Arabian and Friesian Enthusiast Jeff Wonnell Passes Away
RELEASE: December 20, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Robert Griffin
Jeff Wonnell, a lifelong consummate horseman who assisted with the introduction of the Friesian breed to the Federation, passed away on November 21, 2007, from injuries related to an accidental fall at his Branson West, MO, home. He was 86.
For the past seven decades, Wonnell’s accomplishments were as a horseman, trainer, mentor, breeder and friend, each documented by countless championships and the horses he was responsible for breeding and showing.
Wonnell never ceased to serve the equine industry. His dedication was also evident in the Arabian horse world for most of his life. He passed away shortly after attending the 2007 Arabian Horse Association Annual Convention.
After first noticing the Friesian breed during World War II, Wonnell was was reintroduced to the breed by Barbara Cross in 1994. Destiny revealed some 50 years later, that Wonnell would buy his first Friesian Yellen S (by Sander), then Xandria (by Bonne), and Arianna (Berber Fan’t Nije Libben, by World Champion Folkert). He partnered with Melissa Wonnell to breed a Friesian with good temperament and for performance.
Wonnell was approached to assist the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA) with the creation of the rules by which Friesians would compete in the Western pleasure and the Western trail divisions. He served on the 2004 USEF Friesian Committee.
Wonnell supported the Friesian breed by entering two of his Friesian mares at the very first USEF-recognized IFSHA Western States Regional Championships, held in September 2004 at the Pomona California Fairgrounds. With Bruce Griffin to ride and present in-hand, and junior competitor Ariana Tway to ride and drive, Wonnell took home five regional championships, two reserve regional championships and two top 10 regional placements in halter, saddle seat pleasure and ride & drive.
Not only was just having the then 85-year-old Wonnell competing in the arena impressive, but his lovely mares came through for him again and were shown impeccably by Bruce Griffin, Staci Freeberg and Ariana Tway to take four national championships, two reserve national championships and two national top five honors in halter, English show hack, junior equitation, saddle seat and Western pleasure.