Photogenic Arizona Arab Captures Grand Prize
in Farnam SuperMask SuperModel National Contest
When Megan Manning scanned through her inbox last July, she was completely unprepared for the news tucked in one particular email.
Clicking on the message, she discovered that her horse SR Ssavant, a 13-year-old Arabian gelding, had been selected as the grand prize winner in the 2018 Farnam SuperMask SuperModel contest.
"I never imagined winning; I just thought it would be fun to enter," says an equally surprised and delighted Megan, who lives in Mesa, Arizona.
Farnam partnered with EQUUS Magazine on the SuperMask SuperModel Contest as a way to celebrate the new and improved design features of Farnam’s classic style SuperMask fly mask, a best-seller since it came on the market in 1986. The redesign resulted in even better fit and extended protection.
"Horse owners were invited to nominate their equine friends to be the next #SuperMaskSuperModel by submitting their contact information and uploading a headshot of their horse to a landing page on EQUUSmagazine.com. The contest featured a kick-off at the 2018 Kentucky Three-Day event and was shared across the Equine Network for six weeks to find the winner," explains Lindsay Porter, equine network brand coordinator at EQUUS Magazine.
Contest organizers weren't expecting the deluge of entries that poured in. A total of 1,274 entries were submitted. Weekly SuperMask drawings were held for all entrants throughout the duration of the contest.
After the closure of the entry period, photos of all eligible contest entries were re-posted to the final online gallery for public voting on https://equusmagazine.com to determine the ten finalists.
"With so many amazing finalists to choose from, the judges had an extremely difficult task," Lindsay admits. "SR Ssavant was chosen based on photogenic qualities (40%), audience appeal (30%) and appropriateness to contest theme (30%)."
Thanks to her grand prize-winning horse, Megan received a fly control and grooming package worth $1,000 in Farnam products, a free one-year print subscription to EQUUS Magazine, and a professional photo shoot with her horse's image to appear in a Farnam SuperMask advertisement in 2019.
The other nine finalists were also winners and received $250 in Farnam products, plus a free subscription to EQUUS Magazine.
Megan has used Farnam products for many years. "I especially love Laser Sheen and the Slick N Easy grooming blocks," she says. "I go through a lot of those during shedding season; they work great."
But despite her familiarity with Farnam's horse care products, Megan hadn't thought about entering the SuperMask SuperModel contest until a friend on Facebook shared it with her.
"I've always thought my horse has a really gorgeous face and have lots of pictures of him, so I ended up entering," she says.
"We know our customers take great pride in how well they care for their horses, and who out there doesn’t like to show off a great picture of their handsome horse?" says Martha Lefebvre, senior marketing manager for Farnam. "What better way to pay tribute to our four-legged partners than by entering them into a national equine modeling contest?"
An Arizona native Megan, 22, is currently a law student at Arizona State University, but her horse fever goes back to elementary school days.
Megan started riding at age eight and a year later began competing. Showing on the Arabian circuit, she focused on hunter pleasure and sport horse under saddle, but by age 11, she was hooked on dressage. Riding her gelding Fortunes Fate+ ("Peanut"), the two made it all the way to the Arabian Youth Nationals, winning the youth championship in 2011.
In 2012, when she began riding with her current trainer, Paula Paglia, Megan was introduced to a flashy gray gelding at the trainer's Scottsdale barn. His sire was Sshameless, a western pleasure and halter stallion with national titles to his name, who has even honored by Breyer making him one of their model horses.
Ssavant has his daddy's good looks and a ton of personality. At 15.2 hands, he's taller than many Arabians and has a powerful, athletic build. Megan knew immediately that he was an extraordinary horse. What she didn't know was that she would own him a year later.
"My trainer said my horse at the time wouldn't be able to take me a lot further," recalls Megan. "I was taking some lessons on Ssavant. He had a 'baby' brain then; he was either hot or cold, but he loved to do flying lead changes It was about nine months before I even considered buying him. I didn't think we could afford him, but my mom fell in love with him. I was riding him more and more, and finally my parents agreed to split the cost with me. I wasn't looking for him; he just kind of happened!"
That serendipitous "happening" has been magical.
While an undergrad at Arizona State University, Megan showed college horses in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) competitions from 2015 through 2018, and was captain of ASU's team last year. At the same time, she was also showing Ssavant through the Arizona Dressage Association, so she logged plenty of hours in the show ring.
Megan often included trail riding in the desert between training in the arena and is proud of how willing her horse has been, no matter what he's asked to do. In the span of five years, they've advanced from training level to FEI--no small accomplishment.
Megan and Ssavant were state champions at first and second level in 2014. In 2018, the same year they debuted at FEI and Prix St Georges Intermediate 1 at the Region 5 Championships, they were champion in Intermediate 1 and reserve champion in Prix St Georges. At the Arizona State Championships in 2018, they were champion at fourth level.
"I was ranked as number one FEI adult amateur for the state of Arizona," says Megan, who gives much of the credit to Ssavant, adding, "He's a bit of a super horse!"
At shows, Ssavant insists on hanging his head out of the stall so he can take in everything. "He needs a stall guard, so he can have his head in the aisle and fall asleep," says Megan. "He's comfortable and calm when he has horses and people around him."
Now that she's in law school, Megan's schedule is busier than ever, leaving her very little time to ride, let alone compete. She's recently made the tough decision to put Ssavant up for sale and he's presently being leased.
"He's a horse who loves to train and work and he needs someone to keep him going. He's not ready to retire at only 13," says Megan. "Selling him is not a decision I want to make, but I have two more years to go in school and don't have time for riding now."
Ssavant has been the ideal partner for the past six years and Megan knows he will help fulfill another rider's dreams--just as he did her own. She still has "Peanut," her retired youth show horse, as well as a yearling half-Arab, half-Westphalian filly she recently bought. That filly will be ready to start under saddle right about the time Megan graduates from law school.
When Megan received the email letting her know that Ssavant had made it into the top 10 finalists and been chosen as the contest winner, she realized it was a most fitting ending to a fairytale partnership.
"What was really awesome was that it was a nice way to wrap it all up," she says. "I have some great photos of my horse and he'll be in Farnam ads."
As expected Ssavant displayed his winning personality and looks when Farnam sent a photographer out to capture images of the handsome horse to be used in an upcoming SuperMask ad.
Of course, Megan didn't expect anything less.
"He's super photogenic, much better than me," she laughs. "He's the perfect super model; he's a very good poser. The name Ssavant suits him; he knows he's special."