Harper Lecluysc loves a horse that was bred specially for kids to love.
“These guys are really calm,” said Harper, 9, as she led Delilah around the Will Rogers Coliseum arena during the showmanship competition in Tuesday’s Pony of the Americas halter and performance classes at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
The girl from Edmond, Okla., and her mare will be a lot more active during Wednesday’s 8 a.m. performances, where Larena Phillips said competitions will include hunter hack English riding (horses jump two fences) and games like barrel racing, pole bending and flag racing.
Phillips, president of Texas Pony of the Americas organization, said the breed was created as an all-around horse to work with young people. It’s the ideal size — all must be taller than 46 inches at the withers, but shorter than 14 hands (about 56 inches) — and ideal temperament, she said.
“That also makes it a family all-around pony,” Phillips said. “So we have complete adult classes, as well as youth classes.”
The breed’s popularity also comes from their colorful coats, Phillips added.
“They have to have appaloosa coloring,” she said. “They can’t be solid or have paint horse markings.”
But Harper said the best thing about her pony is how it makes her feel when they’re partners in competitions.
“I like showing because it shows how much hard work I’ve put in,” she said. “I get really happy when I can show people how well I’ve taken care of her and trained her.”
Harper’s mom, Allison Lecluysc, said the pony “helps if she’s had a bad day at school. It changes her mood instantly”
Another benefit, said Harper’s dad, Blake Lecluysc, is “you can’t be on an iPad if you’re on a horse.”
Showing also develops maturity, he said. “She’s in 10 events today. She may get second, she may get first, or she may come in last. That teaches her how to win and lose. Sportsmanship. You can’t be the best at everything.”
While Sakari Williams was pulling in a fourth-place ribbon in her first-ever contest with a mare named Beauty, her dad was outside the rope trying to keep the wheels of a stroller from sinking farther into the red dirt of the arena.
“We got the horse for her last August,” said a proud Jason Williams as he stooped over his infant daughter, Jesslyn.
Sakari also was proud of the fourth-place finish, but said accolades aren’t the big reward.
“I like helping animals,” she said. “Beauty’s one of those who isn’t happy unless she’s working every day. I’m giving her something to work on.”
Phillips said the POA breed is capable of virtually any work a rider would expect from a quarter horse.
“One of our members cuts on his POA,” she said. “And we have some ropers who ride POAs, but don’t compete on them in roping contests.”
The fun of watching POA competitions is seeing riders of all ages — but mostly folks 18 and younger — making memories and becoming something more than they thought they could be, Phillips said
“We like to think that we’re a springboard to move on to other parts of the equine industry,” she said.