World’s Grand Champion CHHS Daydream’s Heads Up (“Heads Up”) is a product of one of the most royal families in modern Saddlebred history, and he represents the epitome of the Hagan Saddlebreds breeding program. This extremely athletic and gifted gelding is sired by multiple world’s grand champion sire Undulata’s Nutcracker and his dam Hall of Fame broodmare and many times WC A Daydream Believer. He is a full brother to WC HS Daydream’s Fashionista, and a half brother to Fine Harness WGC CHCastledream, WCC CHHS Dignitary, WCC HS Decorum, WC HS Daydream’s Believe In Me, WC HS Daydream’s Celebrity, RWC Dream Castle, RWC CHHS First Day, WC HS Daydream’s Perfect Gentleman, HS Daydream’s Heiress (dam of WCC HS Brilliant Heiress), HS A Faithful Lady (dam of WCC Tua), A Pleasant Surprize (dam of WC Just Surprize Me), HS Daydream’s Dream Girl (BHF) (dam of WC HS Close Enough To Perfect and RWCs HS Color My World and HS Dream Girl’s Darling Doris), and RWC sires HS Castle Vision and HS Daydream’s Dignity. He began his show career at the 2011 Kentucky State Fair, where he was crowned World’s Champion of the Two-Year-Old Three-Gaited Division II class with trainer Tre Lee aboard (in which class his half brother WC HS Daydream’s Celebrity was reserve with Walden Bullard up). In 2012, he was the ASR National Futurity Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited World’s Champion and returned in the big stake to earn the title Reserve Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion, quite a feat for a three-year-old. He would repeat his reserve world’s grand championship win in 2013 after winning the open three-gaited 15.2 and under class while just a junior horse. In 2014, Heads Up debuted with me, owner and amateur rider Scott Hagan, to win the three-gaited stake at the J.D. Massey Classic Show. The strikingly marked horse continued to grow and began competing in the three-gaited over 15.2 division. Heads Up and I were the 2015 Three-Gaited over 15.2 World’s Champions. Continuing to show in the open division with me as his amateur owner/rider aboard and under the direction of Debbie Foley, Heads Up was the Three-Gaited Reserve World’s Grand Champion in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
Heads Up is a product of his royal pedigree. His sire, Undulata’s Nutcracker, is known for siring very athletic, game and flashy horses. His dam, WC A Daydream Believer (BHF), was an ultra-tough and game show mare, known for doing things her way and Heads Up is definitely his mother’s son. Explosive, quirky, and opinionated, he is a challenging ride and few thought an amateur could ever tame him. I proved them wrong, always staying a step ahead of him and making him think that every move he made was his idea. His dam’s sire, Attache’s Born Believer, contributes extreme motion and a “look at me” attitude. Further back in his pedigree, WGC CHValley View Supreme contributes his beautiful eyes and those ears that are always up and forward. He is line bred to six-time WGC CHWing Commander multiple times which gives him an abundance of athletic ability and “the road never gets too long” attitude. He also has a touch of WGC sire Oman’s Desdemona Denmark on his top side, which adds even more grit and gusto.
2020 found this talented horse showing, at times, in the fine harness division. He showed for the very first time in fine harness with trainer Andre Van Schalkwyk at the Shelby County Fair. Taking everyone by surprise, he marched his way right to the winner’s circle in the open fine harness stake. Subsequently, I showed and won with Heads Up in open fine harness at the Shelbyville Horse Show, leaving everyone to wonder whether I would show him in harness or three-gaited at the World Championship Horse Show. I felt strongly that Heads Up and I had unfinished business to take care of under saddle and we went on to win the 2020 Three-Gaited Over 15.2 and Open Three-Gaited World Championships and in so doing made Heads Up’s dam, WC A Daydream Believer (BHF), only the second mare in Saddlebred history to produce World Grand Champions in different divisions, WGC CHCastledream in fine harness in 2009 and Heads Up in three-gaited in 2020.
In 2021, Heads Up won the Open Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding World’s Championship and the Open Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship and in so doing, not only added a second World’s Grand Champion title to his record, but also made history! He is the only the horse in history to win both the Three-Gaited and Fine Harness World’s Grand Championships (2020-2021) with an amateur, and to top it off, with the amateur exhibitor being his breeder! He is just the second horse in history to earn both of these World’s Grand Champion titles.
In 2022, Heads Up was the winner of the Fine Harness Stake at the Shelbyville Horse Show. He also went on to win the Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding Stake and was the Reserve winner in the Fine Harness Grand Championship at the 2022 World’s Championship Horse Show. In addition to these World’s Championship and World’s Grand Championship titles, Heads Up was named the 2021 ASHBA Horse of the Year at the 2022 UPHA Convention in Orlando, Florida. He was also inducted into the 2022 EQUUS Foundation and USEF Horse Stars Hall of Fame. We could not be more proud of his accomplishments!
On a very personal note, I have to say Heads Up is my once in a lifetime horse. He is the epitome of my breeding program and a horse I respect and love more than any ever. He makes me smile. He is so kind in the barn that even the smallest children can interact with and enjoy him. But when you throw your leg over him, his personality becomes explosive. He requires the highest of horsemanship from whoever rides him and pushes them to think many steps ahead of him. Debbie Foley told me many times, “Don’t let him have a thought because if he does it won’t be a good one.” But the more you know him the more you come to realize that they really aren’t bad thoughts. He never intends to hurt you. It is just that he knows he’s cool, the king of the hill and that he is celebrating his hot blood and regal breeding. Jim Stachowski had Heads Up for a while and told me that Heads Up is the smartest horse he has ever worked. I know Heads Up is the smartest horse I have ever been around and his level of intelligence fits perfectly with his antics and his attitude. And oddly, he acts much more explosive when I hit the saddle than anyone else. It’s like he’s thinking, “Game on, let’s do it.” But as soon as you leave the ring, he is completely calm and docile. And when I haven’t been able to see him for weeks, he immediately recognizes my voice, nickers for me and makes me feel so special.
So many people have contributed to this horse: Fred Sarver, Tre Lee, Debbie Foley, Jim Stachowski, Andre Van Schalkwyk, Bryce Smithwick, Bud Willimon, Bill Hemminger and too many grooms and support staff to name. I would say though, that of all the people who have been a significant part of his life, Andre is the person who “gets him”. There are days that are uneventful. There are days Heads Up is happy and playful. And there are days he demands things his way. Every month or so, that expresses itself as stopping, just as he steps into the arena, stiffening his body and flashing his left eye back at you. He is saying, “I’m not going to do this and if you try to make me, it’s going to turn out badly for you.” On those days, Andre gets off, pets him on the head and puts him away. A couple of hours later he will put the tack back on Heads Up and it’s like nothing ever happened. Andre knows well not to pick a fight he can’t win. Andre’s contributions to Heads Up and me have been immeasurable.
For reasons I will never know, Heads Up lets me do with and ask of him what he is so reluctant to do for others. He has pushed me to the highest level of horsemanship I am capable of and has been forgiving of my mistakes. But one thing I know for sure is there is no feeling on earth like mounting him at a show, dealing with his trick bag of antics in the warm up ring and working through his idiosyncrasies in the ring. I have been asked many times if I love riding him and I always say, “I love riding him more than I have words to express but I also enjoy getting off of him!” Heads Up will die a Hagan and, in my opinion, is the greatest three-gaited horse of all time (and I’ve seen them all since 1963).
In 2023, Heads Up made his final show ring appearance with Liz Holmes, who expertly drove him to victory in the Fine Harness Amateur division at the Kentucky Fall Classic! Liz has been like a mother to Heads Up and has also been his biggest fan. Heads Up has had a long and distinguished show career and we are very proud to have had Liz in the buggy for his final show ring performance.