“I’ve always liked horses. Anytime I was around horses, I was constantly tuned in, to be with them and learn something abut them,” 17-year-old Jessie Yniguez said with a smile.
The Page teenager remembers being about 11 when she realized she wanted to start showing them. The problem was she didn’t have a horse. “I constantly nagged my dad until finally he got me a horse,” Jessie said with a laugh.
Now, six years later she has several out behind the house and an armload of ribbons, trophies and buckles. Her most recent accomplishments came during the Coconino County Fair in late August where she won English showmanship, took second in English equitation and finished third in English pleasure. In the Western classes Jessie won showmanship, pleasure and trail, took second in reining and finished third in bareback and equitation. In addition to ribbons and buckles, she took home trophies for reserve high point in English and high point in Western.
Such a successful show would be a notable accomplishment for any 17-year old, but even more remarkable is the fact that Jessie won it all on a 4-year-old palomino mare, Sheila – a horse she broke and trained herself. “I was determined with her. I bought her for $700 when she was 1, and I went down and kicked butt. That makes it that much better,” she smiled, explaining that some competitors ride horses specially trained by others. The fact that she trained Sheila made the victories sweeter.
Over the past three years, Jessie has tried to ride and work with Sheila every day. All that dedication started to pay off even before county fair. In fact, last year the duo took home ribbons from the American Quarter Horse nationals and 4-H nationals in Scottsdale. Their next goal is to do well at the Arizona State Fair in October where they are qualified to compete in 10 classes. After that they will likely go back to compete in national competitions again in the coming year, Jessie said.
A special, almost indescribable bond often exists between a girl and her horse when enough time is spent in one another’s company. Jessie and Sheila seem almost soul mates. The horse, still young and learning is completely focused on Jessie as she leads her from the stall. Walking calmly at the end of a gently swinging halter rope, she waits for cues. Jessie, wanting to practice their latest achievement picks up a front foot and talks gently to the horse. Not completely sure yet, Sheila pivots a few times before she submits. Then she puts her nose to the ground, kneels with her other front leg and lowers herself to the ground. With a few more touches and encouraging words, Jessie has her trusting steed lying flat on her side like a tired dog. The horse picks up her head to keep an eye on her trainer. Waiting.
Jessie, still talking softly, lies down like a teenager on the couch, with her belly on the horse’s ribs, and pats her gently. Sheila relaxes, still waiting. When Jessie is back on her feet, Sheila gets her cue and pulls herself back to all fours.
Jessie tickles Sheila’s lip and gets her to smile, they share a horse hug then Sheila goes back in the stall. Jessie checks on her other two trainees, a yearling and a young Arabian stud. She talks about their progress and her goals with them.
As for the future, Jessie can’t imagine doing anything other than horse training. She hopes to secure an apprenticeship with a well-known trainer in Arizona or Texas. Her love for horses, gentle hand and obvious talent are sure to serve her well where ever she goes. For now, she and Sheila are learning a lot and smiling a lot out behind the house in Page.
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