Super Cheerful

Von Cheery Chex is helping her owner learn a new sport.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Teresa Gawrys (Andrea Caudill photo)

Teresa Gawrys’ kids were grown and settled into their lives. It was time for her to do something for herself: So last year, she bought a ranch horse. This month, she celebrates her one-year anniversary of owning Von Cheery Chex while competing in Level 1  ranch riding and boxing classes at the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships.

“I always wanted to do this,” she says. “I had been looking for a few years. Last year, I decided I was going to do it, because I can now.”

Teresa has had horses for almost her entire life. Growing up in Pennsylvania, she says she remembers watching her dad work the fields with teams of the Percheron horses the family bred, worked and showed. They also operated a riding stable for many years.

“Our horses were always very utilitarian,” she remembers.

She adopted New Mexico as her new home by marriage. Her husband, Mark Stevens, is part of the family that owns Fort Union Ranch in New Mexico. Before they married, they spent a week on the ranch. The second morning they were there, Teresa was sitting out, looking across the scenery. Mark brought her a cup of coffee, and she turned to him and told him she wanted to stay there.

About six years ago, they moved, and now live in Ribera. The couple own and lease property they’re starting to run cattle on, but both also work. Mark is a family nurse practitioner, while Teresa works for a company that coordinates housekeeping for timeshare properties, a demanding job requiring frequent travel.

While searching for her ranch horse partner, she found trainer Josh Armstrong, who had two horses for sale. She went to look at them at a branding. One was a gelding, and one – Von Cheery Chex – a mare. Teresa fell in love with the latter.

Von Cheery Chex, called “Emma,” is a 2008 daughter of Von Reminic out of the Peewee Chex mare Miss Celebrity Chex. She was bred by Leslie Graor of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is an accomplished show horse, with more than 100 AQHA points and four-figure earnings in National Reining Horse Association competition.

“I looked at horses around the country,” Teresa says. “(Von Cheery Chex) was the one. I went home and told my husband about her. I take my time (making decisions). My husband said, 'You don’t find what you want often, so just get her.' ”

So she did. Teresa and Emma got to know each other during lessons with Josh, and had their first show in the fall.

“We had a marvelous experience,” Teresa says. “She’s a great mare. She’s teaching me a lot.”

This week, the pair will get to experience showing during an AQHA world show, and Teresa has words of encouragement for others considering making the leap.

“You don’t want to be just coming into something and have a horse just coming into something,” she says. “Finding Von Cheery Chex has been beneficial to me because she knows, so I don’t have to worry about her while I’m learning. So find yourself a horse that knows more than you do.”

And don’t be afraid to make the leap.

“If you don’t get out there and do it, you’ll never do it,” she adds, pointing out that while a rider’s ability is important, you’re adding a horse and a cow into the mix too. “Sometimes it comes together and is amazing…and sometimes it doesn’t. There isn’t anything you can do about it, and it’s OK. So go for it.”

Watch for news and results from the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships, AQHA Level 1 Cattle Championships, Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals and National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance National Show at

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