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“You Can’t Not Love Saddlebreds”

by Leann Mione

Tasha Kalke hails from Millet, a small town in Canada near the capital city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta. The fact that she has spent much of the summer in Molalla, Ore. is both a surprise and a dream come true for her. She’s not just sightseeing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Kalke is in fact working at Deardorff Stables and soaking up every minute she spends with Don, Brooke and Allison Deardorff at their breeding, training and show horse facility.

Kalke owned Saddlebreds for years and started showing in Canada in 1993. Before that she spent six years in the Morgan industry. In 1997 she showed at C-Fair Charity for the first time and began following the Deardorffs, who were widely known and respected amongst Canadian Saddlebred industry members. Kalke especially paid attention to Allison Deardorff’s career and accomplishments.

“I was a huge fan,” explained Kalke. “I read everything I could get my hands on and I knew everything about her.” As Kalke’s knowledge of the Deardorff family increased, so did her desire to own another Saddlebred of her own. “You can’t not love a Saddlebred,” she said. They are so beautiful and kind and athletic and I’ve been hooked from the beginning.

In 2005, Kalke started looking for another Saddlebred and contacted the Deardorffs. They sent her a tape and talked with her about what she was looking for. In the course of those conversations, they extended an invitation for her to come to Molalla and spend a week with them. Kalke accepted the offer and before the week was up, she had purchased Doubletrees Pretty ‘N Pinq, sired by the Deardorffs’ beloved late stallion Quiver.

After the great time shared by Kalke and the family she admired so much, another week was planned later in the season. Kalke eagerly made the trip back to Oregon but this time, there was even more in store for her. She was asked to stay through Northwest Fall Classic, considered by the Deardorffs’ to be their “hometown show” and one to which they take a huge show string every year.

Kalke returned home to Canada after the show and this spring renewed her connection with Don, Brooke and Allison by buying Pinnacles Classic Victory to show in the United States under the Deardorff Stables banner. By this time, the connection between Kalke and the Deardorffs was a strong one and they asked her to come and stay with them for the whole summer so that she could fulfill a dream of showing horses on the competitive Pacific Northwest show circuit.

Kalke was at a crossroads in her life, with a possible career change in her future, so the invitation came at a perfect time and was irresistible to her. “My friends in Canada couldn’t believe that I was really going to be able to spend the summer living with the Deardorffs and showing horses with them. I couldn’t believe it myself. I never thought I would meet them, let alone live and learn from them. They are so respected in Canada, just as they are in the U.S. and it is a huge big deal to be part of this,” she added.

Santa Barbara National provided a beautiful setting for Thursday morning’s competitive session and by the time it was over Kalke was on cloud nine. She showed Pinnacles Classic Victory to the blue ribbon in the Junior/Limit Five-Gaited class and was followed in the ribbons by her longtime idol Allison Deardorff with Doubletrees Firecracker Too.

Kalke has come a long way towards achieving her dreams. She has also been selected to be a member of the first-ever Canadian Five-Gaited World Cup Team; a team that exists in large part due to the efforts of Kalke.

In the past, tryouts for the Canadian World Cup team were nonexistent. In March of this year, Kalke held a fundraiser for World Cup in an effort to be able to conduct tryouts and level the playing field. She raised $11,000 towards that effort and helped establish a five-gaited team for Canada. As one of the Canadian riders with the most experience riding gaited horses, she was encouraged by friends, family and competitors to try out for the team.

One of her former coaches, Wanda Lubner, was an important influence in Kalke’s decision to try out for the team. “Wanda was so positive all the time and gave me confidence,” said Kalke. “She always told me I was good enough and that I should go for it. She always let me ride all the horses when I would go to her place and that helped develop my skills”.

Archie Hurst, of Clover Leaf Stable, was another huge inspiration for Kalke. Hurst trained 2002 Canadian Three-Gaited World Cup team member Andrea Ward and 2004 member Raylene McWade, who helped the 2004 team win the first-ever Canadian silver medal.

“Archie needed a groom in 1993 and I started helping him. He let me take a lot of lessons and he really changed my equitation riding. I really feel that Saddlebred equitation riders are the elite of equitation competition and he helped me develop my riding skills”.

Former coaches, friends and family are important pieces of the puzzle that have come together to make 31-year-old Tasha Kalke’s dreams come true. Role models like Don, Allison and Brooke Deardorff are one of the most important pieces that fit just right. Kalke still cannot believe her good fortune in ending up at one of the Saddlebred industry’s most respected breeding and training operations to live and spend time with this family that she admires so much.

“My time at Deardorff Stables has been mentally more demanding than I anticipated”, said Kalke. “I came from a small group of industry members in Canada and I thought I knew a lot. I realize every day when I listen to the Deardorffs that I still have so much to learn. This experience has been life changing and I feel so much better prepared to go back home and apply what I have learned. They have taught me so much.

“I can’t imagine my life without Saddlebreds. You meet so many wonderful people because of them. To be able to be here in the United States and show in California is such a fantastic opportunity for me”, said Kalke. Just like the movie goes…it’s a wonderful life. With a successful show at Santa Barbara and the upcoming World Cup competition, Kalke is representing Canada in fine fashion . . . with more to come.

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