By American Quarter Horse Journal editor Andrea Caudill
Melinda “Mindy” McKay and CLG Mito Money are at the AQHA West Level 1 Championship Show to have a good time.
The Jackson, Wyoming, residents are showing a full complement of classes, from halter to stake racing.
“I just like doing everything I can with a horse that I’ve made,” Mindy says. “That’s the bottom line. I’d rather take last than have a trainer.”
They are taking home three gold trophies from the show and a priceless amount of experience.
Mindy bought “Red” in 2001, when the mare was just a yearling. She was looking for an On The Money Red-bred horse, and found this one. The now-19-year-old mare was bred by Cliff and Lila Glade of Oelrichs, South Dakota, and is by the On The Money Red son Gator Red and out of the Larks Dandy mare Tammys Lark.
Mindy grew up in Maine riding horses, but took a few-decades long break to raise her daughter. Her dream remained, though.
“I wanted to be a cowgirl,” she says. “I had to come out west.”
She applied for a job at an Arizona dude ranch and got it.
“So I threw the cat in the Jeep and out I went,” she says with a laugh.
There she made new friends and got connected to work in Wyoming.
Along the way, she got Red, and they focused mostly on speed. They won a few saddles in their time, and even were Top 10 finalists in pole bending at the 2017 Adequan® Select World Championships, but a bad back and strict doctor’s orders forced her to reconsider.
“I am not really supposed to be riding because of my back,” Mindy says. “So I’ve gotten away from the whole barrel racing focus. I thought I’d go to shows, and this is probably our second summer. She’s come a long way.”
Mindy works several jobs to support her hobby, including house cleaning and operating a shuttle for a river float company operating in the nearby Teton National Park. She mostly focuses on competing at nearby open and breed shows, and sometimes rodeos, but said she has enjoyed her experience at the Level 1 Championship, noting the friendly and welcoming competitors around her.
“I had a great time,” she says. “It’s fun. Everybody should come and try it.
“Everybody has been really nice,” she continues. “A lot of people have come up and helped me, and when you win something they come up and congratulate you. That’s nice, that’s really nice.”
Take it from a woman riding a versatile and willing 19-year-old mare she’s trained and campaigned herself for nearly two decades – and one that will be accompanying her on a trail riding vacation on her way home from the show.
“Just do it,” Mindy says. “Just go out and do it! We’re not setting the world on fire, you can go out and do it. Especially the older women, don’t sit on the sidelines and say ‘oh I wish I could do that.’ Just try it and get better.”
AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter and visit www.aqha.com/news.