Twelve year-old Mackenzie Matthews of Mount Pleasant, North Carolina may be considered young by most accounts, but in the horse show world, she could be regarded as an old hand. The seventh grader told GoHorseShow that she attended her first horse show, the Redbud, when she was just six weeks-old!
Her mother, Robin Matthews, competed on the quarter horse circuit under the guidance of Alex Ross for the majority of her show career with some great horses including Nifty Man, No Blarney, Skips Vanquard, and ABF Virtual Reality. Luckily, Robin's daughter was just as horse crazy and has followed in her footsteps.
"I was always messing around with the horses at my mom's trainer’s barn, playing in the arena dirt and riding with her," Mackenzie told GoHorseShow. "I started riding alone when I was four on my pony, Butterball. Then, I started lessons at a barn close to home, and my first show was a fun show when I was five."
The North Carolina native has come a long way since she was a little girl playing in the dirt. In 2009, she won the Congress Small Fry Horsemanship with Zippos Version, and, by far, this win is her favorite equine accomplishment to date.
"We worked really hard to get there, and I absolutely loved getting up in the middle of the night to ride and prepare in the Coliseum," says the dedicated young rider. "I really like the ‘family’ aspect of showing horses. We have a fun group of people in our barn and we do fun things during and after the shows. I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of friends to talk with which is great because I really like to talk! I also like competing with friends. Yes, you want to win but it’s not like, 'Eat my dust!' It’s more like, 'Good job! Let’s do it!' It’s nice."
After searching over a year for her next horse, Mackenzie began showing Hot As Krymsun in September of 2011. The seven year-old gelding by One Hot Krymsun has several nicknames including Sam, Sam I Am, Sammy, Sammy Boy and Sam The Man.
"He is a very sweet, trusting, a social butterfly and beautiful. He’ll nudge you if you aren’t giving him enough attention or if you have treats," Matthews says. "Sammy was a gift from my grandmother, Ms. Mary (Simmons). It took a long time to find him and he has a home for life."
Despite limited time together, this new team has already had great success, winning four out of six Novice Youth Pleasure classes at the Virginia Classic in April. She recently added horsemanship and showmanship with plans to add equitation before Congress.
"We show on a budget and have to pick our shows carefully," says Mackenzie's mother, Robin. Our trainers, Cindy and Shane Young, are very understanding and help us achieve our goals within our budget."
Mackenzie adds, "I have a lot of fun training with Shane and Cindy. I hope they realize how much I appreciate all of their help. We ride almost every Saturday when we aren’t at a show. They are both very patient and help me understand how to correct a problem I might be having. I’ve been blessed to have had support from a lot of different people including Ross Wetherell, Vickie Oakley, Jamie Pait, Jeff Long and Liz Hay. Robin Frid helped me before my Congress Small Fry win, and I still remember the tips he gave me!"
The straight A student and aspiring writer tells us that this is her last year in 11 and Under and she would like to have a great Congress with hopes of another Congress Championship!
"I’d like to have good rides and patterns and make the finals in all my classes. My long term goal is to eventually be a AQHYA World Champion. In my future career, I’d really like to be an author and a Zoologist or Marine Biologist since I’ve always loved animals!"
This talented young lady says that she is fortunate to be able to show and travel with her mom and Sammy.
"Horses are my passion and will always be in my life no matter where I am. My mom has promised Sam can come home to 'Matthews Horse Spa' for a few weeks after Congress," she says. "I can’t wait to be able to see and play with him every day. There’s nothing like the smell of horses in the early morning and tucking them in at night."