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Common Bond of Horses Unites Unlikely Friends at Congress

If you are attending the Quarter Horse Congress this month in Columbus, Ohio, and you happen to run into the Piper Performance Horses crew, you may notice that they have gained an extra member for the show. His name is Melvin, he is 11 years old, and he lives just a short bike ride from the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

On Thursday of last week, Heidi Piper of Piper Performance Horses, had one of her training horses, Bob Marley, up on her Theraplate in the Adequan barn when Melvin came along. “He just rode up on his bike and he asked, ‘Can I pet your horse?’ I said, ‘Sure, you can pet him,’ and we just got to talking from there,” Heidi told us.

After talking to Melvin for a few minutes as he loved on ‘Bob’ while he stood on the Theraplate, Heidi asked Melvin if he liked horses. Without hesitation, he said, “I love horses. I used to be afraid of them, but I’m not now.”

It was a perfect response that sparked an unlikely friendship and an incredibly unique experience. Heidi took Melvin back to the stalls with her and introduced him to her family and some clients, who all took an immediate liking to him, just as Heidi had.

“I told him about all of the things he could do around horses, and he said, ‘Oh, that would be awesome!’ So, we have been introducing him to our lifestyle. He did call his mom and let me talk to her, so we got permission, I got their address, and I ended up taking him home that night because I thought it was a little bit too late for him to be riding his bike home. He’s been helping ever since,” Heidi said.

We asked Melvin to tell us about his favorite thing that he has done so far with the Pipers; he did not have to think twice before he said, “Just getting to be with the horses,” particularly Bob Marley, his favorite horse that won his heart from their first encounter. Heidi told us that Melvin will “go in his stall and sit with Bob when he’s laying down,” but that, of course, “he is only allowed to go in if I am right there because we have rules since he is still learning.”

There is no doubt about Melvin’s love for horses, and it shows through his hardworking nature. At the end of his second day, after he had attended the PBR event (at which Melvin got to meet the winner, the bulls, and hold the trophy buckle), he asked Heidi if it was okay if he came back at eleven the next morning; “What if you show up at – 8:30? 9:00?” Heidi asked him during the interview. Melvin smiled and nodded enthusiastically. He had told her that morning, “My grandma let me come early!”

We had the opportunity to witness first-hand Melvin’s infectious personality that has him joking with his new friends and smiling almost always, as well as his dedication and hard-working tendencies (he was picking out a horse’s foot just before our interview), and was sure that he helped put away Bob Marley, who he had on the Theraplate, before it was time for him to go home.

Katie Piper, Heidi’s daughter-in-law, told us, “He just wants to know the ‘why’ in everything and he’s learning.” She said that Melvin asks hundreds of questions every day. Heidi even joked about putting a limit to the number of questions he could ask. All of this asking, though, has allowed Melvin to pick up on new skills.

Katie said that Melvin has learned how to pick feet, lead horses, take off bridles, brush horses, paint their feet before they show, and he even sweeps the aisle when he isn’t busy helping with anything else. Aside from learning new skills, Melvin has also begun to gain an understanding of the horse industry, even its smallest details – like the use of the Theraplate and some aspects of riding, just by being around it.

Some of Melvin’s new friends at Piper Performance Horses took him shopping at Congress Hall, where he got new jeans, boots, and a belt buckle. Melvin did not know that he would get any of these things when he rode his bike up beside Bob Marley last week.

“There are people who love horses, and there are people who want things,” Heidi said, “This little man, the things he got came from his love of horses. The things that my clients or Chad and Katie’s clients did for him were through the love of horses, not because of need. He is not a needy child by any means. That love of horses is what has appealed to everybody.”

The material possessions that he now has, along with what he considers to be his ‘second family’ that he has found in the Pipers, all result from a universal love for horses.

We couldn’t let Melvin get away without asking the most important question of all: what is it that you love so much about horses? His response was as good as any, “I really don’t know.” When it comes to horses, there is something about them that draws certain people to them, and it defies description.

If you were to ask anyone who truly loves horses, the show horse industry, and the atmosphere, what inspires the love, most probably wouldn’t be able to reply. It seems that Melvin, even at such a young age, understands this. Heidi put it perfectly, saying that, “There is something about a horse that gets inside of you, and you can’t explain what it is. He has that inside of him, and that’s why he can’t answer that question.”

“He made me come to him. He made me introduce him to everybody because I felt it. Within two minutes of him walking up to me, I was like ‘holy smokes.’ I told my husband that I feel very blessed this year to have met Melvin because I met that person who probably never would have gotten to do this. I feel blessed, probably even more than he does. Even if he never has a horse in his life, to allow him this opportunity, it makes a lot of us feel really good,” Heidi explained, “I’ve already won the Congress this year. Obviously, I hope the show goes well, but I’ve already won,” she finished.

Heidi is right; she has already won the Congress. No trophy or medallion could be as rewarding as seeing the smile on Melvin’s face when he is helping the Pipers. His refreshing interest in the horse show world serves as a reminder of how wonderful the industry is.

It is not the money, the shows, or the awards that make the horse industry so special, but its unique ability to unite people of all backgrounds behind a common interest. Melvin and the Pipers have gotten to experience this first hand, and it truly is a beautiful story.

Author Bio – Kassidy Lammers is a Senior in high school from Delaware, Ohio. She has been showing American Quarter horses for seven years and is a member of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association.