The Carolinas Show Hunter Hall of Fame announced that the 2019 Elma Garcia Award will go to Bling Bling, owned by Sarah Ward-Rupp of Flyover Farms in Conyers, Georgia. The 19-year old Holsteiner gelding will be inducted into the Hall of Fame with this year’s award winners at a special ceremony held at Bruce Fields during the Aiken Charity I Horse Show in Aiken, South Carolina on May 3, 2019.
The evening will honor legendary horses and horsemen from the Carolinas, including Dreamboat, High Hearts, Lestat, Carol Kent, Jeanne Smith, Thomas Earl “Red” Frazier, J. Arthur “Bucky” Reynolds II and Don Stewart Jr. The Janet Peterson Memorial Award recipient is William “Billy” Haggard.
Sarah’s family purchased Bling Bling in 2005 as an equitation horse from Olympic veteran Peter Leone. It quickly became apparent that the dark bay excelled in the hunters. In 2006 Sarah made the jump from local shows to the A-Circuit training with Jack Towell at Finally Farm in Camden, SC. Despite never competing in the hack, the pair were consistent winners in the Children’s Hunter division
Bling Bling proved to be a 3-ring horse and Sarah showed him successfully in the hunters, equitation and jumpers. “The highlight was winning the Championship at Capital Challenge and Grand Champion at Blowing Rock with Bling,” remembered Sarah.
Now having turned professional, Sarah has opened her own hunter/jumper facility outside Atlanta where Bling Bling and her other aged horses live out their golden years.
“Bling is pretty much retired,” smiles Sarah, “but I occasionally use him to teach walk/trot kids or go out on trail rides. When I was younger, anytime I was flustered, Jack [Towell] would get me on Bling, even if he was being leased by someone! He and I had a bond unlike any I’ve had with my other horses, many who are enjoying their retirement at my 35 -acre farm.”
Bling Bling was also brought out of retirement for the biggest day of Sarah’s life – her wedding! When she was married last year to a commercial pilot Jon Rupp, she chose the handsome dark bay as her ring bearer. “When he saw me walking down the aisle, he whinnied. It was adorable. He even made it into the New York Times!”
Bling is one of my once in a lifetime horses! I’ve been lucky to have two, him and Onassis. I’m so proud that he will be honored!” finished Sarah. “He taught so many riders the ropes and has and always will be a barn favorite. The grooms called him ‘Numero Uno.’”
During his career Bling Bling won numerous championships and classics, often with scores in the 90s. He was Grand Champion in the Children’s Hunter division at Blowing Rock and won the Classic, Champion at the CCHS as well as 3rd at the NAL Children’s Hunter Finals held at the PNHS; 5th in the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Hunter Championship; and Zone 4 Reserve Champion of the Children’s Hunter 15-17 division.