Heart Horses – Thankful for the Horse That Made Me!

 In the horse show industry, winning the World Championship title, Congress title, or even that year-end title is a goal exhibitors work toward on a daily basis.  Like any competitive “hobby,” horses sometimes easily become more work than play, more stress than enjoyment. Again, like any competitive sport, a nice balance of both is what makes that moment and feeling of success that much sweeter. But at the end  of the day, it is the horse itself that creates that feeling of contentment, pride, and belonging. The horses that make us stop, think, and reflect, either because of a lesson learned, or because of an acquired achievement, are those we are always most grateful for in our lives. Five of the industry’s leading competitors reflect on the horses who “made” them who they are, not only as successful riders… but as individuals. 

Aaron Moses

Aaron Moses, is no stranger to sitting on the back of a great horse, he has arguably swung his leg over more of the greatest pleasure horses around this past decade.  However, like most professional trainers, despite all the wins that have, and inevitably will, happen, one horse stands out above the rest. 

“One of the horses that stands out to me as one of the defining horses in my life is For One Night Only. Not only because he was one of the most talented horses I had ridden but also because he took my training and career to a new level. ‘Sid’ was one of the horses where things had to be done a certain way but his talent and heart made it worth it. We (Gil, Becky Galyean, and Denton Debuhr) always liked him. However, the first time I showed him, he went in the pen and felt better than he ever had before, and I knew he was a special show horse. He gave me confidence that I could compete at the highest level. Sid ended up winning the Coughlin 2 YO WP and Coughlin 2 YO Limited Open and was also shown by Hillary Roberts the Non Pro Two Year Old Western Pleasure at the Congress as well. Under the care of Rusty Green Show Horses, ‘Sid’ is became a multiple NSBA World Champion, an AQHA World Champion and he was the 2015 NSBA Horse of the year. He returned to Aaron’s program and was owned and loved by Linda Neece. Sid took her to many wins in the pleasure pen.  Aaron and Sid also won countless championships including the 2019 AQHA World Championship in Sr. Western Pleasure.

Dana Hokana

For Dana Hokana, there is no question who her heart horse was. Invested Dimension was purchased by the Hokana’s as a late weanling from the great McWhirter Ranch. “There were about a dozen or more to choose from. When the colts trotted into the arena, there was one that floated when he moved. You couldn’t even hear him hit the ground. His look was so striking! He was a dark, cherry red, with a big white face, huge intelligent eyes, two white socks and charisma like I’d never seen before. When he loped, I couldn’t look at any one else… he was breathtaking. My husband, who isn’t really a horse person, said “Wow, that one is the one”. I tingled all over as I knew I had found my horse.” Dana’s inclination was correct. Invested Dimension was the one. Together they broke glass ceilings winning the Reserve World Championship in the Senior Western Pleasure in 2000 in a time where few women showed the pleasure and even fewer showed a stallion. 

“He was super good minded and easy to train. For a stallion, he was amazing!!! Many people think I must have been really tough on him to get him so solid, but I never even bitted him up.” Shared Dana. “I showed him his job and he did it. He was so smart. When he struck off into the lope, it was amazing. I had never felt a lope that great. Powerful, yet soft, smooth as glass and rhythmic. His babies share those traits.” Dana will openly tell you that Dimensions built her beautiful Temecula ranch. It was the sale of his babies over the years that paid for that piece of paradise, and it was upon his great offspring that the Hokana girls Bree and Brook got to taste the sweetest of successes on the World stage.   “I thank God for blessing me with a gift like Invested Dimension.”

Rebekah Kazakevicius

That one special horse who defined me as a rider would be Cool Assets. He was full of personality and definitely smarter than me. He made you work for it, but you had to work with him, never against him. In 2006 he slipped and fell at Congress and it took me six months to rehab him back. After that, we sent him to Brett and Allison Clark and I won the Youth World that year. It was very emotional. There is something horses teach you about patience that you can take with you for the rest of your life. I knew he was a special horse, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to do the Western Riding and ended up winning the Amateur Western Riding at the World Show. That win is most special because that was a new class for the both of us, and when we were taking our victory lap that’s when I knew how special he really was.  I’ve learned from him how to navigate the arena and how to be a better showman.  But also how to be a better horseman out of the arena.”

Paris Rice

Parris Rice’s name is synonymous with young successful equestrian. Growing up in a training barn with her mother, Carolyn Rice, Parris has won almost every All-Around title available in the horse show world. An accomplished horsewoman, Parris has won AQHA World Championships, Congress Championships, and has competed on the NCAA Women’s Equestrian Team for Baylor University. Despite all of the horses Parris has had the honor of riding, one horse in particular stands out. 
“My biggest influence has been Javah Mon or ‘Willie.’ My mom (Carolyn Rice) bought him as a yearling 18 years ago and he has been with us ever since. We grew up together, learned together, and were blessed enough to be successful together. He’s my best friend. Willie is just this incredible being, he is so smart, so intuitive, and always on your team. He started taking care of me when he was three years old and has never stopped. Although he’s retired now, we still go for rides and it just makes me happy to ride him around and be with him. He would rather give somebody a lesson than get turned out in a pasture. He is such a genuinely sweet, caring soul.  He makes me want to be a better person.”

Emmie Lacey 

Emmie Lacey is an accomplished champion in the Reining. At the 2017 Congress, she won not just one, but two, Congress Championships in the Limited and Intermediate Non Pro with a score of 222.5, which also earned her a Reserve Championship in the Non Pro. Two days later, they won the AQHA Amateur Reining as well. 

“Seven-year-old I Think I Can Can ‘Faith’ is my special horse. I was so close to giving up on her so many times. I got her for free as a yearling and feel like she is a gift straight from God. She has always been a little quirky. She is super tough and stubborn but tries so hard. Her athletic ability has always been there but it was so hard to push through laziness and toughness to get to it. I ride her five days a week and I have done ALL the training myself (with coaching from Robin Schoeller). Faith is so consistent now. She goes in the show pen every time and loves every minute of it. She is so honest she even will pull me in the show pen herself. I wouldn’t say there is a specific day or time I new she was special. It was just days after days of working towards goals. She stepped up every chance I have given her with her whole heart and everything she has. Seeing her work hard for me and then forgive me on days I haven’t been in a great mood …yet giving me everything she has every time I ask… then she spends time to groom me every chance she gets. She has such heart and I love her and she loves me.”

Owning, riding and loving a horse are unparalleled gifts that we are given. A feeling created in a moment that transforms into a bond lasting a lifetime..that is the gift special horses give us.