Confidant, buddy, compadre, mate, pal… There are countless ways to refer to a person who is so close to your own heart and soul that it seems as if you might share the same DNA. They know your wishes, dreams, and goals. They’ve been by your side to celebrate your biggest accomplishments, share advice, and pick you up when life gets rough.
In many ways, it seems as if the friends we meet while showing horses become even more than that. Perhaps it’s the shared love of a devotion to a passion few people understand.
We asked a few of our EquineChronicle.com readers to tell us about the best friends they’ve met by being involved in the horse industry. Here’s what they had to say.
Jennifer Herman VanHal– “I’ve met many great friends showing horses. I’ve built quite the crew of gal pals that I go to for everything; but, the best friend I’ve ever met though horses is Tina Nygren-Stetler. We met at the Minnesota State Fair AQHA Show almost 20 years ago. We were trying to sit on top of the horse trailers to see the fireworks. Then, one day, to our surprise, we ran into each at college, and, well, the rest is sort of history.”
“We have lived both minutes away from each other and across the country; but, no matter what, if we need each other, we’re just a phone call away! We’ve been bridesmaids for each other. When my family had to relocate, Tina was kind enough to take my retired show horse, Leggs. We’ve lived on opposite ends of the country for quite some time, so I’m super excited to finally hang out and watch Tina show at the Congress this year!”
“I think we find some of our best friends while showing horses because we’re all so much alike. We’re all goal driven, hard working, animal loving people. Not a lot of people outside of the horse industry can understand our crazy passion.”
Maggie Bowers– “I’ve been very blessed to have met some pretty amazing people through this industry that have turned into lifelong friends, one of them being my best friend, Ashley Doan! We’re joined at the hip constantly. We’re always laughing about something or talking about these crazy dreams we share together. We’re definitely two peas in a pod. We ride with the same trainer, Angie Reichert, and over time, between horse shows and time at the barn, we became better friends!”
“Ashley knows how to light up a room with her smile or laugh. She’s one of the most supporting and loving people that I know. She can turn anyone’s day around and put a smile on anyone’s face! She has helped me through a lot of my lows and highs, and she’s always there supporting me and cheering me on in everything I do. I’m truly blessed to call her my best friend!”
“The horse showing community and this industry definitely has a lot of emotions in it. Finding your circle helps you not only overcome and deal with the struggles and challenges that we face on the day to day but also the small and big victories we have in and out of the show pen. Having that cheering section, those people who are supporting you no matter what, makes it all worthwhile.”
Samantha Ihde- “Katlynn Crine is my best friend that I met through horses. We showed locally together in the PCQHA circuits. We met about eight years ago and became best friends right away! We started to become closer when we were barn mates for Team California at the AQHYA World Show. Showing Western all around horses is such a unique thing here on the West Coast, as a youth. You rarely know anyone in middle school or high school that has the same passion as you. So, when you meet someone that you can nerd out with about your AQHA horse and can understand everything about your passion, that’s very special! The AQHYA World Show teaches you that instead of being competitors you’re team mates. When you’re teammates, that creates friendship. Katlynn is my best friend becasue we have so much in common. We’re both very determined and focused on our goals. We have such a love for horses and the AQHA community and that makes our friendship so rare! I also just asked her to be my Maid of Honor at my wedding next October! Meeting her as a youth and becoming friends has now turned into her standing next to me on my big day!”
Reid Thomas– “I have made some great friends in the business! I met Brittany Boyd Lisotta when I first started helping her ride, way, way back when she was just seven years old. We’ve practically grown up together over the years and remained great friends through all the chapters of our lives. I met Charlie Cole when I tried a horse, Come As You Are, for a client back in 1999. Charlie has been a best friend over all the years, one of those friends who’s always been there and is fun to travel with. I met Lindsey James at the Palomino World Show. She’s been a best friend ever since. We still talk almost every day, always bouncing ideas off each other. She’s always been a friend of unconditional love and support. The horse business has, for sure, placed many, many important people in my life; but, I must be completely honest, if someone doesn’t love horses, I would most likely struggle to be a good friend with that person. The horse captured my heart at seven years of age. I’ve built my life around them, and the friends I’ve met along the way have been so important to me!”
Erin Mask- “The best friend that I met through horses is Sydnie Ochs. When I started riding with Tommy Sheets in 2015, Sydnie rode with him also. After our first show together, I knew we would be great friends. Without showing horses, I would have never met Sydnie. Even though she lives in Wisconsin, and I live in Georgia, that hasn’t affected our friendship at all. When we’re at horse shows together, it’s always the best time and full of laughs. I definitely couldn’t have gotten through the Youth World this year without her! I’m thankful that I met Syd through horse shows, and I know I’ll never meet another person like her!”
Karen Boxell– “My best friend is Connie Crocher. We really didn’t meet at a horse show, but horses did bring us together. When I moved to Richland Ranch, Connie was a customer there, and we have been great friends ever since. These photos are special, because Connie was diagnosed five years ago with terminal cancer, so we make sure that she got to show one more time. Connie’s love for horses is like no other. Just to be able to be around them and get to smell like a horse for a day is special to her. We have known each other now for probably 23 years and have remained great friends. Even though she no longer owns a horse, we still make sure that she can come to the ranch and visit.”
Paige Wacker– “I’ve had the privilege to meet some of the most incredible people through the horse industry. Two people come to mind for me. The first person I hold close to my heart is Connor Elizabeth Griggs. She and I have the type of friendship where we don’t have to speak every day to know we’re there for one another. We have an understanding and respect for one another that I’ve never had with any friend before! Connor makes me laugh harder than anybody else I know. She has the work ethic to push both herself and I, and she’s always there. She has had to overcome so many hardships at a young age, and I commend her positive spirit. Connor inspires me to always look forward.”
“The second friend I could not go through life without is Mark Mowbray. He has my back in every circumstance and puts me in my place when necessary. Mark tells the BEST stories. They are the kind of stories that make you lose your breath from laughing so hard. I truly would be lost without him. He calms me down when I let myself spin out of control and tells me when I’m in the wrong. Mark pushes me to be the best version of myself in every situation, which is one of the many reasons I love him.”
“I met Connor at the 2009 Quarter Horse Congress when we were still in 11 and under. I’m positive we bonded because we both agreed on ‘not liking people.’ We instantly clicked and have been great friends ever since. Mark and I met at the AQHA YES Convention in 2011, which was the year after his presidency for AQHYA. It’s a funny story of how we developed our friendship. Long story short, we and a few other directors were stranded in a canyon in Amarillo. It was a LONG day and one we will never forget.”
“There are so many reasons why Connor and Mark are my best friends. Connor understands my girl problems and can relate to me. On the other hand, Mark is the best listener I know and will always answer if I call him. Trust is an important thing in any sort of relationship, and I know I can wholeheartedly trust them with anything. We have all been there for each other in the best and worst of times. To me, that’s what true friendship is all about.”
“The horse showing community is special, because we’re all able to connect with our passion for horses. In high-school, I was considered the horse freak that was gone every weekend for horse shows, so I didn’t have any friends. My show friends allowed me to see there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that there’s a life outside of high school. They taught me to be independent and not let others perceptions drag me down.”
Vanessa Froman– “I’ve met so many friends from showing horses all my life. I met Darcie Guisinger Winiewicz when I was just 11 years old while showing at the Berrien County Youth Fair, and we’re still showing together all these decades later. That, in itself, is quite amazing.”
“My best friend in my life, even outside of horses, I met because of horses. I was just out of college and had my horse with Cindy Meyer of Granger, IN, when I first met Jenell Pogue. That was almost 20 years ago. She moved to Georgia to work with Brian Isbell Garcia, and I didn’t see her for about 10 years. Then, fate brought her back into my life about eight years ago in a way that now, looking back, just makes sense. However, it was actually because of the death of my soulmate horse, Rudy, that our friendship was solidified forever. In times of tragedy, you tend to see the truth of who people are. Jenell and her husband, Ryan, dropped everything and took care of my Rudy, my dad, and me like no one else did. Jenell loves the horses and cares for them just like I do. She grieved with me. She knew that I would want his hair and even had them remove his shoes for me. Those little things she did that day didn’t cost her a dime but were priceless acts of compassion to me. Through the grieving process, we opened up a lot to each other and haven’t stopped since.”
“I think it’s been so easy to make friends when showing horses because of the passion they evoke from each person that we can all more easily relate to each other. Kindness attracts kindness. Horse people attract horse people. We all have devoted so much of ourselves to these horses, and it makes it easier to be able to relate to others while showing, which is often the hardest part in finding a friend. Jenell and I have a friendship that goes beyond horses. We are mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters to others in our lives. We can relate and vent on so many levels and we do very often. We can be ourselves around each other and not have to filter what we say. We can even be on our worst behavior and still love each other. That type of friendship is not easy to find anywhere in the world, but having horses has helped to forge a forever friendship.”
Shelley Graham– “I enjoyed reading your story about best friends and horses, and it reminded me about my best friend of over 45 years. We started showing horses together at around seven years old. We traveled to Tulsa, OK, from Washington State in 1982 to the AJQHA World show (now AQHYA) and were third and fourth in the Western Riding, respectfully. Now, we show in Select Amateur and go to the Select World! I couldn’t ask for a more dear friend.”