Darrell and Wendy Leonard of East Carbon (on left) look on proudly as Fortyfive Caliber receives winner's honors.
It took a lot of time, training and effort to accomplish a goal. For one East Carbon couple, everything paid off in the end.
Darrell and Wendy Leonard, owners of an American Paint Horse known as Fortyfive Caliber, captured a Breeders' Futurity Championship last month at the 2010 Fall World Championship Paint Horse Show Nov. 4-13 in Fort Worth, Texas. Their horse was shown by Jerm Christensen, of West Point.
Fortyfive Caliber captured the championship in the Breeders' Futurity Gold Junior Weanling Stallions and Geldings. The Breeders' Futurity classes feature a prestigious competition in a select state of classes designed to showcase the offspring of APHA Breeders' Trust-subscribed stallions and mares bred to these stallions.
The couple has been raising horses for about 20 years, according to Darrell. He started working with horses when he was nine years old and remembers watching members of the Grassy Trail Riding Club many years ago.
"Getting out with the horses...it's a break, it's like therapy for me," said Darrell.
The journey to Texas was a long but dream fulfilling moment for the Leonard's, especially Darrell. One of their first horses, Simply Scrumptious, died unexpectedly. It was a devastating moment for a couple who cherished their work with horses and one that almost put an end to their dreams of having a championship horse.
"I remember telling Darrell 'you can't let go of your dream,'" said Wendy
Their first trip to a championship show was one they won't soon forget.
Fortyfive Caliber was one of the first horses shown in the category, Wendy said. With so many horses to be judged, the Leonard's didn't realize the magnitude of the situation until the winning photograph was being taken.
"I couldn't believe it," said Darrell. "I think it finally sunk in when we were taking the photograph."
"We just hugged," said Wendy. "We were so excited."
Fortyfive Caliber received prize money totaling $2,889. Another horse they brought to the show, a stallion known as Kidalot, also took high honors at the show, placing in the top five in the world open and amateur category.
The World Championship Paint Horse Show features the a gathering of Paint Horses from around the globe. APHA hosts two annual world-class competitions to showcase the talents of American Paint Horses and their owners. The second in the 2010 series, the Fall World Championship Show was held at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth's cultural district. With 956 talented Paint Horses and more than 2,000 entries, exhibitors competed for prizes and cash payouts totaling $450,000.
Currently, American Paint Horses are being registered at APHA's Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters at a rate of about 30,000 horses each year. APHA has registered more than 981,000 horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded 48 years ago, and now serves 76,000 active members around the world. APHA, a non-profit organization, works to preserve bloodlines, to educate the public about the beauty and talent of the breed and to maintain the outstanding characteristics of Paint Horses.
Creating a championship winning horse is not one of the easiest paths to forge. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that goes on much before the horse is shown at a show. Many hours of training, constant grooming, shots and special food, and, most importantly, money go into the process which is an every day type of job, according to Wendy.
While winning at the championships was a great feat, there is much more ahead. Currently the couple is preparing for another show in Denver, Colo. in January.
Looking back on everything, the Leonards both know it took a time and effort to help create a championship horse.
"We've really come a long way," said Wendy. "This was a very fun trip and hopefully we will win a lot more with him (Fortyfive Caliber)."
While raising and working with horses has been a life-long dream of his, Darrell, born and raised in East Carbon, didn't think his dream of owning a horse and winning a championship with it would have ever happened in his lifetime.
"Absolutely not," said Darrell. "The goal was to take a horse to the championship once in my life."
"I'm still on cloud nine right now," he said.