For rider Kathleen Sanders, a recent trip to Florida was an 11-day chance to work hard and come home with a tack trunk full of horse showribbons.
The 16-year-old South Carroll High student teamed with her 4-year-old quarter horse, Sunny's Lucky Champ, also known as Killian, to star in hunter seat classes on the flat at the Gold Coast Quarter Horse Show in West Palm Beach. This engaging team warmed up for this major show by winning five of six classes under three different judges at a local show in Ocala.
"The Gold Coast show is a major, three-day-long show," says Kathleen's mother, Charlotte. "All the best horses are there and it's one of the largest shows, next to the Quarter Horse Congress."
At thisyear's congress, Kathleen and another of her quarter horses, Skip's Road Runner (also known as Zack), finished eighth in the the hunter hack class. In this class, horses are judged on their form on the flatand over two small jumps.
The first day at the Gold Coast Show, Killian had a few problems with unexpected muddy footing. But the second day he was back on stride, winning his classes.
The third day, he and Kathleen Sanders took the blue ribbon in the junior horse hunter seat on the flat class and were second in the youth class.
"(Killian) was very good the whole time in Florida," Sanders says. "He really doesn't like mud and there was a lot the first day. But once he's in it and knows he has to do it, he's OK."
Although Killian is young and Sanders has been riding him since only last summer, the horse exhibits a great deal of maturity.
"He has a really good mind," Sanders says. "In each class he knew what to do."
Sanders hopes tostart jumping training so she can show him in hunter hack classes byJune.
Killian's life might not have been so full of happiness andribbons if his innate talent had not been spotted at a horse auctionin Thurmont. He was purchased for $300 and some time was put into training him.
Then Sanders' trainer, Rick Buckwalter, saw Killian and was impressed with the young horse.
Kathleen Sanders began riding Killian when he was just barely broken.
"I was one of the first people to work with him and we have a bond," Kathleen says.
Early in their relationship, Sanders took Killian to a quarter horse show; they brought home the blue ribbon their first time out. Then, it was on to a big show in Pennsylvania, where they placed second in a very big class.
"Someone came over and wanted to buy him after that class," recalled Charlotte Sanders. "I looked over at Kathleen and she had tears streaming down her face. Everywhere we go people want to know if he is for sale and Kathleen gets very upset."
Kathleen Sanders says she'd be very reluctant to give up Killian.
"I don't want to sell him," she insists, even though five-figure offers are hard to turn down. "My dad wants to go ahead and sell him, so I will have to keep winning to convince him to let me keep him."