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Rowan faily’s mare a world champion horse aof course

Who’d ever think it’s as hard for a horse to win a beauty contest as it is for those gorgeous gals who think they have a chance?
Not that the horse can discuss the problems of weight and makeup and whatever with you, but his ó or her ó owner can.
“They’re judged on their body parts just like in everything else,” says Gary Kepley. “The judges who count will talk about who’s expected to win and why and unless you listen very carefully or are part of the horse society you might think they’re talking about gals, not horses.”
“Is she expected to win? But she’s a little short, isn’t she? Is everyone really thinking she’s favored? But there’s a political part in this just like in everything else, and the talk was about her, and she’s the one expected to get the title. And that’s why we expected it.”
People were saying all her body parts were in the right places, and she was the one expected to win because she has the ideal horsy beauty contest look.
“They have to walk correctly, and everything is supposed to be right. Some walk and a hoof points out or points in, and that’s a defect. She’s not perfect. The terminology is it’s ‘correct’ or ‘not correct.’ There’s not a defect in her hind legs ó or there is.
“So the judges judge the walk, the trot, good athletic moves and also allow a little credit in relation to how good a riding horse can move.”
“Ours,” Kepley says, “was the best. There were 33 mares in her class from all over the country and some from other parts of the world.”
And Gary and Gail Kepley’s Tribute Sweet Pea won the World Championship!
“My daughter, Katie, wrote an article last year that got in the paper,” Gary Kepley says, possibly as proud of that as he was of Tribute Sweet Pea’s World Championship.
The Kepleys have six children, “and I was raised on a farm,” Gary Kepley says, “so I sort of had horses in my blood. I’m supposed to be getting out of this thing. I’m retired for one thing. I was human resources manager at Freightliner and personnel administration manager, and then Katie came along real late. She was born when I was 50 years old. We actually have grandchildren older than our daughter.
“But it’s been a big thrill for us. Last year, Katie showed the horse in the youth, amateur and pro competitions, and she won it last year. She won the reserve world champion in the youth division, and this year the horse won it in the pro division where competition is much stronger.
“Katie was going to show this year in the 2-year-old class, but her trainer’s wife was selected as a judge, so there was a conflict of interest.
“But we’re getting a lot of inquiries about buying the horse.
“What we usually do is buy them when they’re young and then start getting them ready to show. And we’ve done real well.
“I did have a horse farm in Mount Ulla, but I had some health problems that forced me to do something else. But because of Katie we just have to keep them somewhere. Three are in Texas, one in Morganton, and we’re preparing to bring that one down here close.
“There will be some shows in the fall. We’ll do a show in in Asheville, one in Camden, S.C., Perry, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla.
“It’s very important to have a good trainer,” he says, “and Tim Finkenbinder, my trainer, is No. 1 in the nation. He works with the horse and gets her fit and ready to show and hauls her in his train.”
Katie won’t ride her this year, but not long from now …
The younger children don’t ride them much when they’re at home in Granite Quarry and unless they have a friend over they want to show off for, he says.
And the older children are busy with their own lives.
Daughter Lynne Robinson is married to Doug, who teaches at Erwin Middle School. Stacey and her husband, Cory Moore, and their three children, McKenzie, 15, Chase, 14, and Landyann, 9, are in business in Mocksville.
Justin and his wife, Amber, and their two children, Garrison, 3, and Gannon, 2, live in Salisbury, and he works for Shulenberger Surveying.
Brett works for Nextel and is married to Heather, and they have two children, Jaelyn, 9, and Caden, 4.
Lindsey is married to Justin Hamrick, and they live in Boone.
Katie, who’s 13 now, will enter East Rowan this fall.
“And we still piddle in the horse business,” Gary says, “but mostly I”m retired from Freightliner. I was one of the original employees. And I play a lot of golf and have been somewhat involved in The Gables at Kepley Farm, an active adult community on Faith Road.
“It was kind of fun,” he says, “when we were down there in Texas. The street was named for my wife’s family ó Gilleland Avenue.”
“I did some research,” Gail says, “and I found out that my father had four generations back who had lived there. They were large ranchers, and that was also the homeplace of Gene Autry, so I told my husband that I have some interesting background there, too. My home was also close to Tioga, Texas, where Bonnie and Clyde met their fate, and it was quite thrilling to find out those things.”
But the most interesting thing in Gary and Gail’s lives, after their large family, is their love of horses.
“They’ve been our hobby,” she says, “and we don’t expect that to end. Katie wants to be a large-animal vet.”
Both Katie and her daddy were raised on a farm, but none of the others were interested, her dad says, except when they were all showing off to their girlfriends and boyfriends.
But father and daughter are. He’s had three world champions and five reserve world champions, “and even before Katie came along I was showing horses.”
Gary grew up on the Kepley Farm on Faith Road, which is now The Gables at Kepley Farm just outside of Faith and has been in the family for 61 years.
“My family moved here when I was 3 years old,” he says.
The home place was called Green Acres when it belonged to the Kepleys, “but we don’t own the property any more.
“But my dad, Garner Kepley, still has lifetime rights to the house. He’s 95.”
And he surely knows the property will never lose the family name.

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