Bob Gordon Training - 2018, published in Arabian Horse Times

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by Catherine Cole Ferandelli

Celebrating Gordon Training Center’s Bob And Val Gordon Two Hearts Of Gold … You Betcha’! REGION 10 | 13 | Ar abian Horse Times


hen folks are asked about Bob and Val Gordon, the responses are remarkably similar, yet told with uniquely different stories. Every recount personifies their kindness, sense of fairness, vast equine knowledge and impeccable attention to detail, all wrapped up in a show barn community many of its clients have enjoyed for well over 20 years.

Gordon Training Center in Princeton, Minnesota, excels at embracing its long-time client base yet draws in those new to the industry with friendliness and compassion. Both accomplished horsemen, individual coaching, confidence-building and keen equine knowledge are key tools shared by Bob and Val. Both ‘Star of the North’ natives, Bob and Val Gordon’s life together began at the Light Horse Management program located in Waseca’s University of Minnesota. Bob hailed from the southeast end of the state, enjoying a young life Bob, Champ and Val. competing in games on a horse named Manhattan. Val grew up in southwest Minnesota, showing in barrels on a horse named Beau. Both sought formal education to expand on their ever-growing passion for all things equine. At the time, Roy Johnson was an instructor in the Light Horse program teaching several of the required courses. Roy watched and smiled as these two young students and classmates connected and ultimately fell in love. Friends for over 30 years, Roy recollects, “When they first met in college at UM-Waseca, Val was not exactly interested in, nor was she impressed with Bob. But when travelling together to attend a collegiate horse judging contest in Bowling Green, Kentucky, there is nothing like a long ride in a car, judging competition and some fun sight-seeing in between, to begin the start of a relationship!” As time went on, Roy saw Bob and Val grow closer yet with a traumatic event. “I had a pretty good idea they would be an enduring couple,” Roy shares, “when Bob was injured in a van accident as a result of a close encounter with a train while in college (the school van came out second best!). I saw how they interacted and supported each other after that incident. Both were keepers! A great couple to watch for the last 30 years!” After graduation, Val began working at Sheriff ’s Stock Farm, going on to Canterbury Downs Race Track where Farm she gained more knowledge of equine care, particularly legs and feet. Bob’s post-graduation career debuted at Priebe Stock Farm, then on to train champions for Robert Ratte. Together Bob and Val cultivated a love for Arabians, Saddlebreds and National Show Horses. Their show expertise grew—Western, Reining, Hunter, English, Driving and more—their minds were akin with an on-going quest to excel the right horse to its rightful job. Thirty years ago ( June 1988), the young couple started married life, wedding on a sweltering day of 102-degree heat with no air conditioning in the church. Their careers continued with working for

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Cedar Ridge Arabians; Val as the breeding manager, Bob a trainer alongside other ‘up and comers,’ including Ted Carson, who considers these years at Cedar Ridge “a special time.” Ted looks back, “Everyone had common goals, so much motivation and energy; you just can’t redo that kind of time! We worked crazy hours, performing jobs far beyond the routine equine tasks.” Ted shares a story perfectly illustrating how “Bob will always do the right thing.” “Dick (Ames) had paid big money for some swans to adorn the farm lake. In the dead of winter, they all got loose and made their way off property to an icy, fast flowing creek. I’ll never forget the sight of Bob in waders going after and capturing wayward swans! Ultimately, we rescued them (and Bob) from falling through the ice. Swans saved!” On a lighter (and warmer) note, Dick Ames tells a favorite Val and Bob memory, “On occasion we all would enjoy supper together. Val was a great cook and tender of a beautiful garden, growing one of my favorites which are radishes. Knowing we were going to dine together, I would always ask Val, ‘What about those radishes?’” Laughing at the recollection, Dick adds, “What else can I say? Bob and Val are just great people. When they left Cedar Ridge, striking out on their own, we whole heartedly supported them.”


Bob and H igh Roller.

Daughter, Lara Ames, lauds the Cedar Ridge and Gordon Training Stable kinship. “They are simply the best. There is not a couple that is more honest and hardworking than Bob and Val. When you have a horse in their care, you know it is well taken care of. It has been an honor to have both of them work at our farm and we continue to do business with them today.” Leaving an established operation and going out on your own takes al Bob and V grit, even with the support of your professional peers. In 1996, Gordon Training Center (GTC) made its first home in Wyoming, Minnesota. The early years were a true marital team effort, with the Gordons frequently apart. Bob took the show horses on the road while Val stayed behind to pack, clean, prepare for the next road trip, and frugally manage the GTC home barn with energetic efficiency. The horse show work was so long and hard that by the haul homeward, it was said that sometimes Bob thought, the Mobil Oil’s glowing Pegasus sign on Interstate 94 was a flying dinosaur guiding he and the horses safely home in the dark. Sherri MacMurray one of Bob and Val’s first clients, embraces more than 25 years of fast friendship. Sherry remembers well, “I met Bob and Val at Cedar Ridge Arabians but didn’t become a client until he came out to our farm to look at horses.” Sherri continues, “We started using Bob while he was still at Cedar Ridge and followed him and Val when they set out on their own. From the start, GTC provided a unique opportunity for their clients. Bob and Val are very sensitive to offering an equine program that allows folks from all walks of life to enjoy the horses at all levels of competition. This while keeping a fun, positive and progressive barn. Bob taught me driving, so my shared story is particularly special. I have always loved watching Bob school driving horses with his dog

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Champ sitting on the floorboard of the cart, his tail wagging non-stop over the side. Such a sight of horse, human and canine cuteness!” Sandy Helgeson recently returned to GTC after a decade of showing Saddlebreds. “I met Bob and Val when Bob was a trainer at Cedar Ridge. Bob was my trainer several years before they opened their own barn. I was with them when I decided to pursue a childhood passion of showing Saddlebreds. After 10 years of that, I recently contacted Bob and Val, sharing that I’d like to find a nice Half-Arabian to compete at Arabian shows with and did they have room for me. I was lucky, they had an opening; so, we went shopping. With Bob’s help, I purchased two young prospects. He has also agreed to train my five-gaited Saddlebred and is doing an excellent job with him—he looks marvelous! The future is looking bright!” Cindy Backlund, another long-time GTC client too, looks back, “I met Bob when I took my horse, Key Bob and Sky Witch, National Show Horse Finals. of Hope, for a 30-day tune-up/refresher at Cedar Ridge. An assistant trainer under Ted Gibson, he was assigned to help me. I too, followed Bob and Val when they started their own training barn, and have been a client ever since!” Cindy cites GTC’s equine care and concern, “Not to say that other barns don’t have this, but I have found Bob and Val care for my horses as much as I do. Val’s working at Anoka Equine has a definite advantage in that she is aware of potential health issues that are popping up in the area. And Bob is meticulous in his care and organization of the barn, making theirs the healthiest environment he can.” Cindy examples Bob and Val’s neighborly ‘helping hand’, “My parent’s farm was in the path of the tornados that destroyed much of St. Peter about 20 years ago. We lost two geldings in that storm, and one of our broodmares, carrying a foal at the time, was severely injured. Had Bob not taken it upon himself to come and pick her up, so she could get the medical care she needed, I am certain we could have lost her and her foal as well. They brought her to the farm, made veterinary appointments for her and did all the daily maintenance to clean her wounds and get her back to good health. She did end up foaling, about a month late, but both were healthy and survived many more years. Arabian Horse Times actually did an article on that incident!” Cindy’s first national championship was in 2009 with GTC. “I had just started showing my homebred mare, BA Glory Days,” Cindy says. “She was 5 years old and the local and regional shows hadn’t been going well, but knowing this was her final Junior year, I had Val send in my entries to Canadian Nationals. We ended up with our first National Championship in HalfArabian Country Pleasure AAOTR 40+, despite others telling me she would probably never be National level! Probably the most thrilling thing that has happened to me in the horse world, thanks to Bob and Val.” Cindy concludes, ““I have entrusted GTC with many over the years. They now hold my future show horse in their barn and I trust them to bring her along as well as they have all our horses!”

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Lesa Dahl-Leland, Wild Ride, Bob & Val Gordon, BA Glory Days and Cindy Backlund. Fellow amateur competitor, Lesa Dahl-Leland, notes, “Both Bob and Val work extremely hard. Despite Val’s full-time job at Anoka Equine Veterinary Clinic, once she gets home, she heads to the barn to help Bob finish up chores, which we all know are never ending with a busy show barn!” Connecting positive action and words, Lesa asserts, “Bob and Val possess unending concern for their clients and their clients’ families. It goes way beyond what happens at a horse show. Every now and then, Bob will call my 97-year-old mother, just to chat.” Lesa points out Vince Lombardi’s famous words posted on the wall in the GTC barn lounge, “Winning is not everything, but the EFFORT to win is what matters.” Even Bob and Val are ‘game’ for pulling a prank occasionally, knowing their clients’ quirks. Falling for a light-hearted caper recently, Lesa shares, “Bob and Val (and many others) know I do not like bows, ribbons, etc. braided into geldings’ manes. I was dressed for a show hack class and Bob was warming up my horse Bob and BA Glory Days, 2009 NSH Finals Champions. to the right, which I thought was odd because normally always went to the left first. It quickly became apparent why when they turned around, and I saw little red roses on hair pins, in my horse’s mane. They thought it was so funny … me, not so much! They were easily and quickly removed before I went in the ring, but Bob thought he’d really pulled a good one on me—what a prankster!” Kimberly Crumley and daughter Ali have been with GTC for more than 10 years. “Ali and I couldn’t be happier,” says Kimberly. “Each visit begins with a welcome by their dog Garth and the barn cats. We love being able to groom our horses if we want yet enjoy the tip top of professional coaching and care. Bob’s words to us entering the show ring are always, ‘Now get going and have fun!’”

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Roberta and Grace Famestad too, are long-time mother/ daughter clients of GTC, traveling 10-hour round trip treks to the farm for lessons on their country English horses. Grace having spent most of her youth years riding with GTC, proclaims, “Pretty much everything I know about riding and showing horses I have learned from Bob!” Grace adds, “I think that Bob’s judging career has been a huge asset to GTC’s operation, especially now that he has judged major shows like Scottsdale, Youth, U.S. Nationals and internationally in South Africa. This has allowed him the opportunity to meet new people, plus cultivate new relationships with people he may otherwise have not met. There are many benefits to having him as a judge in our industry, but I think the biggest is his integrity. He is a fair person holding himself to peak standards. This reflects in his judging career.” Professional peer (and long-time judge) Duane Esser nods in agreement, “Bob’s thirst to learn, and his integrity

Gordon Training Center Clients, Canadian Nationals 2012. and desire to draw more folks into the industry make him a top judge for our shows. One year we worked together on the English panel at Bob’s first U.S Nationals—a real pleasure. Recently I was pleased to recommend Bob to judge his first international event, this year’s nationals in South Africa. Hopefully, this is the beginning of many overseas judging jobs for Bob.” On a social note, Duane adds, “For several years we’ve enjoyed stabling next door to GTC at National Show Horse Finals. This “A” rated show allows time for folks to socialize, and we always look forward to catching up with Bob, Val and their clients.” Duane smiles, “Every year, I resume the on-going conversation of telling Val she would make a terrific Steward. And every year I’m rewarded with her special smile that turns her eyes into vivid half-moons.” Rooted proudly in this land of ten thousand lakes, natives Bob and Val have set forth their own distinctive path of influence in the world of Arabian show horses, churning out champion after champion, and making forever friends and admirers, all while inviting new folks into their world, a glowing beacon of their beloved Minnesota’s state motto: L’e’toile du North, ‘The Star Of The North”, and two intertwined “Hearts of Gold.” n

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My heart is so full of gratitude when it comes to thinking of everything you have done for me and my horses over the last 16 years. So many great accomplishments and dreams have come true because of your talent, your belief in me as a rider, and the support of your wonderful wife, Val! I’m thankful for your attention to detail and the phenomenal care you both have given to my horses. You facilitated the best 40th birthday present with my first trip to Scottsdale and being named Unanimous Champion Native Costume AAOTR on YA Smoke Alarm+/. Allowing me the opportunity to show Levi Strauss to NSHF Champion Show Hack ATR, out of 16 horses, when he was 16 years old, is a treasured memory. Coaching me with Wild Ride+// when I needed a trusty steed, was incredible. Then, most recently, watching you and Round N Around+// go National Champion Show Hack was absolutely wonderful! I hope you’ll always remember my appreciation for everything you’ve done and my endless gratitude. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, ~ Lesa Dahl-Leland

Bob and Val, Thank you, both, for everything you have done for me, my family and my horses. You are always there, caring and giving of yourselves for the horses’ benefit. Through our years with Key of Hope+/, her National Champion son Wild Ride+//, multi-National Champion BA Glory Days+/, Baske Royalty and looking to the future with Shoc Rattle and Roll, it has been our honor to be associated with you and your business. You love my horses as much as I do and care for them like they are your own—that speaks volumes as to your skills as horse people. Because of your excellent raising and training skills, I not only won National Championships with one, but two homebred and raised Half-Arabians. We hit all the highs and the lows, and there is no one I would rather share this crazy horse circus with than you two! ~ Cindy Backlund REGION 10 | 19 | Ar abian Horse Times

Bob and Val, Congratulations on 25 years in business! We cannot begin to thank you enough for everything these past 20 years and for all of the unforgettable memories! From Wally to Mikey, we have been through it all! We love you guys, ~Roberta and Grace Famestad

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Dear Bob and Val, Some of our best days at Cedar Ridge involved your time with us. We love you both very much, and are so proud of all that you have accomplished. You two have such a strong work ethic and dedication to your profession and clients. Thanks for all the wonderful memories! ~ Dick, Lollie and Lara Ames

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Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Bob. The stars aligned and brought us to you and Val over ten years ago, and we have never been so grateful to be part of your horse family. Your ethics and integrity are stellar. You have taught us how to be humble and given us the tools to become better equestrians every season. Looking forward to many more horse seasons with you! With the utmost respect for you and Miss Val ‌ ~ Kimberly & Ali Crumley

Happy 30th wedding anniversary, Bob and Val! Congratulations on 25 very successful years of Gordon Training Center! Thank you for the wonderful care and exemplary training you give to Boxer, Charm and Reba! Thanks for the many wonderful memories and the ones we are still making! ~ Greg and Sandy Helgeson, Cricket Meadow Farm

Thank you, Bob, for the endless time you have spent with Rollie and I over the years. ~ Craig and Kathy Smedstad

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While I have only been part of the Gordon Training barn for a few months, everyone has made us feel like we have been part of the family for years. Bob has gone above and beyond on time spent with Superior Love. I love the fun, family-friendly atmosphere that surrounds the barn and show aisle of Gordon Training. ~ Erin Runde

Bob, Who would have thought after 20 plus years of not riding, we would find ourselves back in the Gordon Training Center family. We returned because we trust you and your uncanny ability to bring horse and rider together, no matter the talent level or discipline. For our family, you made a bucket list dream become a reality beyond our expectations, and we are forever grateful. With love, Jeff and Kathy Hawkins, Janis McGannon & Cassino Royalle “Jake�

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2x National Champion 2016 APAHA Arabian Halter Horse of the Year

(Marwan Al Shaqab x La Vida Lloca)

Dear Bob & Val, Congratulations on 25 years in the Arabian horse industry. I greatly appreciate your wisdom, multi-disciplinary training talents, integrity, and most importantly, your kindness and genuine concern for the horses in your care. The fact that many clients have been with you for decades speaks volumes. As Majestico begins his performance training with you, I am hopeful that he emulates his maternal grandsire, the legendary Concensus++++//, by proving that he is more than a beautiful halter horse. Thank you for all that you do. With warm regards, Nancy Cowette Seward Bred & Owned By: Hobnail Farm Greenfield, Minnesota Nancy Cowette Seward 763-477-5310

Standing At: Gordon Training Center Private Treaty REGION 10 | 24 | Ar abian Horse Times