No Depth Perception? No Problem for New Congress Champion in Novice Youth Working Hunter Katelyn Schultz
By Gabrielle Sasse, PleasureHorse.com
Columbus, OH- If you think jumping is hard enough, try doing it without being able to judge distances between fences! Katelyn Schultz, a 13 year old from West Bend, Wisconsin, won’t let a little thing like not having any depth perception keep her away from her love of horseback riding. “I started showing when I was two,” Katelyn says, thinking back on her lifelong history with horses. “I showed Sugar Time Bear in the lead line classes at Quarter Horse shows.” Katelyn’s mother Nikki has always had a love of horses, one that she passed on to her two children.
“My mom had to work hard to have her own her own horse,” Katelyn explained. “She worked really hard doing chores for people, and borrowed horses until she finally was able to buy her own horse when she was in college. We’ve had horses ever since!” The Schultz family travels to Florida every Easter with Katelyn’s grandparents. “One year, we got home and Jarod and I went to the barn and were surprised to see a new Small Fry horse!”
One Tuff Goodbar, or “Fred” was purchased from the Vargo’s and carried Katelyn and her younger brother Jarod around the show pen for two show seasons, Katelyn showing in the 13 & Under and Jarod in the Small Fry. “After Fred, I moved on to A Sweet Addiction, “Nick”, who we got from Tiffany Smalkowski, and I took him to my first Congress and had a great year! We got a couple finalists, and I placed Top Ten in Showmanship.” After Nick, the Schultz family bought “Bob”, Iron I Hot. “He was going to be my 14-18 horse,” Katelyn explained, “but he died in the fire.” The Schultz’s had horses with Rhonda and Larry Spratto, who tragically lost everything they had in a barn fire that was started by lightning striking their barn.
“We still had good old Fred though!” smiled Katelyn. “Jarod was able to show Robert Schmitz’s youth mare “Whoopi” (She Dun Did It), and he still shows in the horsemanship, showmanship, western pleasure and trail. I went down to Kansas with my mom to try a horse Suzy Jeane had told my mom about. He was her son’s Youth World horse. I was super excited, because I hadn’t been on a horse since the fire.” Katelyn fell in love with “Ty”, Crashin The Bash, and they purchased him as an all around horse for her. “We showed at the Congress last year and placed Top Ten in the Hunter Under Saddle and made the Finals of Equitation and he had only been a cute little western horse!” laughs Katelyn. “I still have him, and I am looking forward to showing him in the trail and western riding next year. Such a great horse, and I’m so lucky to have him because he helped to gain my confidence back after the fire.”
In January of last year, Katelyn had started taking jumping lessons with Courtney Hayden, a hunter/jumper trainer who owns Seoul Creek Farm in West Bend, WI. “I just wanted to see if I would like it,” shares Katelyn. “That’s what led me up to jumping with Jenny.” Jennifer Welhouse is a quarter horse trainer out of Poynette, Wisconsin, who is well known for her big smile and great personality. “I really looked up to Danica [Weber] and Becca [Priske, clients of Jenny's] when we would go to Wisconsin shows and I would watch them jump,” Katelyn says. “At last year’s WQHA State Show, I had the opportunity to try “Indy” over a few crossrails, and I loved it! From there, it evolved into what I have today!”
Katelyn’s mom Nikki contacted Jenny in December of last year to have Katelyn keep taking lessons, and that is when they found out that The Perfect Gent, “Indy”, was available. “I got a huge box for Christmas, that had a saddle pad, helmet and Indy’s papers in it. I SCREAMED, I was so excited. It meant so much to me. I think it is just so weird that Becca (Indy’s previous owner) and I both got Indy when we were 13, and we both have the same birthday, December 5!”
Indy and Katelyn worked together all winter to become the next “dream team”. “We went to the Winter Series at Ledges in Illinois and showed in some of the B Circuit Hunters. We won our first big class there, the $250 Limit Hunter Classic.” As the show season progressed, the pair competed at the Wisconsin Quarter Horse shows with plans of Youth World in the works. “I knew Indy could do it, because he had gone there and placed, but I didn’t think I was good enough yet. People would ask if I was nervous, and I didn’t really think much of it because I just wanted to go to my first Youth World and have a good show.”
“So, I went into the warm up, and I was super, super, super nervous because you only get like, five minutes! But everything turned out fantastic. I ended up making the final in equitation over fences. I was standing at the gate, and of course, my number was the LAST number called because it was numerical. I heard my number called and Danica and I started jumping up and down screaming,” Katelyn said with a huge smile on her face. “I was so, so excited and super focused. I got even more nervous in the finals. I probably stared at every fence, but Indy carried me through, and we were a Finalist! I was also second in the 13 & Under division. I made it back in the Working Hunter as well, which I wasn’t as nervous for. We were a Finalist and 3rd in the 13 & under, it was amazing.”
The pair came back from Oklahoma and did some more Wisconsin shows, and “had a lot of fun doing it. I started practicing harder and harder because I wanted to have fun and do my best at Congress. As Jenny says, Ride Every Stride.”
“The Novice Youth Working Hunter was my first class, and we had such a good round. I was just so pleased with my horse. Didn’t care how we placed, I was just happy. I had taken him back to his stall because he was so good.” She laughs. “I came back up to watch my other friends and we were waiting for the placings, and truthfully, I thought I did good but I didn’t think I had placed. As it kept going up from 15th to 2nd place and I hadn’t placed yet, I thought “oh it’s ok, he was so good and I love him I don’t care I didn’t place.” I wasn’t entered in NSBA and first had already been called for NSBA… I was just congratulating everyone. And I hear 4756, Congress Champion. I walked up to the gate so fast and was just, SO excited and shocked and surprised. I got to the gate and just started crying, I was just so happy. I was speechless.”
“I just about tripped over my rosette, running out of the arena with my prizes and I gave Jenny and my mom a HUGE hug. I went out and called Becca to tell her the news. From there, I just kept placing in everything else, and it’s just been a wonderful Congress.”
Katelyn had signed up for the Non Pro Hunter Classic just for the experience. She went in and had a great first go, and thought to herself “oh my gosh, why is everything going so well? I don’t know why, it just does! I was going in to the final round, and I was third. Being 13 and just starting jumping, I was amazed at how well we were doing. I had a good final go, but I knew I could have done better, but… it was my first year. What can I say, I was shocked, placing 5th and winning over $1,000. Most people would do “normal” stuff, but the first thing I said is “Mom, can I buy a heifer!?” We had talked about that at earlier Oshkosh shows, since Danica shows cows and pigs and I want to try. I was hoping that could happen, but I don’t think it will.” Katelyn chuckles.
Indy and his blonde partner have placed in every class so far, except for one. Sixth in 13 & Under working hunter, 5th in classic, 3rd in 13 & under Equitation Over Fences, a Finalist in Novice Youth Hunter Hack, and a 14th in 13 & Under Hunter Hack, where she had “the rail ride “of my life!!”. To top the first week off, Katelyn showed Indy in the Senior Hunter Hack placing 6th. Katelyn still has Novice and 13 & Under Showmanship and Equitation, as well as Novice Youth Hunter Under Saddle and NYATT Showmanship. “I was just able to call my Dad this morning about it all,” commented Katelyn. “He’s hunting in Utah and didn’t have very good cell service. I really just want to thank him for everything he has done for me, and letting me have horses. I know it’s not cheap, but he knows it’s something I really enjoy.”
“I also want to thank Jenny, my mom and Brad [Kearns] for all of their help,” says Katelyn, a very sweet girl. “Jenny just makes everything so fun, and picks out the positive stuff first, which I think is great. Even if I mess up, I have my confidence because she focuses on the positive. She doesn’t yell for what I did wrong, but how I can do it better. Really important to me. I really enjoy working with her, she’s just so fun to have around. Everyone in the barn is.”
“Brad Kearns helps me with showmanship. Indy is really good, and Brad has really helped the both of us come along with it. And, my Mom helps me so much; gets my horse ready, and I’ve learned a lot about what I need to do… they’ve all taught me a lot. How to be a better rider, how to be a better person… everything.”
What’s even more exciting than Katelyn’s first big Congress Championship and her first year of fences, is the fact that she is able to jump at all. “When I was born, I had zero depth perception, so it was always really hard for me to play sports and stuff. I have had multiple surgeries that helped my vision, but they didn’t help regain depth perception. You know how you can see things in 3D, like, a 3D bookmark or something? I just see it flat-nothing popping out. Well, a few years ago, I had grabbed a 3D bookmark and I was finally able to see it, popping out at me some” she explains. “When I wear the glasses at 3D movies, it looks flat, but if I don’t I can see it 3D. Just the opposite of how it should look, it is weird.”
When jumping, you have to be able to see distances to find the best take off spot for your fence, as well as judge your pace to the fence and between the lines. “I used to struggle and lean at every fence. I was lucky to have Indy, because most horses would do something if you leaned, but not him. It’s almost like he knew there was something different about me. He’s been helping me gain my depth perception back.” Katelyn explains how she doesn’t judge by seeing it with her eyes, she uses the feeling in Indy’s canter step. “If I don’t have a good canter, I can’t really get it. That’s why I struggled in eq over, I didn’t have a good canter. I was leaning at the fences, especially the trot fence because he has a smooth trot, so it’s hard for me to judge the distance.”
But Katelyn keeps a very positive outlook on things. “I don’t try to blame things on that when I mess up, because I’ve always had it, and know that I have had good rides. So, I truly figure out why it happened and why it went wrong and do the best I can next time. I’ve had glasses since I was 18 months, but I wear contacts now. My depth perception will never completely come back. I have way, way little depth perception, but to me it seems like a lot because I didn’t have any before.”
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing to the best of my ability. Do more hunter shows next year-the Ledges shows are so fun, with some really decorative fences. I think I’ll do more of the bigger shows, not just the Wisconsin shows. Who knows!”
We wish Katelyn the best of luck in the rest of her Congress classes, and in her continuing years showing Indy and beyond. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, and we hope to see more of you in the winner’s circle!