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Just Waiting For the Results…

Filed under: Featured,The Buzz |     

By: Brittany Bevis

It has often been observed that when people, suffering from illness or infirmity, near the end of their time here on earth, they sometimes find the strength to hold on just a bit longer. Often times, this occurrence is attributed to a loved one or something they need to see through before they feel at peace and ready to pass on. That certainly seems to be the case with the story of Ella.

Barb and Paul Hockenberry owned Wind Song Farm together for over 50 years breeding Quarter Horses and Paints. Some of the stallions they’ve owned throughout the years include Brownie Hustler, Triple Ole Smokey, Agenda, Impressive Master, All Star Finale, and Verses Tomboy. Although they’ve had 50-60 horses in recent years, when Paul took ill, the breeding business slowed considerably. “He’d had heart trouble for the past twenty years, but he wouldn’t let it slow down his love for horses,” says family friend, Julie Murphy.

The last foal born on the farm was a Quarter Horse mare by I Gotta Cool Secret and out of Design By Skip that the family lovingly named Design By Christine, after their daughter. The mare, better known as “Ella,” was born with flexoral limb deformity with severe laxity of both front fetlocks. She was unable to stand and walked on her ankles. “Their daughter, Christine Reed, pretty much lived in the barn with Ella the first six months of her life. They made a cast for Ella out of PVC pipe and bandages,” Julie says.

A horse industry veteran, Julie was looking for a project and decided to lease Ella from the Hockeberry family in February of 2019. “I needed something for me, since I don’t ride anymore, and boy did my needs turn into something so very special. Thanks to one loving young mare, she made herself one huge family.”

Julie elicited help from Wyatt Holtery to campaign Ella in Halter classes over the past three years. “Until five years ago, I had never trained a Halter horse, only all-around horses. We’re nobodies with no big name or trainer’s name; we’re the little guys.”

Somehow, this merry band defied the odds and produced some very impressive results in 2021 with over 140 grand titles and a circuit championship at every show they attended. In 2020, Ella won the Level 2 3-Year-Old Mares class at the AQHA World Show. She also won the NJQHA Peter J Confrancesco Memorial trophy in 2021. She accumulated 230 points in Halter competition in 2021, an Open Superior in May of 2021, and an Amateur Superior in July. The mare has already qualified for the 2022 AQHA World Show in both Open and Amateur Mares in less than one month.

“Being able to be involved in her show career was a real morale booster for Paul,” Julie says. “Her successful show accomplishments have been a real source of pride and joy for him. He was able to know that she had unofficially won the nation in Open Halter Mares Level 3, Amateur Mares Level 3, Open Junior Mares Level 3, and Amateur Mares Level 1 for 2021 a day before he died. He was totally thrilled. Barb said she thought he was just waiting for the results. Barb was with him by his side the next morning when he peacefully passed away at their farm.”

There were plenty of firsts that came to individuals along the way in Ella’s journey. Julie had never trained a Halter horse before, and Wyatt had never shown a Halter horse.

“Wyatt and the filly learned together how that all works, at the horse shows. Wyatt just finished his second year in the amateur division. He had ridden Western, English, and did Showmanship, but never had a Halter horse. He and Ella teamed up his last year of youth when Ella was only two. It was a learning year for both of them with lots of funny memories.”

In 2021, Wyatt and Ella received a Reserve Championship in Level 1 3-Year-Old Mares and Top 10 in Amateur 3-Year-Old Mares. Ella also won Level 2 3-Year-Old Mares with Julie’s daughter, Jennifer Norleen. That was the first time Jennifer had won a title at the World Show. Also assisting with showing duties throughout the year was Kerry Winter. It was her first time leading a horse to an honor roll title. Ella was also the first World Champion and four-time honor roll horse for Paula and Barb after so many years of breeding and raising horses.

“We’ve said that Ella made herself a family, and we’re so happy to be a part of this and to make Paul’s dreams come true before he left us,” Julie says. “There are some other very special folks who played a big part in Ella’s journey. Dustin Reese, her farrier, also sponsored her for the World Show, Shannon Fisher gave her those beautiful bands from the very first show until now. Rhonda Replogle told me about Ella and has been Paul and Barb’s trainer for many years. Russ and Sue Holtery, Wyatt parents, gave us so much support and and just handed us their brand new truck to run the roads and make this happen. Kerry Winter, a longtime friend, showed Ella in Open Mares for the last three years and did a great job. Jennifer Norleen, my daughter, led Ella to win Level 2 3-Year-Old Mares at the World Show. Olivia Boyden Hill traveled with us the last three years and helped behind the scenes any way she could. Lastly, Paul and Barb trusted me with their filly, provided all their support and, most of all, their friendship.”

A big congratulations to everyone associated with Ella’s victories in 2021. We know that Paul is very proud.

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