A special chemistry between a girl and her horse led the pair to a World Reserve Champion ribbon at the 75th annual Palomino Horse Breeders of America World Championship Show in Tunica, Mississippi in July.
Karli Smith, 10, of Houstonia, and her horse Franklin competed in the youth division for ages 5 to 9 July 13 through 16. Not only did the pair bring home a reserve champion ribbon but also two fourth place ribbons, two fifth place ribbons and one sixth place ribbon.
“She placed in the top five in all her classes except horsemanship, and she placed sixth,” her mother, Casey Smith, said. “Which is quite an honor.”
Karli is a member of the Prairie Ridge 4-H Club and this past weekend the duo competed in the 4-H and FFA Horse Show on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. By Saturday afternoon, the pair had received first place in Horsemanship, second in both Showmanship and Western Pleasure and eighth in Costume.
Simply loving Franklin
Karli, who has deep brown eyes and a sprinkle of freckles, is a fifth grader at Houstonia Elementary School. She has only been showing Franklin, a palomino, for two years. Her interest in showing horses comes from a love for all animals.
“We own horses,” her mother said. “We trail ride and she’s an animal lover. Her grandma, Janice Klenke, got her into showing horses. We leased her first horse just to see if she would like it, and it just kind of went from there.”
Casey added that they own Karli’s current horse, Franklin.
“We bought him in October of last year,” Casey added. “He’s sort of her love. He’s a registered palomino and registered quarter horse.”
The horse’s registered name is I’m a Cool Flashy Zipper, but Karli calls him by his barn name Franklin.
Klenke said 4-H children named him Franklin because the horse they had previously was named Ben.
“So they had Ben Franklin,” Klenke added smiling.
What Karli loves about palominos in general is the color. Palominos are known for their gold or yellow coats and white- or cream-colored manes and tails.
According to the PHBA rules for palomino color characteristics, the horse should be the color of a “United States gold coin.”
Simplifying the color, Karli added, “I just call it yellow.”
Trail riding leads to horse training
Trail riding has been something Karli, her mother, her father Arron Smith and sister Aubrey Smith, 13, have always enjoyed.
“She was a baby when she was on her first horse,” Casey said. “She used to ride with her daddy. We would just take a trail ride. We never got into the show aspect of it and then Janice introduced us to the show aspect.”
Training a horse takes discipline and patience, but Karli doesn’t mind the work because she has a well-mannered student in Franklin.
“She trains for an hour every week,” Casey said. “There’s different classes and what she won under was ‘hunter under saddle,’ which is an English class.”
When competing in the English class Karli wears the full English riding habit. She also competes in western classes.
“I do almost every class,” she said.
Karli added that she also has to train Franklin to step a certain way for the Western class and then a different way for the English class.
“For the Western it’s like littler steps, and for the English it’s got to be bigger,” she said. “He’s like a natural Englisher horse, so they know.”
She added that she wears different spurs while competing in Western classes than when participating in English classes.
“Where you spur them is different every time,” Karli noted. “In the English saddle you are bent more than your Western saddle.”
“We have a trainer, Merle Arbo, he’s definitely been amazing with Karli,” Casey said. “She goes there and gets lessons. She had to learn.
“When we leased the (first) horse, that horse had been to many shows,” Casey added. “But, when we bought Franklin, he was more of an English horse instead of a Western horse. So, he’s had to be taught more Western, they’ve really had to work on their Western.
“She’s had to learn all of this,” Casey noted. “This is all new to her, so she really had to work hard to learn all of it. When we went down to Mississippi this was her first big show. The arena is bigger than the Mathewson (Exhibition) Center. We went down there and told her ‘just do your best.’ I was going to be proud of her if she just placed in the top five. So when she came out with the Reserve World Champion, that was very exciting.”
Bonded for life
During the 4-H and FFA show this weekend Karli competed in Hunter Under Saddle, English Equitation, Western Pleasure, Horsemanship, Trail, Showmanship and Costume.
“The Costume class is a big one,” Casey said. “It’s Friday.”
Karli said Franklin would compete dressed as a piñata, a costume she and her grandmother Klenke made from fabric strips.
“It takes a lot of cutting,” Karli said.
“It’s actually very, very cute,” Casey added. “We haven’t tried it on him yet. It’s taken a lot of cutting and sewing.”
Karli said Franklin would probably not be upset to wear the costume because of his easy-going demeanor.
“One of the reasons we purchased Franklin was because he’s got a very good temperament,” Casey said. “He’s a very laid back, easy-going horse. They bonded very quickly.
“He just follows her, he’s almost like a big puppy,” she added. “He just has that special bond with her. He’s pretty special.”
A pony who made it happen
Early on, Karli owned a pony named Katie. Her mother credits the pony for increasing her daughter’s confidence
“We had this one little pony that she rode, and I think that’s basically where she became attached,” Casey said. “Because she could saddle her, she rode her bareback, and she would tie her up. She got used to her. That pony was so easy-going with Karli that I think that’s when she first really got the fever. She was just a little tot at that point.”
When asked about advice for other youth who may want to show horses, Karli said “it’s a lot of fun” but also a lot of work.
Casey added that Karli and Franklin plan to compete for the first time in PHBA Approved Color Breed Congress slated for Nov. 3-7 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.