Walmart Across America – the 1999 Grading Tour

by Cathy Leddy

originally published in the Akhal-Teke Quarterly, Issue 18, July 1999

As I believe I am almost recovered from almost 20 days on the go, I’ll try to summarize what happened on our Teke trek around the western United States.

Tatyana Ryabova arrived in Seattle on April 15, late at night. Milena Stozsek (one of our intrepid translators) met her there and took her home to her house for the night. The next day (the 16th) they did some shopping, saw some of the sights and ended up at my place (Cascade Gold A-Ts in Snohomish) about 4:30 or 5:00.

By that time, Tedi Rae Paasch, Julie Manuele, Sofie Wohllaib, and Jude Vawter had arrived from as far away as the Oregon-California border with their horses. We had 16 Tekes here (pure and nonpure) and 5 half-breds.

Once everyone was settled in (and Tatyana had taken a nap) we headed out to the Space Needle for sightseeing and dinner. Tatyana said that "this is better than the Eiffel tower in France". (Just a little bit of home town pride here!) and we had a wonderful Northwest dinner by the lights of Seattle.

The next morning we got the grading going about 11:00 am and figured out exactly how to present the horses as we went. (Sue Waldock was a great help getting us ready for it). Tedi’s mare Kitka (bred by Phil and Margot Case) was awarded an a-la-ja (braided neck rope) and Elite status.


Kitka at the Seattle gradings, with Tedi behind her

Case’s stallion Sentor, who is leased by Tedi Rae Paasch, was awarded Elite III status. The fillies Alyeshka (owned by Julie Manuele) and Anika (owned by Cascade Gold) were both awarded a-la-jas but were not graded because of their ages (they are full sisters by Astrachan out of Anastasia). The rest of the horses were pronounced very nice and Class 1 and appropriate comments were given.

That evening Tatyana said that she did not expect to see so many nice horses so quickly – to many grins and toasts. We ended the evening with a songfest (both Tatyana and Milena have lovely voices) and finally headed to bed. No doubt you will hear about KumByYa (no idea if it’s spelled this way) for years to come – it was the only song all of us Americans knew.

The next morning (Sunday) everyone took their horses home and Milena, Tatyana and I headed to Idaho to grade the Nez Perce tribe’s horses.

After a wonderful trip where I don’t think Tatyana and Milena repeated a song (and I sang KumByYa and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) we arrived in Idaho, had a nice Mexican dinner with Milena’s husband Carl and got ready for the next day. We arrived at the Nez Perce barns about 10:00 am or so and were quickly swept up into seeing one horse after another. We ended up looking at about 33 horses there – purebreds, non-pure and Appaloosa crosses.


Rudy and Pieter, at the Idaho Grading

The stallion Pieter was awarded a neck rope (a-la-ja) and Elite status, along with Goldika and Piroshka. The results aren’t yet complete on the younger horses – but there were many very nice ones. Then Rudy brought out a gorgeous leopard Appy filly – a daughter of Mangus Colorado and an Appy mare. Tatyana immediately awarded her a neck rope and told Rudy that "this is the foundation mare for your breed". Rudy and his wife (unfortunately I have forgotten her name – a bad habit of mine) gave Tatyana a hand-beaded coin purse, a gorgeous turquoise ring and a photo of Rudy in his full regalia. Jessica Redheart (Rudy’s assistant) also gave Tatyana some handmade dreamcatcher earrings. All in all, a very satisfying day. We then drove back to Seattle so Tatyana and Milena could sightsee the next day and I could take care of the Quarterly.



Luda and Tatyana make a snowman

Wednesday, we flew to Denver, where Lucy Kester picked us up and drove us to Jas Shearer-McMahon’s house. We arrived at Jas and Shannon’s (Jas’ husband) place and met Luda Ivanova, a friend of Jas’ from Russia. We settled down for lots of talking and then it started to snow. And snow, and snow! By morning, we had no power and almost 18 inches of wet, clingy snow. No problem…Jas and Shannon outfitted us all with coats, boots and mittens and we graded horses in the snow. Astrachan, Fergon, Minorka II (also known as Manila), and Askhan (a colt owned by Lucy Kester) all were graded Elite and most received neck ropes – by this time, Tatyana was conserving neck ropes and actually ran out – she REALLY didn’t expect this many nice horses! She also named a colt by Astrachan out of Kyra for Jas – Arkhan – born on the 16th. (see a photo of Arkhan on the Foals of 99 page). This means that all of Jas’ purebreds received Elite status – a very nice comment on her breeding acumen. I will say now that I’m not exactly sure how all the non-purebreds did – Tatyana has promised to send us the full details – we saw so many horses she only had time for the full results on the purebreds! Watch the next newsletter for this information.


Saarina and Tatyana saying “hello”

After we had dug out the next morning, we stopped at Sharon Saare’s house and graded her three horses both Feja and Saarina were graded Elite, and I’m not quite sure about the gelding – Tatyana was definitely more interested in breeding stock than riding horses, but did say that he was a very nice horse. Understandable. We had a nice lunch and finally got going about 3:00 p.m. To make up time, we drove straight through to Texas – a big Thank You to Lucy Kester for lending us her GMC Yukon- much more comfortable than a little Subaru would have been (our alternate vehicle). As there were five of us, Jas, Milena, Tatyana, Luda and I, we were able to drive straight through to Texas in about 23 hours and met Tito Pontecorvo on the roadside on the way to his place. We immediately headed for his barn (who wants a shower when you can look at horses?) and had a quick peek before going to his house and freshening up. It was about 75 degrees in Texas, vs. snowing in Denver, so we dug out light clothes and went back to the barn. Tatyana graded the stallions that afternoon, and the colts, but I’m afraid I’ll need a cheat sheet to remember who got what – just too many nice horses with similar names to try it by memory. We visited the mares and then headed out for a nice Mexican dinner after.

We graded the mares and fillies the next day, and once again, I can’t remember who got what – I do remember a few mare’s names, mainly because I particularly liked them – Darpa, Prima, Magnolia are the three I remember best. We took a nature walk (Tatyana is an avid scholar of anything to do with nature), and successfully avoided rattlers, fire ants and cactus. We got a rather late start that day too, as we headed for the local Wal-Mart to buy some shorts and more film. I really wish that I had taken a photo of Luda and Tatyana’s faces when we first walked in – it was as if Heaven existed on Earth. It took a bit of work to get them out of there. After that, we Wal-Marted almost every day. We also got to watch most of the stallions under saddle and I personally was particularly impressed with the young stallion Helm. Watch out warmbloods!

The next morning we set out for Missouri and made stops in Dallas at the Dallas Aquarium and had a lovely picnic dinner on the shores of Lake Texoma (another Wal-Mart experience for our dinner). We drove all night long and reached St. James, Missouri around 9 am the next morning. Happily, we could check in to our rooms and freshen up and then we headed out for Martha Bowle’s place to look at horses.

We headed out for Martha’s place and got to meet all her horses, including a brand-new filly and a few days old colt. The colt was very friendly and seemed determined to climb into somebody’s pocket! After a nice visiting session, we went back to the hotel and rested before other people started arriving.


Jula, Jarra, Geldi and Akbar, some of the international Teke people at the conference

By Thursday morning, Geldi Kiarizov and his wife Jula (not sure if that is spelled correctly), Tedi Rae Paasch and a few other people (my memory is gone!) went out for the grading. Appropriate comments were given, breeding suggestions were made and we then headed back to relax some more and greet arriving Teke fans. Scott Plowman (who gave a natural horsemanship demo) was there and entertained us all with his stand-up cowboy routines. Phil and Margot Case got in, Jude Vawter arrived, and Sharon Saare and Lucy Kester showed up all at approximately the same time. We got Tatyana and Luda into the swimming pool and hot tub with us (we had to check out the local Wal-Mart too!) and generally had a wonderful time visiting, catching up and doing our favorite thing – talking Teke. Other people were arriving also, but once again, my memory seems to be full of holes! Friday morning the ATAA business meeting got going and we covered quite a bit of ground before lunch time. I have to comment here on the quality of the food! Fabulous! Martha and her daughter Carol, did a spectacular job on feeding us. I’m still dreaming about the cherry and apple cobbler that Carol made. YUM!

After lunch, Dr. Deb Bennett gave us her talk on The History of World Bloodlines – it was a fascinating glimpse into how breeds evolve and who came from where. After Dr. Deb’s talk, I can’t remember if we had another talk or went right to dinner . After another fabulous dinner we had an evening session of "Smile with Melvin Johnson". It was great fun – I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time and some very nice prizes were given out – Chris High won a very nice tent, and Julie Manuele went home with a hundred dollar bill. We finally headed back to the hotel around 10 p.m.

Tatyana was hard at work (along with Luda) on the grading results, which were to be announced the next day. Saturday morning we all admired several collections – April Pruente’s saddle collection (and her yurt!) and Martha’s photos and items from Turkmenistan.

saddle One of the exotic saddles on display in April Pruente’s yurt

We were also bidding on the Silent Auction items – there were many very nice items donated and the grand total ended up at around 1500 dollars.

Sharon Saare then started us off with her saddle fitting talk (this was part II – part I was given at the 97 Conference). Very excellent – I think everyone learned something new. Tatyana was to give her speech next, but there was some disagreement about the objectiveness of the translators, so she agreed to wait until different translators could be arranged for. Dr. Deb gave her other talks – Conformation of Use and Biomechanics and Collection after lunch and once again gave fascinating and insightful speeches.

At dinner, Geldi gave a speech – some very interesting subjects were brought up – it will be interesting to see what happens in the long run. After dinner, Tatyana started her talk about numbers of horses, which countries they were in, measurements, grades, etc. She and Geldi ended up in a spirited debate, (it seemed to me) not a personal one by any means, but a political one. The new translators did a wonderful job of keeping up and translating a rather passionate dialogue. Tatyana did not finish her talk, as it was getting late, so we adjourned until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning we had a short business meeting, announced the new board of directors for the ATAA, and then Tatyana presented certificates for the gradings and said again that we had many nice horses here in the US. We all were very happy and I, personally, feel that I learned a lot during the grading process. I was also impressed with Tatyana’s wisdom, humor, and open-mindedness – she is truly a wonderful woman.

We then had speeches from Dr. Gus Cothran and Dr. John Steiner, on Blood-typing, Collection and Storing of Cooled Semen and Embryo Transfer, and the translator did a wonderful job -I’m sure he never realized he would need to know those words in Russian!

We had lunch and then adjourned to Green Acres for the Horse Show, where Geldi commented on the horses and presented some beautiful leads with lovely carpeted parts that went around the horse’s neck (I’m sure there is some name for these, but I haven’t a clue as to what that is). He presented one to Astrakhan, as the number one older stallion, and one to Goldika, as the number one older mare (Milena accepted that for the Nez Perce tribe). I understand he presented some other ones too, but I didn’t see who to. He also presented one to Helm (I think it was Helm) at the horse show. I’m not entirely sure if Geldi considered him the best horse there, or what – maybe someone else knows this? We got to watch 5 of April Pruente’s horses, with her stallion Kopeli under saddle, 5 (or 6) of Tito Pontecorvo’s horses, with several under saddle, and 3 of Katrina O’Neal’s horses, including 2 partbreds and her filly Kizmet. After the show, we headed back to the hotel, and then went to the sale barn for the production sale. Unfortunately, it was not well attended, and only one of the horses sold – the 2 year old filly Valentyna to Milena Stozsek and Jude Vawter.

After the sale, Scott got to do his demo back at Green Acres, and several of us went back to help clean up the Community Center. Then it was good-byes, hugs, and promises to “See you next year!”.

It was a wonderful 20 days for me (although exhausting!). I met some of the nicest people imaginable, got to know Tatyana Ryabova, saw lovely horses, and generally had a fabulous time! I can’t wait for the next time!