Making Dad Proud

Horse-show grandma Deborah Lash-Maxon shares her passion with a fourth generation.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Deborah Lash-Maxon with Megan and Madilyn Bradley (Journal photo)

Deborah Lash-Maxon sits in the stands at the Tri-State Fairgrounds, iPad in hand, watching a group of showmanship exhibitors prepare for competition.

“There she is,” Deborah says. She points to a young girl in a sparkly pink-and-black jacket standing next to a bay horse with a long, thick, banded mane.

The young girl is Deborah’s granddaughter, 2017 Merial AQHA Region Eight Championships exhibitor Madilyn Bradley.

Deborah did not ride into the pen at the show – she and her daughter, Megan Bradley, came to support Madilyn. But Deborah’s love of horses came long before her granddaughter climbed into the saddle.

“My father was an FFA instructor, so we always had livestock around,” Deborah says, recalling her childhood fascination with horses. “We had our first Quarter Horse given to us, so long ago I don’t remember his registered name.”

Although Gene Lash enjoyed horses, he never let his daughter keep one for long, but that didn’t extinguish Deborah’s love for the animals. When she was older, she purchased her own land and horses, and passed her passion on to the next generation.

“My daughter wanted to show, so when she was 9 years old, (Gene) brought her home a little 3-year-old gelding by Jet Deck, not knowing much about horses at the time,” Deborah says. “Looking back, I don’t know how this 9-year-old learned to ride that horse.”

Deborah played the role of horse-show mom for years, supporting Megan at local shows. As Megan’s skills increased, she competed in everything from eventing to goat tying to dressage, riding as much as possible.

History repeats itself. Madilyn was 9 when she first expressed an interest in horses and showing.

“My father was still living, and he said, ‘let’s do it,’” Deborah says. “Gene helped us get started, and we found her a horse.”

Madilyn started showing three years ago, and 2017 marks her second year to compete at the Merial Region Eight. Her current mount is Machine Shopping, a 2009 bay gelding by A Good Machine and out of Intangible Asset by Investment Asset, whom the family purchased in 2015.

At this year’s show, the 13-year-old and “Mac” competed in all-around events, including Maddie’s favorite class, western pleasure.

“Maddie hasn’t had any shows this year on him,” Deborah says. “He got himself injured. We’re just excited to be here. We came back because we love Amarillo.”

The native Oklahoma family comes from a 4-H and open show background, and Deborah says she found the size and scale of AQHA shows intimidating at first. However, the grandmother-daughter-granddaughter trio quickly discovered a welcoming sense of support among fellow competitors.

When Madilyn started riding with professional trainer Justin Lynn, they found an even greater level of camaraderie. Their barn family functions as a team, Deborah says.

“When you have a problem, you know you can go to these people,” she says. “I love that they are so willing to help.”

The fun comes with a price.

“(Megan) is such an amazing rider, but she’s making sacrifices so Maddie can ride,” Deborah says. “It’s hard to do more than one horse at a time when you’re on our budget.”

For now, one horse is OK, as the true value of showing is found in family time, Deborah says. But she hopes to find a new mount for Megan in the future.

“That would be my dream, to see both my daughter and my granddaughter out in the ring,” she says, adding that Gene would be proud of the family horse legacy.

“It’s Father’s Day, and he’s up in heaven, watching,” she says. “He would be thrilled.”