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When asked how long she has been interested in horses, Cheryl Taylor is quick to answer - “all my life.”
“My mom says my favorite toys when I was little were always horses, and I wore out several rocking horses as a child,” Cheryl laughs.
It is a love she has fostered for as long as she can remember, and carries with her to this day. In January, Cheryl’s passion for riding earned her recognition among her peers when she earned an award for logging 250 hours in the American Quarter Horse Association Horseback Riding Program.
The program recognizes and rewards AQHA members for time spent with their American Quarter Horse in activities such as trail rides, working cattle, pleasure driving and simply riding. A unique aspect of the program is its simplicity.
Participants in the program need not own their own horse, but all official hours must be accrued with a registered American Quarter Horse. Fifteen subsequent awards are presented at 25 to 5,000 hour levels and range from merchandise gift certificates from Drysdales Western Store to a Montana Silversmith trophy belt buckle at the highest level.
AQHA actively encourages horseback riding as a recreational activity that can be enjoyed alone or shared with family and friends. Cheryl has been a member of the riding program for just a year, during which she was unable to ride for about three months due to a wrist injury.
American Quarter Horses have not always been Cheryl’s breed of choice. Growing up in Akron, Ohio, her family lived on an acreage on the outskirts of town where Cheryl got her first pony when she was 8-years-old.
“I rode every chance I go, rain or snow,” says Cheryl. “Some of my friends had horses too, and we played all the kid games - pony express, cowboys and Indians... We all grew up and got our own horses and still did the same thing!”
After graduating high school, Cheryl went off to college at Ohio State University, with her horse in tow of course. It was there she met her husband, Mark, who shared her love of riding.
Shortly after the couple was married Mark went to work for Summitcrest Farms, and in 1985 they relocated to Broken Bow. “We like it so well we stayed,” exclaims Cheryl.
During her younger years Cheryl rode English and did jumping. However, when the couple prepared to move to Nebraska Mark encouraged her to replace her jumping horse with a quarter horse.
“He said the quarter horse would be better suited for life in Nebraska,” Cheryl explains. She says her jumping horse would have been easily spooked under the riding conditions of this area and she may have been hurt.
After acquiring her quarter horse, Cheryl enrolled in a riding program called Nebraska Trail Time. The main objective of this program is to promote the use of the trails Nebraska has to offer.
Cheryl says she decided to join the AQHA riding program because it enables her horse to earn riding hours as well as her. That, she explains, looks good on the horse’s resume should she ever decide to sell the horse.
Cheryl is a member of the Platte River Riders Central, which meets every Wednesday night in a different location to ride. The group is centered in Kearney and encompasses about a one or two-hour distance radius. They ride in such places as Pressey Park and Cottonmill Park, and Cheryl says the group is comprised “mostly of middle-aged women.”
Her favorite event of the year, however, comes the first weekend of October at Calamus Outfitters near Burwell. The all-women horsemanship camp celebrated its fifth anniversary this past October, and Cheryl says she is one of six women there who have attended all five years.
The camp is conducted by Sherry Jarvis and gives the women opportunities to work on horsemanship, participate in lessons and classroom discussions. For four days it is just the women and their horses.
“You don’t often get to spend quality time with your horse, because of your job and life in general. Here you get to spend that time your your horse and like-minded people.”
She and Mark also still enjoy riding together whenever they can. In fact, each year for their anniversary the couple tries to go on a “horse adventure.”
“We just like to get away for the weekend and do something we both enjoy,” says Cheryl. “We like to just explore and try to find new trails.”
Cheryl served as a 4-H leader in Custer County for 17 years, and passed on her love for horses to her daughter, Rebecca. “She is a very accomplished horse woman,” Cheryl says proudly.
Rebecca has earned a number of championships at the state level in 4-H as well as NQHA. She has shown at world show in reigning and has also won Ak-Sar-Ben championship titles with her horse. Though she is now in college and having a horse doesn’t really fit her current lifestyle, Rebecca still very much loves to ride.
Cheryl and Mark’s son, Roy, didn’t take that same interest in horses. “He was more into sheep and cattle. Between Rebecca with her horses and Roy with the sheep and cattle the Custer County Fair always keep us hopping,” Cheryl laughs.
The children are now both gone from home, and many things have changed in Cheryl’s life over the years. Her love of horses is one thing that has remained constant.