Aubrie Wheeler is only 8 years old, but she’s been riding ponies since she learned to walk and competing at horse shows since age 2.
This summer, Aubrie and her family spent nearly the entire month of July on the road at regional and national horse shows in Longmont, Colorado, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Camas third-grader came home with several trophies and prizes, including the top all-around rider in the nation for her age.
“Our plan was to go and get a good strategy so she could train and win it all next year, but she just went in there and won the whole thing this year,” Mamie Wheeler, Aubrie’s mother, said.
Aubrie shows her 21-year-old pony, “Little Romeo,” in between the 25 to 30 different events held at the horse shows, including jumping, speed events, trail-riding and patterns.
Aubrie took the top overall titles for the 9-and-under division, not only at the National Congress Show in Oklahoma, but at the Rocky Mountain Regional and World West Ponies of America shows in Colorado.
Aubrie won more than 85 awards during the three shows, but said her favorite part was more down-to-Earth: “I really just love spending time with my pony,” Aubrie said.
Aubrie’s 9-year-old brother, Wyatt, also likes the horse show world, but said he prefers driving horses while riding in a cart. Wyatt won the Rocky Mountain Regional and the World West Show for youth pleasure-driving, but didn’t get a chance to compete at the national show because his pony, “CA’s Dreamfinder,” got sick. The family said the pony is now home and recovering from an infection.
All in the family
A love of horses is something that runs in the Wheeler family. Aubrie and Wyatt’s parents both spent most of their lives competing on horses.
Mamie Wheeler started riding when she was still in diapers, and showed horses until age 13, which is when she joined the rodeo circuit and started barrel-racing, roping, goat-tying, riding bucking horses and even competing in bull riding until she became a mother.
Mamie’s husband, TR Wheeler, now works in the construction industry after retiring from a 20-year career as a professional bull rider on the national circuit.
“Every once in a while we still see him on ‘ESPN Classics,’ which is cool even though he doesn’t think he’s old enough for ‘ESPN Classics’ yet,” Mamie said.
The family tradition doesn’t stop with Mamie and TR, though. In fact, Aubrie and Wyatt are fifth generation equine contestants.
The Wheeler children train on the family’s Camas farm, where they breed Ponies of America (POA) ponies. The pony show season is nearly year-round, with a break throughout December, but the children also help around the farm, unloading hay and keeping up with their chores.
The Wheeler family has won thousands of horse-related awards over the years. At one point, they realized the award swag had become a bit overwhelming, so now they only keep the biggest awards, putting those in a trophy case and donating the countless ribbons back to horse clubs for reuse.
“The big thing I want our kids to get out of this is the knowledge (that), if they work hard, they can do anything at any level,” Mamie said.