The ETWHA Board of Directors and President Brad Patton present Cassi Slagle with a scholarship check. 

WHITE PINE, Tenn. – The East Tennessee Walking Horse Association (ETWHA) presented a scholarship check to Cassi Slagle at the ETWHA Fall Show.

Below is her essay that helped her get the scholarship. 

How the Tennessee Walking Horse has Influenced My Life

by Cassi Slagle

One could probably say that Tennessee Walking Horses are in my blamed. My father grew up owning, training, and showing them, and still does to this day. My mother, though not around Tennessee Walking Horses, also had horses when she was younger and has always loved them. I have been told that when I was a little, instead of being afraid of a horse that was near me, I would smile and demand to be closer still. Truthfully, I cannot say that much has changed in that department. So, I guess I should say that the real question for this essay is: How haven’t Tennessee Walking Horses Influenced my Life?

Tennessee Walking Horses are extremely well known for their sweet, gentle behavior, and I have to agree. Any time that I have been stressed, sad, in a bad mood, or going through a difficult time, as soon as I get to the barn and hear a nicker or brush through a mane, I completely forget my problem. I center into focus my love for these animals and enjoy each one’s little quirks and mannerisms. Sure, occasionally there is that one horse that just does not seem to understand manners or can be a bit trying, but even they can sense if I am in a different mood than normal and are just a little less grumpy to me (which in turn helps to make me a little less grumpy). Tennessee Walking Horses know how to take care of someone, whether it is by cheering someone up or by making sure that nothing happens to you when on their back. They are such giving animals, and each with such a distinctive, unique personality that it is almost impossible for me to not try to understand others in the way that Tennessee Walking Horses seem to comprehend me. 

I believe that anybody who has ever been to a barn or a horse show can correctly tell me what one of the biggest pieces of advice a rider can ever get is: ìIf you fall off, get back on!î In my show ring debut at the age of eight, I also happened to fall off for my very first time (in my hometown, no less) and fractured my left arm. When my Father got to my side of the ring and I told him that I thought my arm was broke, he proceeded to lift me back up into the saddle and led me out of the ring. At the time, I can honestly say that I did not appreciate that gesture; however, through the decade that has passed and the many horses that I have shown since (including some more really great show ring tumbles), I am so grateful that he hefted me back in the saddle and made me get over my fear. Without that, I do not think that I would have tried again the year after, or maybe not have gotten back on any of the other times that I have fallen off. I have also applied this mantra to my regular life, and so far it has worked pretty good for me. Anything that has set me back in my life, generally gets overcome, worked around/with, or ended up being a blessing in disguise for not working out as something much better has strolled right on in. I will leave you with one other piece of advice that a trainer of mine told me right before I went in on a catch ride: ìIf you fall off, fall in the mud.î Well, it ended up that I did tumble right into some as the mare reared-up and twirled me right off. That instance just helped to remind me that even if you hope that something does not happen, you should definitely have a back-up plan just in case.

Loving and showing Tennessee Walking Horses has granted me so many amazing moments in my life, and some of my most cherished memories have been when my horses and I have won. However, just as special to me are the memories when we did not win but still made a great show. For example, my mare named Tickle Me Pink and I were set to be showing in a covered arena one night, and it was a large class with many current and former World Champions. I knew that Pinky could definitely hold her own, but for some reason she would always want to get off of the rail greatly in covered arenas, and I was nervous. It turned out I had no reason to be, as we made one of the best shows we had ever made and got fourth between four other World Champion horses. I was, and still am, so proud of her that night and do not believe that it could have gone any better. The moral of my story is that showing Tennessee Walking Horses has certainly taught me to not only win, but to lose graciously as well. I also try to learn why something happened or what I did wrong after every show and improve upon my mistakes, because I can very honestly say that I have had some embarrassingly bad rides. Another aspect that showing has taught me is that you have to be comfortable and confident enough to show in front of large crowds. Lastly, the most incredible aspect that showing Tennessee Walking Horses has provided me with is the bond that builds between my horses and I. The teamwork that develops between us is something truly special and when it shines in the show ring and we make a great show, regardless whether we win or lose, I will come out smiling because I have just had the time of my life.

So, how have Tennessee Walking Horses influenced my life? And of course my answer will always be in every way imaginable. They have given me endless amounts of love, affection, and laughs. They have taught me how to always strive to be the best that I can possibly be and to never stay disheartened for long. Ultimately, Tennessee Walking Horses have influenced me to know how to work in a team, to stay humble, and to always, always have fun. Again, I ask myself this: How haven’t Tennessee Walking Horses influenced my life?