We all started out learning how to ride on a certain horse. If our family did not own horses, it was very likely that a wonderful school horse taught us how to ride. So it is only fitting that an outstanding horse be honored as the Certified Horsemanship Association School Horse of the Year. To commemorate such an outstanding honor, the winning horse receives a hand-painted oil painting from CHA member Julie Fischer from Colorado with bark from her camp as the frame and a wooden and leather trophy plaque from Lone Star Awards.
Earning the title of 2020 CHA School Horse of the Year is 30-year-old Quarter Horse gelding Dallas from SpringHill Camp in Evart, Michigan. “Without fail, kids that come through the barn will ask who my favorite horse is,” said Katrina Lechlitner. “As the barn manager, I am always diplomatic and will say that I have lots of favorites, it just depends on the job that needs to be done. Then I whisper, ‘It’s actually Dallas, but don’t tell the other horses.’ They usually giggle and then ask if I always ride him because I love him so much. It’s then that I have to confess that I have never ridden him in the 15 years I have been in charge. ‘I only get to ride the ones that need help listening, and Dallas never does anything wrong so you get to ride him.’ ‘Why do you like him so much then?’ they ask. That is my favorite moment. ‘Dallas makes me proud, and I can trust him to take care of you. I’m kind of like his mom now, and all the lessons he learned growing up he is teaching you. He’s my favorite because he’s using all of his lessons to help other people, and I know that you will do the same thing when you are older. We should all want to be just like Dallas.’
“It doesn’t stop there though. The staff always ask that question too. With them I am a bit more coy. I’ll ask them who their favorites are and why. Without fail they will name a horse that they feel like they are training or one of our flashy colored horses. They are almost disappointed when I tell them my favorite is Dallas. My response it a bit more age appropriate, though. ‘You like the idea of that other horse, I’d say that makes them ‘dateable’ – Dallas is marriage material.’ Of course those conversations lead to talking about their future, but when they do get distracted by a boy at camp, it gives me a chance to offer some perspective. ‘Is he a Dallas or just dateable?’ That is the kind of reputation EVERY man should strive for. He’s 30. We’ll never be able to replace him. I am confident I will cry uncontrollably on his last day. Until then I will keep asking the dentist for the ‘live forever float,’ the farrier for the ‘stay sound forever trim,’ the vet for secrets to ‘make him live forever,’ and myself to learn how to care for him the best I can.
“What an honor to have Dallas be recognized by CHA as the 2020 School Horse of the Year,” said Lechlitner. “There are so many special lesson horses in CHA programs everywhere, and Dallas truly is our backbone. It was so hard to put his 18 years of service into words to nominate him because we felt we could not do his history with us justice. His name puts a twinkle in the eye of so many campers, guests and staff alike. It’s been fun to share this recognition with all those who have crossed paths with him. He might just be another sorrel horse, but he’s the heart and soul of our herd. SpringHill Camps has been blessed to have a horse like him. Thank you CHA!”
The CHA School Horse of the Year Program honors the best of the school horses who are part of CHA member programs. Each equine finalist receives a plaque from CHA and were also honored at the virtual CHA Awards Ceremony. The top five finalists included:
- Cresson – Whispering Willow Farm in Wisconsin
- Dallas – Spring Hill Camp in Michigan
- Indy – JT Ranch in Washington
- Maverick – Birch Bay Ranch in Alberta
- Sonora – Camp Chippewa in Kansas
For a complete list of past CHA award winners, visit https://cha.horse/international-conference/#award-winners
CHA Equine Professionals Change Lives Through Safe Experiences with Horses. The purpose of CHA is to promote excellence in safety and education for the benefit of the horse industry. CHA certifies equine professionals, accredits equestrian facilities, publishes educational manuals, produces educational horsemanship videos, and hosts regional and international conferences. For more information on the largest certifying body of equine professionals in North America, Certified Horsemanship Association, or to find a certified equine professional or accredited equine facility near you, please visit www.CHA.horse.