While most people paw through odds and ends at a yard sale hoping to find a steal of a deal on clothes, home goods or furniture, Gillian Davis looked beyond the driveway to find her future show horse. There, looking picturesque in the pasture just beyond tables of rummage bargains, was Virtually Adorable, a 2008 sorrel solid mare who, at age 10, was virtually untouched and unbroken.
The then-16-year-old couldn’t take her eyes off the flashy mare and instantly recognized that the mare’s good conformation could make her a good training project and, later, broodmare. Striking a deal with the mare’s owners, Gillian left the yard sale with a trailer full of something other than second-hand goods.
“I was like ‘I need this horse.’ I really wanted a Quarter Horse and she’s a Paint, but I thought she’d give me a good opportunity to get into the Paint stuff,” Gillian said. “I paid $700 for her, and that was that.”
“Letty” was Gillian’s first training project, and the opinionated, red-headed mare proved to be a challenge.
“Her former owners said they tried to break her out when she was 2, and she’d buck and rear up, so they never broke her out. She’d sat in a pasture for 10 years of her life,” Gillian said. “We just did groundwork for the first six months, then I started riding her. She would rear up because she thought you would get off; it took forever to get through that. She definitely gave me a lot of experience, though. Doing 99 percent of the training myself was really good for me, especially with her not being an easy horse.”
Now, two years later, Letty is a reformed riding horse thanks to 18-year-old Gillian’s hard work, and the duo compete in ranch events, speed and even extreme mountain trail. At the 2020 Eastern National Show, however, they had their eye set on Youth and Open Solid Paint-Bred Mares 2 & Under classes. They ended up national champion in the Youth class, and reserve in the Open.
She’s my favorite riding horse,” Gillian said. “I would have never thought we’d have gotten here at a big show. I really hope to make good memories, hang out with friends and overall have a good experience.
“She’s definitely given me a lot of opportunities. I’m a national director for AjPHA now, and I’ve met a lot of friends. I’m hoping to take her to the World Show next year.”
[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.