For several pairs of exhibitors at the 2020 APHA Eastern National Championship in Lexington, Virginia, the competition was about more than the opportunity to win prizes and points. It was an opportunity to bond as mother-daughter teams, united by a love of Paint Horses.
Jessica Heyen of Mount Pulaski, Illinois, has shown horses most of her life—since age 5—alongside her mother, Lori Jackson of Mapleton, Illinois. She stepped away from the horse-show life while in college, but about six years ago, Lori and her husband urged Jessica to join them at some local breed shows. Bitten by the bug once again, Jessica hasn’t turned back. She competes aboard her 2009 bay solid gelding I Know Im Hot, and Lori shows the 2009 bay tobiano gelding Undeniably Special in Amateur Walk-Trot events.
The duo (pictured above left) are true do-it-yourself Amateurs—they keep their horses at Lori’s home, where the family performs all day-to-day care themselves and even grow their own hay. While they haul in for occasional lessons with a trainer, Lori and Jessica mostly practice on their own, serving as “eyes on the ground” for each other and offering up tips and suggestions for improvement.
“She helped me with showmanship when I was young, and now I’m helping her with her showmanship since it’s all changed since she has shown,” Jessica said; she has earned a number of reserve national championships at this year’s show in Amateur and Open Solid Paint-Bred events, and was crowned national champion in Amateur Solid Paint-Bred Showmanship. “We kind of traded places. When I was a little kid, she would get the horses ready. Now, I’m the one who does most of that.”
That’s largely due to back issues that have plagued Lori, making it a challenge to bend over, lift or even stand up straight. She’s scheduled to have back surgery in early November, which will keep her out of the saddle for at least six months. The timeline spurred Lori and Jessica’s last-minute decision to attend the 2020 Eastern National Show—one last opportunity to squeeze in some quality mother-daughter time with their Paints.
“This is our quality time together,” Lori said. “And not everybody gets to have that with their parent or their kids.”
Like Jessica, Gabrielle Bradway of Warrenton, Virginia, started riding at age 5. Her mother, Arlene Boulerice, has always been at her side, albeit from the sidelines, attending every lesson and horse show with her daughter. The Eastern National Championships was no different; Gabrielle showed Paint Me Lazy, her 2013 bay overo gelding, in Amateur events, and Arlene happily cheered on the team while wrangling her 2-year-old grandson, Wayne (they’re pictured above right).
“My mom has always been my No. 1 cheerleader,” Gabrielle said. “Without her, none of my horse-showing dreams would be possible. She cheers the loudest for ‘Clyde’ and me, and I know that my wins are hers, too! She has never missed a lesson or a horse show since I started riding at age 5. She has been there for the good, the bad and the ugly. I don’t know what I’d do without her and her guidance and help.”
This is Gabrielle’s first full year as a DIY Amateur—with a toddler at home, riding time is hard to come by and she decided to bring her horse home about a year ago. She’s found a local trainer with whom she can take several lessons each week, which is helpful given that Clyde has only recently transitioned from Western pleasure events to the broader classification of all-around performer.
“Clyde and I have really grown since having him at home. We started the season late due to COVID, and we’ve gradually improved as it’s gone on. My goal is to just get Clyde better and better and grow as a team.”
At the Eastern National Championships, Gabrielle and Clyde were excited to earn a reserve national championship in Amateur Trail—only their fourth trail performance ever.
“This is our first year as an all-arounder, so coming and doing all these events with the hard-core Amateurs was a little hard,” she confessed. “On the way out I said, ‘Now he’s earned his minty muffin’—my mom convinces him to do good things by offering him muffins. He’s a good boy, and he’s so good with my little boy.”
With the whole family enjoying their time together at the Eastern National Show, Gabrielle hopes more experiences like these are in her future.
“I’m an only child, so my mom and I do this together. I hope my son is as horse crazy as me,” she said.
[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.