Update: We just heard from Duane at the end of November 2023, and what a rush it was! He’s still showing at age 92!
This is what he had to say:
“Still showing horses and winning at 92 years old! 45 wins in the last two years, all at AQHA shows. I’m so blessed,” he says.
“I just can’t believe all of this is really happening to me! I showed at the Mayflower and the Iowa Fall Classic the two biggest shows in Iowa to 18 judges and 18 wins, I know it’s not a big deal, but keeps me active and around the people I love!( Horse Friends ) I know my wife in Heaven is Happy for me and my six year old mare ROXY!”
See Duane’s original story from June 2022 below:
He was just looking for something to do after his wife of many years passed. But what 91-year-old Duane Van Horn of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, unknowingly did was create hope for riders of all ages.
By Delores Kuhlwein
Everyone who shows seems to say, “I hope I’m still showing when I’m that age,” when they see an inspirational, mature rider out there in the ring.
So it wasn’t a surprise that during a Minnesota Quarter Horse Association State Show in April 2022,
Duane Van Horn found himself the crowd favorite after winning Circuit Champion in the Walk Trot Western Pleasure unanimously. Everyone wanted to cheer on Duane, who just turned 91, as he and his young AQHA mare, I Wanta Rock, racked up wins at every show he attended. In fact, he’s had 14 straight first places in a row, leaving him undefeated this year.
“I gotta be dreaming,” Duane says. “I’ve shown horses since the middle of the 50’s and I started showing Quarter horses in 1954. I’ve had some good streaks, but I’ve never had a streak like this. She’s a jogging machine.”
Duane explains that several years ago, he and his wife, Bev, were in a horrible car accident. Bev eventually developed dementia in 2019, and that’s also when he stopped showing. Then when Bev passed away, the effects of watching her quality of life decline made him realize he needed to go enjoy life.
“I knew this young trainer, Carson Handeland, and I thought I was still physically able, and I wanted to go have some fun, so with the help of my friend J.R. Reichert, he found me a five-year old-mare by The Rock,” he says. “She’s even more than I expected her to be.”
It was only natural for Duane to return to his roots as a horseman to live a full life. Growing up in the town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he unquestionably knew horses were for him when he’d visit his grandfather’s farm about 60 miles west of town. He says, “I’d go up to his farm he’d let me ride one of his work horses around bareback, and I couldn’t wait to go up there to the horse barn each time. I thought I wanted to grow up to be a cowboy.”
One day during WWII, Duane watched a man with a horse drawn milk wagon stop to put milk on the ice in town, and Duane asked if he could ride with him. The man, Russ Davis, changed Duane’s life by taking him to the dairy and the accompanying stable, Rockwood Farms. Duane started taking care of the horse who pulled the wagon in the mornings before the milk rounds, and then was given a sorrel one-eyed pony, Molly, to ride. “Russ showed American Saddlebred Horses, and I’d go to the shows with him,” he explains. “He gave me an American Saddlebred, and eventually, he gave me the money to buy my first registered Quarter Horse in 1954 for $500. Now I’m not sure you can even buy a good saddle for that amount.”
He ended up trading the first horse for his first show horse, Charm Boy, and he went to a horse show and earned a 4th place. “I felt like I’d won, and that was how I got started; I just progressed and got better along the way,” he says. Along the way, he met Mark and Melissa Baus, and Mark found him Sonnys Fleet Machine out of Fleet Machine to show, then Mark found him Romeo Pine Chex, a horse Mark won the 3-year-old Minnesota Futurity on.
“I even judged at some of the local associations, helped the Iowa Quarter Horse Association with their futurities and awards, and I got inducted into the Iowa QH Hall of Fame in 2018,” Duane says.
These days, Duane has his sights set on a show in Madison, Wisconsin, in the middle of June, and after that, the NSBA World Show with the help of his trainer, Carson. “My trainer is only 22 years old, but he is so talented,” Duane says, explaining that Carson is getting his mare ready to show in performance halter as well.
When asked what advice he has for younger riders, he says, “I had a good trainer from the very beginning, and his name was Harley Terpstra. Harley once told me, ‘Duane, you’ve always got to remember one thing. The most important thing in life is your family, and if you go in a show and have a good ride, that’s all you can ask for, and if you win a prize, that’s a bonus.’ I thought that really made sense.”
Everyone will be watching this August for Duane, who wisely says, “I was a marine in the Korean War and I lost part of my fingers and I was lucky to get out of there alive. When you get this age, you look back and realize you had a good life, and you’d like a little more. At my age, not many people can get even get on a horse, and horses have always been my life, so God willing, I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.”
No doubt, every single exhibitor will be inspired to cheer him on.
Watch the heartwarming video interview from Melissa Baus here, where Duane can be seen pictured with Mark Baus, Melissa Baus, his trainer, Carson Handeland (in the purple shirt) and his son (wearing a Titleist cap), Randy Van Horn. https://youtu.be/MihKnlfDxIE