Hard Work and Dedication: Under-Priced Prospect to World-Class Show Horse
Amateur exhibitor, Lena Sailor Berry, is a self-proclaimed “web-footed Oregonian” who grew up in Portland and ended up in Albany after attending college and starting her career. “I don’t remember falling in love with horses; I have always been in love with them,” Berry told us. She works for All Points Marketing, which is a sales and marketing company in the animal health and pet industries.
Her grandparents had an ancient pony named Boomerang, known as “Boomie” for short. Her parents lived four hours away, but every time they went to visit, spending time with Boomie was the only thing that mattered to her. Sadly, Boomie passed away and was buried under his favorite tree, but the seed had been planted.
“My life with horses is not a poetic one,” Lena says with a laugh. When she was eight, her very own pony, Coco, came into her life.
“I soon discovered she was as rotten as they come,” Lena recalls. “I spent most meetings kicking a bucking pony that wouldn’t move, or I would bail off the side as she attempted to lay down as a last resort when the bucking wouldn’t eject me. But, I had a pony of my own, and that was all that mattered to me.”
After a few years, her parents finally relented that this “horse thing” was more than just a phase, and they traded in Coco for something a little more apt to behave. “I babysat, picked berries and mowed lawns to pay for a lesson from whatever trainer was in the barn at the time,” Lena remembers. “I boarded at a facility that hosted big shows, including AQHA shows, and I would spend my weekends sitting with my 4-H leader who ran the gates, taking it all in. I had dreams of what it would be like to ride something as beautiful and talented as what I saw entering that arena.”
That dream finally came true when she bought her current equine partner, Red Hot Options (Arnold). For several years, Berry has been under the guidance of Three Ring Farm and Sarah Hamer-Raschein. Sarah’s father, John has been training horses in Oregon for decades. When Sarah and her sister were little, he worked with whatever horses he could find to help fund the girls’ show career. According to Lena, John and Susan Hamer are the epitome of what it means to be members of the community and are a pillar of OQHA history.
In December of 2012, Sarah sent Lena a video of a red horse in a snaffle loping around in a dusty outdoor pen. “When we went to see him on that cold and rainy day, Arnold was coming four with just 90 days under his belt. The honest truth is that I knew absolutely nothing about what I was really looking for. This is especially true in hindsight looking back and knowing what I know now. There was no bucking, spooking or running, which was common in all of my previous horses, so he seemed like a good one to me.”
Lena continues, “He was in my budget, which was very, very small, and he was young. Sarah explained how he would be great for me to learn how to ride something in this world, go to the smaller OQHA shows in Eugene and maybe a WSQHA show or two down the road. It all sounded perfect to me. So, two weeks later, while on a work trip thousands of miles away, a vet check was done, money transferred and we were the proud owners of a little red gelding on his way to his new home in Lebanon, Oregon.”
The gelding is a 2009 model by Absolute Option. “Like me, he is an Oregon boy. That said, on a scale of 1 to 10, his enjoyment of the rain and wet is a negative one while I would be more of a solid five,” Berry states. “He is a golden retriever trapped in a horse’s body and true to the canine breed, his favorite thing in the whole world is to be with his people.”
Since Lena didn’t have very high expectations for Arnold at first, it is impressive how far they have come in five years. “He is now a complete all-around horse and we show it all; western pleasure, horsemanship, trail, western riding, showmanship, halter, hunter under saddle and hunt seat equitation.
“His very favorite class is the halter, especially when it is outside because he gets to just stand and take a nap in the sunshine,” Lena says with a laugh. “But more seriously, I think just this year his favorite is the western riding. He has found his groove there and is a very happy camper to lope around the pen, throwing his toe here and there.”
This team’s most significant accomplishments was last year at the Level 1 West Championships in Las Vegas. “We started the show off by winning the showmanship, which was incredible. Then, we went on to win the western riding a couple of days later and finished it off with a big win in the trail,” Lena remembers. “We were also the Reserve All-Around. At the 2015 Level 1 West Championships, he picked up his first gold trophy with a win in performance halter, and was also reserve in the western pleasure that year.”
As far as future goals? “To keep improving,” Lena confidently states. “This is our first year as a big kid amateur, and I am excited about the challenges that come with the next level. Our goal going into 2018 was to get qualified for Level 2 and 3 for the World Show in all of our core events.”
At the Sun Circuit, this duo finished qualifying in seven events for the Level 2 classes and in two Level 3 classes.
Lena adds, “Five years ago, when I sat on that scrawny red pony for the first time, I had no idea how he would change my life. For me, showing horses is about so much more than winning and losing. It is a chance to be present and put into action the skills and connection between horse and rider that you have spent endless hours working on. Arnold is my once-in-a-lifetime horse, and he will hold my heart forever.”
Photos © Magic Look, Shane Rux, Lena Berry