Norman and the Keathly family
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Norman & the Keathly family: The more the merrier

At an age where many horses are slated for retirement, Investers Norfleet is still hitting his stride. “Norman,” a 22-year-old chestnut overo gelding, saddled up for his first APHA World Championship Show this year, making a 20-year dream come true for three generations of the Keathly family.

Owner Kelsey Keathly of Cortland, Illinois, has dreamed about competing at the World Show since she was 10, when she participated in the APHA horse judging contest for the first time. Her childhood wonder at the sights, sounds and—of course—the Paint Horses enraptured Kelsey, and she fell in love with the breed. Her mother, Barbara Hogan, purchased Investers Norfleet for Kelsey in 2004. Even though he checked no boxes on their horse-shopping wish list—a broke, hunt-seat mare, age 5 or older, no sorrels and no blue eyes or a bald face—the match was kismet.

“As my mom tells, she knew as soon as I turned the corner and she could see my face that she was about to do the dumbest thing a horsewoman could do: buy a green-broke 2-year-old for her 10-year-old daughter,” Kelsey said.

Mom and daughter had plans to return to the World Show in 2005 with “Norman,” but instead they found their world rocked by divorce and an upheaval from Texas to New York. Despite the uncertainty and financial implications, Barb managed to move Norman cross-country, too.

“We literally had nothing, but we kept the horse through everything,” Barb said. “I wasn’t going to get rid of him because I knew he’d be her rock. Too many other things were changing— she didn’t need that changing, too.”

Never Too Late

Through thick and thin, Norman was always there. Even when others told her the sorrel gelding wouldn’t amount to much, Kelsey kept faith, dreaming of the day she would compete at the World Show.

By 2017, it seemed like that chance had passed. Norman was 15, and Kelsey was launching her business, Norfleet Photography. With limited time and resources, she arranged a lease for Norman to Albion College, where he’d be a key mount for their equestrian studies program and intercollegiate competitors. When Norman “graduated” from college in 2023, Kelsey never expected him to be physically or mentally fit for a return to the show pen. But there he was, ears up and ready to show. Those old dreams resurfaced in Kelsey’s mind, and she vowed to take advantage of the opportunity this time around.

“This World Show isn’t just another event—it’s a culmination of a dream that’s been brewing for two decades,” Kelsey said. “It’s about the journey Norman and I have shared, the obstacles we’ve overcome and the bond we’ve forged along the way.”

At the 2024 World Show, Norman was shared by three generations of the Keathly family: Kelsey tackled the Novice Amateur and Amateur all-around events, Barb took Norman for Amateur Walk-Trot and Masters Amateur Showmanship, and Kelsey’s daughter Kailee rode him in Youth Lead Line. But that’s not all. Kelsey also donated Norman for use in the APHA Youth World Games, the horse judging contest and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Western National Finals. She even let Youth World Games exhibitor Lea Klink of Germany lease Norman to compete in Youth Showmanship 18 & Under, as well.

“He has so much heart,” Kelsey said. “The reason I still have him is because of the kindness of other people, so I might as well give back and let him be part of someone else’s story. Norman has an international fan club at this point. He’s the horse that keeps on giving.”

Kelsey says Norman’s placings at the World Show aren’t what matter to her, though he did win his IEA class and earned a Top 10 in Novice Amateur Showmanship. Rather, it’s about holding fast to your dreams, no matter how improbable they might seem.

“I keep thinking I’m going to wake up in my childhood bed in New York and be 16 again, still dreaming,” Kelsey said. “Don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are impossible. You might need to take a different route; it might take longer than you expected. But if you put in the work and put in the effort and surround yourself with the right people who believe in that dream, then a lot can happen.”


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About APHA

The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association. Since it was founded in 1962, APHA has registered more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories. APHA promotes, preserves and provides meaningful experiences with Paint Horses. Learn more at