Turning a Passion into a National Equestrian Championship

When you hear the word “equestrian,” what do you think of? The average person would probably think of the Kentucky Derby, old fashioned cowboys, or taking a pony ride at the carnival. In reality, it’s much more than that. I asked this question around our office and it was practically unanimous—horses and Katherine. That’s right, our beloved Katherine Kirby is an equestrian. For Katherine, showing horses is much more than a hobby—it’s led her to multiple national equestrian championships. Along with receiving many other awards this year, Katherine brought home a first place prize for Arabian Country English Pleasure as well as becoming the Arabian Country English Pleasure Champion.

Katherine started riding at age 8, and hasn’t looked back. “My grandpa Bill was a West River cowboy, and always had a string of horses that he’d ride into the Badlands. I loved nothing more than spending time on his horse farm, and took every chance I had to visit him in Wall and be with his horses,” Katherine said. Her parents found a farm called Performance Plus Arabians outside of town that gave lessons on Arabians and Quarter horses. After a year of lessons, they bought their first horse and began competing. Almost 20 years later, she and her family have begun a small breeding program, putting their home-bred horses into the competition circuit. They currently have a 3-year-old foal that’s going into training for the first time and two babies being born this month.

What does this have to do with anything?

Katherine has been competing in horse shows for over 20 years. Her favorite horse is her 11-year-old Gelding, CP Shenanigan. “I’ve been riding for so long and I’ve dreamt about horses like him, never truly believing I would have one. He is definitely my horse of a lifetime,” Katherine said. “I know I may never have another one like him. He is everything you would want in a horse. He is beautiful, full of attitude, competitive, and willful.” Shenanigan became part of the Kirby family as a two-year-old, and Katherine and Shenanigan have been competing together for nearly seven years.

Katherine and Shenanigan compete in an equestrian championship

Katherine and her horse, Shenanigan, competing in an equestrian championship.

Her nine horses train in Mantua, Ohio at the Stachowski Farm. They train year round, with light workouts from November to March to keep them in good shape. In competition, judges will look for muscle definition and general fitness of the horse, eloquence and grace, ability, competitiveness, and obedience. Katherine joins her horses often, using her weekends to travel down and train with them herself. The show season begins in February at Scottsdale, Arizona, and then preparation for Regionals starts in the summer. The regional championships qualify each horse for the Arabian U.S. National Championships in the fall.

This year Katherine spent 11 days, from February 15-25, in Scottsdale, Arizona, with two horses to compete in the 63rd annual Arabian Horse Show, which is the largest Arabian horse show in the world. She and her horses competed alongside 2,400 other entries and took home two first place awards and two second place awards.

One of the core values of MJM is curiosity and the MJM team is made up of incredibly curious people, with Katherine’s passion for horses only scratching the surface. We love you, Katherine! Thank you for being a part of the MJM team.