By: Brittany Bevis
Traditionally, a wedding toast might be given by the father of the bride, the best man, or the maid of honor, but Brittany (Dean) Connors bucked tradition at her recent wedding when she asked longtime horse trainer, Jeff Temple, to give the toast.
“When I asked Jeff to give the bride’s toast at my wedding, he accepted, but I was not ready for what was to come,” she says.
Connors began competing at AQHA shows when she was just eight years old. Starting out with horses like her all-around mount, Gabs Hot Treasure; Hunter Under Saddle and Equitation horse, The Whole Nine Yards; and her Western Pleasure partner, You Light My Fire, Connors spent 16 years under the guidance of Jeff Temple. He was by her side when she competed at the All American Quarter Horse Congress for the first time, placing fourth in Amateur Western Pleasure in 2012, and for other major milestones along the way, like qualifying for the AQHA World Show.
“Poor Jeff had to endure 16 long years with a unruly young girl,” she says. “He opened his house and training facility to me while I learned all I could. He started training me when I was eight years old in Nova Scotia, Canada. Then, his career evolved across the border to Maine.”
“Jeff is like a combination of my hero, a second dad, a brother, and a friend. He was always looking out for me when I growing up and helped me reach goals I only had in my dreams. Trainers like Jeff are one-in-a-million, in my opinion.”
While they shared many fond memories, the journey wasn’t without its struggles.
“My parents saved and put everything into helping me reach my goals,” she says. “When I qualified for the World Show, I never thought I’d be able to go. To my surprise, my parents made it happen! To send me with Jeff all summer long wasn’t easy, but they never stopped working so that I could have a chance at my dream.”
When it came time to give the bridal toast, Connors had an idea of what Temple would say, but she didn’t expect the elaborate speech he’d prepared.
“He spoke of memories we’d had over the years, the miles on the road, and the struggles I’d given him as a trainer. Apparently, I was ‘more difficult to break than a stubborn colt!’ He mentioned how he’d felt like a second father to me, especially during those teen years when he had to keep me away from boys and trouble. He pretty much tied me to a horse trailer with a longe line, so I didn’t wander!”
“He ended the speech by saying the things he really admired about me are my loyalty and my heart. Hearing your hero and mentor say such kind things makes you melt. Through my tears, I saw my best friend wish me luck in my new adventure ahead as my husband and I move to Calgary.”
Now that Connors has sold her horses in order to make the move to Calgary to start a new life as a married women, she looks back fondly on the experiences that have made her into the strong, reliable, and courageous young lady she is today. Still, horses will always be in her blood, and she hopes to try out a new discipline like Reining in the future.
“I love American Quarter Horses, and I will always be in my Blue Ribbon saddle no matter what!”
Looking towards the future, Connors hopes her children might follow in her footsteps. If Jeff is still in the horse training business, she hopes he might be willing to teach the next generation…
“He probably would dread another little me!” she says. “But all jokes aside, I do hope my children get into it. It’s a great sport, and there really isn’t any other sport like it. It teaches kids so much, and you continue to learn! I’m most certain Jeff would love to mentor the Connors’ kids. Poor guy!”
“Truly, thank you to Jeff and my loving parents, Susan and John Dean, who made all this possible.”
Do you have a touching story you’d like to share with EquineChronicle.com? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we might write an article about it!