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October 4, 2013

A Do-It-Yourself West Novice Halter Win

Mia Eichenberger of Cody, Wyoming, proves you can fit a novice championship - winning halter horse in your back yard.

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal

Mia Eichenberger of Cody, Wyoming, and Secure Kid

Mia Eichenberger of Cody, Wyoming, and Secure Kid, with Alicia Buckle and Mia's husband, Bob.

Mia Eichenberger of Cody, Wyoming, bought her first halter horse in March: Secure Kid, a 2004 mare by Securitee Acres and out of Justa Kid Clue by Kid Clu. It was something to do while her all-around horse needed time off to recover from a recurring injury.

“I’ve loved halter since I was a kid. It was the first class I ever won, in 4-H with my old barrel horse,” she said. “I’ve always loved the fitting, the grooming and the conditioning.”

So she set about fitting and training “Kitty” to show AQHA.

Her husband, Bob, built a stall into a lean-to behind their house and hung lights inside. Mia exercised the mare, riding a 4-wheeler and leading her on the bar ditches around their property. She groomed and fed and changed the mare’s sheets and blankets and worried that she just didn’t know what she was doing.

"Of course, I used to think it was easy,” she added, rolling her eyes.

But everywhere she showed, the judges tended to like Kitty.

“I showed her in Montana this year,” Mia said. “She won the (state) year-end (award) for amateur aged mares and the open. The only grand (championship) we didn’t get was from one judge at the Region Two (Championship).”

She got a lot of encouragement. AQHA Professional Horseman and judge Margo Ball and her brother, Tom, (of Fort Collins, Colorado) encouraged her and offered advice at shows, answering questions over the phone. She met Darren and Alicia Buckle of Buckle Performance Horses in Moorhead, Minnesota, at the Region Two and they offered advice.

“With my all-around horse, I kind of bring in my showmanship background, and I get to really moving and that gets that mare’s feet moving,” Mia said. “(Darren and Alicia) jumped in and helped me a ton.”

Mia purchased Kitty from Bob and Peggy Migliori of Price, Utah. Kitty had been a broodmare for the Miglioris that they decided to start showing. Their granddaughter, Harley Ann, won the halter champion of champions with her at the 2012 SmartPak AQHA West Novice Championship. Bob encouraged Mia to take the mare to the 2013 West Novice Championship.

But she almost didn’t do it.

“It was a lot of urging from (Bob) and from Tom and Margo Ball, the people in (Montana Quarter Horse Association) and my husband,” Mia said. “I was sick and I didn’t feel good, I didn’t think my horse looked good; I never think she looks good enough.

“It wasn’t about getting beat, it was the pressure that she had won last year and I felt, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. (Kitty was in) a new place, a big change in environment, a change from being in a show barn to being in my backyard.”

But she came. And Mia and Kitty won the Novice amateur championship in aged mares, and came back in to win the reserve champion of champions.

“I never imagined this,” she told The American Quarter Horse Journal. “It’s proof that you can, if you work hard enough, you can get a halter horse put together in your backyard. You can do it!

“I always thought a good halter horse needs climate control and all these fancy things. What they need is exercise, good feed and a lot of grooming.

“She’s a cool horse,” she continued. “She hadn’t been shown a lot, she was a broodmare, and she makes you do it right. She’s all business, and she makes you stand up there and show her. She has taught me a lot, so hopefully when I do get another horse, I’ll have elevated my skills.”

Because now Mia is fully hooked on halter.

For now, Kitty will have a break until spring. Mia’s husband, Bob, is planning to break ground on a small barn at their place in November, and Mia will continue running the books for his oil and gas consulting business. But she’s already thinking about the possibility of breeding Kitty.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed by her,” she said. “I’m going to keep showing her, I might try the (All American Quarter Horse) Congress and the (AQHA World Championship Show).

“I have a pretty nice animal to work with, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think they couldn’t have a halter horse because they don’t have top-notch facilities or a trainer. The halter has been the most positive environment. The people (I have met) have been the most supportive and willing to help with information.

“I’ve found a passion for it,” Mia added. “I love it. It’s something that anyone can do. I didn’t think I could do it, and Margo Ball said, ‘Absolutely you can. It just takes hard work. You have to work harder than other people do.’ ”