JOPLIN, Mo. —
When the conversation turns to showing horses, Sarah Reeder's eyes begin to sparkle.
A Joplin attorney, Reeder's chestnut mare named Koko Chanel placed eighth in the world division at the recent American Quarter Horse Association's World Show in Oklahoma City. Eighth place might not seem a lofty achievement to a layman, but it was a worldwide event, Reeder said.
"Of all the yearling horses in the world, Koko ranks eighth," Reeder said. "It's quite an achievement."
Koko Chanel placed first in the intermediate division at the Oklahoma City event. The intermediate award is given to a horse that has never placed in the top 10 in the world.
"Since it was my first competition and my horse placed higher than the other competitors, I was awarded first place," Reeder said.
AQHA judges are highly trained to spot good conformation. Equine conformation evaluates the degree of correctness of a horse's bone structure, musculature, and its body roportions in relation to each other.
Horses are judged on the following merits:
- Eye appeal that features an attractive head.
- Well-proportioned, trim neck.
- Long sloping shoulders.
- Deep heart girth.
- Short back.
- Strong loin.
- Long hip.
- Well-defined and muscular forearm and chest.
- Structurally correct legs and feet that are free of defects.
It is small wonder that Koko Chanel placed so high in the championship -- both of her parents were world champion show horses.
Located in Amarillo, Texas, the association is the world's largest equine breed registry and membership organization. It represents both amateur and professional show members. A lifetime membership owner, Reeder said the professional division is for trainers who show for a living.
"I'll stay an amateur forever," Reeder said.
This was Reeder's first year of showing at the association's world championship. She discovered that showing horses is a big industry -- The AQHA publishes several magazines and journals, and the association has thousands of members, and sponsors dozens of shows a year throughout the United States.
Reeder showed her mare the weekend Saturday and will show it again today at the Lucky J arena in Carthage. The event began early Saturday morning.
"The events always begin in the morning because the horses are fresh," Reeder said.
Reeder said that showing horses is not only a satisfying pastime for adults, but it is a great hobby for kids
"It teaches them responsibility," she said. "They learn to groom and take care of the horse."
The AQHA has a showing division for kids, and Northeast Oklahoma A&M College, located in Miami, Okla., also has a good judging program, the Joplin attorney said.
This year, Reeder said she has shown Koko at events in Tunica and Jackson, Miss., Sedalia, Kan., and Tulsa and Claremore, Okla. The World Show in Oklahoma City lived up to her expectations, she said.
Reeder was born and raised in Springfield and attended Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. She earned a law degree from the University of Tulsa.
"When I was in law school I started taking show-horse lessons at a stable in Tulsa," Reeder said. "I took some jumping lessons, but never showed in the jumping division after I broke my ankle in a fall."
Reeder said her husband, David, got her interested in showing horses again after she had been out of the sport for several years. Her Joplin law office is filled with trophies and ribbons Koko Chanel has won this year.
Koko Chanel is stabled in Carthage and trained by Kathy Lawrence.
Reeder said she remembers the day they bought Koko Chanel.
"We went over (to Carthage) and toured the barn with Kathy and they had a bunch of babies."
Reeder said she got the showing fever again and ended up buying one of the babies, which she named Koko Chanel. Showing horses is all about faith, food, and horses, Reeder said.
"Faith in God, faith in our horse," Reeder said. "And I love to go eat after the show."