Three National Quarter Horse champions is not a bad percentage out of a barn of 35. It is due in part to the dedication of the horse owners, riders, and the barn owners, Amy and Mark Watkins.
"It's rare to have that many national placers out of one barn," Amy said. "We've been here since 1997 and have never had that many national titles in one year."
In quarter horse events, the ratings go by points accumulated during the year. The points begin Jan. 1 and end Dec. 31. Mark said they frequent events all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York as points for each horse and rider are collected.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Amy and Mark Watkins pose with Stalone, aka Smooth After Midnight, who is one of several national placers in the National Quarter Horse Association rankings.
Mark said the point system goes by the number of horses in a class. The more horses, the more points are available.
The competition also involves four basic classes including the open class, amateur, youth and novice.
One of the 2011 placers was Jack B. Bold, owned by Ken DiRenzo. The horse is shown by Mark and Amy and has ended up third in the nationals for senior aged stallions. The horse already earned a register of merit to get its breeding papers. The third-place win was what Amy called "icing on the cake."
The second horse of fame from the Watkins barn is Amy and Mark's son's horse Godiva by Image, known simply as Gertie. Mark Watkins Jr. ended up in sixth place for youth performance mares and seventh in the 11-and-under Justin Rookie of the Year competition.
"Just as with Jack B. Bold, we didn't set out to win a national title," Amy said. "We just wanted our son to get his feet wet, so placing was really exciting."
The third horse of merit in the barn in R.R. Future Version, a quarter horse that Lauren Hull, 12, of Canfield had since she was two. She finished the youth camp and with the age of the horse and rider, was said to have made a big accomplishment at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.
The Congress, according to Amy, normally has around 7,000 horses competing. It is the third largest national convention in the nation, behind only the Republican and Democratic conventions.
"It is our Super Bowl," Amy said.
Also attending the Quarter Horse Congress was Maggie Garwood from Columbiana, who has trained and housed her horse in the Watkins barn for eight years. She entered three horses in the convention and all three made the finals.
The riders and their horses work out regularly in the family farm's indoor and outdoor rinks and the Watkins are always working with them to improve their skills in the show ring. While having national placers is the effortsof years of training, the Watkins are still open to welcome newcomers to the world of quarter horses.
"Hull started out here as a six-year-old and she knew nothing," Amy said. "Now she is a kid that all my other kids look up to. She has really blossomed."
Amy said she and her husband grew up around horses and when it came time to look at a family business, it was obvious. Today they live their dream and through their training, are putting out championship horses and riders.