In most card games, jokers have no value, so they are culled from the deck and cast aside. In other games, they reign supreme as "wild" or "trump" cards, and everyone hopes to be dealt one.
Jane Barron of Monticello, FL, didn't know what she would be dealt when she ventured into the world of horse ownership to buy a horse for her then 8-year-old daughter, Becca, in 1994.
A friend suggested a pretty 4-year-old sorrel and white Paint Horse she had seen grazing in a field near her hometown. Mrs. Barron entertained the idea, but only briefly.
"A young horse for a young child just didn't make sense," she recalled.
When Mrs. Barron found out the horse was destined for an auction, however, compassion got the best of her.
"I had no idea where he was going," she said. "I felt sorry for him. He had an injured eye, so I just bought him. I quite literally paid for him by the pound. I thought maybe someone at the stable
where my daughter trained would want him."
Young Becca, however, had other plans. She talked her mother into letting her keep the horse and quickly bonded with him. The eye injury was only superficial and the family vet helped her nurse the
horse back to health.
As she cared for the horse, Becca found it curious that the Paint, whose registered name is Eyes Left, had a blue left eye and brown right eye. The horse reminded her of the two different sides of a
jester, so she nicknamed him "Joker's Wild," or "Joker" for short.
Now, at age 16 and with eight years of riding experience on her first horse, Becca has shown the world just how serious she and Joker are about competitive riding.
For the team's outstanding accomplishments during the past competitive season, Joker was named 2001 American Paint Horse of the Year by the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) and the United States Combined Training Association (which became the United States Eventing Association -- USEA -- on Dec. 1, 2001).
"He's my best friend," Becca commented on the horse who has been her constant companion the past eight years.
What makes the horse such a strong competitor?
"He has a huge heart," Becca is quick to point out. "He loves to compete and always gets really excited before the cross-country events. He wants to please me all the time. I never push him. He loves doing what we do at competitions."
USEA competition involves athletes participating in dressage, cross-country jumping and stadium jumping at each show.
The prestigious American Paint Horse of the Year honor is reserved for one Paint Horse at USEA competition during the show year.
"It takes remarkable talent to be an eventing horse," explained Linda Knowles, APHA show awards coordinator. "To run and jump in challenging cross-country events, and then also be able to compete in dressage and stadium jumping all at one show, requires superior intelligence and athletic ability. It also involves an enormous amount of training."
For more information about the APHA and USEA awards program, contact Linda Knowles, APHA awards coordinator, at (817) 834-2742, extension 245, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
More About APHA:
Since its founding 40 years ago, APHA has registered more than 650,000 horses. Currently, American Paint Horses are being registered at APHA's Fort Worth, TX, headquarters at a rate of about 57,000 horses each year. The association serves nearly 100,000 members, who are located in every U.S. state, throughout Canada and in 40 other countries around the world. Paint Horses can be found in 48 nations.
APHA employs 160 people and has an operating budget of $15 million for activities worldwide. Among the many qualities that make Paint Horses desirable are their sound conformation, versatile athletic ability, intelligence, calm temperament, willing disposition and beautiful coat color patterns. For more information about the American Paint Horse and APHA, visit www.apha.com, or call (817) 834-2742, extension 788.
More about the USEA:
Formerly known as the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA), USEA is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1959 to promote and develop eventing throughout the country. The USEA is committed to providing eventing enthusiasts with a competitive level suited to their individual skills. By assisting and educating competitors, event organizers and officials; maintaining responsible safety standards; and registering qualified competitions and clinics, the USEA offers training opportunities for an ever-expanding field of world-class competitors. USEA also provides a means for all riders, regardless of age or ability, to participate in eventing. For more information on USEA, visit www.eventinguse.com.