Amy and Emily Whitaker of Rogers, Arkansas have been very busy since their horse showing days. Their parents, Larry and Linda, still own and breed their famous hunt seat stallion, Last Detail, who stands at Masterson Farms in Somerville, Tennessee. However, these striking and beautiful sisters have moved on from the show arena and are both married with large families of their own. Due to their seven year age difference, they rarely showed together, but Amy and Emily were very well known at AQHA shows and had successful show careers in their own right.
When the sisters were young, their parents showed horses, so it was only natural for them to join in the family fun. Larry and Linda started at local open shows, and Amy's uncle worked at a stable where they gave trail rides, so it was inevitable for Amy to end up on a horse.
"So at age four or five, I was there most days explaining to my uncle which horse should be mine," Amy says laughing. "I started competing in barrels and poles with a pony named, Frisky, when I was about seven or eight. Later, I got a palomino, so we showed with Leonard Berryhill."
Amy's first trip to the youth finals was with Jays Jays Dude in the reining when she was ten years-old, but she recalls that her favorite horse was Diamonds Fame. He was nicknamed, "Classic," and they bought him from John Briggs.
"He taught me how to do hunter hack and working hunter. He was only 15-2, but he could jump anything I set him up for," Amy recalls. "I also remember the best trained horse I had the opportunity to compete with was Noble Enterprise. He was so good at showmanship, that I actually started liking that class."
Thirty seven year-old Amy Whitaker Merryman now lives in Tontitown, Arkansas. She has been married for 12 years, and she has three children--Mason 8, Christian 5, and Julianne 2. She is a full-time mother of three very busy children. Amy and Emily don't have any plans on showing again, but she and her sister talk about becoming horse show moms. (Pictured left to right is Buck and Emily Ortega and Amy Merryman and her husband)
Thirty year-old Emily Whitaker Ortega lives five miles down the road from her sister in Springdale, Arkansas. She is also a busy stay-at-home mom with three children under three, including her new addition, Vivianne Kate who is a newborn. She has two other children, Leighton, 2, and Kane who is closing in on his second birthday.
Emily's husband, Buck Ortega, is a 6'4", 250 pound former NFL football player. Buck played college football at the University of Miami where he played quarterback, tight end and special teams. After college, Buck played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, and finally the New Orleans Saints. Buck played tight end and special teams for the Saints during their 2009 Super Bowl Championship season.
Amateur competitor, Tammy Schuster Benes, introduced Emily and Buck while they were visiting the Benes' house in the Florida Keys. Ortega is from Miami, Florida, and Emily says eventually she somehow talked him into moving to Arkansas and living on a farm.
"It took him a bit to adjust from Miami, but he loves being able to hunt and having the animals for the kids," Emily says. "My kids love their pony!" (Emily's daughter, Leighton and son, Kane, pictured right)
Emily says that she does miss showing. "My husband and I took the kids to Oklahoma City last year to watch some of the world show. When I walked into the arena, I got very homesick for it, but I found the dedication I gave to show at that level would be impossible to give with the time and dedication I want to have for my family," Emily says.
The busy mom says that her favorite memories of showing involved winning the Amateur World in the Hunt Seat Equitation on a buckskin by their family's stud, Last Detail. The horse's registered name was Details Cutie and came to be Emily's show horse with a very unique back story. Unlike most World caliber show horses, "Bucky" spent his first five years as a pack horse in the mountains--packing out elk and whatever else his owner would kill.
Ron and June Warren who stood Last Detail for the Whitaker family, said it would be pretty hard for Emily to find a buckskin Last Detail to show in the English events, but Emily was determined since that was her favorite color. Bucky's owner did handy work around the barn for Ron and one day he brought this horse to ride at the farm.
"When I saw him I knew I had to have him. He knew nothing more than walking in the mountains, but he was a Last Detail and buckskin and beautiful," Emily remembers. "We bought him and within a year we had won the World in equitation on the flat."
Her favorite horse show memories involve June Warren's boot camp. "She taught me how to be the absolute best rider with hard work and green horses and no stirrups," Emily recalls.
Amy also agrees, "June's summer classes were quite memorable. When I first started with her, I was a rocked-back, in my seat, reiner. She was the best horse trainer and instructor in AQHA. We all miss her very much."
Amy and Emily would like to thank their parents for the amazing horses and support they gave them through the years and hauling them all over the country.