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Joyous season starts early in 2011 at U.S. Nationals

From Horsetrader staff reports - December 1st, 2011 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

TULSA, Okla. — Of the more than 600 Arabian Horse Association National Champions crowned Oct. 21-29 in the Expo Square arena, perhaps none deserved a cheer as much as the 2011 Arabian Country English Pleasure AAOTR 55 & Over National Champion.

Those in attendance certainly noticed Helen Lacey Reed and her striking mare, SV Justajoy, in the arena, and the judges’ choice was clearly deserved. But the story behind her tumultuous journey went unnoticed. That is fitting, because the obstacle that threatened Reed’s accomplishment is largely unnoticed, too: depression.

Reed’s equestrian friend, Dolly Toler, was shocked four years ago when her longtime ally slid into a clinical depression that left Reed disinterested and disassociated. Eventually, she and her husband sold or gave away their promising line-up of Arabian mares which once were her driving force; she was going to win a title on one of them someday.

“It was incredibly jarring,” recalls Toler. “She was a person who loved life and loved horses so much — to see her just not care about anything was so difficult. It got worse, to the point where she just wouldn’t leave her house.”

Together, Toler and a close collection of friends over a couple of years rekindled Reed’s passion for horses, and ultimately, a victory over depression. The steps were small, yet huge — first just weekly lunches at the stable, then time with the horses.

Eventually, the desire to show again returned, which led to the reacquisition of SV Justajoy and RA Alliza and the realignment with her trainer, Jim Stachowski of Ohio. Helping more, Stachowski opened a “Stachowski West” facility in San Marcos at the former Fappani Ranch, and his protege, Jon Ramsay, headed it up.

“It was absolute miracle for us,” Toler said of Stachowski West. “‘Joy’ was there, and Helen could ride every day. I cannot say how fantastic Jon Ramsey has been. He works so hard with Helen and with Joy. They both were ready when it came Nationals time.”

In addition to Reed’s heartwarming victory in the AAOTR class, RA Alliza won the National Championship in the Maturity class with Marlene Leichtfuss from Temecula. Marlene had brought the half-Arabian filly to Jon at Stachowski West last summer, and both have flourished.

The greatest victory though, came behind the scenes.

“Depression is so misunderstood,” says Toler. “Going through this with her…I have learned so much to share. It’s important.”

MORE RESULTS: http://bit.ly/112A_AHA

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