STEWART SIBLINGS SHINE ON HORSEBACK
UNION Earning the ability to compete in a national horse show would be a big deal for anybody who loves and rides horses. But imagine the thrill of not only making it to a national horse competition, but competing so well you make it into the finals.
Then imagine being a kid from Union who's never done any competing like that in your life.
Such is the case for Beth Stewart's three children Kate, 14, Brooke, 11, and Chase, 9. Two of them, Kate and Chase, made it into the top 10.
"We've never done this before because most of the qualifying events for (Arabian) Youth Nationals are during the stock show. And we've always done stock show," explains Kate.
The kids' dad, Doug Stewart, owns and operates Stewart Performance Horses in Junction City near Eugene. He has a stable full of purebred Arabians and half-Arabians that he breeds, trains, shows and sells.
The kids spend every other weekend with their dad and have learned to ride and play with their horses in both structured and unstructured settings.
"They have access to horses here and they can ride any time they want to,'' Doug says. "They get training, too, but sometimes it's better if I just get out of the way and let them be kids on their horses. They get a lot out of that. They're more willing to play games and try stuff on horseback if somebody isn't looking over their shoulder."
But during the summer when he's traveling the Arabian horse show circuit, it's harder to spend time with the kids.
"They've always been so busy with their pigs and lambs for stock show. These Arabian show competitions are time consuming,'' he says.
"You have to be committed to competing in every little show in order to do well and make enough points to qualify for nationals," Beth explains.
So, the kids' dad talked it over with the kids' mom and the decision was made to skip stock show one year in order to check out the Arabian show circuit with dad, and to compete.
"It's a lot of hard work," Doug adds. "The show circuit is not just fun and games. You have a six-horse trailer to haul your horses everywhere. And when you get where you're goin', you take care of them first. Even when you're too tired to eat, the horses are fed and watered."
And after spending the spring and early summer traveling around competing in local, district and regional shows, the Stewart siblings qualified to compete at nationals.
In July, the trio traveled with their dad to the 2006 Youth Arabian Nationals in Albuquerque, N.M. Kate competed in both the junior to ride and junior owner to ride in the 13-and-under age class and made it as a finalist in the top 10 in both competitions.
Brooke competed in the half-Arabian walk/trot western pleasure competition for the 10-and-under class and made it into the top 16.
Chase competed in the Arabian walk/trot country pleasure for 10-and-under and also made it to the final top 10.
"I am so proud of them. And it was fun having them all that time," says Doug. "Up until now, I don't think they really understood what I did. It was fun having them involved. And they're really good help."
It was hard work, say the kids, but worth it. Surprisingly, though, all three said the best part was hanging out with their dad, making friends with other kids involved in the competition and having water fights in the horse barn.
"Actually, I think I prefer trail riding over showing. You don't have to ride any certain way," Brooke says thoughtfully.
Well, what if you combined the competition aspect with the trail riding?
In November, Brooke and Kate competed in the Northwest Mountain Trail Championships at the Oregon Horse Center in Eugene. For this event, explains Beth, the indoor arena is transformed into a trail course complete with ponds, waterfalls, bridges, boulders and ditches.
Trail riding lover Brooke won champion in both of the classes she competed in and brought home two silver buckles to add to the booty of winnings already adorning the Stewart home in Union.
"I was so tickled to see her shine," Beth says.
Does this mean the stock show days are over? Replaced by horse shows and competitions?
"We're going to do both. Mom's going to help by feeding our lambs when we're gone," says Chase, with a grin over at mom. Beth just laughs and lifts her shoulders as if to ask, What's a mother to do?'
"Yeah, I'm probably nuts. But I'm just gonna put the lambs in the backyard this year. It shouldn't be too bad," she says.
Whatever it takes.