The Year In Walking Horses is dedicated to Checkpoint Charlie SF
Pleasure Horse

By Mark McGee

If Checkpoint Charlie was a human, he would always be the life of the party and probably would go around with a lampshade on his head. But the tiny bay gelding is a horse, and while he keeps trainer Laurie Toone and owner Tamara Hader entertained, he also keeps them in the winner’s circle.

“He is a twit," Toone said. “He is the class clown. He is so funny.

“He drinks beer. He will try anything you give him to eat.”

Whether “Check,” as he is known around Circle T Stables in Shelbyville, Tennessee, is in the showring, riding to a show in a trailer, standing in the crossties or spending time in his stall he is going to do whatever it takes to get attention.

“He is the one in the trailer who is always shaking his head or pawing,” Toone said. “If he is in the crossties he probably has his front legs crossed or he has his tongue out. There is never a dull moment with him whether it is in the crossties when you are brushing him or when you are saddling him.

“Everyone who was around him when he was a two-year-old got bit. It wasn’t mean or vicious. It was a pay attention to me bite. What makes him so much fun is the way he interacts with people. You just have to be around him. People who visit the barn say he is so cool.”

But Toone is quick to point out that when “Check” is in the showring he is all business. This year he finished with 13 blue ribbons, nine in a row, including two world championships at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

“He’s the kind of horse that makes your job so rewarding,” Toone said. “You feel like he has a desire to want to be good and horses like him just don’t come along every day.”


Toone is partial to bay horses. While Toone was visiting Eric Yokley’s Stables he told her he wanted her to see a little colt he had in his barn.

“Bay is my flavor,” Toone said. “I told Eric I love that colt.

“He was a fall colt. It was summer and they were starting to get him ready.” Two months after Toone first saw “Check” she got a call from Yokley.

“Eric told me the horse isn’t going to work out on pads,” Toone said. “He asked me if I wanted to buy him. I traded a Jose’ Jose’ stud colt and got money to boot. That doesn’t happen to me very often.”

The bay color made “Check” attractive to Toone, but there was an extra incentive for her to want the horse. Ever since she had watched Chad Baucom guide Walk Time Charlie to the 2012 World Grand Championship at The Celebration she had wanted a horse by him.

“Low and behold he was a Walk Time Charlie colt,” Toone said. “From the time I watched Walk Time Charlie and Baucom win the World Grand Championship I just really, really liked him. He was just the total package to me. ‘Check’ was from one of the very first foal crops.”


Toone planned to sell “Check”, but she could not attract a buyer at any price for the 14.1 hands gelding.

“I can’t tell you how many people I offered him to,” Toone said. “The answer was he is too small, and he is all he is ever going to be. I was like, ‘okay, you’ll see.’

“I didn’t have him priced high because he was a prospect. It is funny now people are saying, ‘man we should have listened to you.’ Things have a way of working out the way they are supposed to.”

During the time Toone spent with “Check” she knew she had a hidden jewel. Despite so many discouraging responses from potential buyers she kept the faith.

“I look at the mechanics of a horse…the way they move out of their shoulders and the way they look out of their hips and hocks,” Toone said. “They might not be ideally moving at the time, but I try to watch how their body moves. He takes as long a stride as his body allows him to take.

“I could see all of the movement was there. It just needed to be developed.”




Toone carried “Check” to the Gulf Coast Charity Show in Panama City, Florida, in 2016. Despite being turned down by many over the purchase of “Check”, Toone thought she might have a buyer at the show.

She wanted to offer “Check” to Hader, one of her customers, whose small build suited a small horse.

“Panama City was his first show,” Toone said. “I told Tamara I thought she should ride the little horse.”

To entice Hader to ride “Check” Toone asked her if she would catch ride a horse in the show.

“I said, 'sure, what have you got,'" Hader recalled. “It was pouring down rain. Laurie said, ‘you’ll be fine, just ride him before the class.’

“Jeff Laughlin had showed him for Laurie in the open class. I got on him and I noticed I really liked his size. It was an instant connection.”

Hader and “Check” finished second in their first outing in the Trail Pleasure Amateur Four & Under class.

“Tamara is a very good rider,” Toone said. “She likes a smaller horse. As soon as she sat on him it was a done deal. You could just tell they fit each other.”


“We did great,” Hader said. “I told Laurie I really hate you right now. She just giggled. She said, ‘uh hum I knew it.’

“I fell in instant love, but I had to think about it. It was his size and the feel. A vet, Eddie Hight, from our hometown of Bainbridge, Georgia, who works with our dogs, was at the show. He looked over at my husband Sean and said, ‘I think you are fixing to own a little bay gelding’.”

Hader, like Toone, enjoys “Check’s” outgoing personality, as well as his abilities in the showring.

“He is a character.,” Hader said. “He demands attention. He has a larger presence about himself.

“A lot of people, when they see him in the showring, don’t realize how tiny he is. The first thing they say is, ‘oh my gosh he is smaller than what I thought.’ I tell them to watch him because he is going to get their attention. He is going to nudge them like I am the star here. He knows for sure he is the star.”


“Check” has been a success in the showring with a number of riders. His first blue ribbon was with Toone in the Western Trail Pleasure Four & Under class at the Columbia Spring Jubilee in 2016. Later that year in his first Celebration appearance, he finished second with Hader in the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class and second with Toone aboard in the Two-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class.

"Check" walked away with two world titles and two reserve world grand championships for 2017. Her husband, Sean won the Owner-Amateur Novice Western Trail Pleasure World Championship and was reserve in the World Grand Championship. Hader took the blue in the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class and was reserve in the Owner-Amateur Trail Pleasure Four & Under World Grand Championship.

The 2018 season found “Check” riding to 17 straight blue ribbons, including at The Celebration. Hader won the Owner-Amateur FourYear-Old Trail Pleasure class and Toone took first in the Western Four-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class. Toone returned to the ring to win the Four & Under Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship and Hader won the world grand championship in the Owner-Amateur Four & Under Trail Pleasure class.

The 2019 Celebration saw Hader place second in the Elite Owner-Amateur Trail Pleasure class, along with ac ride to the yellow streamer in the Owner-Amateur Five & Under Trail Pleasure class. They finished the year strong with a second and two firsts in their final three shows.

In 2020 Hader made the decision to lease “Check”. Toone asked Harper Grider, Ashley Say and Sydney Klein if they would be interested in riding. At The Celebration that year, Say won the Owner-Amateur Canter Trail Pleasure class and Grider was first in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 Western Pleasure class, along with taking the spotlight ride in the Owner-Amateur Youth Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. “Check” was a perfect 10 with blues for Say, Grider and Toone in an undefeated season.

This year Say was first at The Celebration in the Owner-Amateur Flat Shod (Canter) class and Klein won the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 Trail Pleasure class.

“I will probably come up and show him again next year,” Hader said. “He has a forever home with me when his career is over. He will come and hit the woods with me, and I will trail ride him.”


Hader has nine horses, including retired show horses, and two ponies at her farm.

“I show horses, but my first love is not showing a horse," Hader said. “My first love is the horse. I love their personalities. I love to care for them. Even though I have had a wonderful show career and I have loved every minute of it, I am not a competitor.

“I have always loved horses. When I was born my mom said the first word, I said was `horse.’ I had a pony in the backyard when I was five. Ithas always been horses. My horses are all spoiled-rotten, but they mind.
It is all about the love and the care for the horse.”

Hader was not surprised Toone wanted her to own “Check”.

“Laurie realized how much I love and care for my horses,” Hader said. “ Laurie is a horse woman. She doesn’t just train. She knows horses.”

Retirement is not in the immediate plans for “Check”. Toone enjoys the tiny gelding with a big personality and even bigger talent.

“As long as he stays sound and still likes what he is doing I am sure we will show him for a few more years,” Toone said. “We try not to overshow him. We choose shows we think are prestigious. My philosophy has been quality over quantity.”

Toone has always known “Check” was an elite talent, even when the naysayers were telling her she was wrong.

“Every single one of the horses you start you hope will become that special one,” Toone said. “But as this pleasure horse division has developed so much the elite are few and far between and I consider `Check’ one of the elites. His show career has been successful pretty much from day one.

“He just walks all over. He has really nice knee snap and is really balanced. He has eye appeal and people are always drawn to him. The number one reason is because he has the color which is unique when you have a class full of black or chestnut horses. We always try to put colors on him that catch your eye. Even if he doesn’t have anything on him, he walks and shakes. He is just an amazing little horse.”