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Get to Know a World Champion! Forever Spirit

Two-time World Champion Tennessee Walking Horse Forever Spirit, a 3-year-old black stallion, and his owner/rider Sue Maze are truly "A Maz ing."

The horse has won seven blues this year, including two blues at the prestigious Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Although Maze has horses that have won blue ribbons before, this is the first time that she has received a blue from the Celebration. It came on Monday morning, Aug. 30, in the Park Pleasure Amateur 3-Year-Old class. "I was thrilled," she said.

Maze says she likes horses that are intelligent. Spirit (as she affectionately calls him) is very intelligent. When she isn't riding her horse, Maze is a mortgage broker. She and Spirit are both very intelligent--they both have a lot going on upstairs--and they make a good pair. Maze says that Spirit is so enthusiastic that he would continue to show after the end of a class if she let him. "When it's show time, he knows what to do and has a good time doing it. It's fun for him. He thinks he's doing something he wants to do, and doesn't realize it's what I also want to do. Doug (Doug Barnes, her trainer in Wartrace, Tenn., where Spirit is stabled) has him fooled," she said with a laugh. The horse and Barnes also won a blue this year at the Celebration on Thursday morning, Aug. 26, in the Park Pleasure Horses 3-Year-Old open class.

Maze is from the Lone Star State in Murphy, Texas, and has traded the traditional 10-gallon hat, cowboy image that Texans have for a homberg and a Tennessee Walker. She has been in the walking horse business for about 20 years, and says Spirit is one of the best horses she's ever had. She bought the horse as a 2-year-old in August 2003 (before the Celebration) from Billy and Sue Dean of Bell Buckle, Tenn. Forever Spirit's sire was Pride's Dark Spirit and dam is Butter's Sweet Suzy. His pedigree shows several of his descendants were world grand champions. On the sire's side, he descended from Midnight Sun, World Grand Champion in 1945 and 1946. On the dam's side, his descendants included 1962 World Grand Champion Ebony Masterpiece, and 1973 World Grand Champion Delight Bummin Around.

"Doug and I fight over who shows him," she said. Barnes shows in open classes and Maze shows as an amateur. Some of the shows in Tennessee don't have an amateur 2 and 3-year-old class, according to Maze. "I come all the way from Texas to show. They put me in an open class where I compete against trainers," she said.

Her goal isn't solely to promote the horse, although she certainly does. "My goal is to ride and have a good time. I just like to show. Instead of competing against others in the classes, I compete against myself. I think of getting the best out of the horse." Other shows this year where Spirit has picked up blues are Gulf Coast Charity, Murfreesboro Exchange Club, Bethesda, International Grand Championship, and TWHBEA National Futurity.

"In Tennessee, Doug doesn't usually take him to shows without me," she said. She gives a lot of credit for her success to Barnes and calls him an exceptional trainer.

Her horses are almost a full-time hobby for Maze. How does she have time to travel to horse shows? "A lot of my work I can do over the phone. When I go to a show, I conduct business on the phone. If I had to do business face-to-face, I couldn't get away (to the shows) as much," she said.

Tragedy struck the Maze horse business when her 12-year-old mare, Seduced By Citation, died in November 2003. She was also one of her favorites. Maze said that Forever Spirit reminded her of Seduced By Citation, who was also bright. "Some horses stand there and do what they're told. Others check you out. He (Spirit) checked me out. You can tell how intelligent they are by their eyes and mannerisms. I saw the same look in his eyes (as in Seduced By Citation). That's the reason I bought him. I've seen that look before. His natural talent was obvious, and he had that spark of intelligence, also." She says Spirit is never down and his emotions don't yo-yo. "He has an exceptional disposition. He doesn't seem to have good days and bad days. My mare was a lot that way, too." She said he is "affectionate for a stallion," and will put his head on her shoulder, or lean on her, as a sign of his love.

Maze also has another horse in training with Barnes in Wartrace. It's an 8-year-old chestnut gelding who also shows in park pleasure classes. His name is Judge's Red Alert (she affectionately calls him Red), and he's a stablemate to Spirit. Red is a three-time world champion, and a four-time reserve world champion. She showed him for three years on the Texas circuit and then two on the Celebration circuit. He likes to eat carrots and peppermint candy. What does Spirit like to eat? "The young horse hasn't acquired a taste yet. The baby doesn't know anything but grain and hay." She gets to see him maybe once or twice a month. She said she misses him.

What's in the future for them? She plans to show him at the Dixie Jubilee Horse Show Oct. 27-30 in Baton Rouge, La., and also plans to show him in 2005, including at the Celebration. If the past is any indication, Forever Spirit and Maze will continue to exert their winning influence for a long time to come.

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