On a small farm about 60 miles northwest of Wichita lives a winner: an American quarter horse named Sis, a leading contender this year in 12 horse shows in the state.
Sis will show off her skills in a competition held by the South Central Stock Horse Association this weekend in Hutchinson and is expected to win big this fall.
Amanda Conner, 26, owns Sis and takes care of the mare on her family’s farm in Abbyville, Kan.
“I’ve ridden off and on throughout my college years," says Conner. "And I’ve recently just gotten back into showing and Sis got that job.”
Sis was purchased from a horsemanship instructor who was teaching a college class at Hutchinson Community College when Conner was a student there.
“I fell in love with her personality so I asked if I could purchase her when the class was done and they agreed,” she says.
After Conner bought Sis, she discovered the mare was a half sister to her first show horse, when she was 6 years old.
Conner has been showing horses since she could sit in a saddle by herself at the age of two.
“I did my very first parade when I was six weeks old," she says. "My dad had me in a pouch in front of him and we road through the Arlington, Kansas parade.”
When looking for a horse to compete, Connor says, she focuses not so much on looks but on a horse’s attitude and mind.
“That is where Sis and I connect,” she said. “We have a relationship together. We understand each other and it’s a partnership."
One of the competition classes is English Equitation where the two will typically do a pattern that the judge assigns at the beginning of the show day.
“We have to memorize that pattern and it is not necessarily how well the horse can move but it is judged on partnership and how well the horse responds to the rider,” says Conner.
The pair competes in other classes as well, including English Pleasure, where Connor rides Sis around in an arena to display how the horse moves under saddle and responds to the rider.
Trail class is an obstacle course for the horse and rider and it is also judged on the partnership and communication between the pair.
Conner is confident that Sis will continue to lead the pack in points, coming out a winner this fall during a special awards banquet.
“I think we’ve got it in the bag this year and that we are going to win high points in all three of our classes," she says. "That’s our expectation. I think Sis would agree with me on that."
Connor says the horse show business is about sacrifice and passion.
“You have to know that you’re giving up having a normal life to be as dedicated to horse showing as what I would like to think that I am.”
Still, it’s a way of life that Conner usually looks forward to.
“By Wednesday or Thursday, the week of the show, I’m just ready to get on the back of the horse and go," she says. "I’m just ready to be disconnected for a weekend. It’s just wonderful and I’ve done it my entire life, so I don’t even have to think about it.”
Conner and Sis will be competing on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson Saturday, July 27.