A Bristol, Tennessee horsewoman is sitting tall in the saddle after achieving what she describes as a lifetime goal.
Kimberly O’Connor, 44, can add a few more show ribbons to her collection after becoming a five-time world equestrian champion at the 2022 Pinto World Championship Horse Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this month.
Riding her Tennessee Walking Horse mare named “I’m Bristol Fashion,” O’Connor took home ribbons in amateur and open classes for conformation, color, and gait, placing number one in the world in every class she entered.
“It was one of my life’s goals to win a world title. I’m extremely happy that I competed. I will definitely go back next year,” said O’Connor, who owns Mountain View Meadows, a horse farm in Bristol, but currently resides in North Carolina where her husband Daniel is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.
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It was O’Connor’s first-time ever at the long-distance show. She traveled with a friend who also competed at the show, driving more than 20 hours one way to get there. During the 13-day event, O’Connor prepared her horse for competition each day--- thorough grooming included clipping, brushing, and bathing her horse, whose barn name is “Paisley.” Riding equipment, tack and her horse’s stall also had to be cleaned regularly.
This year marks the 57th year of the Pinto World Championship, held every year in Tulsa. This year’s competitions were held June 13 through 25.
According to Kim Hall, executive assistant of the Pinto Horse Association, as many as 2,000 exhibitors from throughout the country and Canada competed at the 2022 show. There were more than a thousand horses present.
As many as 800 classes are offered to all ages and levels such as youth, amateurs, novice and open. Classes offered include Stock Type, Hunter Type, Pleasure Type, Saddle Type, Utilities, Miniatures, and Ponies.
The show caters to different breeds of horses that display several color patterns.
“A lot of walking horses have black coat colors, but I love the flashes of color on pinto horses---the big blaze faces, high white legs and other markings. I love the pinto style,” said O’Connor, who owns three other Tennessee Walking horses that also display pinto colors.
According to her, most pinto horses with a tobiano color pattern typically have a solid-colored head with some white over their back and on their legs. O’Connor’s mare is an overo horse, displaying a mostly solid-colored body with splashes of white patches.
Because of Paisley’s young age, color pattern, and sex, she was unique in her classes, narrowing the number of horses she competed against.
O’Connor won open and amateur halter mare; open and amateur overo color mare; open 5 and under English pleasure; and a Top 5 Supreme Color Champion placing; all of these in the Saddle Type Division.
Horses, of course
O’Connor’s riding hobby started when she was a toddler, growing up in East Tennessee and North Carolina. She enrolled in formal horseback riding lessons at age 13 and began showing hunter jumpers and quarter horse breed events. She went to summer horse camps as a young rider.
“I’ve done horse things my whole life,” she said.
During the years, her love for horses never waned. She earned equestrian degrees from Martin Community College in Williamston, North Carolina, and William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri.
As the wife of a military officer who often relocates, O’Connor has had opportunities to enter horse shows in several states.
“This show in Tulsa is probably one of the best shows I’ve ever entered because of the friendly people, efficiency, and generally the way classes were conducted,” she said.
O’Connor said after she recovers from a “horse show hangover,” she may consider competing at the National Spotted Saddle Horse Show in Shelbyville, Tennessee in late fall.
“Great people, great fun, great horses. That’s what it’s all about,” she said
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.