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‘Built-In Best Friends’ & Cousins Abbey Zawisza & Shelby Dale Take Top 2 Prizes at NSBA World

Youth competitors Abbey Zawisza and Shelby Dale are juniors in high school who live in Findlay, Ohio and train with the same trainers, Kim and Spencer Zimmerman. The two girls started showing in 4-H in 5th grade. These cousins also live two blocks from each other and hardly go a day without seeing each other. They are more like sisters, and their bond shows.

These two girls stood out at the NSBA World Show when they ended up first and second in the Novice Youth Showmanship. When Abbey and Shelby were the last two standing in the arena, you could see the connection and love the two have for one another. 

“When it came down to just Shelby and me standing there, I was speechless,” Abbey, who is 17 years old and eight months older than Shelby, recalls. “I was so incredibly proud of her, and I have dreamed of a moment like this for as long as I could remember. It is so much fun showing with Shelby. There is never a dull moment when we are together. I love having someone close being there for me, whether things turn out great or go completely wrong. It’s like I have a built-in best friend everywhere we go.

Dale agrees, “When it came down to Abbey and me, I couldn’t believe what was happening at that moment. I thought my pattern was definitely one of the best showmanship patterns I have ever done. We have also been working so hard on that class, and it is definitely one of my favorites. Showing with Abbey is amazing because we always have each other, and it is always such a great time. We can laugh and cry with each other, when we are excited and need each other.”

Shelby also says they are competitive, but always happy for each other. “Abbey and I both want to win, but no, I think we are both so happy when the other one wins. We are in many different classes, so that helps too.”

The older cousin, Zawisza won the class with her horse, KM Vested In Bo, who is a 12-year-old gelding by RL Best Of Sudden and out of Vested Vixen. “We call him Bo or BoBo, and he is the sweetest horse ever. He tries his heart out in everything he does and always wants to please me. He is definitely a barn favorite and loves his treats.”

Abbey adds, “I was pleased with my showmanship pattern. Bo is pretty green in the showmanship, so we struggled a little bit at the beginning of this year. But, I think we are both starting to figure it out and have really clicked. He really gave me his all yesterday and stayed right with me through the pattern.” 

The younger cousin, Dale ended up reserve with her horse, Mr Slo Mo Amegio. “He is 17 years old, and I have owned him for two years and love him to death. He has always been so good to me and has taught me so much.”

Abbey and Shelby talked about how their family’s support has been instrumental in their success. Shelby’s dad and Abbey’s mother are brother and sister. “None of our parents grew up showing horses,” Abbey told us. ”However, my mom had a horse when she was younger and wanted me to ride for fun. I absolutely loved it and never stopped riding ever since.”

Dale adds, “Abbey and I have a fantastic family that supports us both and cheers us all on at every show, even though they can’t always physically be there. So, I want to thank them all. Being away from all of them isn’t always easy, but knowing they are always there in spirit is a huge help.”

These two cousins also talk fondly about their grandmother, who had always been their biggest supporter. “Just a couple of months ago, our grandmother passed away. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to come to terms with,” Abbey shared. “We were so close with her, and she absolutely loved coming to watch Shelby and me ride. She loved seeing us grow up together and be so supportive of each other. This win meant so much more to me, and I feel Shelby feels the same way as I do. We did it for our grandma. I know she was watching over us and was with us both every step of the way.”

Congratulations, girls…you made grandma proud!

CLICK HERE to see Abbey and Shelby’s ads in the July issue of GoMag.