Michael Hershberger and A Certain Illustion win the 2012 Select world championship in western pleasure; congratulated by wife, Barbara, and trainer, Christy Starnes.
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by Christine HamiltonThe American Quarter Horse Journal
When Michael Hershberger of Milford, Nebraska, found himself one of the last three riders left in the arena after the western pleasure finals at the 2012 Adequan Select World Championship Show, he didn’t dare to think he had the world championship cinched.
For one thing, he was in Select world championship company – Jan Shepherd Pittman and Ona Good Impulse, the class’ 2009 winners, and Linda Ball Sargent and Amblin So Good, the 2011 winners.
Besides, he was already happy. He’d made his goal: put his mare, A Certain Illusion, into the trophy count.
“We won the (Select) performance halter mares in 2011 and were fourth in the pleasure,” he told the Journal. “We just missed the trophies and that was our goal this year. It was beyond our imagination to get a gold trophy.”
But they did. Jan was called for third and Linda for the reserve. Two judges placed A Certain Illusion first and three had her third.
“This has been an unbelievable journey,” Michael said in his Journal Winning Run. “We bought this mare two years ago, and she had a lot of talent but it’s taken us two years to get us hooked. This year’s been tough, and we’ve been kind of adding pieces as we went along, and we weren’t having a lot of success at the local shows and the regional shows.
“We came here and all the pieces fell together,” he continued. “What timing! It couldn’t have been better. (AQHA Professional Horseman) Kristy Starnes, my trainer, is phenomenal. She is a young lady who is multi-talented. She had a plan and ... I followed her plan. She had this horse prepared unbelievably today.”
A Certain Illusion was bred by Tim and Lou Petty of Ocala, Florida.
“We bought her really because she’s a very pretty mare … and we bought her sight unseen,” Michael said “It’s proven to be a really good investment.”
From Milford, Nebraska, Michael and Barbara have been raising babies “for about 25 years.”
“We absolutely love that part of it, we love the mares and babies,” Michael said. “We haven’t kept them back really for futurity horses yet but we’re going to start doing it this next year, hopefully.”
A CPA with a firm in Lincoln, Nebraska, Michael works hard from November through April, and doesn’t see the horses until May through October.
“It’s a wonderful occupation because I’m in Lincoln … when it’s really quite nasty and cold. It opens up my summer months so I can travel all over the United States and show horses. It’s my passion.”
Michael came by his horse passion by his father, Elwood: “His passion was always to have great horses.”
He added, “I was fortunate enough in 2008 to bring him here and get a horse ready for him by myself and train it for him to show (at the Adequan Select World). He was 83 years old, and he got 17th place in western pleasure here. It was quite a thrill for him. My love for horses is based on his love for horses.”
Right now, Michael is aiming to show A Certain Illusion at the All American Quarter Horse Congress in the Select and the non-pro maturity. Past that, she's probably headed for the broodmare band.
“She’s done the two things that we thought she might do,” Michael said. “She is a phenomenal producer; we have two babies out of her that are going to be stars. Probably her next claim to fame will be when she has a world champion, and Jay (Starnes) and Kristy believe that she’s quite capable of that.”
He added, regarding the Adequan Select World: “I always love this show it’s very low key. Everyone supports each other … and you meet the nicest people.
“AQHA does a nice job of hosting this. The (reception) at the (American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame) the other night was wonderful. And you don’t have that at the other shows.”