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We Ask the Industry: When did a Kind Gesture Change Your Life with Horses?

With one kind gesture, you can change a life. One person at a time you can change the world. One day at a time we can change everything. – Steve Maraboli

A kind gesture – it can be as simple as a hug, compliment or a word of encouragement. These simple actions can change someone’s life for the better. One generous act can cause a chain reaction that leads to more positive things happening in our world and even closer to home – our horse show family.

With the holidays all about kindness, caring and sharing, we asked people in our industry to tell us about a time when someone was kind to them, and how it changed their life with horses forever.  Hopefully, some of their stories will inspire and remind you to be kind to your fellow horse friends, not just throughout the holiday, but throughout the year.

Lena Sailor (pictured above) – In December of 2012, I called my now husband, Grant, and told him I had the opportunity to look at a horse with my friend, Sarah. We had been dating only a couple of years, and those happened to be years in which I found myself horseless. He had never spent time with horses, but he sensed the excitement in my voice, and he agreed to give it a try. I sent him a couple of pictures of the sweet boy we went to see that day, and we talked about what life would look like with the addition of this four-legged species in our lives.  He asked very few questions beyond, “Is this something you want to do?” Two weeks later, while on a business trip together, he transferred the money without issue, and we picked up Arnold when we got home. To say that purchase changed my life is a complete and utter understatement. Not only has our success in the show pen built my confidence outside the pen, but the unwavering support of Grant has shown me what it is like to have someone believe in you without question. And that is life changing. For five years, I have poured so many resources into this passion with the blessing of our biggest fan. We are so proud to have him by our side. It doesn’t seem like enough, but Grant, thank you!

Blake Carney – I will always be forever grateful to a family that took a big chance and hired me at just 18 years old to not only train them, but also gave me free rein to grow my business for years on their property and expects nothing in return. They never asked for special treatment because the place was theirs, and they were always supportive of all of the other customers who rode with me. When their kids went to college and it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to stay involved in the industry anymore, they gave me an entire year to still run my business on their property until I was able to find my place and move accordingly. This is every young trainer’s dream, and I am so grateful to them for everything they did for me. I could never repay their kindness.

Holly Hover – When I was a young trainer, I took my first job working for a family in South Jordan, Utah. Horseshoe Stables – Duane and Carol Fluckiger. They were very prominent at the time in the horse show industry. I followed Pete Kyle, Milt Alderman and Gary Werner in this position. I was right out of college and probably very under-equipped for such a job. But they hired me, and I just crossed my fingers and jumped in. I started in the fall, and it wasn’t long until the Thanksgiving holiday. Duane had been a foster child, and an incredible woman eventually raised him and his sister along with some sixteen other foster children. It was his tradition to select a family in need and cook a full Thanksgiving meal for them as well as take care of an essential expense in their life. So, we all pitched in (his whole family) and cooked the traditional dinner and delivered everything on Thanksgiving Eve. He didn’t come to the door with us. He stayed back by the van and just took it all in. When I came back to the van, I noticed him brushing away tears. It was magical, and I have never forgotten his generosity and that of his family. To this day, I am thankful to the Fluckiger’s for including me in their extraordinary generosity.

Lauren Stanley – I am forever thankful to my parents and grandparents for always being supportive and encouraging when it came to riding horses. I am grateful that they pushed me to be the best I could be and to take responsibility for my mistakes and successes. They taught me to care for my horses day-in and day-out, to practice every single day and to never give up. I’m also thankful for all my school teachers along the way who made attending long shows possible. They didn’t have to be accommodating, but they all were, and they encouraged me to take my horses as seriously as I did my education. They made a special effort to get me classwork ahead of time and allowed me to make up any tests that I missed. It seems like such a small thing, but if they hadn’t been so helpful, I’m not sure I would have become the rider I am today.

Jenna Tolson – Back in the day, I was primarily a “do-it-yourselfer.” I was young and just out of school and didn’t have the money to have a horse in full-time training. I raised a nice Zippos Sensation filly out of one of my mares that I wanted to put in the Color Classic slot class at the Reichert Celebration in 2009. I was a complete “nobody,” way out of my league, and had never prepped a two-year-old, let alone shown one in an open maiden futurity at one of the largest shows in the country. And did I mention, my mare was fairly nice, but she was all white too? Not what you would call “conventional.” I asked Sara Simons if I could bring my mare down and ride with her in Texas some. I don’t know why, but she graciously agreed. I hauled down once a month from April through August and rode with Sara. Then, I would take my mare home and work on everything until we went back. We ended up placing fourth overall in the Color Classic behind Mike Hachtel, Sara Simons and Jana Simons. Still, to this day, it is one of the proudest moments of my life, and I largely owe it all to Sara. She was far too busy and had way more important things to do than to help me, but she did. I learned a ton, and those things still carry with me today. The experience at the Reichert changed my life and opened so many doors in the horse world for me. One thing I do know for sure is I will never be able to thank Sara enough.

Amy Mackie Smith – I always immediately think of Scott Jones when asked this question. I had a barn fire in 2008 that claimed the lives of eight horses. We lost everything – all tack, blankets, etc. Scott Jones and David Miller gave me a work saddle. It has Scott’s initials SAJ on it, and every time I girth up a horse to this day, I think of his generosity in my time of great need. I’ll never forget it, and I’ve tried to pay it forward. I also had a friend who had a barn fire (luckily no horses died), and I sent her a saddle too.


Hilary Reinhard – There have been so many gestures I’ve been thankful for from family, friends, and competitors at the horse shows. But, a few years ago I had to retire my show horse. I wasn’t in a position to buy another horse at the time. My friend, Kathryn Mitchell offered me a lease on her horse, Zippos Ultra Gold. She even allowed the horse to be moved to my trainer, Mike Weaver, and I began showing him in Amateur Trail. The following year, I was able to purchase Magnum from Kathryn. Together, Magnum and I have won multiple circuit championships, state high point titles, buckles, and two saddles. And, last week we were fourth at the AQHA World Show in Level 3 Amateur Trail. We’ve turned into a great team, all because a friend was willing to lend me their horse for the year.

Melissa Shetler – I can say that we recently have experienced kind gestures from people in the horse world. We just lost my daughter’s show gelding, and so many have reached out to us. We have received a custom blanket with his picture, a tree to plant in his honor from the vet clinic, a custom picture with a poem on it, a lease of a fantastic gelding for next season and many more beautiful gestures. It just reminds you that the show pen isn’t the essential part of all of this. It’s great to compete and do well, but seeing how many fantastic horse people there are has shown us that people are good and kind. Nothing can replace him, but we are comforted by so many around us.



Alyse Roberts – I honestly can’t think of just one moment in my life. Instead, I feel like I’ve had many of special moments that have helped me get to where I am today – my mom, stepdad, and dad have always gone above and beyond to help get me to where I am today, and I could never repay them for that. I’ve had other trainers, friends, customers, my husband and even strangers who have pushed, supported and believed in me along the way. All of those moments and gestures I will never forget, no matter how old I am.


Diana Ginitz
– 2018 began as a year of high hopes for our 18-year old daughter, Nina (pictured left), including a goal of showing at the prestigious All-American Quarter Horse Congress. However, due to an injury, Nina’s beautiful equine partner was unable to compete. Day-after-day, each weekend, each month, Nina, who has autism and rides in the Equestrians With Disabilities (EWD) classes, would ask “can we ride today,” “Will we be showing this weekend?” The answer, sadly, was always, “No, honey, not yet. Your horse isn’t ready yet.” And then one day in July, we were presented with one of the most generous offers that we could ever have imagined. I received a call from Heidi Padelsky. She offered her multiple Congress and World Show winning horse, ICanTakeAGoodLook (Johnny) to Nina for the rest of the 2018 show season and at Congress. Never in our wildest dreams did I think Nina would have the opportunity and privilege to ride such a high caliber horse. So, in August, Nina and Johnny started working together once a week under the guidance of trainer Leah Bryner at Rebecca Trego Show Horses. Nina loved each lesson and, at times, would break out giggling and smiling during the lesson (which is unusual for Nina as she is pretty stoic). Heidi’s offer of Johnny allowed Nina to look forward to riding, being at the horse shows with friends and family and her goal of showing at Congress. Not only did she show in EWD Pleasure and Trail, but for the first time, Nina showed in EWD Level 3 Showmanship. We are so proud to say that this team was a four-time Top 10 and two-time Top 15 at Congress. There are specific additional challenges that children with disabilities bring to the show ring, and Heidi, Leah, and their families were supportive of Nina and Johnny in every way possible, both in and outside of the pen. My husband and I will always be thankful to Heidi for her generosity and kindness.

Kaitlin Riker – It’s always the small moments that mean the most. I am grateful to the people that have shown kindness along the way. I inherited my love of horses from my Mom who helped to coach and support my love of horses throughout 4-H and open shows; she opened our world to new experiences. After graduating college, I started my AQHA adventures. My friend, Sarah helped to haul me to some shows since I couldn’t do it on my own. Her introduction to showing couldn’t have been more fun. To my barn family for always making the shows an adventure; the laughing and camaraderie are second to none.  And finally to my sisters Karlyn and Logan for being the best “support group” there is – from the consistent encouragement to the annual Bloody Mary Bar at Congress – they are my favorites.

Janae Walker – I had a riding instructor named Earl Ridgeway during my teenage years that believed in me. He was tough, but I would do anything he asked of me. For example, my horse stepped on me before a lesson, and my foot hurt, so I was a little whiny when he asked me to get into a half seat. He made me stop, walked over to me and said, “If we finally get you to the World Show and you get stepped on before you show, are you going to whine about it or are you going to ride?” Of course, I said ride, so ride we did, and he did not cut me even a little bit of slack. I did have a hairline fracture in my foot, but what I didn’t know was that he was battling lung cancer and was teaching through the pain. He had cut down his teaching schedule, and I was one of the few students he kept. He pushed my parents to get me a better horse, and he pushed me to be a better rider. I still hear his voice when I ride some days, and when I start to feel whiny about doing something that is hard, I can still hear him say, “Are you going to whine about it, or are you going to ride?”


Do you remember a time when someone’s kind gesture change your life with horses? Please share it with us.