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Only Five & Taking the Reins

Note from the Editor: 

I met Shanna over ten years ago when I was her fitness coach at Farrell’s. I quickly connected with Shanna as we both shared a love for hard work and our families. I knew from the start that she is a get-it-done and tell-you-like-it-is sort of woman. 

Thankfully, Facebook has kept us connected over the years and I’ve been able to watch Shanna’s world evolve. She’s now a mother of two and a horse mom of many. 

Shanna has posted pictures of her daughter, Bentley, riding horses since she was a tiny little girl and I have always been intrigued by how she rides at such a young age.

I hope you enjoy this interview about bravery, hard work, and a whole lot of grit. Here’s their story. 

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Bentley, can you tell us when you first learned to ride? 

Bentley (5-years-old): When I was three, Aunt Kris sent Charm (horse) to live with us and she was the bestest girl. Then CJ (Angelica’s horse) came to live with us because Angelica (a family friend) knew I would love him and take care of him and she was right.

How many hours a day does Bentley spend with her horses? 

Shanna (Mom): Two to three hours a day between CJ, Daisy, and Razzle. She has two bigs (Quarter Horses) and Razzle is a mini horse. When we are at a rodeo or show, I usually have to pull her off bawling and squalling because she just wants to ride. That’s why we haul two horses; between Daisy and CJ they take turns with her while the other one rests — I’m not kidding. 

How often does Bentley compete? 

Shanna: She competes in the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) pee wee barrels. She also does a rodeo series in Fremont and at Bar Star Ranch in Lincoln. We are usually somewhere riding every weekend in the summer and she rides almost every night, whether it be bareback around the house/pasture or saddled up on a ride. She’s been eyeballing my barrel horse pretty hard lately so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she takes him over as well. 

Bentley, what do you love about riding? 

Bentley: I love horses, going fast, and getting better and better on Daisy and CJ. Someday I’m going to go REALLY fast on Jesse! 

Shanna: Jesse is my horse—see? I knew she had an agenda there. 

What are some things you’ll never forget about Bentley learning to ride? 

Shanna: CJ came off an injury and was a little fresh his first night back at barrel lessons; he bucked a few times and I asked her later what she thought about that. She told me, “It’s ok if he bucks and it’s ok if I fall off, I’ll just get back on. Cowgirls don’t give up.” 

CJ was on stall rest for three weeks and every morning she would go out and read him a book, talk to him, and let him know how much she loved him. Recently the vet commented on how well he healed and I have no doubt her love was most of it. She’s got life figured out…at 5. 

She sure does. What are your horses like?  

Bentley: CJ is a naughty bucking bronco but he’s my horse and I love him. He’s my best friend.

Shanna: Daisy is an angel, tolerant, and kind, and takes care of her rider. She’s also very beautiful, a palomino with a long white tail. She’s worth her weight in gold. 

Bentley: She’s really pretty and smoother than CJ but she’s slow. I like to go fast. 

Shanna: CJ is…CJ. 

How has riding horses made your life better, Bentley?    

Bentley: Riding has made me brave and taught me to care about animals. No pulling on their faces — Mom hates that. So does CJ, he’ll buck!

Shanna: Accurate, all of that. 

She seems pretty fearless on that horse. Is that learned or just her personality !  

Shanna: It’s her, through and through. She is my little baby karma. 

However, her passion for horses and riding definitely feeds her thirst for adventure and, as her Mom, it’s equally thrilling and terrifying to watch. Especially with her “step up” horse CJ—he’s still fast at his age (22) and he wants to compete. I just know they are going to do big things together when she’s ready. Until then, bombproof Daisy carries my baby girl safely. 

As her Mom, my job is to keep her safe and to not hold her back. Her horses teach her so much: to be confident, to be responsible, to work hard, and even to fail. She can run a perfect pattern five times at practice and go in for the real deal and completely bomb it if she gets ahead of herself and wants to “go fast” over riding clean. I watched her do it last week at a run and oh she was MAD at Daisy. Her Aunt Kris and her grandparents were there, and she was going to show them how fast she was. Their start was all out of whack and she was blaming Daisy. I was able to sit her down and talk to her about what went wrong, what she could have done differently, and what’s really important: a fast run or a clean run. Pretty big stuff for a 5-year-old but lessons to carry her through life. Mind you, I’m STILL learning these lessons myself on my horse! The work never ends! 

Sometimes it’s hard, seeing her up there on that big horse but I’m lucky to have other amazing “horse moms” to calm my fears. Her trainer, Mindi Clarke at Bar Star, is an angel. I’m able to be “Mom” and work on my own horse while Bentley works on her riding and patterns, and Mindi is so knowledgeable about horses, kids, and all that goes with them. Even the meltdowns. These tiny horse girls and their emotions!

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