Through Thick and Thin: Horse Show Siblings
Siblings: they bicker, they battle, they fight, they tattle, they steal each other’s clothes, and they tease each other constantly. It’s a tale as old as time. They also love unconditionally, cheer the loudest, smile the biggest, and celebrate the most when their sibling succeeds.
The sibling bond is unique and adding in horse showing to the sibling dynamic might be the ultimate recipe for sibling rivalry. But as our interviewees will tell you, having a sibling around is an experience that can’t be replaced and while they may be each other’s biggest competition at times, they are always each other’s biggest fan.
Paulina and Chelsea Martz
Although a nine-year age gap separates them, 19-year-old, Paulina, and 28-year-old Chelsea Martz have bridged the gap with their mutual love of horse shows. Both sisters show under the guidance of Judd and Jennifer Paul of Xenia, Ohio. Paulina shows Only The Best Chocolate in 14-18 western pleasure and performance halter mares and Chelsea shows Flashy Invite in amateur showmanship, horsemanship, trail, and performance halter geldings.
Paulina is grateful to have her sister with her at the horse shows and claims that the large age gap can make her feel like a second mom at times. “Sometimes, I feel like she is the voice of reason and is trying to keep me in line. At the same time, it is very comfortable for me to confide in her,” says Paulina. Chelsea loves going to horse shows with her sister and credits their times shared together at the shows for their close bond. “We have different interests outside the horse shows, so for us to have an activity in common has allowed us to spend a lot of quality time together and grow very close.”
Over the years, the Martz sisters have shared quite a few horses, and although they have had small conflicts here and there, ultimately, they have become a very close-knit team. “Since I am so much older, I have always helped Paulina to get her horses ready, and when we have shared horses, I have done most of the preparation. If we have had conflicts about anything, it would be me giving her a hard time about that,” says Chelsea.
When Paulina was younger, she openly admits that she would rely on her sister fully to do most of the work. “I would sit on my phone or hang out with my friends while she longed and got the horses ready. When I got older, and I went to a show for the first time without Chelsea, I realized how much I didn’t know and how much Chelsea was doing for me. I had a lot to learn, and, thankfully, I know how to do my own prep work these days,” says Paulina.
Currently, both sisters show Only The Best Chocolate in western pleasure and performance halter mares, and she is one of the many horses they have shared and shown in numerous events. “The experience of sharing horses can be tricky at times. We have managed pretty well since but we always joke when we are showing the same horse in an event about who gets to show first when we look at the show bill. We both like to show first, especially in the pattern classes,” says Chelsea.
Since they also share trainers and parents at the horse shows, they have become seasoned working together in all things horse show. “Sharing our parents and our coaches is relatively easy, and everyone is good at multitasking. We also show in different classes and divisions, so there are not many conflicts,” says Chelsea.
Where the siblings differ is how they feel when the other is showing. Chelsea admits to being a nervous wreck and riding every stride with Paulina (pictured left), whereas Paulina does not feel anxious at all and has complete confidence when Chelsea shows. “One year when Paulina was showing in the performance halter at the World Show, I had to stay home because I was in graduate school. I seriously thought our mom was going to disconnect her phone because I was calling her nonstop the entire class. Paulina ended up winning the class, and although I was sad I wasn’t there in person, I felt like I was there every step of the class with her,” says Chelsea. “I came home after my big win to a sign that Chelsea had made that said ‘Congratulations, World Champion,’ and that was the kindest gesture. She is always my biggest fan,” says Paulina.
When asked to recall particularly memorable moments during the time they have been showing together, both siblings agree that just being at the horse shows together has helped them to create numerous lifelong stories and memories that they will cherish forever. Paulina is particularly grateful for her sister’s ability to be supportive and keep her motivated when she shows in the western pleasure. “Western pleasure makes me very nervous, and usually everyone spreads out to help along the rail. Mom is always in one place, and she is always a little panicked, and I always look forward to seeing Chelsea because she is always so encouraging and gives very positive advice.”
Chelsea is grateful for Paulina’s ability to make her laugh. “There was one time when she was much younger when she was getting off her horse, and her foot got caught in the stirrup, and she fell clumsily backward. Everyone had to compose themselves before she saw our faces because we were laughing so hard.” Both sisters love the quality time they have spent together and the support that they offer one another. “I love that my sister is always there and understands me more than anyone else. We are always there to help each other in the ups and downs and sharing these experiences together is priceless,” says Paulina.
Jack and Giorgia Medows
Despite the five-year age gap between 19-year-old Jack and 14-year-old Giorgia, the Medows siblings have developed a very close bond around their mutual love for horses. Showing horses is a family affair for the Medows, their parents even met while showing horses. Jack and Giorgia have been showing as long as they can remember.
Jack started out showing the small fry events and then made the transition into showing the western pleasure events before ultimately switching to reining when he was 13-years-old. He is currently showing Chicsdreamofdiamonds in major derby events this year under the guidance of Fernando Salgado of Collinsville, Texas.
One of Giorgia’s first and fondest memories from her early show career is when her brother led her in the leadline when she was just starting out around the age of four. She is currently showing OK Pulse Me in all around events under the guidance of Blake and Kendra Weis of Moberly, Missouri and Its A Pretty Thing in western pleasure under the direction of Aaron Moses of Collinsville, Texas.
Although the Medows siblings are not showing at all the same shows, they have become very close supporting each other in their endeavors. “We ride together every day at home. We love to help and encourage each other to be the best at what we do and to go help out and support each other at the shows,” says Jack.
Both Jack and Giorgia agree that having their sibling at the shows is like having a best friend around all the time; however, they have their moments when they stress each other out. “Having Giorgia at the shows with me is awesome, but she gets extremely nervous when I show. Seeing her nervous makes me more nervous,” says Jack. However, Jack returns the favor when he paces and stresses when Giorgia shows, as well.
Some disagreements and arguments are inevitable, but they are always short-lived and most of the time end in laughter. “We are both supportive of each other. We try to leave it to the trainers, but we can’t help critique each other every once in awhile. Of course, we have the sibling thing going on, and we can get under each other’s skin, but it’s very minimal,” says Giorgia.
Sharing is always part of a sibling relationship, whether it is sharing in each other’s success, sharing horses, parents, and lifelong memories, siblings, share most everything. For Jack and Giorgia, sharing in each other’s successes has been one of the highlights of their upbringing. “I love watching her succeed and achieve goals. At last year’s AQHYA World Show, I won the reining, and she won the 13 and under horsemanship division and it was incredible to achieve these tremendous accomplishments together,” says Jack.
In addition to loving to watch Jack ride, Giorgia also enjoys their impulsive trips to the Sweet Shop and making up fun games to pass the time in between classes. “We make up games and goofy competitions. If we get bored between classes, we take quarters and throw them and see who can get closest to the wall. We love to do random things like that together,” says Giorgia.
The Redbud Spectacular is one of the horse shows they look forward to because it’s one of the few shows where they both compete. Giorgia loves to help Jack get his reiners ready and acclimated to being in the pen on their own. In the spirit of playing random games, one year, Giorgia bet Jack four dollars that he couldn’t ride his reiner one lap bareback around a crowded warmup pen without getting bucked off.
Although sharing their parents can be challenging since they mostly attend different shows, they divide and conquer, and both siblings are always supported when they compete. Being a horse show sibling is an experience that neither Jack or Giorgia would trade for the world. “It’s like having a best friend that’s with you all the time. It’s great to have someone on your team whether you are down about your run or celebrating a big win. I love that we are there for each other no matter what,” says Giorgia.
Courtney and Natalie Hilty
Being a mere fifteen months apart, neither Courtney nor Natalie Hilty remembers a time where the other didn’t exist. Both sisters have been showing for six years and train under the guidance of Lynne Puthoff of Laura, Ohio. Courtney is 14-years-old, the younger of the two sisters and is currently showing her last year in 13 and under and level one with Three Bars Edition in the all-around events. Natalie is 15-years-old and shows in the 14-18 and level one all around with her horse, Rock On Mr Cool. Together, Courtney and Natalie have progressed from the 4-H level to the AQHA shows and continue to practice to achieve higher levels of success together.
Courtney and Natalie agree that their bond as siblings has become stronger because of their shared passion for horses. “We have a very strong relationship; we are close. Showing horses has helped us to be even closer. We always try to help each other and work together to achieve tasks and are there to celebrate success together,” says Natalie.
Although the girls compete directly against each other when they show in level one classes, that does not seem to affect their close bond. In fact, both girls enjoy being in the arena together. “Although we have our moments where we have little arguments because we are sisters, for the most part, we always cheer each other. It is not a situation of I lost, and she won; it is more like we are on a team and we are both team players and are happy to be there for one another,” says Courtney.
In between classes, Courtney and Natalie enjoy spending time together and taking impromptu trips to the Sweet Shop and soaking in the atmosphere of the horse shows. “Having my sister at the horse shows with me is like having a best friend with me all the time,” says Natalie.
Although they have never shared horses, Courtney and Natalie share their show clothes with one another and their parent’s time at the shows, but for them, this is an asset and not a challenge. “We share clothes, and it is fun to have a bigger wardrobe and take turns wearing different outfits,” says Courtney.
As far as sharing their parents at the shows, Natalie says, “They are so good at making themselves available to both of us and being there to cheer us both on.” Both sisters agree that the best part of having each other at the horse shows is the constant support and camaraderie through the ups and downs of horse shows. “Having my sister at the horse show with me is like having my biggest fan and cheerleader with me all the time. We always pick each other up when we are down and when we have great rides, we are always there for each other to celebrate success,” says Courtney.
Alysia and Caroline Nielson
Las Vegas, Nevada
Alysia and Caroline Nielson have become a sister duo to be reckoned with in the show arena. Being three years apart has made them very close, and they have spent countless hours going down the road together to horse shows all over the nation. Alysia is 19-years-old and is currently showing in her last year of 14-18 with her horse, BMQ The Jig Is Up in all around events in both AQHA and APHA shows. Caroline is 16-years-old and shows her horses Uaintgonnatouchthis and The Only Kiss to Envy in western all around events in AQHA and APHA shows. The Nielson sisters show under the guidance of Gillespie Show Horses of Whitesboro, Texas.
Although both Alysia and Caroline admit to having their share of bickering that comes along with being close sisters, they both agree that their love of horses has strengthened their relationship and allowed them to spend an immense amount of quality time together. They both admit to stealing each other’s clothes and even horses at various times during their show career. However, they have always rooted for each other every step of the way. “I passed my 13 and under horse (Sensational Dee) down to Caroline when I moved up to 14-18, and this past year, I stole BMQ The Jig Is Up from her (he was supposed to be her all around horse).
Thankfully, she has been my biggest cheerleader even though I technically stole her horse,” says Alysia. With college on the horizon and volleyball and academics moving to center stage, Alysia will be passing the reins on to Caroline next year. “It has been great having a horse show sister. I have loved all the horses she has handed down to me, and she has helped me to figure them out and has given me valuable advice,” says Caroline.
The hours spent traveling to the barn and horse shows together has also strengthened their bond and has given them many fond memories over the years. “Having my sister with me as my travel buddy and number one fan at the horse shows is so great. I never have to go alone, and she knows me so well. That’s a bonus,” says Caroline.
The one challenge of traveling together is the fact that Alysia and Caroline share everything. “It can be chaos at times. It is not uncommon for us to misplace chaps and show clothes and steal clothes off each other’s back when we get in a pinch. We also share barn clothes, and when we are getting dressed at the hotel early in the morning, we sometimes get irritated when we realize that the other has stolen our barn clothes (without permission) from our luggage,” says Alysia.
Both sisters have demanding show schedules and share trainers and parents but still manage to feel as though they are getting the attention they need. “We are completely different riders, and we think differently. Our trainers are good at treating us as individuals. We have a lot of support from our trainers and parents. We have both hauled for national titles, and they have always been there for both of us every step of the way,” says Caroline.
Memories and good times are abundant for this sister duo, however, when asked if there is a certain memory that stands out amongst the other, both girls chose times when the other won a prestigious title as their favorite. “At the 2016 APHA World Show, it was Alysia’s first time showing BMQ The Jig Is Up (pictured left) and she won the 14-18 Hunter Under Saddle. It was her first World Championship, and it was so amazing to watch her hard work pay off. Her ride was flawless, and the best part was our whole family celebrating together,” says Caroline.
Alysia recalls a memory from Caroline’s first APHA World Show with the Sensation Dee after she handed her down to Caroline. “She won the 13 and Under Trail and that was a class that I had been Reserve in twice. I wanted that win for both Caroline and the horse so much and watching them win it together was the ultimate proud sibling moment.” Being a horse show sibling is something that both girls cherish and know is an extraordinary opportunity that not many have. “My favorite part about being a horse show sibling is that we know each other so well and we are always there for one another in the good times and the bad. We go through everything together, and our successes belong to both of us,” says Caroline.