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November 7-22, 2014, Oklahoma City
Journal at the World

November 14, 2012

The Odyssey of Dan and Kristie Puls

Getting to Oklahoma City for the AQHA World Show was both the end of the journey and the beginning of the adventure for one first-time exhibitor.

By Larri Jo Starkey
The American Quarter Horse Journal

Dan and Kristie Puls

Dan Puls watches his wife, Kristie, show in amateur 2-year-old mares at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show. Dan and Kristie knew the mare wouldn't be competitive, but they were eager for the full World Show experience. (Journal photo)

On November 8, Kristie Puls of Newport News, Virginia, showed in amateur 2-year-old mares at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show.

But that’s not the story.

The story is the odyssey Kristie and her husband, Dan, took to get to Oklahoma City for the show. We’re talking a real odyssey here, complete with a journey of many miles, great obstacles and a dream achieved at the end.

The story starts in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where Dan was stationed with the U.S. Army as part of his duty as a vocalist for the Army band.

“I joined the Army as a saxophone player, changed over to vocalist,” he said. “They sent me to Alaska, and we’ve been camped out there for six years.”

Kristie grew up a horse-crazy barn rat, loving horses but never having one of her own. When she married Dan, he caught the bug, too. Then they met AQHA Professional Horseman and Director Ralph Seekins and his family in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the next thing they knew, Kristie owned a weanling, one she watched being foaled.

“(Ralph and Constance) have been wonderful mentors and friends,” Kristie said. “I’ve been with her every day of her life. It’s been a fun experience with her.”

Entranced with the filly she named Pretty Zippin Cool, Kristie did a little bit of everything with her, including entering her in halter shows in Fairbanks, where they did fairly well.

Then in early 2012, Dan got new orders sending him to Newport News. But we’ll let Dan and Kristie take the story from here.

Dan: When I got my orders for Virginia, we started thinking, “OK, how are we going to make this work: a horse, two dogs, a goat, a toddler and 4,800 miles to cover.” My orders were to report in the middle of winter, in February. The week before we left, it was 50 below zero. We did not want to trailer out at 50 below zero.

Kristie: And all of us tested positive for strep throat.

Dan: Right, we were all sick as dogs getting out of there. It warmed up to zero degrees the day we left. We were thankful for that, and we trailered many miles, long days. We have family and friends scattered all about the country that we could stay with.

Kristie: It was a challenge to keep our water unfrozen on the trip, but it was easy to find horse accommodations all along the way. Pretty Zippin Cool was just a long yearling at the time, and I wanted her to have a companion, so we ended up getting a goat.

Kristie: Dan was out of town, and a free goat comes my way, and I tell him, it won’t be any trouble at all, really. And I don’t know anything about goats, so I’m Googling. Come to find out, he was bred to be a meat goat and he’ll be up to 300 pounds when he’s fully grown. I’m telling him, this goat won’t be any trouble at all! They had actually closed the borders to goats for a long time and just opened it up three weeks before our trip, so this “free goat” ended up being the most expensive companion animal possible for our horse. There was a paperwork pile this thick (she uses her hands to indicate about 3 inches), lots of fines and fees because they had just opened up the borders, so when we made it through to Montana, they said this is the first goat to cross the border in nine years. So he was kind of famous.

Dan: Nobody cared about the horse.

Kristie: But the border patrol would close up shop to see the goat. “We’ve never seen a goat here.” It was quite the adventure, for sure. It took us about 19 days.

Dan: We’d spend a couple days here and a couple days there. We tried to make our way slowly and give her plenty of rest.

Kristie: And give our little boy, Eli, rest, too. I was only four weeks postpartum with our first son when she was born, so they were both under 2 years old.

Dan and Kristie settled in Virginia, and Kristie spent a few months breaking her filly when a thick invitation from AQHA arrived in the mail. Kristie and her filly were the state qualifiers from Alaska in 2-year-old amateur mares.

Dan: They sent (the World Show invitation) to our prior Alaska address, and it had taken a couple of weeks to get forwarded to our new Virginia address. And we got it – wow! – we were not expecting this. We decided this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Well, hopefully not once in a lifetime! But this is a great opportunity. So we said, “Well, don’t invite me to a party if you don’t want me to show up,” so we came.

Kristie: I wasn’t counting my points or anything, I was just trying to go to some local shows so it would be a good experience, and halter was all I could do with her at the time. It’s been a good project for us to work on since I stopped riding.

Did we mention that Kristie is six months pregnant? She and her next son both showed at the World Show, based on Kristie’s YouTube research on how the class would operate, plus a few hints the couple received from all the people they met in Oklahoma.

Dan: We showed up and started talking to people, and it’s been a good time meeting people and making friends.

Kristie: Yeah, we’ve met a lot of people, and I just love watching all the other events and learning from the best the industry has to offer.

Dan: It’s a busy time for the band, especially with Veterans Day, so it was incredibly fortunate (my commanding officer) was supportive of what we were doing with Quarter Horses and our horse habit in general. They gave me just enough time to drive here, do our thing and drive back, so that’s what we plan to do. We’ll leave out early tomorrow morning and make the long drive back to Virginia.

Kristie: It’s been a wonderful experience. I have really enjoyed everything about this trip. It’s my first horse, and I made it to the World Show by the time she was 2, which is really exciting. I definitely want to try all-around and see what she’s good at before I settle in and specialize with her, but she does seem very brave and courageous, and I think she’d be great if I get into hunter-jumpers. She’d do great if I get into trail. I just think she has a lot of potential. Just booming with talent and she has such a good heart. She’s a real sweetie.