Original Publish Date April 2014.
We sit in Melynda Smith’s comfortable home in Denham Springs, Louisiana, looking at a glossy scrapbook picture of her halter stallion prospect Hez Simplee Charming, a quadruple registered yearling known as “Houston” to his friends. Her husband Scott, sons Brendan and Cory, and a family friend gather around to listen in on the interview.
“Houston’s sire is FG Totally a Charmer, a paint champion, a Congress champion, and holder of nine world titles. He has paint, pinto, and Quarter Horse papers.” says Melynda. “His dam, Ms Ooh La La, is a palomino, registered AQHA, with three world titles.” Their offspring Houston is a gleaming palomino with lots of flashy white. “His color is right on,” Melynda says. His legs are straight, his shoulder is long and sloping, his hindquarters substantial, and his ears and eyes are alert. He looks like a star. In the picture Melynda poses proudly beside him.
“In this photo he’s a weanling. By the second show of his life, he had already earned enough points to receive his Palomino Register of Merit in amateur and open color.” Melynda says, “He has such potential, we have hopes of keeping him a stallion. Hopefully, he will be beneficial to the horse world as a stud. This summer he’ll show at the Pinto World in June and the Palomino World in July.” In the meantime, Houston is in training with Jarrell Jackson, at Three Nails Ranch in Texas. Melynda will show Houston in amateur and Terry Sartain, a gentleman, who she has come to admire will show him in open classes.
Melynda also credits Kim and Drew Dees with igniting her interest in halter. The first time they met, the man who would someday be “Uncle Drew” came up to Melynda’s daughter Kaitlyn just before she went in the halter pen and showed her how to hold the lead rope. “We are like family now and we are extremely blessed to have them in our lives,” says Melynda.
“Tuff to Get Credit, my daughter’s horse. He’s an older model—nineteen years old. We call him Ranger. When we got him, I had just learned how to pull a horse trailer; I drove up to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where my daughter tried him out, and then we brought him home. He has taken care of us ever since. Kaitlyn’s won a saddle, multiple belt buckles, and trophies on him, and even did her homework in his stall. He’s my hero, for taking care of my baby. People that aren’t horse people don’t understand the bond. He and Kaitlyn pretty much dominated the front-end classes. Kaitlyn and Ranger will continue to show in showmanship and trail. In fact, last year Kaitlyn and Ranger were the Louisiana State Youth Trail Champions! There will never be another one like him, and he will live out the rest of his days here.”
“Here’s Pepper, my old mare. Registered as Leo’s Triple Pearl. She’s solid black, but is a breeding stock paint. She’s unique: her aunt bit off part of her ear when she was a baby. When you’re riding her, her shadow looks funny—a little missing moon shape on the side. I’ve had her since she was seven months old, and she’s nineteen now. I barrel raced her in local shows until I was in a car accident when I was eighteen. I was hit by a drunk driver, and broke my leg in sixteen places. I am blessed to be alive.”
Melynda says that she rode the mare just for pleasure until about eight years ago, when she became ill. Although it took several years, she was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “Riding just hurts too much.” That is why Melynda has taken up halter showing. “The doctors said that I’d be confined to a wheelchair within five years. Four years in, I’m still on my two feet most of the time. My husband, our six children, and our two grandchildren keep me going. I’m also blessed with several ‘adopted kids’ that call me Momma M.”
“This is another halter mare, Diamondz, four years old, who went to the AQHA Youth World last year, where she placed in the top ten. She has Telusionist and Kid Clu bloodlines. We got her from Kim and Drew Dees. She’ll show in 4H this June, and next year we will probably breed her.”
“I began getting rid of all of my riding equipment when Kaitlyn, youngest of the six, began walking in my footsteps. Thus, our adventure with horses began.” Her first year, she showed locally, and she has shown in 4H for the past four years. Kaitlyn is currently a co-captain on her junior high school cheerleading squad, participates in the SPEAR fitness program at her school, runs track and is preparing to tryout for the high school dance team.
In 2010 Kaitlyn started training with DeLois Senez, a remarkable woman. “Mrs. Dee” or “Granny D,” as our family calls her, was a jockey for 27 years. She’s 72 now, still 98 pounds, and she still rides and barrel races and gives riding lessons. “Any kid in this area who rides horses has probably taken a lesson from Mrs. Dee,” says Melynda. DeLois is originally from Texas, and was riding and herding sheep for her father when she was four. When she was in high school, she went to the Texas high school rodeo championships, and was told by the pencil-pushers in the show office that she could not compete in roping because she was a girl. She told her father what they had said…and her father marched to the office and made them take her entry. She rode…and she won!
“We have two acres here, and the three mares and the one gelding get along fine. Houston is let out separately being that he is a stallion. Many halter horses stay in their stalls all the time. We let our horses be horses, and they are let out daily and are put up at feeding time. Showing the horses would not be possible without my husband, Scott.” The horses get their exercise in the round pen, Scott keeps a close eye on feeding to put on the right amount of muscle and fat.
Melynda adds, “I never thought I’d be showing. I got into this because of Kaitlyn and have enjoyed watching her grow and share my love of horses. None of this would be possible without the support of my husband Scott and my children. If it weren’t for my boys, Brendan Doucet, Cory Smith, Koty Lambert and Ryan and Scott Blanchard and my husband back home, holding down the fort, I could never have realized my show dreams. Our barn was built with their very own hands. Additionally, there is no way I could attend the shows without the help of my girls, Courtney Brossett and Lauren Harris. They have both been our cheerleaders, grooms for the horses, and best travel buddies we could have asked for. My friends, Michelle Hill and Krisite Hyde, keep me grounded. I am equally blessed with several friends and mentors rooting me on. I love them all so very much and will forever be grateful for their presence in my life.”
Melynda, Scott, their children, their friends, their mentors, and their horses are proof that there are many ways to enjoy competition, and many ways to find happiness. Their property, grandfathered into the suburbia of Denham Springs, is a welcoming, peaceful place, for horses and humans alike.