Contributed by Laura Venne, Madrigal Farms • Lebanon, OR USA
I have been involved with Arabian horses for over 30 years. I have always felt that in addition to the great horses the Arabian community is largely comprised of incredible people. To that end, recently I’ve had a very humbling and affirming experience I wanted to share.
We have a small breeding farm in Lebanon Oregon, Madrigal Farms, where we regularly have local kids come out to help clean stalls in trade for riding time. Most of these kids cycle through leaving as they get older and have other demands on their time, however, there are always those few that really connect with the horses. They are the kids who willingly put in the time and want to learn. These are the kids that, through the horses, we can really help change their lives for the better. Thus is the case with Millard.
Millard originally tagged along to the barn with his neighbor. I never would have guessed he was a kid that was going to take to the horses. In the beginning he came around emptied wheelbarrows, collected his pay, and left without ever getting on a horse. However, eventually we talked him into riding, and from then on, he was hooked.
Millard was very fortunate to begin his horse showing career on the York family’s veteran (Triple Crown Champion Hunter) show horse MLC Denali+// (Alada Baskin X Pepsi With Ice). The York’s very generously continued to cover all Denali’s expenses allowing him to go to the shows simply because he wasn’t happy with retired life (at 25), and clearly, he and Millard enjoyed each other. This partnership earned a class A reserve championship in the western pleasure, and a regional reserve championship in the western dressage.
June of 2022, we took Millard to spend a week working the Region 4 Championship show, and he has been with us full time ever since. This was a huge decision on his part because we have very different rules and expectations than those he’d previously experienced. Education is very important in our family, and school was going to become his number one priority. My carrot on the stick was that if his grades and academic progress were sufficient for eligibility, we would help him compete on the varsity high school equestrian team.
Enter the next incredibly kind member of the Arabian horse community. Equestrian team practices and meets are much to lengthy and rigorous for now 26-year-old Denali, but Amy Pike immediately answered when I put out the call and boy did she have the right horse for the job. Half Arabian gelding Uncle Buck Dun Dunit (Zee Mega Bucks X Mainely Dun It) bred by Kim & Deb Witty and affectionately known as Richard has been an OHSET horse extraordinaire. He is a gritty horse with tons of heart and absolutely no quit.
The perfect match for a teenage boy. Neither kid nor horse had ever competed in these disciplines, but they have worked very hard and improved tremendously throughout the season. When it was all said and done Millard maintained honor roll grades, and he and Richard finished the regular season with several district top five placings, a district silver medal, and qualified for the state championships.
The next part of this story chokes me up and makes me so incredibly proud to be a member of the Arabian Horse community. I will admit to underestimating Millard and Richard. I simply had not anticipated the added travel and expense of attending the state championships. Millard put out a request for sponsorship to help defray the cost, and I am stunned by the response he received. The Arabian horse community rallied for this kid in a huge way. Sponsorships immediately came rolling in from big training stables, from local amateurs, even from fellow youth exhibitors. Our local Arabian community literally put this kid on their shoulders and made this trip possible. He and Richard will be proud to represent Arabian horses this weekend in a venue where they are often overlooked and underrepresented.
We’d like to thank the following businesses for their generosity:
Stewart Performance Horses, Prestige Farms LLC, Pacific Training Center, High Country Training (Breeders of Richard), Three Ring Farm, Never Done Farm, Boulder Creek Excavation
We’d also like to thank the following individuals:
Moana Kramer, Emily Hanauska, Tracy Pierce, Amy Pike, Noel Collins. Dawn Gossler, Karla Moffitt, Peggy Weems, Lisa Kolke, Sherie & Samantha Hamilton, Jamie Johnson & Ava Rariden