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 at a camp or lesson barn program 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 Girl Scout camp as the frame and a wooden and leather trophy plaque from Lone Star Awards.
Earning the title of 2021 CHA School Horse of the Year is 34-year-old flea bitten grey Quarter Horse gelding Oakie from Girl Scouts of San Jacinto in Houston, Texas.
Oakie has been a staple to our program since 2008. Before being donated to us he was a high school rodeo horse. He calmly took to the trails for first time riders, became the right amount of stubborn for the older riders, and he would accept any task you put in front of him. Western? Of course, he would teach you quick stops and pivots. English? Without a doubt he would trot and canter over poles with the rest of them. A bareback ride? Perfect—he’s not too tall in case you slip off! As our special guy has gotten older, his workload has lightened. Unfortunately, there was an accident in March 2020 when we thought it was the end. He slipped when headed out to the pasture and was unable to walk. Our vet gave him 24 hours, either to start improving or we would have to make a very hard decision. A day later he acted as if nothing happened! It was officially retirement for our sweet man—which meant nothing more than getting loved on by everyone!
He spent the next year continuing to teach others how to groom, lead and care for a horse. That’s when we spotted him galloping in the field! He was feeling so good we checked with our vet again and decided to try him back in some light work. This old man perked up and was so thrilled to be on the occasional trail ride for our littlest riders this past summer.
In his 13 years with Girl Scouts, he has served over 50,000 girls! This horse has done it all: lessons, trail rides, grooming, painting and flag ceremonies, and he has even has been a unicorn a few (too many!) times. They say 10,000 hours in something makes you an expert, I would say he is far beyond that. Having a horse like him should be essential to any program, and he will be irreplaceable when he is gone!
What our Girl Scouts have to say about him. “We used to have a day during the week where special needs kids came and did Love, Hug & Groom. I volunteered several times, and Oakie was always a saint. Nothing scared him; walkers, crutches, wheelchairs were all no big deal. The kids loved him! Oakie is an inspiration to us all. He is the most loving, caring and reliable horse in the world. He is amazingly good with troop riders and makes them feel comfortable when they are just learning to ride. He is everyone’s best friend for a reason. Out of our barn of 40 horses, he is the horse that if you say his name everyone’s heart melts. They are remembering their special moments with him.”
The CHA host site where our winner is based has been a CHA Program Member since 1989 and has hosted 25 CHA Certifications, including 17 Seasonal and 8 English/Western Instructor courses.
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 CHA Awards Ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas.
The top five finalists included:
1. Ghost from Rusty Bar Ranch in Washington
2. Oakie from Girl Scouts of San Jacinto in Texas
3. Radish from Star T Ranch in Texas
4. Sapphire from Warm Beach Camp in Washington
5. Zap from Potter’s Ranch in Kentucky
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.