FORT WORTH, Texas-In
most card games, jokers have no value, so they are culled from the deck
and cast aside. In other games, they reign supreme as "wild" or "trump"
cards, and everyone hopes to be dealt one.
Jane Barron of Monticello, Fla., didn't know what she would be dealt when she ventured into the world of horse ownership to buy a horse for her then 8-year-old daughter, Becca, in 1994.
A friend suggested a pretty 4-year-old sorrel and white Paint Horse she had seen grazing in a field near her hometown. Mrs. Barron entertained the idea, but only briefly.
"A young horse for a young child just didn't make sense," she recalled.
When Mrs. Barron found out the horse was destined for an auction, however, compassion got the best of her.
"I had no idea where he was going," she said. "I felt sorry for him Š he had an injured eye. So, I just bought him. I quite literally paid for him by the pound. I thought maybe someone at the stable where my daughter trained would want him."
Young Becca, however, had other plans. She talked her mother into letting her keep the horse and quickly bonded with him. The eye injury was only superficial and the family vet helped her nurse the horse back to health.
As she cared for the horse, Becca found it curious that the Paint, whose registered name is Eyes Left, had a blue left eye and brown right eye. The horse reminded her of the two different sides of a jester, so she nicknamed him "Joker's Wild," or "Joker" for short.
Now, at age 16 and with eight years of riding experience on her first horse, Becca has shown the world just how serious she and Joker are about competitive riding.
For the team's outstanding accomplishments during the past competitive season, Joker was named 2001 American Paint Horse of the Year by the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) and the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA), which became the United States Eventing Association (USEA) on Dec. 1, 2001.
"He's my best friend," Becca commented on the horse who has been her constant companion the past eight years.
What makes the horse such a strong competitor?
"He has a huge heart," Becca is quick to point out. "He loves to compete and always gets really excited before the cross-country events. He wants to please me all the time. I never push him. He loves doing what we do at competitions."
USEA competition involves athletes participating in dressage, cross-country jumping and stadium jumping at each show.
The prestigious American Paint Horse of the Year honor is reserved for one Paint Horse at USEA competition during the show year. The recent competitive season ran from Dec. 1, 2000 to Nov. 30, 2001.
In all, five American Paint Horses earned special awards at USEA competition at three different levels. They include:
At the preliminary level, the winners were determined by USEA grading points accumulated during the competition season. Winners at the novice and training levels were determined based on a cumulative point system during the season. In addition, they had to compete in at least three USEA-recognized events and place in at least one competition to qualify for awards.
"It takes remarkable talent to be an eventing horse," explained Linda Knowles, APHA show awards coordinator. "To run and jump in challenging cross-country events, and then also be able to compete in dressage and stadium jumping all at one show, requires superior intelligence and athletic ability. It also involves an enormous amount of training.
"These awards were created to recognize horses each year who have what it takes to be champions in eventing. We salute their outstanding accomplishments."
For more information about the APHA and USEA awards program, contact Linda Knowles, APHA awards coordinator, at (817) 834-2742, extension 245. She may also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
APHA employs 160 people
and has an operating budget of $15 million for activities worldwide.
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