow Horse Futurity - TOP TEN

SR Dellta Force (Joker) at U.S. Nationals in Cutting Futurity (below)

KC Cresent Moon (Mint) at her first cutting competition (below)
She won Reserve Grand Champion Top 10 Cutting Futurity

Mint in Working Cow Horse at U.S.Nationals