by Ann Bullard

Two years ago, Barclay Woodward didn't know the meaning of Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion. Today he and Silver Design are world grand champions. They walked off with the blue in one section of the 2004 Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Ponies, 60 inches and Under for Riders 14 & Under. They returned the following Thursday and Silver Design left the arena, with Woodward up, wearing the floral horseshoe as the World Grand Champion Walking Pony.

It has been a fast and heady time for the 13-year-old son of Ronnie and Jennifer Woodward. Pleasure riding quarter horses from their family farm near Hartselle, Ala., had been the extent of his equine exposure.

In May 2003 Woodward attended the Hershel Talley Memorial Horse Show to cheer for Amy Coley and Symbol's Black Ebony. A few days later, Coley took him to Nathan Clark's barn to watch.

I put him on a horse and that was it, said 27-year-old Clark.I can't even put an adult on a padded horse and have him ride the firsttime. Clark began giving Woodward lessons a few weeks later.Woodward conceded that he always liked horses.

I'd been riding the family's quarter horses since I was three , mostly bareback. I thought riding a padded horse was weird at first, said Woodward.

In August, Woodward made his debut aboard Coley's mount, leaving with a red ribbon in Cullman, Ala.'s 11 and under class.

By Celebration, Woodward's family was horse shopping. Woodward tried riding Major Cigar two or three times. The gelding was on NathanÕs van headed to Alabama at showÕs end.

That fall, Woodward and Major Cigar had three good shows behind them, including a blue at Murfreesboro; they remained in the top ribbons in

the spring. By mid-season, the Woodwards decided they wanted a second horse.

"We looked for ponies all summer. Barclay understood that Cigar was bought to be sure he was interested in showing. Now what we wanted was something that was capable of winning at the Celebration," said Clark.

I said, Let's look at Silver Design before we buy another one. Why try to beat him.Actually, the pony had three Celebration wins to his credit, with Thad Way earning a 2002 qualifier and the qualifier and world grandchampionship in 2003.

The Woodwards circled the last week in August on their calendars. Silver Design and Woodward were going to the Celebration. But first, the pair needed at least one show behind them. They chose to compete at Pulaski.

"When I first got Silver Design, I wasn't too fond of him. We didn't getalong , mostly because of the pressure. I had to do so well," said Woodward, candidly.After they won at Pulaski, much of that pressure was gone.

Perhaps another reason for the early problems was his attachment to Major Cigar. They kept talking about getting a pony; I thought theywould try to get me to sell him [Cigar], said Woodward. Instead of selling Cigar, the Woodwards gave him a life-time home.

The team arrived in Shelbyville with blue ribbons in their dreams. On Friday night, Woodward Òwarmed upÓ with Major Cigar, earning a ribbon in the deep Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Riders on Novice Mares or Geldings for Riders 17 Years and Under competition. Then it was time to step up on the pony.

He said little about his rides at the Celebration. He spoke more about his pony.What do I like about him? He's just awesome! "I can pull him out of thestall any day and he will be the same honest horse. He's fun and easy to ride; it's like you're floating," said Woodward. He gets fired up. Sometimes I have to collect him, but he wonÕt run away. He's a one-of-a-kind pony.

In October, the Woodwards purchased My Silver Bullet as Barclay's juvenile mount. The team won a blue in the four-year-old amateur class at the Alabama Jubilee, with Woodward and Clark earning a yellow ribbon in the Pro-Am class.

While Woodward's triumphs have come quickly, he has worked hard for them."He's a good kid , real knowledgeable," said Clark. He comes to practice every chance he can get. He stays all day and does everything; he isnÕt scared to get his hands dirty.

"Before he got his own horse, he was second out of a huge class on Amy's. When his parents asked me, I told them if he has a chance, he will be great," said Clark.

Horses, hunting and fishing, riding a four-wheeler or dirt bike are the things Woodward likes best. Anything outside, said Jennifer Woodward. In contrast, his sister is a girly-girl, who has no interest in anything outdoors.

School? "I'm not really involved much in school, the Hartselle Junior High eighth grader said. "I like to go to games and am big on school spirit, but I'm not in clubs or sports."

"He's a smart kid who doesn't apply himself at school as with other stuff. If he paid as much attention as he does with horses and hunting, he already would be through school," said Clark.

Clark and Woodward spend a lot of time together away from the horses. They duck hunt and fish; most of his deer hunting is with his grandfather. Ronnie Woodward joins them as time allows.

Jennifer called Clark "the best thing that ever happened to Barclay." Besides being a trainer and friend, Clark has helped Woodward develop a sense of show ring sportsmanship and fair play.

"He has helped me a lot, he is a good influence on me," said Woodward. "He taught me everything is not about winning. You've got to realize when you don't win you have to notice how many people come out without a ribbon. And you can't say I should have won Ð or I did horrible; if you get a ribbon, it's great!"

That mentality has helped Woodward make friends. "We don't brag; you've got to watch what you say around other people," the youngster said, adding "I've learned to keep my mouth shut about what I think.

"My advice: don't get a big head when you win. You can win one big show and get a big head, go to the next and lose, then think "what happened!" It's not about winning, it's about fun," he said, while pointing out that he still wants to win.

When asked about what Clark called his "unbelievable season," Woodward summed it up nicely. "Most people who get a horse and in a year win a world grand championship are stuck up...I'm just a regular kid who loves the horses and whose parents and trainer found him a good one."