By Allison Rehnborg
For Amateur Walk-Trotter Esperanza Tervalon-Garrett of Ashland, Oregon, the final day of the APHA Western National Championship show marked two big milestones in her career as an exhibitor.
“Today is literally the three-month mark of when I started riding in Western pleasure, and it’s also my first show ever,” Esperanza said. “That feels like a huge marker for me, and it’s also the start of the very beginning of my journey. We have a long way to go, but how cool is it going to be next year when I can look back and say, ‘Look how far I’ve come since my first show!’ ”
Although she’s no stranger to horses—the 42-year-old equestrian has been riding since childhood—Esperanza’s Amateur Walk-Trot Western Pleasure class at the Western National Championship was her first class at an APHA event and her first experience showing in pleasure.
“My dad put me on my first horse was 3, and I rode with the Oakland Black Cowboy Association in Oakland, California, when I was younger,” Esperanza said. “My whole life coming up, I feel like horses really saved my life. They kept me out of trouble and gave me a passion to follow. When other kids my age were out running around and doing whatever they were doing, I was at the barn putting in as much saddle time as I could with my friends, who were also young Black cowgirls.”
Esperanza and her family, which includes wife Christine and son, Santiago, recently moved from California to a 16-acre ranch in Ashland, Oregon. Shortly after moving to the ranch, which the family dubbed Dancing Hearts Ranch, Christine broke her leg.
“Because it was a terrible break, my wife had a really long recovery period, and it was devastating because we were just starting to farm,” Esperanza said. “So I told her that while you’re healing, in order to keep my sanity with running my business and the farm and our child and our life in this new place, I need a horse. I need a horse so I can go get a break and just have my own thing.”
That horse turned out to be Norfleets Lil Shadow, a 2009 sorrel overo gelding by Mr Sonny Norfleet and out of Spooks Lil Shadow. “JaxieBaby” quickly became Esperanza’s refuge—and her inspiration.
“I didn’t want a red horse, but he had this jog,” Esperanza said. “He was so gorgeous and so easy to ride. A lot of people don’t get along with Jaxie—he’s very particular about who he likes. If he doesn’t like you, he’ll just look away. But he didn’t do that with me. He was touching my hair and nibbling on me and that was that. I tell people all the time that he saved my life. My wife’s leg was broken, I was literally the sole provider for our family in every possible way, and at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was go outside and take Jaxie for a spin. And I did!”
Enthralled with Jaxie’s slow, easy jog, Esperanza decided she’d like to try competing in Western pleasure. That decision led her to begin training with Mike Davis of Bend, Oregon, and to start a whole new journey of competing in APHA events. Three months after starting their training, Esperanza and Jaxie set foot in the ring at the Southpoint Equestrian Center to ride against 21 Amateur Walk-Trot exhibitors.
“We got in there and it was a huge class, but you know, I didn’t come to win,” Esperanza said. “I came to play, and I did that. So that helped take some of the pressure off and I got to enjoy it. I had fun. I really do feel like this is a starting place. And we’ll know next year how good I’ve gotten because we’ll have two really distinct different moments to compare!”
Esperanza’s father, Lucas Daumont, accompanied her to Las Vegas so that he could cheer his daughter on at her first show.
“I’m a very proud father,” Lucas said. “Esperanza has done more than I could have ever imagined with her life. But she’s also lived up to everybody’s expectations of being exceptionally bright and exceptionally driven. And the result is that she’s exceptionally successful. She’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing, and that’s horses.”
Esperanza also owns three other Paint horses, including her next show horse, Never Doubt a Cowboy, a 2016 sorrel overo gelding by No Doubt Im Lazy (QH) and out of Huntin A Cowboy (QH). With Jaxie and “Uno,” a supportive family and her own grit and determination, Esperanza is looking forward to the future. Read more about her story in the Winter 2020 issue of Chrome, APHA’s exclusive Western lifestyle magazine.
“I’d like to be the first Black woman to win a world championship in APHA,” Esperanza confided. “That’s what I’d like to do. And I think I’m in the right company to do that. Everyone is working hard here, everyone is putting in the saddle time, they’re working out, they’re running in the dirt and I have so much respect for that. I want to be part of it. I can be a warrior among warriors. And these folks are our warriors, and they’re really good at what they do.”
[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA promotes, preserves and provides meaningful experiences with Paint Horses.