From humble beginnings showing at local shows and in 4-H in Iowa, the Knapp Family's involvement with horses has evolved and turned them into one of the most successful families who show and breed champions in our industry.
The family also has had a very successful Congress so far this year. Susan's daughter, Sara Heeley, won the extremely competitive Non-Pro Western Maturity Stakes - Limited and was third in the Non-Pro Maturity Stakes - Open on multiple World Champion, Cool Krymsun Lady (Annie). Sara said that she was very happy with her win and $2,400 pay day in the Limited Non-Pro Maturity Finals on Annie.
"She was the best she has ever been with me, and she is a once-in-a-lifetime horse that is phenomenal both ways of the ring. It really all comes down to personal preference and luck with the judges when showing the older horses," she says. "I was a little worried because when they called out the individual placings, the first judge gated me, but then, I had two firsts and a fourth---but that's horse showing. Some like you and some don't."
Also at the Congress, Sara's husband, Patrick Heeley, was also Reserve Champions in the 2 Yr Old Open Western Pleasure Stakes, and 2 Yr Old Open Western Pleasure Stakes Limited Finals with Certainly A Goodbar. This team was also the Reserve Champion at the Reichert in the Two Year-Old Western Pleasure Challenge last month. Heeley also went on to be the Congress Markel Western Pleasure Maturity - Limited Division Finals Reserve Champions with Cool Krymsun Lady.
The matriarch of the family, Susan Knapp, has just started showing at the 2011 Congress but has already placed third in the Novice Amateur Western Riding with her favorite mount, Heavenly Mac (Mac). Susan's daughter and Sara's sister, Anna Terry also made the finals in the Novice Amateur Western Pleasure.
When we asked Sara and Susan why they love the industry so much, they say that they love the competition and the camaraderie with everyone at the shows.
"It really is a family affair. We get to travel a lot and enjoy being together at the shows. My great-granddaughter has just started showing.," Susan told us at her stalls in the Gilligan. "Horses have such an amazing energy about them. You can tell them all your problems and no one will ever find out. They are my therapy."
Sara adds," I sold real estate for a while but I love working with my husband. I love the people in the industry and trying to make the industry better. I left a six figure job for the horse business. It is ten times more work but ten times more worth it. I wouldn't change anything about it."
Sara and Patrick Heeley have their own facility about nine miles from her mother's farm. They have over twenty clients and love to compete in all breeds: Quarter Horses, Paints, Palominos, and Appaloosas. The couple has a 18 stall barn and have 32 head at their farm.
"Everyone thinks that all of the horses we have are my mothers," Sara tells GoHorseShow, but Pat only had one horse of hers in training this year. "My husband is my best friend and we work well together. He rides and I take care of the business aspects of the operation. We balance each other out. We enjoy working with all levels of clients and helping them succeed in the show arena."
When GoHorseShow asked what it is like showing with her mother, she first laughs and says that for the most part it is a lot of fun. "She is really competitive, strong-willed, and driven--unlike me. She also won't take no for an answer."
When we asked Susan about what her daughter said about her personality, she agreed. "I do like competition, and I am also a firm believer that no means maybe," she says and laughs.
Knapp says that her horse Mac has a forever home at her place and that he really takes care of her. "I enjoy working with Charlie Cole in the Western Riding because he really helps me learn and never compromises when it comes to doing what is best for his customers and horses."
While she loves Mac, she truly loves the mares and babies. Knapp foaled out her first foals earlier this year---four from Cool Krymsun Lady and one from her other show mare, Radically Fired Up. "We've just bought a walker and added ten more stalls onto our barn. We have started to expand our farm to fit more horses," She says. "We really enjoy the industry and look forward to staying involved in the industry for the long haul."