Katie is the name of our neighbor girl who lives near our farm. She will soon be 12 years old, but we have known her since she was four. That’s when we learned that all she wanted for her fifth birthday was to ride a real horse.
The only horse she had gotten to ride up until then, was the plastic horse at the store that will move if you put a penny in the slot. When I was told that’s what she wanted to do, I told her dad that I could make that happen. This was because we had a horse she could ride at our farm, and I would come to get her on her fifth birthday.
So, we decided on a time, and I went to their house to pick her up. When she came out, her sister, brother, dad and mother came, too. We all walked over to the horse barn and that’s when her wish came true. That day was the first of many days and years to follow, when she came over to be near the horses.
During one of the times she was over, her mother told me that she also likes to read and write letters. So, I told her that if she dropped a note off to me at the barn, I would drop a note off for her at her home. That’s when I found out that she could read and write exceptionally well for a five-year-old. Thus, a friendship began, with the notes going back and forth.
It wasn’t very long until she started coming to the farm by herself. Then she started coming to our house and reading books to us. She liked to stay for supper, too. When she did, I needed to cook “Katie-food” which were certain things that she liked and we liked as well.
By the time she turned seven, she was coming to ride, inside the arena, several times a week in the mornings before she went to school. Some of these early morning rides were very cold but it didn’t seem to bother her a bit. I guess the horse kept her warm.
There is a lot of riding that goes on in the cold of winter so the kids ride inside the arena. The riders aren’t as cold as their parents, so George built a viewing room with a heater, where they can sit and watch their kids ride. George put up a ‘trail ride’ which means he put up cones to ride between, a bridge to ride over, some long poles to also ride between, as well as a mailbox to open and close. She always wanted to stay after riding to brush and clean up after the horse.
When we took her to the Standardbred Pleasure Horses Organization (SPHO) awards banquet with us, she got to see the prizes being awarded to other kids and she decided that she wanted to be a part of winning prizes, too.
When Katie was eight, we had a horse named “Just Like Sonny.” It belonged to a 10-year-old girl named Charlotte. In 2013, Charlotte went off to college, and left Sonny at the barn for Katie to ride. By then she was learning to post and canter. That was an exciting time. Katie also liked to give tours of the farm and explain what was going on there.
Also, when she was eight, she rode by herself in the 12 and under classes at the SPHO show. She also showed in the fun shows at Cashman’s farm. Eventually she won in a class for 18 and under. At every SPHO show and Fun Show that Katie has been in, she has always won at least one blue ribbon, as well as having many second and third places.
Katie has continued to ride ever since that day she turned five. With her parents having to go to work before Katie had to go to school, in the kindergarten-fourth grades, Katie came to our house every morning and I walked her over to the school. She also came after school until her parents got home from work. And sometimes she even stayed for supper.
In her fifth and sixth grades, she leaves on an early bus in the morning, and then after school she comes to the barn to help do all the feeding of the horses. This is a job that teaches her a lot of responsibility.
For all last seven years, she has been getting to enjoy the real horses that she longed for as a small child. She had her picture on the cover of the “Youth Beats” magazine in 2014. This is a horse magazine for children.
There was also a story about her and George in the “Hoof Beats” magazine for horsemen, that same year. By now, she probably has at least 100 ribbons in her room, as well as a lot of trophies, too.
She has certainly come a long way from the little girl that I picked up that first day. That’s where her story started and who knows where it will go from here.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.