I am on a number of horse focused Facebook groups and the majority of my friend circle is made up of horse owning and horse-riding people. A topic of discussion that frequently comes up is that of decreasing participation in any horse related activity and particularly, a decrease in youth participation. While it seems that everyone can wax eloquently on the reasons for this, kids just want to play with devices, no one wants to put in the work, and on and on, very few people seem to want to brainstorm ways to make a change. I am a firm believer in a few things. The first is the philosophy that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The second is that change starts from the ground up, meaning that the grass roots folks can often make a bigger impact than larger organizations. I have spent quite some time thinking about this and offer a few thoughts.
Have a lesson program. Most people who have an interest in horses don’t run out and buy one right away. They start by taking lessons somewhere. A beginner lesson program is the beginning of the pipeline to horse ownership. Not everyone who starts riding lessons is going to continue, buy a horse and maybe start to show. That is not everyone’s goal. If, for example, 5% of those who start to ride in a riding program go on to buy a horse that is good for the industry. The more people that are taking lessons, the higher number that 5% becomes. I know that giving beginner lessons is not really fun or exciting for a lot of people. There isn’t much glory in it and there are no big belt buckles that come from it. The goal here is to develop new riders, to foster the love of horses in new people and maybe inspire someone to get a horse, show and win those big buckles.
Create new innovative riding programs. We need to make riding fun. Let people know that, though we horse people might be a bit crazy, we are good crowd to spend your time with. This means that we have to get our thinking caps on and come up with some fun ways to get people involved. Off the top of my head, two programs come to mind. Jennalinn Show Horses in New York offers a Sip n Ride program for their adult riders. Riders sign up for a group lesson and then afterward spend time socializing with some finger foods and a glass of wine. Amy Wunderlich Performance Horses offers a Mommy and Me program for mothers and young children. This is a great program that exposes young children to horses and horse related activities, combining horse content with other fun activities.
Create an Interscholastic Equestrian Association Team: The IEA is an organization open to riders in 4th through 12th grade. The riders do not need to own their own horses. There are local, regional and national IEA horse shows where these students compete. This organization has the same type of structure as intercollegiate horse showing. This is not just a great way to introduce young people to riding, but also to horse showing. This makes showing horses much more affordable as the rider does not need to own the horse or the tack. They need to have appropriate attire and membership. This is a great building block for a student to prepare to either show at a higher-level show, get their own horse, or ride for a college team.
Host an intercollegiate college riding team: Before the days of NCEA teams, there only were intercollegiate equestrian teams. Post NCEA riding teams, smaller schools do still have these programs. This is another great way to promote horseback riding and showing to those individuals who may not own their own horses. These riders will take lessons at your farm and then show at the intercollegiate horse shows. As someone who rode on the Purdue University Intercollegiate team in the early 1990’s, I can attest that this is a ton of fun!
Market your riding programs to schools: These days parents may primarily focus on sports where their children can obtain scholarships for college (think soccer). Well, the horse world has NCEA teams now too which means that we have scholarships. I would venture to guess that many families don’t know this fact. They won’t know until we tell them. Contact grades schools and high schools and find out how to let the parents of the world know that their child can get a college scholarship from riding horses too!
It is likely true that our non-horse friends might be over our Facebook and Instagram feeds being constantly filled with pictures of our horses. However, some might not be. Some of our friend’s kids might think the horses are pretty cool too.
Invite them over: If any of your friends or your friends’ children show interest in your horses, invite them to visit. I am not saying that we must let them ride or turn into eternal givers of pony rides, but we should take steps to foster their interest. For some people just being in the presence of horses is enough to spark their interest. Sometimes if we just let them hang out and brush our horse it can be meaningful for them. It is very hard for anyone to express an interest in something they are not exposed to. Most people do not have any exposure to horses. We can’t make horse enthusiasts out of people who have never seen a horse in person.
Everyone in the equine community:
Be Nicer: Let’s have a moment of vulnerability here. If we are all really honest with ourselves, we have had moments where we were not that nice to people when it comes to our horses. Maybe this means we were annoyed when a non-horse person asked to pet our horse. Maybe we got offended when a friend asked for a pony ride on our World Champion horse. Maybe we were snobby or rude to the new people on the show circuit because their horses weren’t as good as ours or they weren’t as good riders or competitors. Let’s be honest. People are not going to stick around the horse world if they don’t feel welcome.
Be Ethical: The term horse trader didn’t get its negative connotation out of nowhere. Unfortunately, historically, our industry has a reputation of being less than ethical. I have heard way too many stories of people in this industry who had bad experiences with aspects of the industry, whether that be bad experiences with trainers or paying way too much money for a horse that is lame or dangerous. This is the type of experience that can make a person change breed or discipline or leave the horse industry permanently. It’s just not ok and it does great damage to the industry.
Let go of your ego: I know a lot of good horse folks who don’t want to work with beginners or give lessons. Though I respect their decisions, I wonder, where are the great youth and non-pros going to come from? Where are you going to get these great training horses from when no one is trying to bring more people into the industry. I wonder do we need a mind set change. If the only reason we are in the horse industry is to win trophies and money, we are missing a big part of the point of horses. The journey. Can we learn to find as much satisfaction from cultivating progress in a new rider? Can we feed our horse trainer esteem by helping a person make progress in their relationship with their non world caliber horse? Can we learn to find satisfaction in many aspects of training horses and people and not just from trophies and belt buckles?
Think long term: If you are a trainer or barn owner, have a plan. I don’t know many people who are equine professionals that have a formal business or marketing plan. We tend to rely on word of mouth or clients just arriving on the doorstep. This may have worked years ago, but it doesn’t work today. We need to think farther down the road. How do I make my business sustainable? How do I bring in more clients? How do I market my services in new and innovative ways? If we all don’t start to or continue to think long term, the industry will continue to dwindle. The pool of clients gets smaller. Your income gets smaller and it gets harder to get new clients and make a living. If you want your horse business to survive, and hopefully thrive, a change of mindset is needed. We must be much more proactive and get the word out to the world that they need horses and horseback riding in their lives.
To summarize, I want to say that I am not a horse trainer, riding instructor or barn owner. I am just a nearly life long horse owner who truly understands the value of having horses in our lives, whether that be for the innumerable great things kids can learn from riding or the general mental health and well being benefit from just being around or casually riding horses. I want future generations to know the gift of being raised around horses that I was afforded as a child.
This focus of this edition of Meet Your Neighbor is Megan Kiser. If you show appaloosas in Territory VI, you have likely met or talked to Megan and her mom, Val, who often accompanies her to horse shows. Megan and her mom epitomize the best traits of our appaloosa family. They are kind, warm and always ready with a smile. Megan’s mare Izzy has her own fan club where she is affectionately known as “The Pants.”
Unlike many of us, Megan was not always a horse crazy girl. Her younger sister Allison was the horse crazy kid in the family. Allison eventually badgered her parents into riding lessons. Though initially uninterested and a bit intimidated by horses, Megan was not about to be outshone by her little sister, so she started riding lessons as well. Over time, Megan grew to love riding and the bond she shared with the horses. She and her sister rode at a farm that had Appaloosa/Colorado Ranger Bred horses. They started to show at local shows with the other kids from the barn.
Eventually Megan’s parents bought her and Allison their first horse. KK Ramblin Man was an Appaloosa that was also Colorado Ranger Bred. As often happens with sisters, Megan said they did not share well so she started to ride a young Appaloosa at the farm named Dinero Impressive (Imp). Imp was quirky and spooky. Initially Megan was a bit scared of him and his quirkiness but riding him through all the ups and downs created a strong bond between them and increased her riding confidence. When the barn owner was moving away, Megan thought she was going to lose Imp but was surprised by her parents, who bought him for her for Christmas. Imp and Megan showed at local shows and in 4-H. He was retired early due to issues with navicular and ring bone and currently resides in her backyard as a “pasture ornament.”
Megan did not often show Appaloosa breed shows as a youth rider. She and her barn mates were very active with the Colorado Ranger bred Association. She showed at their National show multiple times and also showed 4-H as a young rider. In her area of Western Pennsylvania there were very few Appaloosa breed shows. She did manage to take Imp to a few Corner Pocket Appaloosa Association Shows. This was something that would come back to haunt her as she did not realize that she had picked up novice points at these shows and pointed herself out of Novice Equitation earlier than she anticipated.
Megan took a break from horses for several years to study to become a nurse and start her nursing career in Pittsburgh. When the hustle and bustle of city life lost its appeal, she moved back to her hometown and was able to get back into riding. When she had more spare time, Megan decided it was time for a new horse. She purchased Appair of FancyPants (Izzy) as a yearling from Debra Clark at Shenandoah Stables. Debra helped Megan break Izzy and start showing at the Pennsylvania Amateur Horseman’s Association’s local horse shows.
Megan decided to move to showing Appaloosa Breed shows more consistently after she had an accident at a local show where she had her finger amputated! Conquering the fear instilled from that incident was a huge motivator to up her game and start going to Appaloosa shows. Megan started training with Quarter Horse Trainer Ralph Thomas. As she was the only Appaloosa client, he did not go to the shows with her, so she and her mother took the helm and went on their own. As she was not truly familiar with the point system, she ended up going through all her novice showmanship points and was leading the nation in the event. In what she calls a “Carpe Diem” moment, she had to convince her non horsey Dad to drive to Texas with her and the horse so that she could show at the World Show in the Novice Showmanship class. It was that year or never.
Some of Megan’s proudest horse show moments come from her first World Show. She ended up top 5 in the Novice Showmanship. But better yet, she ended up 4th in the world in Novice Horsemanship, a ribbon made sweeter by the fact that her trainer told her that Izzy was not going to be a horsemanship horse!
2020 was an interesting year for Megan as for so many of us. Her original plan was for Izzy to be at home and her younger horse Ina Hot Second (Fiona) would go for training. Megan keeps her horses at home and without an indoor ring, often cannot ride due to the Pennsylvania winter weather. When COVID hit, Megan had to pull the horses out of training. As she is a nurse, she was called to work the front lines. She was working a lot of overtime and extra shifts due to the pandemic. At that point, she thought the 2020 show season was doomed. She did what she could by doing some virtual coaching with trainers and doing virtual horse shows to work on her patterns and riding.
When the 2020 shows started up again, Megan took the advice of her friends and started taking Izzy in Non-Pro Ranch Trail. She decided to try the class for the first time at a Garden State Appaloosa Show and thanks Holly Anderson for her encouragement. Without ever training the class, Megan and Izzy won the Non-Pro Ranch Trail under two of the four judges and came back to win it under all four judges for the Open Ranch Trail. With such success, she added the ranch classes to her repertoire.
After thinking that the 2020 show season was a non-starter, Megan ended up taking herself and Izzy to the World Show by herself. They went in 7 classes, placing in the top 5 in Novice Trail, 35 & Over Non-Pro Trail, 35 & Over Showmanship, Non-Pro Ranch Riding, and Non-Pro Ranch Trail. To top off the crazy year, Megan ended up in the top ten in the nation for Versatility for the first time and Izzy ended up 2020 leading the nation in Ranch Trail.
This year Megan is hoping to pilot Izzy to 100 points in Ranch Riding mark and wants to focus in 2021 on her young horse Fiona.
As to why Appaloosas? The first horses Megan was introduced to when she started riding were Appaloosas. She has always loved the diversity and versatility of the breed. She credits her bond with Imp as starting her love with Appaloosa horses but feels like it is the bonds and friendships, she has created with the other Appaloosa competitors. When she first started showing breed shows more seriously, she said she started getting a lot of friend requests. Megan says she is normally shy so enjoys how friendly the Appaloosa show family is. She feels that having so many people cheer her on and celebrate her success has made a difference for her.
Each year the Appaloosa Reining Horse Association holds the Buy Breed Win 3 year old Reining Futurity at the Appaloosa World Show. It is a winner take all event with a $10,000 prize at stake. In order to be eligible, horses must be from breedings from the annual stallion auction.
The 2020 event was super exciting as it ended up in a run off for first place. When the run off ended up in a tie, the winners opted to split the prizes.
This years co-champions were Jorge Puente riding Meant to B My Jersey and Peter DeFreitas riding Shine and Seven.
As I was walking toward the check out in the grocery store one day, I noticed a few books in a kiosk. Much to my surprise a leopard Appaloosa face was staring back at me from the cover, so I had to buy the book. Turns out the book is a real-life story of a rescue horse named Joey and Hope Reins, an equine therapy program.
The main character in the story is Joey. Joey was once a decorated competitor in show jumping and dressage. He suffered a career ending injury and was then sold. The family that bought Joey fell onto hard times and he ended up with a horse hoarder. Before he was picked up by the horse rescue he was not cared for well and ended up blind due to malnourishment Kim, the founder of Hope Reins took a leap of faith and took Joey to be part of her therapy program.
A second main character in the book is also another Appaloosa named Speckles. Speckles also came from an abusive home and needed special care and attention.
The story relates the ups and downs of starting an equine therapy non profit as well as caring for horses with an abusive or neglected history. Joey is interspersed with stories of the children who attended equine therapy at Hope Reins and illustrates just how powerful horses can be with their strong ability to help humans heal emotional wounds.
This book is a sweet story and a quick and easy read. If you are looking for some light reading to make you feel good, and perhaps cry a little, this is the book for you! Hope Reins is a faith-based organization and the book shares messages of faith. However, even if you are not a religious person, the story is worth the read. In a world where it seems like there is so much chaos, it is nice to be reminded of how much good there is and how horses can so positively affect everyone in their sphere.
Young Breeder, Saje Bayes, breathing new life and ideas into the Appaloosa Industry
Appaloosa News follows Saje on Facebook and recently saw her post that one of her Tik Tok videos was up to almost half a million views. Her post inspired us to get on Tik Tok, make an account and check it out. As of the writing of this article, three days after one of her videos posted, said video has over 1,100,000 views. Yes, you read that correctly, over 1 million views. This amazing use of social media to market not just her farm but the Appaloosa horse prompted us to have a chat with Saje, get to know her a little better and check out her social media marketing style.
Saje began her journey with horses when she was 14 years old. She began by taking lessons and showing at the Newton Saddle Club and the Kansas Saddle Horse Association shows. These were smaller shows and a great place to start. Saje had a lot of fun at these shows and showed in English Pleasure, Trail and Halter.
Saje’s interest in horses grew when she got her second horse, Dove, who was a grade Appaloosa mare. Dove was a great cow horse and was game to do anything with Saje. Dove sparked Saje’s love for the Appaloosa by showing her how versatile the breed could be. Her favorite memory with Dove is of rounding up cattle. Dove would tear after the cattle and try to bite them. Dove loved her job, and she was a lot of fun to ride. Saje said Dove had a heart of gold but was tough as nails.
Initially, Saje had no intention of becoming a breeder. She just wanted to own and show. The more involved she became with her Appaloosas, the more she started to think about how to be part of the breed and leave a positive mark by breeding good quality horses that everyone can enjoy. As her eye turned toward breeding, Saje started to look for soundness and confirmation in horses she considered adding to the herd. Color is particularly important for her too, but she does not want to sacrifice function for color. The ultimate goal is a well put together, functional horse with color.
Saje is proud of her young breeding farm, GWS Appaloosas. In the two years since she started, they have sold foals to all parts of the country and soon have a filly heading off to Finland. Another great achievement is her young stallion being Top Ten in the nation in the Foundation Halter Stallions class. Saje wants to continue to breed quality, functional Appaloosas with color that succeed no matter what venue they end up in.
Appaloosa News particularly wanted to know about Saje’s use of social media. In a quick search of Tik Tok, there are very few Appaloosa farms, breeders or trainers on the platform. Most posts with the #appaloosa are private owners. Many people are using Facebook and Instagram for marketing but very few have migrated to Tik Tok (where many of the Facebook and Instagram users are migrating).
Saje, as a millennial, has a natural affinity for social media. She chose to market her breeding program on social media as a way to get exposure. People all over the world can see her horses and her breeding stock as well as get to know her. Though using social media to market was a definitive choice, she is surprised by how much attention her posts have garnered. Her loudly colored colt, Wicket, gets a lot of attention.
So, what advice does this social media marketing master give us? Use good, eye catching photos and videos. Social media seems to love Appaloosas with color. You need to post pretty frequently, so she suggests posting everything from show content to daily snippets of life. Engage with your audience as well. That Tik Tok post with over a million views is a video of Saje, with Wicket, answering questions about her horses, her program and just Appaloosas in general. Without intending to, Wicket has become an ambassador for the breed on Tik Tok.
The Appaloosa community is lucky to have new enthusiasts and we are also super lucky to have Saje with her knack for letting the world know how fabulous Appaloosas are!
Appaloosa News caught up with ApHC Territory Six Board of Director candidate Lori Wunderlich this weekend. Since there is still some time before votes are cast, we thought we would take a minute to get to know Lori a little bit better.
Lori grew up in Randolph, Ohio and was introduced to Appaloosas at two years old when her brother bought a horse named Riley’s Spotted Eagle, a 1952 stallion bred by CL Riley in Ohio. She continued riding and rode a horse named KWD Mohawk Champagne during her years as a youth rider. Lori obtained her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State in Agricultural Education as well as her master’s degree in Animal Nutrition. While Lori lived in Ohio, she worked as an extension agent and was very active with the state 4-H judging team.
Lori moved to New Jersey in 1988 to help her brother run his horse farm, which at that time, had over 100 Appaloosa horses. Since her move to New Jersey she has been regularly active at the state level, coaching the NJ State 4-H team since 1992. She is a 4-H leader and works on the Horse Project Advisory Committee. Her work has always followed a commitment to engaging young people with horses. Lori has also been continually active with ApHC regional clubs. She became the secretary of the Garden State Appaloosa Association when three NJ clubs merged in 1991. Since that time, she has managed the horse shows for GSAA, which runs anywhere from three to six ApHC breed shows per year.
Lori’s children began to ride when they were young on their uncle’s farm. Her eldest daughter, Amy, has gone on to own and manage Amy Wunderlich Performance Horses which is a family business that employs Amy as well as her mother Lori and her sister Emily. Lori focuses on teaching the older adult lesson program at AWPH. The AWPH lesson program serves anywhere from 65 to 75 lessons a week and every horse on the farm is an Appaloosa.
Q: How can your time as an extension agent be applied to the ApHC?
A: Extension is about education and resources. I am familiar with both the creation and implementation of programs as well as the resources to help organizations. Education can be a way that we provide more value to an Appaloosa Horse Club Membership. We can bring people into the fold with education-based programs and experiences. People want to learn. We have a lot of new horse owners that are members and all types of education would benefit. This could be education about ApHC rules and programs, horse care, nutrition, horsemanship etc.
Q: What are the main goals you would have as an ApHC Board of Director?
A: There are a few things that I am passionate about and they all involve bringing value back to the Appaloosa Horse and the Appaloosa Horse Club Membership.
The value of the Appaloosa horse needs to be increased. We have lost a lot of that value by becoming too specialized. There is a market for all around horses, and trainers and coaches need to be supported to encourage all around horse breeding, training, and showing. Additionally, incentive programs can be created for those individuals that show Appaloosa horses outside of the breed circuit. Promoting Appaloosa barrel horses, reining horses, etc. promotes the breed, the value of the breed and works to decrease the still present stigma about Appaloosas horses.
The value of membership to the Appaloosa Horse Club also needs to be increased. There needs to be a reason for Appaloosa owners to become a member even if they are not going to go to a breed horse show. This can be done with members only education programs, members only support for sale and promotion for breeders, etc. With the vast increases in technology, members only education, information and promotional content is easy and cost effective to create.
Finally, it is my position that all members of the board of directors, myself included if I am elected, should always work to uphold, and maintain the integrity of the breed and the club. This means that there should always be open communication with members with transparency. Nothing should be hidden from members (other than when legally necessary) and all members should have an open platform to provide thoughts and ideas to the board of directors.
Territory Six includes the following states: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. It also includes the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. Any member in this territory can vote in this election if your membership is in good standing. If you are an ApHC member in good standing who resides in Territory Six, please vote. There are two candidates, Lori Wunderlich and Bill Ready. Turn out for elections tends to be low and the only way to guarantee your voice is heard is to vote.
We were privileged today to visit No Where But Up Performance Horses which is owned by Cody Crow in Colorado. We visited in preparation for an article for the Appaloosa Journal about Cody and You CD Signs who, in February, won the National Reined Cow Horse Association Limited Open Bridle World Championship
As a very short preview, here are pictures and videos of Cody and his gorgeous facility. He moved in less than a year ago to this training facility that he designed and it is perfect!
Here’s a little video of his gorgeous new facility.
It’s May Appaloosa friends and most of us in the US still are not released from state mandated isolation practices so there are still no horses shows! We hope you are enjoying some good rides in the spring weather. As there are still no show results to report, we plan to continue our Meet Your Neighbor series.
This week’s neighbor is Amanda Check. Amanda is a long-time Appaloosa owner and enthusiast from Pennsylvania.
Amanda started riding at Hope Lock Farm in Easton, PA around 1984. Her aunt had ridden horses when she was younger and influenced Amanda’s desire to ride. As her parents were not horse people, her father asked a friend in the horse business, Fred Klotz (a farrier in the area) for a recommendation and he suggested Gayle Matson at Hope Lock. Amanda took lessons at Hope Lock from Anne Mabus when she was 6 and 7 years old. Amanda’s parents were supportive of her desire to ride but never really understood her love of riding.
A number of years later Amanda went to girl scout camp, where she rode. This reignited her desire to ride consistently. At the age of 12 she went back to Hope Lock Farm to start riding again. She would clean stalls and tack or do chores around the farm for extra riding time. As a teenager, Amanda worked summers at the girl scout camp and would return to riding when camp was over. When she turned 16 (driver’s license age in PA) her parents offered her an option. They would either buy her a car or pay for a lease on a horse. Of course, Amanda chose the horse figuring her bicycle could get her where she needed to go. Amanda leased a quarter horse on the farm named T.C. Somebody. She showed T.C. in the all-around events on the local Penn Jersey show circuit.
When she graduated, Amanda attended Penn State where she would earn a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology. She didn’t ride while she was in college, focusing on her studies. After graduation she got back in touch with a friend from Hope Lock, Kate Lonergan, and started to ride Kate’s horse Corey (Ups n Downs). Amanda had an incredibly rough senior year of college. Her mother passed away her senior year and Amanda says that being back around the horses after her mother’s passing was extremely cathartic for her. Amanda rode and showed Ups N Downs on the Penn Jersey circuit when she could as she traveled often for work during at that time. While at the barn riding Corey, Amanda was introduced to Bert (Zips Hot Rox) whom she later bought and has owned for the past 18 years
Amanda and Bert have had an extremely successful show career. Bert turned out to excel at Saddle Seat and Pleasure driving. Under the guidance of Ray and Connie Burchett, with Zips Hot Rox, Amanda has won three World Championships in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Equitation and one World Championship in Open Saddle Seat Pleasure and Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure. She and Bert have two Reserve World Championships in Open Saddle Seat Pleasure and a Reserve World Championship in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure and Non-Pro Pleasure Driving. They have won the Year end High Point in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Equitation three times, Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure four times, Open Saddle Seat Pleasure two times, Open Pleasure Driving and Novice Non-Pro Western Horsemanship once. Bert has also achieved his Supreme Champion award as well as a Superior event horse in Open Saddle Seat Pleasure and a Non-Pro Superior Event Horse in Non-Pro Saddle Seat Pleasure. Amanda also achieved her Non-Pro Versatility Champion award on Bert.
Amanda’s favorite memory showing horses happened at the 2016 World Show. This was Bert’s last show at the age of 17. His last class of the show was Non-Pro Pleasure driving. Amanda describes this class as a perfect moment. It felt like just her and Bert in the pen. Bert was in his zone and she was singing to him as they were going around the pen. They were both in their happy place. The result of this completely gelled moment was a Reserve World Championship in Non-Pro Pleasure Driving.
The achievement that Amanda is most proud of is obtaining her Non-Pro Supreme Champion award on one horse.
So, what is next for Amanda? Several years ago, she purchased Moose (Love My Look) and changed disciplines from Saddle Seat to Ranch. Additionally, she recently bought a small farm and brought her boys, Bert and Moose, home in the fall. She has transitioned from lifetime boarder to farm owner. Now that they are home, she is finding a different balance in life. Having the horses at home means she has to learn how to balance extracurricular activities with what has to happen on the farm. She was planning to take this year off from showing to continue to get her farm set up to her liking.
I always like to ask our neighbors why they enjoy horses and specifically why Appaloosas. Amanda says she loves riding horses because you can always learn more. No matter how long you have been riding, there is always something new to learn to help make you a better rider and horseperson. She does not ever want to stop learning. The challenge, though sometimes frustrating, is always rewarding.
As to why Appaloosas? The honest answer is that she started riding Appaloosas because they were the horses that were at the barn where she started to ride. She stayed with the breed because of the people. The people that she has met through riding and showing Appaloosa horses have become her family. Her Appaloosa family are what keeps her in the breed.
Welcome to the first installment of our Meet Your Neighbor blog series!
Since it is April now, we were hoping to be able to start sharing stories of horse show successes and events. However, given the global health crisis, that is on hold. While we hope that show season will resume at some point this year, we thought it a good time to start to focus on the people who love and support the Appaloosa breed.
Our first Meet Your Neighbor spotlight is on Nicole Twiss of Sport N Spots Appaloosas. Nicole hails from Pennsylvania and she and her equine offspring can be seen at all types of horse events from 4-H to the Appaloosa Youth World Horse Show. Let’s learn more about Nicole….
Nicole grew up in rural Pennsylvania and recalls that her mother told her that her first spoken word was pony. At 6, her mother would catch her luring the neighbor’s horse to the fence with carrots and crawling up onto her back to sit there. Nicole started as a “barn rat” at the farm of Rick and Ruth Crist who bred and raised Appaloosa horses. They had a stallion named Mr. Red Rum. Nicole fell in love with the stallion and spotted horses at the Crist Farm. Nicole continued her childhood horse obsession with other neighbors and their horses whether they be Icelandic, Arabs, Quarter Horses or Off The Track Thoroughbreds and she credits the OTTB farm for teaching her to ride.
Nicole found her permanent barn home as a child at TWH Farm with John and Norma Criblear. It was here that she caught the horse show bug full force and loved traveling up and down the east coast showing horses. In her late teens she was given an Appaloosa mare, Frosted Red Wine (Dixie), to ride and train. Dixie was an athletic mare who started in the hunter ring and they ended up showing jumpers. Nicole and Dixie loved jumpers but, unfortunately, Dixie came down with heaves at 13 which ended her jumping career. Unsure of what to do with her mare next, Nicole decided to breed her. This decision altered the trajectory of Nicole’s involvement in horses. From the moment that Dixie had her first foal, Nicole’s passion moved from riding to breeding. Under the guidance of Christine Brady, who stood the stallion King Goer, Nicole built a breeding herd of 6 mares and a stallion and focused on the Appaloosa Sport Horse Industry.
Over time, Nicole’s breeding focus has evolved from breeding Appaloosa Sport Horses to breeding quality youth and non pro all-around horses. Nicole feels that there is a large gap in the Appaloosa market. There is a need for sound, good minded horses that can be maintained at home, be family members, and also perform well in the show pen. Her current breeding priority is to put foals on the ground that can help to fill that gap.
When asked about her favorite memory with Appaloosas, Nicole said that it has to be her first trip to the Appaloosa World Show. She took NL Seeuraiseumoonu, a gelding that she bred and raised to show in halter. Despite feeling overwhelmed by her first experience at a World Show, Nicole and Moon brought home a 6th place in the Non Pro Halter Geldings and a 6th Place in the Open Halter Geldings where Moon was shown by Ray Burchett. When not dominating the halter classes, Moon served as Nicole’s son’s leadline mount.
Nicole and the horses she has bred have accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments. She is most proud of last year’s show season. Nicole is a “do it yourself” Non-Pro. Last year her goal was to show her mare NL One Sugar Inmyte (Charlotte) to her superior in the halter events. She did this and more. Charlotte ended up Year End High Point in the nation in Aged Mares and Non Pro Mares. She also won her territory in these classes.
What else goes on Nicole’s best moments list? Often, these are the accomplishments of horses she has bred and sold to owner’s who have gone on to do great things. She has bred/raised a Dressage at Devon Champion. She has also bred horses that have gone on to achieve over 25 4-H State Championships, a Colorado Rangerbred National Champion, Youth World and World Show tops 5s and top 10s and too many regional awards to count.
As much as Nicole loves halter horses, she is passionate about her breeding programs newest focus of all-around horses. She will continue to breed sound, good minded horses that will be prepared to take youth and non pro owners to the show pen in the all-around events while becoming part of the family.