The Year In Walking Horses is Dedicated to Gin Toddy
Performance Horse

By Mark McGee

Owning a horse that is consistently winning world championships and world grand championships is truly special. Having raised and continued to own and ride a great horse of that caliber for 13 years is special beyond words.

Such is the case for Sue Irby who can’t refrain herself from getting emotional when she talks about Gin Toddy, her black gelding.

“I traded another horse I owned for a two-year-old filly whom I showed for a couple of years before she was injured," said Irby. "I took her back home and bred her to Gen’s Black Gin. Her name was She’s Hoity Toity, but her name was often mispronounced at shows as She’s Hotty Toddy, therefore prompting the name Gin Toddy for her first foal.

It makes it more special to have raised him. I was very blessed. He is a good one. I will never have another one like him.

My family has raised horses for years, but he was the first horse I ever raised. I bought the mare. I picked the stallion, and I was going to give him every chance possible to succeed." Gin Toddy was foaled at Buddy Wilhelm's stables and was tiny at birth. It was clear he was never going to be a large horse.

Irby sent Gin Toddy to Tony Mercer to get him started as a show horse. He made his first show as a two-year-old at the Tony Rice Show in July under the direction of Mercer and Jeremy Archer where he placed second out of a field of 12 horses.

Gin Toddy caught the eye of Winky Groover as he was warming up and Groover asked about him. Two other trainers approached Irby about buying him following this class. I think that it’s ironic that after this many years, Winky and Gin Toddy are now in the same barn and Winky is putting us in the ring," said Irby.

Her first place finish in the Owner-Amateur 15.2 & Under Mares & Geldings class at this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was the 10th world championship for Gin Toddy in a row. Irby and Gin Toddy returned on the final night of The Celebration and walked away with the Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship, the fourth world grand championship with tricolored ribbons in 2013, 2014 and 2018.


When Gin Toddy was a coming three-year-old he was moved to Herbert Derickson’s training facility in Shelbyville. Irby made it clear to Derickson what she wanted.

“I told Herbert right up front that I don’t share my toys well especially when I only have one toy,” Irby said. “I told Herbert I have never had a great horse. I deserved to have a good one as well as the next person.”

Derickson liked what he saw from his first workouts with Gin Toddy. But, he admits he could have never predicted such a successful future for the horse.

“To be honest, I don’t think at that stage that anyone would imagine he could accomplish all that he has,” Derickson said. “That is like seeing a young athlete and saying I know he will be an NBA player. But when I first got him, I thought the talent looked like it was there. I thought he was a very good prospect and could develop into a special show horse.

“I thought he had a good range of motion. I liked his athleticism and intelligence. He was a good-looking horse conformation-wise. He has always been a very well-proportioned horse. He has a good mind. All of those things can equal a top individual horse.”

The talent was there, but like any great accomplishment the process usually takes time. There were experiments with various bits, shoeing and a training routine. Both Derickson and Irby would be showing Gin Toddy as a three-year-old which added to the difficulty of finding the right adjustments.

“It is a long process to develop a horse to that elite level,” Derickson said. “They are very impressionable. They typically have a mindset of their own. A trainer has to teach them the program, habits and the routine they need to get to become consistent.

“He has always been a very teachable horse. He has always been a very willing horse. He has intelligence, talent and desire. Rarely do we get all three in a horse.”


Irby showed Gin Toddy several times in the beginning of his three-year-old year and won her first blue in Arab, Alabama. She then turned the reins over to Derickson and he made his first show on him at the Tony Rice Center Show in Shelbyville.

“He was second out of 18 horses in the Three-Year-Old Stallions class,” Derickson said. “It was his first big recognition.” Irby then won the Three-Year-Old Amateur class in Pulaski making her best show on him to that date. Gin Toddy then began his Celebration career and was fourth at The Celebration in the Three-Year-Old Stallions class with Derickson. Irby was second in the OwnerAmateur Three-Year-Old Stallions class and reserve in the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship.

Later in the fall Derickson showed Gin Toddy at Asheville and won the North Carolina Three-Year-Old Championship. Irby closed out the show season with a first in the Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallions class at the Alabama Jubilee.

“The North Carolina show put him over the top,” Derickson said. “People went crazy over him. They just loved him.”

Derickson’s goal has always been to make sure Gin Toddy lives up to the reputation he established early every time he enters the ring.

“If you are going to have a winner he can’t have any obvious faults,” Derickson said. “He has to be a complete horse from the tip of his nose to the bottom of his tail. At major shows spectators, judges, trainers and exhibitors are always watching and critiquing.

“They will point out any faults you have. But Gin Toddy has always maintained a level of respect from spectators, exhibitors, trainers and judges. I’m not saying he is perfect, but he is pretty close.”


The road to success has not always been a smooth one for Gin Toddy. Talk in the walking horse world was the 15.2 stallion might be destined to be the world grand champion.

“He looks bigger than he is in the showring,” Derickson said. “I’ve always said a horse’s size comes into play in the way he carries his head. If he carries his head low he looks like a small horse. If he carries his head high he looks bigger.

“Gin Toddy has always carried his head very well. He has always had a strong gait. He has a powerful push and pull gait we like. The talk was he could be the one.”

Irby also has dealt with those who are surprised at Gin Toddy’s size when he is not in the showring

“He goes like a big horse,” Irby said. “I show him 15.2 a lot and people ask if he is 15.2. I say he is well under 15.2.

“They say he looks big. And I say ‘well, he just goes big.’”

People were clamoring to buy Gin Toddy to make a run for the big stake after Irby won the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallion class and the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old World Grand Championship in 2013.

This was the inaugural year for the amateur five-year-old division thus he has the distinction of being the first world champion and world grand champion for that division. But all of that interest came to a halt shortly after the Spring Fun Show the next year after Irby had won the Amateur 50 & Over class in what she called Gin Toddy’s “best show ever.”

“Sue won the Fun Show in outstanding fashion,” Derickson said. “A few days after that Gin Toddy became deathly sick with a strangulated hernia.”

Emergency surgery was performed by Dr. Jim Baum in order to geld Gin Toddy and save his life.

Before the show year was complete Gin Toddy was back in the showring with a Red Carpet Show of the South weekend victory with Irby in the saddle in the Amateur 50 & Over class. The duo would go on to win both the Elite Owner-Amateur Ladies on Mares & Geldings World Championship and the Elite Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship at the 2014 Celebration. They ended the season at the North Carolina Championship with wins in the Amateur 50 & Over class and the Amateur Championship.

Irby survived the trauma of watching her horse be gelded and the process of healing. Just when it looked like everything was back on track another medical issue was discovered that Fall with Gin Toddy losing his left eye due to a variety of complications.

“A lot of people don’t know it, but he only has one eye,” Derickson said. “In the process of healing we had an orbit put in, but it didn’t really fit. It was unsightly.”

Derickson’s wife, Jill, recommended a taxidermist to help solve the problem with a prosthetic eye. After several attempts it was determined that the eye used to preserve elk heads was a perfect fit. The loss of the eye, however, necessitated some adjustments in his training.

“He was always perfectly balanced in the mouth until then,” Derickson said. “Since then he has a tendency to hold his head to the right to help his overall vision.”

Irby cried after she left the ring the first time she rode Gin Toddy with the prosthetic eye.

“It was at the Trainers’ Show in Decatur, Alabama,” Irby said. “It was the first time I rode him with other horses after his eye had been removed.

“When I came out of the ring I cried like a baby. I didn’t realize until then how I felt about it. I didn’t know how he would respond to other horses, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.”


Derickson calls Gin Toddy an overachiever and an overcomer. As a 13-year-old he still has a strong and successful presence in the showring. Derickson is entering his 11th year of training Gin Toddy. He admits it is a challenge to keep the training routine fresh.

“It is hard to keep a horse at this level,” Derickson said. “I try to give him opportunities to relax and to peak back. We mainly show him at the high profile shows. You can train this horse pretty much the way you show him.

“We are not guessing as to what allows him to peak. We have had a routine with this horse for the last 10 years. When he likes it, and we like it, it is a good thing. He is the most routine individual I have ever trained. He likes being challenged. He likes being shown off. He is a very proud horse.”

Irby plans to continue riding as long as the two of them can hold out.

“I tell everybody I don’t know who is going to give out first, me or him,” Irby said. “Whenever that happens my riding days are over.

“We have been together so long. He knows how much I love him. And I guess he loves me too. You just click with some horses.

“Herbert and Jill, along with everyone who works at the barn, love him as much as I do. He is a sweetheart. I want to thank the entire 4 The Glory Farm crew for their loving care for Gin Toddy for so many years!"

The five years from 2015-2019 Gin Toddy won the Ladies on Geldings World Championship. In 2018, he won the Owner-Amateur Mares & Gelding World Grand Championship. Irby said, “The years 2018 and 2019 were extra special as Gin Toddy won the Owner-Amateur Mares & Geldings World Grand Championship in 2018 and Zeta was reserve, then in 2019 Zeta was the Owner-Amateur Mares & Geldings World Grand Champion and Gin Toddy was reserve. It was very special because both horses were bred and raised at Irby Farms. I’ve often wondered if that has ever happened before.

“I want to thank my brother, Ty, for taking over the reins in 2020 when I had some medical issues and couldn’t ride. He kept our winning streak up by riding my boy to the Owner-Amateur 15.2 & Under Mares & Geldings World Championship. Ty had won championships in halter, driving and flat shod classes, but this was his first performance horse world championship