Thursday, October 22, 2009

Life Walk

Cheryl White... horsewoman, maverick. Her journey has been a long road with many twists, turns, surprises, disappointments, and now, steps of faith.

As a two year old, Cheryl's father, a veterinarian, sat her upon her first pony (also a two year old), and was told that when her tears ceased, she would be allowed to dismount... from that time on, horses have been central to her life. Her grandfather raised horses in the 1920's and 30's, and her father was an ardent calf roper, team roper, and always loved to barrel race. Cheryl considers herself a "third-generation cowboy/rancher". She grew up competing in rodeos and was very successful in barrel racing, and with her father also being involved in the barrel racing competitions, she was exposed to many fine pedigreed horses that she feels privileged to have ridden.

After graduating from college, Cheryl immersed herself in the work world; she has worked in journalism (having written articles for equine publications), sales with the Xerox corporation and Johnson & Johnson, was a stockbroker for seven years (at one point being one of the only two women in Omaha, Nebraska who sold stocks), a small business owner, and for the past four years, has been working in the pharmacy department at Avera St. Anthony's Hospital in O'Neill, Nebraska. But her first dream has always been to breed and train the American Quarter Horse--a dream that she knows God has instilled in her heart. Over the years, she has made great sacrifices to achieve this dream.

Eighteen years ago, Cheryl, who lives on her ranch in Atkinson, Nebraska along with her two cattle dogs, 'Pete' and 'Jubie', started out with two good brood mares, using outside Stallions for breeding purposes. She has bred, raised, and trained many horses over the years, and currently owns ten 'great mares', four baby colts, and the 'love of her life'---her Stallion 'Yardstick', or 'Stick' for short (meaning he is the one by which she measures the quality of all other Stallions.) Cheryl explains, "a great mare not only has the parentage to do what I want, but they have to ride and have the physical ability and the mind to do what I want". Cheryl breeds horses for barrel riding, roping, and reining.

Since she doesn't start training a horse until it is three years of age, ("a two year old has the attention span of a gnat..."), she isn't able to immediately discern if they are of the quality she is aiming for, so essentially, the horse "just hangs out here" until it reaches a point when Cheryl can make that judgment. One realizes the time, effort and love it takes to bring this goal to fruition---and in the meantime, she's falling in love with the horse which in turn, makes it extremely difficult to let it go.

But, let it go she must, and that is the where the difficulty of 'generating hype' comes in--the goal is to get the horses out to the 'right' people--those with money or influence. Ideally, that would mean a website (it's in the planning stage), and reaching the people who are going to do something with the horses. Usually this is accomplished by word of mouth---that it becomes known that her horses are of stellar pedigrees. Cheryl has admired the traits of the Driftwood horses; an amazing horse in the 1930's that had a lot of speed, athletic ability, and an instinct for cattle. She chose this pedigree long before it became popular--she just thought they were nice horses. Now, they have become "hot property". She acknowledges that she couldn't have foreseen this, and feels that this good fortune for her, is surely from God. She has a pedigree that people want, "now it's just a matter of getting it out there". Her desire is to raise a "quick athlete" that can be used for team roping, calf roping, and barrel racing. "This bloodline (Driftwood) excels at these traits".

Cheryl has a bit of a claim to fame... one day out of the blue, she received a call from a certain Mr. James B. Pickens, Jr. asking for some documentation for one of her horses that he had purchased by way of a seller in Montana. Cheryl had no idea who this person was, and she simply followed through on his request and thought nothing of it, only expressing the hope that the horse would be a blessing to him. She later found out that he is the star of the TV show, 'Grey's Anatomy'. Mr. Pickens has been a spokesman for the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) and is also an avid horseman who competes in rodeo events, and team roping and penning.

Cheryl says her desire to raise a better horse ("the goal is to have a colt that is a better horse than it's parents were") came from her grandfather and from God. "It becomes your whole life work". "You might look at these horses and think they are just a horse, but I can look at them and watch how they move across the ground and know if they're what I want or don't want". "So many people walk through life without a dream, and so few people that we rub shoulders with don't know what it's like to sacrifice for a dream". She continues, "At the end of the day, it's never been about making money, it's always been about how I just want the horses to be a blessing". "The one saving grace of my life has always been a horse". "God can take the ashes of your life and grow roses in them...I am one of the most blessed people I know".

Her number one goal in life is to "honor God with these horses". At this point in her life, she doesn't know if she should "scale it back or ramp it up". "All the hard work is done, now I've got to do the next work, which is the hardest work of all---I've got to let 'em go". "I'm at that crossroads of steppin' out in faith again..."



  1. What a lovely little blog you have started here. I have added you to my list. I love your choice of music too. The "Purple Rain" was just because it was raining here today and quite sad outside to I need a little more spunk to my choice. Usually, I'm right up there with you and the soundtracks. In fact, you top three are from my favs....

    Lovely pictures to enjoy from the heartland of the country. Will be back that's forsure....

  2. Your stories are getting better and better. I really enjoy when you have lots of photography with the story. I feel like I am right there listening and viewing your subject. Thanks again for posting.

  3. Berny, thank you so much--have to give the credit to the Lord, though. He gave me the idea, brains, and strength to do this! I enjoy getting to know the people I talk with, and as you can probably tell, I love taking the pics!! I always think the photos are half the story. Thanks for the encouragement!


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