Life's Little Lessons
Try is what separates Heather McKeown from the rest of the pack. And try, she says, is the best thing to do.
Heather grew up with American Quarter Horses in Felicity, Ohio. Since the early 1980s, Heather's parents, Timothy and Virginia, have bred and raised Quarter Horses, and it's a passion they passed on to their only daughter.
With a love for horses that grew through the Brown County Rangers 4-H Club, Heather took on a communication arts/media production degree from Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. To aid her education, the young horsewoman garnered a scholarship in 2005 through the American Quarter Horse Foundation, and it was a gift for which she was very grateful.
However, Heather's path through life has been a bit winding since she graduated from Wilmington. For starters, Heather is a pharmacy technician at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.
"I have my bachelor of arts and I work in a hospital. I know - it's really full circle," Heather laughs.
Following graduation from Wilmington College in 2007, Heather joined AmeriCorps Vista, which is Volunteers in Service to America. She was tasked with bringing the knowledge of higher education to lower income families in Appalachia. While she covered five counties in Ohio, Heather did her best to provide the families with Internet access, plus aid them in selecting classes needed for higher education pursuits. The bottom line Heather instilled on a daily basis was this: The difference between a college education and a high school education is almost $1 million in one lifetime.
After her service to AmeriCoprs Vista, Heather landed her current position at Christ Hospital and has plans to continue with school, earning a master's in business administration. But in the meantime, Heather has a lot more on her plate to keep her busy.
"I work from Tuesday night through Tuesday morning, so the rest of the time I'm off, meaning I get two weeks of vacation every month," she says. "It really works out a lot simpler than with a Monday-thru-Friday schedule."
During her downtime, you'll find Heather out at the McKeown's barn, working with mares and foals, show horses and parade mounts.
"We have a great support staff at the farm that allows me to be at work and not have to worry about the animals every day." She adds, "In the week off I get a lot of prep time and a lot of chances to go places and show my horse."
That horse would be JZ Twoeyed Patriot, the McKeowns' 12-year-old stallion that Heather led to the 2012 Palomino Horse Breeders of America aged stallions world championship.
A master of juggling activities, Heather also rides with the Canadian Cowgirls Precision Drill Team, which is based out of Chatam-Kent, Ontario. She has ridden in parades for events as far and wide as the Calgary Stampede, the Equine Affair in Columbus, the Indy 500 and the Kentucky Derby.
Between parades, horse care, breeding and showing, Heather's try comes into play to make it all work.
"When you love something, you make it work," she says. "It doesn't matter what event it is, if it's bicycling or exercising, which I don't really do much of that because I get it with the hay bales and everything," she adds with a laugh.
When asked to pick her favorite facet of horse ownership, Heather says she can't. "I love the mathematics of everything and making sure all of the horses are in balanced diets and being taken care of that way, and I love the thrill of being in the show ring and the joy of watching people's faces light up down a parade route."
Heather strives to light the horse-loving spark in local youth, as well. Since her American Quarter Horse Foundation scholarship was a communciations award, Heather feels indebted to the bree to return the favor.
"I'm trying to develop programs at our farm that allow kids who do not have the opportunity to own a horse, or get up close to a horse, to learn responsibility via horses and learn how much that can impact their life on the whole," she says.
Aside from teaching youth proper horse care from hand-on experiences, Heather has also designed several interactive websites to serve the same purpose.
"In this media-based world it's very hard to get a kid to sit down and read a book, so if we can take some of that information that's necessary and put it up and direct them to it (via interactive websites), it works wonders."
Somehow, some way, Heather likewise finds time to advise the Brown County Rangers 4-H Club, the same club she joined as an 8-year-old and through which she met her fiance, Josh Boothby, back when she was a youth.
"When the kids just have a smile on their face and they learn something they might not have learned at home or never even had the chance to have somebody teach them," that's when Heather says she feels the most fulfilled.
"We have a couple people in our club that would never have gotten into the show ring if it hadn't been through 4-H, and they just excelled. They might not be the first-place horse every time, but even if they get that fifth place they are all smiles."
In each of the youth that she helps, Heather sees a bit of herself. If she can help kids just like American Quarter Horses helped her, Heather knows that the youth will be well off in life.
"The sportsmanship that they learn, and the friendships that I see growing I know will stick with them throughout their lives - and that's what I enjoy the most."
Hurd Represents Impact of Foundation Scholarships
It’s been 30 years since the American Quarter Horse Foundation awarded its first scholarships, and with the help of generous members, great advancements have been made. Through increasing the number of recipients and boosting the amount of scholarship assistance awarded, the success stories are numerous.
Amy Hurd, from Almond, New York, was one of the first scholarship recipients whose life was impacted by the Foundation’s support. In 1978, Hurd received a scholarship through the American Quarter Horse Foundation.
“I was very appreciative of the money to help pursue my dream,” Hurd said.
After receiving her degree in animal science from Cornell University in 1982, she continued her studies at Cornell and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1985 from The New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. As a veterinary student, Hurd was the recipient of several academic awards including the Colonel Floyd C. Sager Equine Obstetrics and Pediatrics Award and the New York State Veterinary Medical Society Award for Best Senior Seminar.
Committed to providing the highest quality veterinary care, Dr. Hurd established the Bristol County Veterinary Hospital in 1988. Located in Seekonk, Massachusetts, the hospital offers various equine services including preventive and primary health care as well as reproduction. BCVH maintains the highest possible standards of medical and surgical expertise and makes every effort to bring horses the latest and greatest developments in veterinary medicine.
“There is a lack of large animal veterinarians, and I have to wonder if it isn’t affected by the high cost of education,” Hurd said. “Thirty years ago, AQHA helped me with my education, and whatever support they can provide is good to help young people in the same situation.”
Dr. Hurd is an AQHA life member and a past president of the New England Veterinary Medical Association. In addition, she serves on the board of directors of the NEVMA and Greenlock Therapeutic Riding Center.
Dr. Hurd was one of the first of more than 900 Foundation scholarship recipients. These bright and deserving individuals rely on contributions to the Foundation's scholarship fund. To find out more about becoming a donor, contact the Foundation’s scholarship office at (806) 378-5034 or email@example.com.
Foundation Staff Directory
American Quarter Horse Foundation
2601 E I-40
Amarillo, TX 79104
P.O. Box 32111
Amarillo, TX 79120
Fax (806) 376-1005