Taking the reins

Sophomore finds joy in horseback riding


Sophomore Shelby Martin practices a choreographed routine with the Texarkana Quadrille. Submitted photo

Story by Katherine Stoeckl, staff writer

Plagued with the heartache and loss of a beloved best friend, sophomore Shelby Martin truly discovered her passion for horses. One of her most memorable times on a horse was in second grade about a week after her best friend, Emily Franks, died in a car accident. She thought she wouldn’t make it through the day, but as Martin mounted her  mare, her mind was finally allowed to go blank.

Horses have always been a calming part of Martin’s life. Since the age of 3, her love for all things equestrian has blossomed.

“Horseback riding isn’t just something you do. It’s something you breathe. Something you live,” Martin said. “It’s learning to work with this giant animal that can’t understand your language and it teaches you a way to communicate. It actually helps your communication skills with other people. No matter how hard it gets, you just have to saddle up and keep riding”

Between the ages of 3 and 4, Martin began taking horse riding lessons at Knick Knacks and Horseback on Cooper ln. Her love for horses became so great that she held two of her favorite birthday parties in community with them.

“It was just a passion for the gentle spirit of the animal and their beauty,” Martin said. “There’s so much that you can do and learn from them.”

In her eighth grade year, Martin began to volunteer her time at the Runnin’ WJ Ranch.

“It’s one of the best things to work these horses and see how these horses are helping the kids get through all of their struggles with their disabilities,” Martin said. “Especially when these kids actually connect with you and you are able to see how much farther they come.”

In 2014-2015, Martin was elected Teen Volunteer of the Year for her outstanding volunteer service.

“It will be something I carry with me all of my life,” Martin said. “Horses really can help you through anything.”

Martin now trains horses and performs with the Texarkana Quadrille. Quadrille is a choreographed dressage ride usually performed to music in groups. It is quite comparable to a drill team.

“Quadrille is the part during a rodeo where we come out in sparkly outfits, make formations with our houses and try not to run into each other,” Martin said.

In the past, Martin preformed events such as western pleasure and barrel racing. Western pleasure is an event where the horse is judged on its collected gait and showmanship. Thus far, running barrels has topped her list of favorite events.

“I would love to get back into barrels,” said Martin, “It’s a love for the speed and adrenaline.”

Presently, Martin rides Karen Akin’s horse for quadrille.“His name is Gus,” Martin said. “He is so cute.”

Martin hopes that horses will always be a large part of her life.

“All I could think about was the fact that life really does pass us by, and it made me realize that I have to take life for all that it was worth,” Said Martin. “In that moment, on that horse, I felt free.”