Following in Her Family’s Footsteps: Evie Doles & If Im Honest
A third-generation horseman, Youth exhibitor Evie Doles started riding when she was just three years old. But her riding career didn’t start like most equestrians’ do.
“She started riding when she was about three for equine therapy,” her mom, Sarah, said. “She and her twin brother Donovan were born very, very prematurely, so they both went to equine therapy. Donovan just tolerated it, but Evie loved it and was hooked.”
The horse bug bit Evie, as it had her mother and grandfather before her.
Evie’s grandparents, Jim and Rita Shoemake bought a family farm when Sarah was six weeks old. They visited it every weekend, eventually making friends who showed horses. Sarah began showing when she was 10 years old with only her father and mother’s help — until a 23-year-old Gil Galyean stepped in to help.
“We were at a horse show in Sedalia, Missouri, and a lot of top horse trainers were there. They were all sitting on a hill by the warm-up arena,” Sarah recounted. “I was struggling with a very, very ornery horse who would not turn, and I kept trying and trying and trying. This very young, very thin, very tall horse trainer that I admired stepped off the hill and very calmly said, ‘Sarah, would you mind if I got on your horse to see if I can make her turn around for you?’ It was a 23-year-old Gil Galyean. I could not believe he knew my name.”
Right then, Jim and Rita decided that it would be him if they ever decided to use a horse trainer. Six months later, Sarah’s family sent her horse to Galyean. Another five months later, and Gil had replaced the ornery horse with a more experienced show horse.
“We’ve had horses with Gil since 1985,” Sarah said. “He’s just like a family member. If it weren’t for him, we probably never would have gotten into this whole thing.”
Little did Galyean know that he was kickstarting an AQHA career for both Jim and Sarah. Jim would be involved with the Missouri Quarter Horse Association and eventually become an AQHA President and Hall of Famer.
“My dad always said, ‘I probably would have never been President of AQHA if it wasn’t for Gil Galyean stepping off that hill,’” Sarah said.
Sarah showed throughout her youth career and as an amateur. After the Shoemake family got into breeding, she started showing young horses, retiring several of their show mares. Then, along came Dee Invitation, another horse that Galyean found for the Shoemake’s in August of the stallion’s two-year-old year.
“Gil won the two-year-olds at Congress on Dee Invitation, so we started doing a lot more breeding, and I focused more on the futurities,” Sarah said. “That was a dream job for sure — to show the two- and three-year-olds, sell them, and ride the next year’s babies.”
The breeding operation would lead Evie to develop a love for riding as well. Since she was so interested in riding after participating in equine therapy, Evie’s parents, Sarah and Troy Doles decided to take her to the Shoemake farm and see how Evie took to the horses there. They borrowed a pony from a family friend when they realized the horse bug had not worn off.
With her family being well-known throughout the AQHA industry, Evie had a unique experience growing up.
“People didn’t know me as Evie Doles. They just knew me as Jim’s granddaughter or Sarah’s daughter,” she said. “It makes me feel very lucky that I was able to grow up and have a person that I can always turn to that knows this world inside and out.”
For Evie’s small fry career, the family pulled one of their old show horses, Easter Tillie, from the pasture. Sarah was supposed to show Easter Tillie (pictured left) at the 2004 Quarter Horse Congress, but she collicked right before it and was never shown. So, in 2012, Evie and Easter Tillie began their show career together.
Evie trained with Chris Russell and Brendon Mehochko while a small fry and into the youth division. As she moved up through divisions, she moved through horses as well. One horse, Skipalilassets, leased from Courtney Suthoff, had a profound impact on Evie’s riding.
“He did the hunter under saddle, the equitation, the horsemanship, and the showmanship. But he was mostly an English horse,” Sarah said. “A lot of Evie’s peers who showed the all-around events would probably spend two-thirds of their time in a western saddle and one-third of their time in an English saddle. But, she was probably in an English saddle two-thirds of the time and then a third of the time in a western saddle. She’s very comfortable in an English saddle and always has been since she was very small.”
In 2019, Evie began training with Chris and Melissa Jones. Unfortunately, the horse Evie was riding at the time, HF Krymsun Elegance (pictured right), died in June 2020. As hard as that was, Evie’s life changed forever six weeks later when Chris and Melissa found If Im Honest, also known as Moose, to be Evie’s next show partner. Evie is looking forward to attending the AQHYA World Show with Chris and Melissa and is especially excited to show the equitation with Moose.
“My all-time favorite class since I was eight is the equitation. It’s so much fun,” Evie said. “It just feels like flying. My favorite thing to do in the class is the hand gallop. I love doing it. It gives me joy. I love the challenge of the no-iron work that they sometimes call for. I love that feeling of being in sync with your horse.”
She will also be competing in the hunter under saddle and horsemanship at the World Show. Evie describes Moose (pictured left) as “a chameleon: Whatever class he’s showing, he looks like that is his specialty. He is such a special horse.”
“I’m just really looking forward to being back there,” she said. “I love being there. I love seeing all of my friends that I’ve not seen in a while. I love the feeling of knowing that it’s all youth there. We all have one thing in common, and that’s our age. I have two more years left in the youth after this one, so I’m trying not to really think about ending my youth career. I’m trying to give it my all for these last couple of youth years, go out with a bang, and then look on to the future.”
“My father was a man who just loved horses. He proved that you don’t have to be an exhibitor or racehorse owner or whatever — he just loved horses, he loved being around horses, he loved everything about horses,” Sarah said. “It was the love of horses that got him so involved.”
Inspired by her father, who passed away in 2017, Sarah herself is extremely involved in AQHA, a former AJQHA First Vice President, MQHA President, and currently serving on the Judge’s Committee and the Hall of Fame Committee as chairperson.
“There are so many things that, because I’m fairly involved in AQHA, I wish I could talk to him about,” Sarah said. “I really miss that connection with him. I really, really miss that he’s not been able to see Evie show as much as I would have hoped. He’s certainly never gotten to see her show Moose. He would love him to pieces.”
Good luck to Evie and Moose at the AQHYA and NSBA World Shows!
CLICK HERE to see Evie and Moose in the July issue of GoMag.
About the Author – Olivia Bradish has been an equestrian for 15 years. She attends the University of Michigan and works for The Michigan Daily. Olivia shows the all-around events with her horse, CSR Roan Bar Penny, known around the barn as London. They enjoy showing in the showmanship, horsemanship, equitation, and trail.