Surprise of a Lifetime

Memorable accomplishments and a surprise visit highlight 2017's successes for Select exhibitor Leresa Lear-Conaway.

Leresa Lear-Conaway and Touched By Intention were reserve world champions in yearling geldings and first in Adequan Level 2 at the 2017 Adequan Select World Championship Show. Journal photo

Leresa Lear-Conaway and Touched By Intention were reserve world champions in yearling geldings and first in Adequan(R) Level 2. A list of the top-five year-end finishers for 2017 will appear in the April issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

After spending 2017 showing, Leresa Lear-Conaway has collected plenty of hardware and memeories: She earned a silver trophy and first place in Adequan® Level 2 at the 2017 Adequan® Select World Championship Show for her yearling gelding and claimed a top-10 placing for her yearling filly. She finished sixth in the year-end Justin Intermediate Select standings with Her Guns R Loaded.

But Leresa will forever remember the surprise she felt when she heard a scream from the crowd during the Adequan® Select World in August 2017.

“That’s my mom! That’s how you do it, Mom!”

This jubilant cry exploded from the stands as the announcer called Leresa to the awards area with Her Guns R Loaded.

Every head turned to see where the scream originated. Jeanette Wetzel, Leresa’s daughter, had plenty of reason for her excited outburst. Just hours earlier, Jeanette had flown into Amarillo from her home in San Diego to watch her mother compete, but Leresa had no idea her daughter was in the stands.

“I was hiding. I sat at the top of the stands because she was right there (in the arena), and I didn’t want her to see me,” Jeanette says.

Leresa, who lives with her husband, Butch, in Zanesville, Ohio, had not seen her daughter for almost a year.

“I saw her right before they called me for 10th place for the fillies,” Leresa says. “I couldn't even talk … and, of course, I teared up.”

After learning her mother had qualified for the 2017 Adequan® Select World, Jeanette began arranging her trip, using mileage saved from work-related trips for her flight. However, Jeanette didn’t mention her plans to her mother, because she knew Leresa would worry about her daughter traveling to Texas.

“I didn’t want her to focus on me,” Jeanette says. “She deserved this, and I just wanted it to be about her.”

After showing horses alongside Leresa as a child, Jeanette has continued to support her mother’s horse passion long enough to know the equine world is not always glamorous.

“I’ve seen her fall, I’ve seen her get dragged behind a horse, I’ve seen it all,” Jeanette says. “It brings a lot of pleasure, but there’s a lot of work, too.”

That work has been the glue holding her family together through the years, Leresa says.

“Everybody has to pitch in,” she says. “You work together to do things.”

Leresa, who started showing horses at age 9, has dreamed of exhibiting her own horse at an AQHA world show as long as she can remember. When her two yearlings, Her Guns R Loaded and Touched By Intention, qualified for the 2017 Select World and the 2017 Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show, Leresa was ecstatic.

“It’s such a dream come true,” Leresa says. “You never get too old to fulfill your dreams. Never.”

Leresa credits her family’s ongoing support and the assistance of her trainer, Matt Woodson, for her success in the show ring. Jeanette surprising her mother made the entire experience even more special.

“She has always supported my dreams, even my crazy wild adventures,” Jeanette says with a laugh.

Jeanette simply returned the favor.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal, your first stop for AQHA industry news. A list of the top-five year-end finishers in all divisions will appear in the April issue of the Journal.