CLARK COUNTY, Ill. —
On display inside one Clark County, Ill., home is a molded figure of a female and a horse facing each other, intently looking at each other’s eyes. The words, “First Love,” were inscribed at the bottom.
This figure — and a horse saddle — are among various displays inside Cheryl Lawhead’s horse-themed home in Martinsville, Ill. Lawhead shares her home and horse farm with boyfriend, John Hoggatt. Together, they take care of about 10 horses with two more on the way.
“I live for horses. It is my sole passion in life,” Lawhead said as she stood inside her home Friday.
Right beside her was a table filled with evidence of this passion and of the “phenomenal” 2013 she has had showing horses.
Lawhead and several of her horses earned accolades from the American Quarter Horse Association, the Illinois Quarter Horse Association and the International Buckskin Horse Association.
“I cried,” she said of her reaction about receiving the awards.
“I didn’t think I would be to this point in my life,” the 52-year-old said.
One horse, a 3-year-old gelding called This Buckys Too Cool, won several awards at the International Buckskin World Show at Cloverdale last year.
On the table beside Lawhead were nine grand champion trophies, dozens of ribbons and other prize items proudly on display. Most of them were earned last year when Lawhead showed a 5-year-old Quarter Horse gelding named Sacreds Package.
Lawhead and Pac, as the horse was affectionately called, won the state of Illinois and placed fifth in the nation in one division of Justin Rookie award program within the AQHA. They also placed in the top five of the AQHA’s East Novice Championship show in Tennessee in October, among other awards.
Lawhead got Pac in September 2012, and its first show was in February 2013.
But Lawhead tried to contain her emotion as she talked about Pac and one event about two weeks before Christmas.
Pac had health issues, Lawhead said, and “we were not able to save him.”
“He gave me a year that I never thought I’d have,” she said.
Lawhead has been showing horses for 40 years, and countless trophies from previous years’ showings were also on display all over the living room.
“She’s got a truckload of trophies,” Hoggatt, her partner, said.
He describes her as “relentless” when it comes to taking care of her horses. “I’m proud of her.”
Last year, horse showings took Lawhead to various states including Tennessee, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. She has spent countless hours training horses and preparing for the shows, hundreds of miles traveling and thousands of dollars to pursue her passion.
And this passion for horses, which she inherited from her father, started at a young age.
“I was sitting on horses probably before I could walk,” Lawhead said.
She started showing at the age of 12 at 4-H.
“4-H was my big beginning,” she said.
Also on the table with her awards is a picture of a young Lawhead on a pony next to her father, Clarence Lawhead, Sr. Father and daughter shared a love for horses.
She learned from her father that horses need a lot of patience. But she also learned another, important lesson.
“Never give up,” Lawhead said. “If you like something, stick with it.”
And she plans to “stick with it” and show more horses in the coming years.
On Friday, she went to Wilson Equine, about five miles away, to visit another one of her horses, which just gave birth to a colt. This young horse will be participating in next year’s showings.
“I just enjoy it,” Lawhead said of showing horses. “It’s a sense of accomplishment for me.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.