Sherri Cale and her horse Pete have won several awards. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Sherri Cale and her 12 year old horse Pete have been participating in national horse association competitions since 2011. In that time, they’ve brought home an impressive amount of awards, ribbons and trophies.
The pair have been the subject of three magazine articles to date – once as the cover story. Their photos have been used in ads. Most recently, they were featured in the February 2016 issue of ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) magazine.
Cale lives on a small farm just outside of Gardner city limits since 1984 – most of her adult life, and she said she’s had horses in all but about two years of her life.
About those two years without horses, she says, “that didn’t work out.”
“I just can’t imagine my life without them. When I’m old, and I can’t ride anymore, I will still have horses… because I can touch them, and smell them, and hold them,” Cale said. “I can call them from the edge of the pasture and watch them come running… just unconditional love.”
Cale got Pete after her kids went off to college. There was no intent to compete in shows at that time. They only planned recreational riding on area trails. One day, some friends told Cale about ACTHA trail horse competitions and encouraged her to try it.
But it wasn’t as easy as just deciding to give it try… it took a lot of time, work and dedicated effort for Cale and Pete to become the team they are now.
As the two worked to learn new skills, a third vital ingredient blossomed – a bond… a unique, trusting relationship between horse and human.
“Trail riding – that’s a huge bond with horse and rider because there’s a whole lot of trust that goes on there,” said Sherri.
While on the trail, Pete usually sees things, like deer or anything out of the ordinary, long before Cale becomes aware of it. She’s learned to trust him – if he doesn’t want to do something, she says, there’s a reason. He’s telling her. And she has learned to understand.
The skills needed for competition had to be learned from scratch, and it’s not just the horse that must learn skills but also the rider.
Competition skills include learning to jump, rope and shoot from horseback. Neither Pete or Cale had any previous training.
“It took us two years, one year of hard riding, every day… and then the first competition I did with him, we were awfu,.” says Cale. “A year later we won nationals.”
They have won a lot more awards since then and will again be competing in events in 2017.
Cale (and Pete) got a new horse trailer for Christmas. Of course it has space for a horse, but also has a bed and shower for their human companions, too. So when they go on the road together now, they really are together.
Learning, she said to handle a truck and trailer was another skill Cale had to learn, but one that she said she is now comfortable with. She can hitch the trailer to the truck, load the horse, travel down the highway and maneuver tight spaces in arena parking lots to find a place to land.
One of the greatest rewards, according to Cale, is all the people she’s met along the way. She’s made many new friends and unforgettable memories. A highlight for her was meeting and getting to ride with world renown trainer John Lyons.
“It’s just been an amazing journey, there’s no better way to describe it” said Cale.
Cale is a familiar face to many Gardner residents because for the past 17 years, she’s worked at Gardner Animal Hospital.
Cale said her life is great, and she wouldn’t change a thing. She said she is thankful for her family, her home and many other blessings in her life.
And where do the horses fit in to all that? “They complete me,” she says, “they just complete me.”