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We Ask the Industry: How Did You Get Involved with Horses?

When the word “horse” pops up, different people think about different things. Whether it’s about trail riding, how expensive it can be, their first ride on a carousel, or something entirely different, when they hear the word, all of it relates in some way.  People in the horse show industry all started somewhere and have their own path to how they got where they are today.

Some people start by just taking lessons. Others begin by showing smaller shows like 4H and open shows around their hometown. Others jump straight into the deep end and show AQHA from the very beginning. We asked some of the most successful people in the industry where they got their start in horses.  Some of their stories may surprise you.

Debbi Trubee: I started in 4-H when I was probably ten years old. City girl that was horse crazy. I started showing at the 4-H level then on to hunters and eventually got interested in AQHA shows. I spent many years training and showing before moving over to the breeding end of the industry. I wouldn’t change one single thing about my life with horses. I LOVE my life and what I have been blessed to do for a living. My Mom worked two jobs so she could afford board on my horse. I honestly can’t tell you how much that has impacted everything I do today. It was such a gift she gave me.

Emma Brown – When I was around five years old, my dad wanted something fun that he and I could do together, so I started by just taking riding lessons at a farm a few miles from our home. I instantly fell in love, so we then moved to a trainer who could help us show at 4H and open shows. Once my parents realized that this was not just a phase, but indeed a lifelong passion, I jumped into the Quarter Horse world, and it’s been a crazy ride ever since. I wouldn’t trade those first horseback riding lessons for the world.

Heidi Piper – I started at the 4H level for sure. However, my kids began directly at the Quarter Horse shows due to the fact that Duane and I were horse trainers. It didn’t allow for a fair start in 4H. I didn’t want them to have to deal with the rules that are put on 4H, so they were directly introduced into the Quarter Horse world where they have built their businesses that they each own and run today.

Lynne Puthoff – I grew up on an all-around farm. My mom and dad had a large dairy farm that belonged to the family. I was the youngest of five kids. My dad had a mix of everything from Holstein cows to pigs, and he grew corn, beans, wheat, oats, and hay. I started my horse career by riding my brother’s ornery half Arabian, half Shetland pony named Trigger. My dad’s friend had daughters who were a part of 4H and also showed open shows. I began begging my dad to let me start showing when I was the age of nine. My first Quarter Horse Congress was when I was sixteen, and I wasn’t even there to show. I went down for three days to watch, and that is when the bug set me on fire. All I can say is that I took my passion for the horses from that dairy farm and that silly pony, a dog and riding several times a day to this life of caring for my customer’s horses and teaching anyone I can about the bond you can make and teamwork…from state champions, Level One champions, Congress champions, and World Champions. No matter how tired I get, the weather, the ups, and the downs, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Abigail Hardy: When I was a kid, I started in eventing on an Arabian Morgan that would take off on me. Then, I got a buckskin hunter who refused every jump, but he taught me a lot, which is when I started 4H. After him, I got a mare which started me into the Quarter Horses because my dad works for Coughlin. Then I got Kam, my forever horse who got me stuck on Quarter Horses and jumping.

Lori Gingrich: My dad was a blacksmith and trained horses on the side. So, I had a pony waiting for me when I was born. I grew up showing open shows when I was very young. I did not have the privilege of exhibiting at the Quarter Horse shows as a youth. I did, however, continue to show the 4H and open shows. My dad would help me start two-year-olds. I would finish them, show them for a while and then sell them and start over with the new young prospects. I did graduate from the University Of Findlay, and when I showed professionally is when I started showing at the Quarter Horse shows. I did continue gaining knowledge from having the honor of riding with several exceptionally talented professional trainers. I started my professional career in 1982.

Kylee Faith Wiseman: My story started when I was born. My grandparents, Dennis and Debbie Martin owned horses, and I grew up around them. I got my first horse from Scott Dunham and his name was Die Hards Lil Fred. I remember going to my first show at age five in Winfield, Ohio and I came out with a blue ribbon. I’ve been hooked ever since. I have won the Congress five times and been Reserve once. I won the 11 and under Western Pleasure my first year at the All American Quarter Horse Congress with Touched Softly. The next year, I got Reserve Champion in the 12-14 Western Pleasure with Bestseatnthehouse. We went to the AQHYA World Show and were third (tied for Reserve World champions) in the Youth Western Pleasure.  The next year, I won the 12-14 and the NYATT with RR Magical Moonlite and then the same the following year. Mouse and I, (RR Magical Moonlite) then went to the AQHYA world show and got Reserve World Champions two years in a row. This upcoming year, we will be attending the World Show again, trying to get the gold. It is crazy how you can start from not knowing a thing, and it becomes your lifestyle.

Natalia DeVencenty: I got my start in the hunter-jumper world when I was five. I did the pony hunters as a kid and then moved up to the junior hunters later on. When I was thirteen, I rode a Quarter Horse for the first time and fell in love. After that, I started doing both the hunters and the all-around. But when I was sixteen, I decided to take a break from jumping to commit to the all-around stuff fully, and the rest is history.


Beth Case: I started riding when I was ten years old. I was staying at my sister’s friend’s house, and her neighbor had horses. I was hanging on her fence one day just watching them eat in the pasture. She came out of the house and asked me if I wanted to ride, and of course, I had to say yes! She put me on an old mare with a bareback pad, halter, and a lead rope and turned me loose in her front paddock which was about the size of a big round pen. She asked where I had been taking lessons, and I told her that I hadn’t. I had only ridden a horse three times before this one, and those were just the ones you ride on trail rides. I told her that I had read a lot of books on how to ride, and it seems pretty straightforward. Heals down, elbows in, and chin up. She let me come back every weekend and ride. She took me to my first show, and it was at Ingall’s Park in Norco, California where I was fourth out of four in showmanship, which I had no clue what that was at the time. I also place third out of four in the walk-trot pleasure, which made my day. A lot has happened between then and now obviously, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world because all of it is the reason that I am where I am today.

Matthew Siefker: Around four years ago, I decided I wanted to start showing horses. I’ve always been very fond of horses, but the idea of showing them never really occurred to me. When I decided I wanted to start showing horses, I looked on Craigslist because to me; this was how I thought show horses were bought. My horse Grace ZipsInThe Rein was one of the first sale ads that I saw and I contacted them immediately, and the very next day I purchased her. This was in October. That following summer, we went to my county fair and state fair and did the same the following year. Immediately I became hooked with showing horses, and I wanted more. It was my 3rd show year ever and riding when I made the switch to AQHA. Although AQHA can be expensive, this was the best decision I could have made. It allowed me to show consistently throughout the year. I worked very hard and countless hours to keep pushing myself and my horse to be the very best we could be. Together, we accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

About the Author – Kylee Williams is a senior at Northridge High School in Johnstown, Ohio. She has been showing horses before she could walk and has been active in the quarter horse circuit for eleven years. She has also been a part of the association IEA for six years.