#MyRootsRunDeep: Friendship’s Lessons
Ryan learned to talk with Quarter Horses, and I learned to read with them and follow what makes me happy.
By By Casey Engelhorn | May 30, 2016
American Quarter Horse Youth Association
Ever since I can remember, I have had a love for horses. I begged and pleaded with my parents for lessons when I turned 5, and much to my disappointment, I received a stuffed pony instead. But I didn't let this stop me. I would come home from day care with grass-stained knees from playing horse in the grass. My mom would say, "Casey, if you ruin one more pair of jeans, you’re going to be in serious trouble!" I worked on my parents with the idea of lessons for the rest of that year, picking up as many books on horses as I could and watching as many horse movies as I could. (“Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” was my favorite.)
Finally, after a year of nonstop pony talk, my parents surprised me with lessons on my sixth birthday. This planted the seed of my love for the American Quarter Horse. My first lesson was on an old Quarter Horse named “Flash.” Like most girls, I fell instantly in love, and after the first ride knew I would never lose my interest in riding.
Around the time I started my lessons, my little brother Ryan also started lessons. However, his lessons were quite different than mine. You see, my little brother was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. My parents had taken him to all sorts of therapists, but now he was almost 4 and had not uttered a word. My parents and I will never forget the day Ryan climbed off his lesson horse and said, "Want to ride the horses!" Not only had he spoken his first word, but also his first sentence. To think it was all because I had started my love with horses.
I wasn't without my challenges either. I was 7 now, and my parents had finally figured out my little secret: I didn't know how to read, not even a single word, except maybe “horse.” I had managed to pass first grade – barely – but I was struggling to keep up with my second-grade peers. I went to a therapist, who determined that I had dyslexia. I am still a horrible speller and not great at reading, but I overcame a lot. My riding instructor at the time was also a tutor, and my mom agreed to allow me to continue to ride as long as my grades improved. So she would come over, and I would read for a bit, then we would ride. My grades went from D’s to B’s and A’s, all because I got to read to all of my horsey friends.
As I began to grow and my roots became planted, I started to show a Quarter Horse named “Blaze.” I begged my mom to buy him for me. Looking back, we made the right choice in not buying him; he wasn't for me. Then came Quarter Horses WF Babe With Assets, or “Sprinkle,” and after her Pocos A Scotch Girl, also known as “Candy,” whom I showed for five years.
Fast forward a few years to my senior year of high school. I had started showing Scotched N Sleepy, or “Buster,” the sweetest horse I have ever met. I still didn't own a horse, but I was leasing him and very much felt like he was mine. Everyone told me my senior year of high school would be the best yet. It turned into a nightmare. My friends started asking, "Why do you always have to ride?" Or, "Why can't you skip a lesson?" Pretty soon this turned into, “It’s us or the horse." Well, of course I chose my horse. I became a victim of bullying. There was a long time when nobody seemed to like me except a small handful of my peers. Buster was my hero throughout the year. His withers would soak my tears, and it was he who taught me that when your roots go deep there is no reason to fear the wind.
My roots, they definitely go deep. Just because school wasn't going well doesn't mean I couldn't have a better time with Buster. I had always wanted to show AQHA but never really knew how to get started. For my 18th birthday, my mom and instructor surprised me with an AQHYA membership! I was so excited. Buster and I worked every day for months getting ready for our first AQHA show. We decided that our first show would be in Gordyville at the end of March 2016.
Soon I was at my first show. I'd be lying if I said I was 100 percent confident in myself. All the horses where absolutely gorgeous. I felt intimidated and started to rethink my decision. Despite this, I banded and bathed Buster that night for the show the next day.
When I arrived, I was running around like a maniac, thinking I was late, only to realize I had the wrong pants with me, which were way too short. Then, I got to the gate and realized there were still quite a few classes before my showmanship go, so I watched everyone. No one had really talked to me yet, and I was nervous about starting up a conversation. Once more people started bringing out their horses, people would come up and say, “Hi” and give me advice on different things. The people were so nice and caring at Gordyville! No, I didn't win the all-around or a circuit championship or even have a first in any of my classes under the judges, but everyone there was welcoming, and I had such a fun time at my first AQHA show! Easily one of my best decisions ever was to join AQHA. I made some new friends that weekend, and it gave me a new escape from my problems at school.
Now I'm graduating high school, and I'm planning to attend more AQHA shows with Buster this summer. My brother will be showing him as well. Buster and all the Quarter Horses in our life shaped who we are today. Ryan learned to talk with them, and I learned to read with them, and perhaps most important, to follow what makes me happy, even when no one else wants you to be. Ryan and I are who we are because of these horses. (Although, I’ll give most of the credit to Buster). Brian Logue said, “Your branches can only reach high if your roots go deep." Our branches are pretty high right now because of our deep Quarter Horse roots.