TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Larry Mason has been riding horses for 70 years, Jaylynn Scott for seven. Neither can fully explain the equine passion on display Tuesday at the Wabash Valley Horsemen’s Association Frontier Day Parade and Horse Show.
“Nobody knows that,” said Mason, 72, of West Terre Haute. “It’s like cancer; you don’t know; it’s there, you’ve got it and sometimes it’s just not going to go away.”
Scott, 15, also of West Terre Haute, said, “If you would ride a horse you’d find out you love it. That’s what I did.”
When Scott was younger, her grandparents shared a driveway with a horse owner and she would often sneak looks at the animals.
“She caught me one day and got me into riding horses,” Scott said as she sat atop Jet Eye, a 21-year-old quarter horse she rode to victory last month in first-division International Barrel Racing Association competition in Olney, Ill.
For the record, first-division races are for horses and riders with the fastest times.
Scott, who also owns an appaloosa, refined her skills at the Mari Hulman George School of Equine Studies at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Much to her father’s dismay, Scott, who used to race quarter midgets, gave up auto racing for horses.
“My dad complains because he doesn’t know much about horses . and now he doesn’t get to work on cars,” she said.
Mason said his family “weren’t horse people” either when he started riding. He has ridden for legendary thoroughbred trainer and owner Dale Baird of Martinsville, Ill., and has been a successful breeder and rider in his own right.
His two sons have followed in his footsteps and between them have made nine appearances in horse show world finals. He has a granddaughter who also rides.
About 75 horses were entered in this year’s parade, said Sharon Hartmann, a 39-year board member of the Horseman’s Association.
“We are on kind of a down slide. Younger people are busy today, and they don’t get as involved as us old folks,” she said.
Like many things with the name “Wabash Valley” there are no defined boundaries for the Horseman’s association, which has members from Illinois as well as Indiana.
“Anybody is welcome to join that’s interested in promoting horse activities,” Hartman said.
Thanks to casinos at Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand race tracks, horse racing in Indiana has fared better during the past two decades than in Illinois.
“All sectors … have made significant investments” and the Hoosier State’s breeding and racing industry “has become one of the best, if not the best, in the nation,” The Indiana Horse Racing Commission boasted in a news release last year.
While Indiana may still be known more for auto racing, Mason said many Hoosiers don’t realize the significant economic impact of the state’s horse tracks.
“Those horses eat every day; there’s bedding there every day,” he said. “Somebody’s got to pay for those lights that are on in there, and horse people are doing that. They didn’t ride those horses in there. Go out and buy a truck; look what a trailer costs to haul them. That is a moneymaker for the state of Indiana that never gets any recognition.”
— DAVE TAYLOR, Tribune-Star