Lexington, Ky.—July 19
In keeping with our first and second stories that captured unique moments with horse show goers gathered at the Kentucky Horse Park, our next installment highlights those who aren't necessarily in the spotlight winning medals, but who add just as much charisma to the atmosphere at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior And Young Rider Championships.
David Johnson is a mounted police officer who was hired to patrol the Kentucky Horse Park three months ago. He started out as a horseless police officer in Lexington, Ky., 26 years ago and decided to become a mounted officer 14 years ago. His partner in crime (prevention) is Sunny, a 9-year-old Belgian Quarter Horse.
“What made you want to switch to being a mounted police?”
“When I got hired in Lexington, I thought it would be kind of cool, and I had no idea how much work and how much physical agility, ability and endurance it took to ride a horse. But once I started I just fell in love with it.”
“What was the training like?”
“Painful! I was late in life; I was 32 when I started riding a horse and I’d been on a horse maybe a couple times before. When you’re young, you bounce easier, your bones and muscles accept things better. So the first few weeks I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know if I can do this.’ But then you start getting your seat, getting your balance, and things start to get a lot better. So once I got past that there was no looking back.”
“What’s your most memorable arrest?”
“I’ve chased down a guy that was trying to abduct a woman in Lexington; he was riding a bicycle. I’ve arrested gang bangers armed with guns; we came in and sandwiched them and got their hands up and pulled the guns from them. It’s a lot more laid back here [at the Kentucky Horse Park] than in Lexington!”
“What’s your favorite part of the job?”
“The main thing I get out of it—generally police officers don’t have positive interactions with people. Usually when you call the police, it’s something bad. There’s always sort of this negativity. Once I got on horses, I had people like you coming up and talking to me like, ‘Hey, you’ve got a neat job; tell me about it.’ We worked in high crime-type areas in town so a lot of people in those areas look negatively upon police. I have the perfect ice-breaker: something the little kids want to come up and pet and talk about. They get to see I’m a person, not just a police officer. It breaks down barriers like that.”
Ariel Pletcher, Wicheta, Kansas, had an unusual horse show companion in her backpack on the showgrounds.
"What brings you to NAJYRC this week?"
"We’re showing Country Heir next week so we are here with the horses."
"Who’s this in your bag?"
"This is Sir Spinkerton. He's a Sphynx. I got him two years ago. I got him because they are a really nice breed of cat. He’s just been kind of angry because he’s been in the car for 14 hours."
"Does he always go to horse shows?"
"Yeah, I brought him to WEF. That’s when I started bringing him around. He goes and he stays, and he’s really good. This is our airport travel bag. I take him through the airport and the wheels are like a lifesaver. I just slide him under the seat and it’s so convenient."
"Tell me more about yourself."
I am 17. I’ve always been a fan of dressage. I evented a little bit and now I’m switching over to the hunters and the jumpers. We have three cats now—three horse show cats. I have a two-seater convertible, so we drove 14 hours in that with two cats and another person. It wasn’t that fun. I’ve been driving from Florida to Kentucky, Lake Placid, Kentucky, Florida, so it’s been a lot of long trips with cats. He usually sleeps in his seat.
"Is he a happy traveler?"
"Yeah. He’s a pretty good frequent flyer. He racks up the frequent flyer miles."
(To follow Sir Spinkerton, follow Ariel's Twitter DressageRoyale.)
Dave Wellburn, Victoria, British Columbia was the last person to trickle out of the grandstands overlooking Rolex Stadium as a heavy downpour caused the rest of the crowd to clear out near the end of the day’s competitions.
"What brings you to the Kentucky Horse Park?"
"My daughter’s riding with the Young Riders—Amy Wellburn."
"What’s your favorite part about being here?"
"The park itself. It’s just amazing. I’ve never been here before. It’s an incredible area."
"Are you a rider too?"
"I’m officially her groom; I have credentials here, but I don’t ride myself. Back home we have three horses, and I’m pretty good with a manure rake! I drive the trailer for her, too."
"What’s the most rewarding part of being a horse show dad?"
"Just seeing how hard that she’s worked to get here. It’s an incredible amount of time and effort, and to see that it’s actually working out—I’m very proud of her."
To read more about all the winners at NAJYRC, check out the August 4th issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.