On March 9, 2021, the Russell and Bowen family lost their most beloved horse, Sanman. To say he was a member of the family would be an understatement. The joy he brought to others whether in the winner’s circle or the pasture will be simply irreplaceable.

Born on April 26, 1999, Sanman made his presence known to the world as a two-year-old. On a spring day, Sanman was being worked in the beautiful front field of Link Webb Stables in Lewisburg, TN.  Link’s customers, Bob and Mary Dell Kilgore were there and quickly asked what horse he was on. Of course, Link let them know the young gelding’s name was Sanman. Mary Dell responded, “That’s it. He is the one.” She had a dream a few days earlier about a horse that she was destined to buy, and with a name like Sanman he was bound to be her dream horse.  

During his two-year-old career, Mary Dell Kilgore and Link Webb made three shows in front of nine judges and received nine first place votes. With that record, it is hard to go unnoticed. Sanman soon caught the eye of Larry and Pam Russell. Larry was looking for an amateur horse for Pam and he knew that Sanman’s sweeping back legs would be hard to beat in any division. Larry purchased Sanman, and Pam made her fist show on him at The Celebration that year. That was the beginning of the story of a family’s best friend.  

During Sanman’s three-year-old year, Sanman brought the Russell’s their first world championship win in the Three-Year-Old Walking Geldings World Championship. It was a night Larry and Pam had dreamed of for years as Larry spent many of his young adult years involved in helping a local horse trainer in Mississippi and traveling to The Celebration since 1970. Sanman also won a reserve world championship with Pam that same year to cap off an exceptional year.  

After such success, Sanman was starting to catch the attention of other owners. One night in 2002, Larry and Pam had their family over for dinner. Pam’s son, Mike, his wife, Terrie, and their three children, David, Eden, and Benjamin were all gathered around the table. As they were eating, Larry received a phone call from Link who was presenting an offer to purchase Sanman. After Larry came back to the table, he discussed with his family the offer. It was one hard to refuse at the time. After the discussion, everyone noticed that Benjamin had disappeared from the table. The seven-year-old boy had quietly walked into the other dining room and sat in the corner and began to cry. Larry walked in to find him and asked him what was wrong. Benjamin said, “I don’t want to sell Sanman.” That was all it took. Sanman was not sold and remained in the family.  That was only the beginning of the love Benjamin had for Sanman. 

Sanman’s four-year-old year proved to be even more successful than the previous year with wins in open and amateur divisions with Link and Pam at The Mississippi Charity Horse Show, Tony Rice, Columbia Spring Jubilee, Magnolia Classic, and Wartrace, to name a few. Sanman added another World Championship to his and the Russell’s resume with a Four-Year-Old Gelding win at The Celebration. Benjamin also began starting to ride horses about this time.  It was not long until Benjamin and Sanman quickly grew a bond that could not be broken.  

In 2004, it started out that Pam would show Sanman in the Amateur Canter classes and Benjamin would show him in the 11 & Under classes. It did not take long to realize that cantering was something Sanman really enjoyed. It began to be a problem when Benjamin was showing Sanman. He had a tendency to canter at very unwanted times. Therefore, Pam very generously made the decision to let Benjamin take over the reins for good.  

Benjamin Bowen and Sanman were a team that everyone in the horse industry knew. The big sorrel gelding with a flax mane and tail and his little blonde headed rider were unmistakable. If Benjamin did his part and Sanman did his, the team was second to none in the 11 & Under division. In Benjamin’s very first Celebration performance, the team won a World Championship.  They later went on to win every major show multiple times. They also went on to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning the Juvenile 11 & Under World Grand Championship in 2006 after also winning their preliminary World Championship that year. The two were a dream team, accumulating one final World Championship title in 2007 in their final year of competition in the 11 & under division.

After Sanman’s lengthy and successful career of winning over 50 blue ribbons, he was brought home to retire at the Bowen’s family farm, Double B Farms, in Randolph, Mississippi. It was here that the Russell and Bowen families continued to enjoy Sanman, and Sanman was in a paradise. Just as Link always had him in the front stall of his barn so he would be the first thing he saw every morning, so did Sanman have the first lot in the pasture at Double B Farms.

Pam, Benjamin, and family friends all enjoyed trail riding Sanman until his final days. Children as well as adults would go up to the fence to visit with Sanman. He was a constant at the Bowen home. Everyone enjoyed his company. Benjamin stated, “Sanman has been one of my greatest blessings, and I will be forever grateful the Lord put him in my life. Because of Sanman, I built relationships and have created memories I would have never experienced otherwise. He was a best friend who helped shape the man I am today. I spent his last morning with him watching the sunrise over the lake next to our barn. It was one of the most spiritual mornings of my life. Sanman was without a doubt my entire family’s once in a lifetime horse.”