Trophies and titles aren’t all that matter for the big dreamers who made their way to the 2019 Western National Championship held October 16–19 in Las Vegas. For some, simply stepping into the pen represents personal victories, goals achieved and friendships made along the way.
Francine Acord-Brown of Parachute, Colorado, kept her last-minute plans to attend the National Championship a secret from even her closest friends. Recovering from major surgery, the horsewoman wasn’t sure she’d feel well enough to ride even if she managed the drive to Las Vegas.
“This show is my comeback after a double mastectomy,” Francine explained. “I only decided about two weeks ago that I felt good enough to come; I didn’t tell anyone I was coming because I didn’t want the extra pressure. I only started riding this mare about 30 days ago!”
“Comeback” might be an understatement—Francine and Sweet Litl Kicker earned national championships in Novice Amateur Ranch Pleasure, Novice Amateur Ranch Rail Pleasure and Novice Amateur Ranch Riding. Francine celebrated with her new friends made at the show, while a candid Paint Horse Journal image posted to Facebook broke the news of her victory to Francine’s astonished friends at home.
“Even my best friend—who talked me into buying ‘Sweet Adeline’ and got me thinking about this show—didn’t know until she read about it online,” Francine laughed. “This show just felt like making history; coming here was so exciting. I don’t think [winning] has quite hit me yet, but I still get teared up thinking about it.”
Barn friends can truly become like family, ready to lend a hand at a moment’s notice. That’s certainly the case for Natasha Steele and Lena Davies of Stayton, Oregon. Though Natasha had plenty of classes left to show, she offered up Lexus Sensation to Lena Davies when the Youth exhibitor’s own horse, Ready For The Weekend, showed signs of lameness during her first class at the National Championship.
“We did well at the [Silver State Paint Horse Club’s Color Classic] and we got third in our big Amateur Walk-Trot Trail class, so ‘Ferdie’ and I had already had a good show,” Natasha explained. “This is Lena’s last big show of her final Youth year, so it just made me feel so sad when her horse got hurt. I’d already had good rides, and I just couldn’t let my barn friend end on a bad note like that. So I told her, ‘Why don’t you just take Ferdie?’ ”
With the help of APHA staff providing on-the-spot MemberCare services, Natasha leased Ferdie to Lena in time to compete in Saturday’s halter, showmanship and English events.
“Mostly, I’m just extremely thankful,” Lena said. “We both got emotional when Natasha offered; I can’t be more grateful. It was incredible to know I would still get to show in Las Vegas—I’ve always wanted to come here!”
The 2019 Western National Championship concludes Saturday, October 19. Watch for additional show coverage in the upcoming January/February 2020 issue of the Paint Horse Journal; purchase, renew or extend your subscription today!
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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.