Show rider champion in ring, classroom

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Berry ‘Hank’ Bess is a young fellow worth sitting up and noticing.

Pay a visit to his home on a rural stretch of Manningham Road near Greenville.

Note how confident and at ease this 11-year-old boy looks whenever he’s astride one of the horses on his family’s farm, the ‘Lazy L’.

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The poise comes naturally to him.

After all, Hank’s been riding tall in the saddle since the tender age of six.

Coached by his father Berry Lee, Jr., a long-time horse trainer, this pre-teen is already a card-carrying member of the Racking Horse Association of America.

When you ask him about his favorite part of showing horses, Hank responds quickly.

&uot;I LOVE riding,&uot; he says, his dark eyes lighting up with pleasure.

He pauses, then adds with a nod, &uot;Well, I like dressing the horses up, too, putting all the stuff on them.&uot;

The horses aren’t the only ones ‘dressed to kill’ on these occasions.

Hank trades in his customary polo shirt and blue jeans for a formal suit, crisp white shirt, tie and bowler hat for the show ring.

Once there, the fifth grader (who rides using a traditional English saddle) puts the family’s Tennessee Walking horses through their show paces.

He’s getting pretty good at it, too— just ask his father.

&uot;We always bring home ribbons…we may start off a little slow sometimes, but once we warm up, Hank is gonna win the ribbons,&uot; says his proud dad, Berry.

That’s no empty boast.

In the past year alone, Hank has won no less than 21 first place ribbons, nine second place ribbons, and four third place ribbons in competitions across the southeast.

Those aren’t the only accolades the Greenville Elementary School student has received.

The talented horseman also continues to be a champion in the classroom.

&uot;I was on A-B Honor Roll last time…but I’ll have all ‘A’s on my report card at the end of the year,&uot; Hank notes.

That news comes as no surprise to his parents, Hank and Brenda.

The two have come to expect an outstanding school performance from their son.

Hank has been called &uot;a great student and wonderful young man&uot; by his teachers.

The fifth grader has a stack of certificates applauding his efforts in the classroom.

Leafing through them, you’ll see honors for reading, math, social studies, language and more.

&uot;Hmm…If you want, you can just write down I have the highest average in every subject,&uot; he remarks with an infectious grin.

This school year, the busy student was been involved in the American Heart Association’s ‘Jump Rope for Heart’, the Geography Bowl and Math Tournament.

Berry and Brenda Lee say they have always tried to make sure their son knows his schoolwork and chores come before his time in the show ring.

As for Hank, he says he doesn’t mind working hard to keep up his grades.

It’s worth it all to spend time with good friends like My Circle, Star and Top Bear.

He loves to travel and perform with these and other Lazy L horses at arenas throughout the Gulf Coast region..

On this particular day, Hank is helping his dad show off the farm’s ‘mane’ attractions to a special group of visitors to the Lazy L.

As he watches a group of preschoolers from the Learning Bee Daycare take turns atop one of the horses, Hank smiles broadly.

He knows that some day one of those kids may be riding tall in the saddle—just like Hank. &uot;You’ve just got to keep at it if you want to get good,&uot; he notes.