By Katherine O. Rizzo with photos supplied by Lynne’s many friends (first published in the January 2020 Equiery)

In today’s era of breeding sport horses, the word “Statesman” has become widely synonymous with the word “Morgan.” Breeder Justin Morgan’s stallion Figure (later renamed Justin Morgan) may have sired the American Morgan Horse breed in the mid 1700s, but it is breeder Lynne Shpak’s stallion The Statesman that has sired the modern Morgan sport horse. Although separated by centuries, in a lot of ways Lynne’s careful breeding program aimed at creating an all-around athlete was very similar to the intentions of Justin Morgan who recognized Figure’s versatility.

Lynne’s goal was to produce top Morgan sport horses that would excel in a variety of disciplines while maintaining the composure and temperament suitable for amateur riders. She succeeded and shaped the Morgan breed across the country for the modern era of sport horses.

But her passion was not to just breed Morgans, she wanted to share this love with others and acted as an ambassador for the breed. She taught both riding and driving lessons, helped 4-Hers learn the ins and outs of horse judging and had an open door policy when it came to anyone who wanted to learn about the breed.

Being just as multi-talented as her horses, Lynne was also an artist. She sketched, painted and created wonderful works of art through her popular jewelry business.

One cannot help wondering what more Lynne would have brought to the breed and her community if her life were not tragically cut short on October 19, 2014. At the age of 74, Lynne was fatally injured while unloading a friend’s horse near Utica, New York, while traveling home from a friend’s wedding.

Thankfully, Lynne’s amazing breeding program did not die with her, as friends and those she had mentored from around the country stepped forward to continue The Statesman’s lines using Lynne’s breeding philosophy. According to the American Morgan Horse Association’s registry database, there are currently over 140 Morgan horses with the Statesman suffix. But that is just the tip of the iceberg as there are probably over 140 more with Statesman lines registered with other farm prefixes and names. This is Lynne’s legacy.

The one that started it all: The Statesman

The Statesman
Although Lynne began riding as a toddler, it was not until 1968 that she fell in love with the Morgan breed. She had already established herself as a trainer at an early age, starting yearling racehorses, foxhunting and showing in the hunter and jumper rings. She graduated from Oberlin College with a major in psychology and in her early 20s, began competing in dressage, carriage driving and endurance races.

It was while in Vermont, when she was competing in the South Woodstock 100-mile competitive trail ride, that Lynne visited Marilyn and Harold Childs’ Harolyn Hills Farm. There, in 1968, she first met The Statesman.

He was a liver chestnut colt by the stallion Lippitt Mandate and out of Major’s Lass. Nicknamed “Mandy,” his movement was what most attracted Lynne . She told The Morgan Horse in 1994, “he floated.” Her love affair with the Morgan breed began that very day.

After purchasing Mandy, she brought him back to Maryland and began to train him herself. By the time he was two years old, she was showing him in open Morgan classes at local competitions. Although Mandy did catch many judges’ eyes, and always ended up in the ribbons, he didn’t start bringing home blues until his three-year-old season. He went on to win the English Pleasure Championship at the Mid-Atlantic Morgan Horse Show twice and at the Mason Dixon Classic three times.

Outside of Morgan shows, Lynne rode him in local and regional pleasure shows and also hunted him with packs in Howard and Carroll counties. Together they went on to compete successfully through Fourth Level dressage. Oh, and she also broke him to drive. Before the modern sport of Combined Driving was really an official sport, Mandy showed in carriage events in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. These shows offered separate classes for pleasure, obstacles and marathon. Mandy was undefeated in these events.

In 1979, Lynne established Statesman Farm in Woodstock, Maryland, naming the farm after the stallion that started it all.

Stallion Atavista Statesman was driven to National Combined Driving championships in both Singles and as a Pair with fellow Statesman Farm stallion Chief of State.

The Next Generations
From The Statesman came other highly successful stallions that also passed on quality traits making generation after generation successful in a variety of disciplines, just as Lynne had intended.
Stallions Chief of State (The Statesman x Fleur-De-Lis) and Atavista Statesman (The Statesman x Braecroft Charm) were driven to the 1990 National Combined Driving Pair Championship at Gladstone, NJ, by Bill Lower. Yes, a pair of breeding stallions were driven together to win national championships! A true testament to both their athletic ability and focused minds. Both stallions were also driven to championships as singles and won in the dressage ring as well.

Chief of State was the Mid-A Morgan Show Sport Horse Champion two years in a row. Atavista Statesman went on to win the National Combined Driving Singles Championship with his new owner/driver Norm Sutton, becoming the only horse to ever win both a pairs and single national driving championship.

Chief of State, aka “Chevy,” excelled out of the show ring as well with his kind, patient attitude. Lynne taught many children to ride on him and would also show up at birthday parties to give pony rides to the children of those she mentored. He was even used as a therapy horse for President Reagan’s Press Secretary Jim Brady while he was recovering from injuries sustained during the assassination attempt on Reagan.

Lyn Skillington and her father, Jim, purchased The Statesman’s filly Statesmans Morita, out of Ramsomvale Morita, in 1988 as a weanling. Lyn competed “Morita” to several pleasure driving championships while her father trail rode her through the mountains of Pennsylvania. In 1997, the then 9-year-old mare was ridden by a young rider to the Mid-Atlantic Morgan Horse Show Junior Exhibitor Working Hunter Championship and was reserve in the Junior Exhibitor Sport Horse Award.

The Skillingtons were so impressed with Morita that they bought a stud colt from Lynne to stand their own stallion in Pennsylvania. They purchased Chief of State’s first breeding son, Statesmans Silhouette, out of Meadowrock Melanie, when he was only five days old. Despite a nearly career ending injury as a yearling, he went on to win high score awards and championships through Third Level dressage with trainer Lori Shoemake. He was also undefeated in Morgan Sport Horse Suitability in hand on the triangle, and competed in working hunter classes. Like his father, Statesmans Silhouette won the Mid-Atlantic Morgan Horse Show Sport Horse Award.

Marthe Reynolds (New York) was in search of an upper level dressage prospect when she stumbled upon the Morgan breed. While doing a Google search in the early 2000s, a photo of Statesmans Signature (Chief of State x Coal Creek SpicyGlow) popped up. She too fell in love and purchased “Sigi” from then owner Rita Hanson. “I didn’t meet Lynne till after I got Sigi and she instantly became a great friend and mentor,” Marthe told The Equiery.

Marthe competed Sigi up through Third Level dressage and earned her US Dressage Federation Bronze Medal with him. He went on to compete at Fourth Level with trainer Louisa-Marcelle Eadie, often beating out the Warmbloods in open classes. “He could compete against the best imports and win!” Marthe remarked. She attributes this success to The Statesman lines. Sigi also found success as a stallion but was recently retired due to an injury and age.

Probably The Statesman’s most successful offspring on the international stage is PVF Peace of Mind. Sired by Statesmans Signature and out of the mare JPR Have Mercy, “Hunny” is owned by Suzy Stafford and competed at the Advanced FEI level of Combined Driving. They were Reserve FEI Single Horse National Champions and were short-listed for the 2014 World Driving Championships in Hungary.

The following year, the pair were unbeatable, winning each of their three FEI events. They also won the 2015 USEF Single Horse Driving National Championship. Their accomplishments that year earned PVF Peace of Mind the 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year title, the highest honor USEF awards annually. In 2016, Hunny was inducted into the EQUUS Foundation’s Horse Stars Hall of Fame after they represented the U.S. at the 2016 World Driving Championships held in Austria and earned the USEF Combined Driving Horse of The Year award.

“Hunny is the epitome of everything a Morgan Horse should be. Personable, athletic, willing with sound confirmation,” Suzy told The Equiery, adding, “She possesses that extra presence that cannot be learned or developed. It is inherent! This is a testament to the breeding program Lynne carefully developed over years of research and passionate efforts.”

PVF Peace Of Mind became a Breyer Horse Model in 2017. Hunny retired from international competition in 2019, and is currently in foal to the Morgan stallion Minion Millennium.

Megan Vogel’s Statesman Revelation is one of the last colts born at Statesman Farm.

Continuing the Legacy
With Lynne’s death in 2014, several breeders and friends within the Morgan community stepped up to take over the reins of the Statesman legacy and continue to breed Morgan sport horses the way Lynne would have wanted.

In addition to those already mentioned, Kate Ferris of Ensigns Grace Farm, which recently moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, is actively promoting The Statesman’s lines. Kate worked with Lynne at Statesman Farm for 12 years before heading out on her own. “I learned directly from her. What to look for in a Morgan, how to train them, how to cross lines to produce better and better horses,” she told The Equiery. “Lynne was doing the sport horse thing before it was a common thing,” she added.
Kate said that Lynne bred for international caliber horses. “She had such a consistency in her breeding program and bred for proper movement,” Kate explained. “She taught me to establish goals and then breed for them.”

Kate’s goal for Ensigns Grace Farm is to produce FEI level Morgan horses. She achieved this with Statesmans Eclipse (Caduceus Montour x Statesmans Mansanita, by The Statesman) who became the first Statesman horse to break into the FEI levels of dressage. “The legacy of Lynne’s line is what these horses bring to the Morgan breed,” she said.

Stephanie Schaufeld Place recently added a Statesman pony to the FEI levels with “Dev” – Statesmans Endeavor. The pair competed at Dressage at Devon this past year at Intermediare I and is currently schooling Gran Prix. “He is a rock star FEI pony,” she told The Equiery. “I first met Lynne around 1988. I wanted a Morgan when I first moved to Virginia and she had me ride Chevy as a five-year-old. I fell in love immediately.” Stephanie said that Lynne did not have anything that suited her needs at the time but later sold her a weanling filly named Statesmans Sonata. “Two years later I see her at a jewelry show. She shows me a picture of Dev, at the time he was also a weanling. Yes, I bought him too,” she recalled.

One of Lynne’s last breeding stallions, Statesmans Skyhawk, is currently in Warrenton, Virginia, though not standing at stud. Katie Bostick (Texas) and B.J. Morris (Georgia) have the only two Statesman stallions currently used for breeding.

Katie stands Statesman Renaissance, though his name was changed to Spring Hollow Statesman before she purchased him. He is the last intact colt by Chief of State. He lives on a Texas ranch doing ranch work and his first crop of offspring are currently on the ground aimed at the same sort of sport.
B.J., also mentored by Lynne, stands the now four year old, Lynne’s Last Statesman. He is a liver chestnut by Atavista Statesman and has all the qualities of Lynne’s foundation stallion.

Megan Vogel of Frederick also has one of the last Statesman colts. The 2013 Statesman Revelation is by Atavista Statesman out of the mare Willo Pony Bellorena. Megan is sending him out for training this spring and will look into standing him at stud in the near future.

Although Megan never formally worked for Lynne, she drove her horse over for lessons twice a week and Lynne also taught her daughter to ride. “Lynne was like my second mom and our daughter’s grandmother. I miss her dearly,” she told The Equiery. Megan has three of Lynne’s homebreds as well as one of her mares. “There are days I go to the barn and get upset wanting to know why she isn’t here anymore,” she said.

Megan, as many others who knew Lynne, knows deep down that Lynne will never truly be gone as her Statesman lines live on.

Remembering Lynne Shpak
In 2015, a year after Lynne’s death, Statesman Farm was inducted into the AMHA Breeder’s Hall of Fame. AMHA’s award presentation remarks included, “The Statesman horses are known worldwide for their exceptional temperament, beautiful eye, long floating stride, balanced canter and cadenced walk.”

Lynne herself stated in an AMHA breeder profile, “Temperament is, of course, of primary importance since even a sound, good moving horse is of little value if the temperament is poor. A good sport horse will be tractable, quiet but willing, confident, easy to train, and will possess self confidence and kindness.”

Both these quotes have been echoed again and again by the hundreds of comments shared on The Equiery’s Facebook page when we sent out a request for memories of Lynne Shpak and her horses. Below are just a few of these statements from those who knew her and those who have horses they cherish from the Statesman legacy.

More from Sarah Firestone – “I met Lynne through my non-horsey mom who was a jewelry client. I had been working at big dressage barns, was burned out and thinking of getting out of horses for a while. My mom insisted that I should meet the lady she had been buying jewelry from and invited me to come with her to Lynne’s to pick up some jewelry. Lynne showed me around and I met a few mares and foals and of course, Chevy, her stallion. They were the most content and relaxed horses I had ever met, the complete opposite of most of the horses where I was working at the time. This visit took place soon after the fire when her house and shop burned down and she didn’t have anywhere to house working students and needed help with feeding in the evenings. I began as her evening barn help in 2000. Lynne let me ride when I wished and I rode Juzanna’s mother, Seri, a lot. I was also in love with Chevy-it was hard to believe he was a stallion. You would never know it unless you checked. I desperately wanted a Morgan at this point and I really wanted Seri and Chevy’s 2001 foal but the foal was sold in utero. At that time all of Lynne’s foals were sold before they were born. As luck would have it, Seri had a filly that spring and the people who wanted her foal backed out deciding they wanted a colt instead. (Seri foaled in the field overnight and I found Juzanna and Seri hours after she had been born and brought them in. I was Juzanna’s first human!) I told Lynne I wanted Juzanna and the rest is history. Lynne also allowed me to make payments on Juzanna over the span of 6 months which was very kind of her since I really didn’t have any money given that I was a recent college graduate.

I started riding when I was 5 years old but never got a horse until I was a young adult. Juzanna is my first and my only horse. She has measured up to being everything I hoped for when I finally got a horse of my own. She is honest, fair and reasonable. She has excellent reactions to “scary” things. She is a great teacher as she always remembers where we left off in our training even when it’s been years in between lessons. She is a smooth and light ride and the easiest of keepers. These are all things that wowed me about the Statesman line as I got to know the horses and made me want one. She can also be quite marish, opinionated and she is always the alpha, but I love that about her. Most people who know her and me would say Juzanna “saves the drama for her mama” and that is true. But that’s why we go together so well. She and I are very similar creatures.

When I bought her it never crossed my mind that she would ever become a child’s horse but she is quickly stepping up to the task. She is so gentle and respectful of my daughter and always has been. (I included a few more photos of her and my daughter including one where my daughter was not quite 2 years old and is brushing her in the cross ties!) She is tolerant of my daughter and my daughter’s non-horse savvy but horse crazy friends. She lets them lead her, put glitter in her mane and on her hooves. She let’s 4-H kids practice their grooming and braiding skills. My daughter rides and lunges her but Juzanna always has one eye and ear on me looking for my direction and approval as she gently and cautiously proceeds to execute whatever confusing and mixed aid my daughter has given her. You can tell from the look in her eye that she wants to get it right and take care of her little person even when she is confused. I could go on and on about her for pages. I’m sure all of the other people sending in photos and stories about their Statesman Morgans are saying the same things I am. Lynne was darn consistent in her breeding and all Statesman Morgans share these amazing traits. Lynne would be so proud and at the same time not even surprised in the least at anything I have written about Juzanna.

With Juzanna being 18 and my daughter showing no signs of losing interest in horses I have begun looking for another Morgan so that we can both ride and have our own horses. I have to say that while there are some nice horses out there, none that I’ve found compare to the Statesman line. As far as I’m concerned there is no one who had a knack for breeding and improving the Morgan more than Lynne Shpak.”

From Hope O’Toole – “Heaven gained one heck of a horsewoman and mentor when Lynne arrived. And, I am sure she arrived at the Pearly Gates atop Statesman’s Chief of State!

I have massaged a lot of stallions. Thought none would be better behaved than my favorite Percheron stallion…until I met Chevy (son of Statesmans Chief of State). I was thrilled to take a riding lesson on Chevy before he died. I think of Lynne often. She is the best all-around horsewoman I have ever met. I learned so much from listening to her numerous stories.

Lynne was an expert at just about any riding disipline, including side-saddle. She also drove and worked her Morgans. I think the only reason she didn’t ride western was because she didn’t own a western saddle.”

From Charline Touchard (Culver City, CA) – “Growing up in the mid and late 90s, my family boarded our horses at Statesman’s, and my mom’s Curly Joy was often used as a lesson pony. I’d taken many lessons on Chevy, Treasure, ShyAnn, Seri, and others. Lynne taught the Centaurs 4-H club the ins and outs of hippology, horse judging, and more. I also remember riding my TB mare on the trails at Patapsco State Park on many summer afternoons. Lynne’s barn was a refuge for me in so many ways, and she was an extremely influential person. I, like so many others, miss her to this day.”

From Cheryl London (Woodstock) – “We had Pony Club (Happy Hoofers) meetings and 4-H Meetings at her farm. She was always so generous with her time with the kids. It was also fun watching her ride solo on the trails of the Patapsco State Park with her favorite horse.”