Katie Beck and Zefyr+//
2012 Scottsdale Reserve Champions Open Western Pleasure
I was riding horses before I was born, or so I have been told. My parents, Barb and Dick Beck were just getting started with Arabian horses when they had me and so I was basically born into the business. Their first horse was of straight Egyptian bloodlines and was purchased from Doug and Margaret Marshall’s Glennloch Farms in Texas. I spent most of my childhood growing up with these beautiful horses on my parent’s ranch in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
As soon as I was old enough to know what a horse was, I wanted to ride. However, my dad had very strict rules - I couldn’t have a horse or pony until I was five years old. Of course I thought that was a terrible idea. Fortunately for me, Shirley Vento, a dear family friend and mother of Russ Vento, an exceptional horseman, came to my rescue and gave me my first pony, Sara Lee. I was so excited! Sara Lee was a darling dapple grey Shetland pony and I loved her to death. That little pony taught me more than all the other horses put together.
As I got older, I wanted to ride bigger horses. My dad believed in doing things the cowboy way which meant he didn’t believe in trainers. His motto to me was, “if you want to show, you have to train it yourself.” I have never been one to say I can’t do something, so I accepted his challenge and I started training my own show horse from scratch. It wasn’t pretty! The horses I started with were rather rough. If nothing else, I made a lot of people in Colorado laugh.
When I was about 13 my parents bought me a “Show Horse”. He was a trained “English” horse - that was before there was such a thing as a country pleasure class. I still had to do the work to keep him trained. Show by show, I worked my way up in the ribbons. Soon I moved from winning brown and purple ribbons to pink and white. I’ll bet that most people don’t even know which placing earns a brown ribbon. Let me tell you, it’s very low!! Finally my mom decided I needed some “real” help. The problem with her solution was that the “help” she found for me was in Houston, Texas and I still lived in Colorado.
I started flying to Texas twice a year to work with Gwen Nix. She was amazing. I learned so much from her. She was an equitation instructor, but most important to me was that she taught me how to really ride my horse. I took those lessons home and I practiced, practiced practiced. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. But at that point in my life some help was far better than none. Eventually I actually started winning ribbons in the top 50% of the class.
About the time I started doing well in the show ring, the horse business started to change and my parents decided they had enough of the horse industry. This was devastating to me because I knew I wanted to always be involved with horses. My aunt decided that I needed a top quality show horse for my last couple of years as a youth rider. We went out and found a great equitation horse named Competitor, better known as Petie. I finally had a great horse and the chance to really succeed. And we did just that. We won so much, no one in Colorado liked seeing us come to the shows. For the first time in my life I was winning, it was a great feeling. I showed Petie for about 3 years, he was the best horse I ever had. When I went to college I had to sell him to his next youth rider. That was tough!
After three and a half years in college, I realized my real love was still training and showing horses. At that time, I went to work for Stan White, Jr. at White Rock Farms. It was my dream job - I was hired as the farm manager and as an assistant trainer. I learned what the show circuit was really all about and Stan taught me what it took to make a horse a National Champion. There was so much I never knew - I owe Stan White a lot. One thing I do know, and I will never forget, I would not be the perfectionist that I am today if it weren't for him. In fact, many of the things Stanley White, Jr. taught me, I still use today.
After spending 3 years at White Rock Farms I took a little break. I tried to be away from the horses, but it did not last long. Before I knew it I was back teaching a few lessons and helping people fix their problem horses. Then my friend Jody Strand called and asked if I could fly in and help him at a couple of horse shows. I couldn't resist. I helped him at several horse shows. At that point I knew I wanted to be involved with the horses again - full time. That year, at the 1996 Canadian Nationals I met Mike Neal. A man in my life was NOT what I was looking for, but there he was. We started calling each other quite often. I lived in Colorado and he lived in Minnesota. At the U.S. Nationals that same year we officially started dating. With a couple of long visits over the holidays, we decided we couldn't live without each other and on January 15, 1997 I moved to Minnesota.
Moving north was not a part of the plan, I have Texas blood. It's amazing what love will make you do. Mike was working for Walter Mishek at that time. We decided that it would be best not to work together right off the bat. I took a job as a sales rep for RaDon, Inc. (the horse blanket company), I really did well, it was a great job. I got to go to horse shows and talk to all my friends about products I really believed in. What could be better? Life always likes to throw me curve balls.
After a short time, Walter decided to downsize and so Mike began to look for a new place to train. The summer of 1999 Mike and I moved to Wisconsin to work for Warren and Margit Bentley. (We moved a little bit further south!!) Mike and I decided it was time for me to move back into training and I loved every minute of it. I started working with some performance horses and riding some of the halter horses for conditioning. It took a little adjusting for Mike and me to learn how to work together, but after a year or two we became a good team. Just about the time we thought we had everything figured out, life through us another curve ball.
Feburary 7, 2005, the day before we were to leave to go to Scottsdale, AZ with 21 head of horses, Warren Bentley died. What a blow! We were faced with what to do all over again. To abbreviate the story, on May 1, 2005 Mike Neal and I became equal partners in Mike Neal Arabian Center, LLC. We had a very successful first show season. With our first year behind us, we are doing great. We have a barn full of wonderful horses and even better clients.
I feel very fortunate to be where I am in my life and I know that I did not make here alone. There are many people who have helped me along the way. I owe them all a huge, “Thank You!” I owe Mike the most, I certainly would not be here today if it were not for him. I love him dearly.
I also love being a part of the Arabian horse community. I have tried to be a productive member and to do things to help repay that community. I currently serve on the WAHA board and I recently got my AHA judges card, so I can serve those who have served me for all these years. I am looking forward to many, many more!
Two of Katie Beck's Amateur Riders