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Heather Boodey Is Just A Kid At Heart


by Ann Bullard


Heather. To non-Saddle Horse people, the word brings images of a peaceful Scottish hillside, covered with fragrant flowers. Those in the Saddle Horse world visualize a North Carolina lady who may seem peaceful and serene on the outside, but underneath that is a bundle of talent, drive and determination. Those traits have earned her the respect of her trainer-peers, clients and others in the show horse world.


Heather Boodey probably had little choice about her avocation. Her parents, Ken and Susan Boodey, and sister, Deanna Champion, are horse lovers who lived on an Ohio Thoroughbred farm. While Champion didn’t ride, she is involved in the business as the wife of Page Champion, who runs his Champion Hill training business from Doris Crumpler’s North Star Farm, and proprietor of a horse equipment business.


A farm pony became Boodey’s first mount. When she was six-years-old, her parents took her to Lon and Renee Lavery’s Richlon Farm for lessons. Jenny Rhue (Taylor) handled the lesson program.


Boodey rode her first pony, Rebel,

on the Ohio Thoroughbred farm where her parents lived.


“She was a natural,” Taylor said of the girl she calls “a horse-crazy kid from the beginning. She just got up there and was happy. Heather was a good little rider and took it very seriously. Her success doesn’t surprise me a bit; she had the right attitude.”


According to Boodey, Lavery recognized her talents and desire to succeed. The senior trainer took over the youngster’s program but, as Boodey put it, “We moved to [Raleigh] North Carolina before he could sell my parents a horse.”


Boodey was nine when her family rented a house and stalls at Ingleside Farm. Steve Allred and Mary Alice Gall shared the barn. As no one there gave lessons, the Boodeys began a teaching program.


“Heather was about nine when I first knew her,” Gall said. “She was a tiny little kid and a good rider from the first time I saw her. She showed an ornery little bay pony, probably a three-quarter Hackney, Fireball Dixie.


“She would get up on anything and do a good job of it,” Gall continued. “I threw her up on colts and all kinds of stuff, yet she never hesitated. We had so many great times, we’d load up whatever we had and run to shows. Heather would put a leg over whatever someone had to ride. She always did well because she could ride.”


Gall explained Boodey had always wanted to be a horse trainer. “She was a smart kid who went to a magnet school. It’s not like she had to train because she couldn’t do anything else. She could have been anything she wanted to be.”


Boodey began showing on the Coastal Plains Circuit, stepping into larger shows such as Raleigh. Winning the 10 and Under Equitation class at Raleigh highlighted the early part of her junior exhibitor career.


Boodey won a pleasure pony class at the NC  State Championships

 in 1983. Crackerjack now is part of the farm’s lesson program.


In 1984, the family moved to nearby Garner, N.C., down the road from Johnny Lucas at Whisperwind Stables. The senior Boodeys began training Saddlebreds at the farm located just south of Raleigh. They brought her show pleasure horse, the Supreme Sultan grandson, Supreme Starlight, to Lucas. She had bought the horse from Jenny Glennon, now her assistant trainer, who was with Ricky Harris at the time.


“The summer I was 13, I worked for Johnny. Jenny would pick me up at 3:45 a.m. and we’d get to the barn about 4,” Boodey recalled.


When Lucas took his show string to the World’s Championship Horse Show that summer, Supreme Starlight made the trip. While he and Boodey didn’t finish in the ribbons, her first Louisville experience helped solidify teenager’s determination to compete on that level. 


Three years after the Boodeys left Ingleside Farm, its owners called to say they were giving up the business. They asked if the family would like to lease the operation. Sue ran the farm while Ken Boodey managed his successful construction business.


Boodey had become an accomplished catch rider, showing horses for her cousin, Dickey Davis, Claude Shiflet, Lewis Eckard and others who frequented the Carolina and Virginia circuits. Each of the professionals with whom she has had horses or for whom she has ridden sings Boodey’s praises. All agree she had her eye on becoming a trainer from childhood.


“She did some riding and driving for me when she was young,” Davis recalled. “When she was 16 or 17, she showed a road pony and gaited horse on the Florida circuit and did real good. Heather was an excellent rider when she was a kid; that’s where I used her.”


While Boodey’s life revolved around family and horses, she didn’t limit herself to Saddlebreds. “I used to team rope, had a barrel-racing pony and jumped. I tried everything, but mainly all I’ve done is ride American Saddlebreds.”


College was on the teenager’s horizon. After working for Nelson Green the summer after graduating from high school, she did the expected thing.


“The way I was raised, I didn’t know there was anything else except starting college. Kids didn’t take a year off,” she said. “I went to East Carolina University for one year. Then Mother fell and shattered her ankle; Dad’s construction business was booming. They had been working horses so I could have them and were going to close the barn. They offered it to me, saying I could take over the business or finish college.”


While Boodey’s finishing college probably was her parents’ preference, she elected to take over Ingleside Farm. When the owners’ heirs eventually sold the property, Boodey rented stalls from Sue Nifong in Winston Salem.


When dreaming of her future, Boodey is frank to admit she wanted to train young horses. Teaching wasn’t on her radar screen.


“When you work for Johnny and Nelson you don’t teach,” she explained. “It just happened, in part because my parents taught. When you start out, you have to teach whether you want to or not. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but I do. I enjoy the kids. I don’t have any of my own and it’s good to have them around.”


Mary and Andrew Garrison didn’t meet Boodey at the barn the moment she returned from college. Still, Andrew took the very first lesson she taught after taking over the barn.


“Here she was, barely 19 years old and able to take on a ton of little children. They followed her around like the Pied Piper,” Mary Garrison said. “My seven-year-old son could be a holy terror; she instilled a work ethic in him. Kids didn’t ride unless they did their share of the work. It wasn’t just about horses but about learning how to set goals, meet them or suffer the consequences. No matter what, she made sure the children always enjoyed themselves.”


Mary Garrison looked back upon those early days and one of Andrew’s first shows. “Heather had a spotted pony she used to ride and was using for lessons. I remember Andrew working on his trot at the fairgrounds. He trotted up and down, up the hill and into the ring. Crackerjack trotted one way and Andrew the other. Heather ran out, motioned to her dad who put Andrew back on the pony. The pony turned and off he went again. Andrew looked up at Heather as if to say, ‘You’re not going to make me get up on him again!’”


Andrew’s getting back up and riding the class is one example of his instructor’s ‘never quit trying’ philosophy.


Jeannie Frazer rode with Sue and Ken Boodey when Boodey was a child. She is their daughter’s customer today.


Frazer describes the teenage Boodey as “very responsible, driven. She always loved horses. I remember she would catch ride for everyone, riding 12 to 18 horses at some shows. She just was a good kid, with an active social and working life.”


In 1995, Judy Werner and Billy Greenwell recruited Boodey to work as a riding instructor at Redwing Farm. Garrison and Paul Otto were among the clients who sent their horses with Boodey to Waterloo, Ill.


“She was a good horse lady when she was with me,” Greenwell said quietly. “She is a very talented girl and outgoing as they come. She helped in the training program and had some customers of her own. Heather doesn’t back up at anything – which I like. Her record speaks for itself.”


By fall of that year, Boodey realized she needed to make a change. Her parents were renting a house on an 800-acre cattle ranch in Franklinton, N.C.


“I told them I was going to interview for a job somewhere else,” she said. “They told me to come home. They had a cattle barn in their backyard and they would make it work for horses.”


Boodey waited tables until her father finished a handful of stalls. The barn has grown from five or six to 27 stalls. The clients who moved with Boodey to Redwing Farm followed her back to North Carolina.


“I started teaching lessons and the business grew from there,” Boodey said.


Grow it did. Garrison continued a successful career with his pleasure horse, Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, and in equitation. Today, he is about to graduate with a degree in finance and step into the business world. According to his mother, he credits Boodey’s training with making him into the young adult he has become.


Many trainers wait a lifetime before one of their riders wins a Louisville ribbon, much less a world championship. Boodey’s determination and willingness to help a rider who had been out of the Saddle Horse world for years led to the trainer’s running in for a world’s championship victory pass before she was 21 years old.


Janna Weir (now Goldman) had been a champion equitation rider with Marilyn Macfarlane in the early 1980s. She ‘found’ Boodey while selling Yellow Page advertising in the Raleigh area.


“I wanted to get back into riding and contacted Heather when she was just starting out. I didn’t have much money,” Goldman said, explaining this was one of her first jobs. “I was out of shape and hadn’t ridden for nine years.”


Goldman had a dream: to return to Louisville and compete in the adult equitation championship. Boodey had one also: to coach a world’s champion rider. If that happened, Boodey felt certain it would help her career. When dreams meet, good things often happen.


“Heather let me ride every day after work – for free,” Goldman recalled. “Every day at 5 p.m., I went to her barn, took off my business suit and put on my jods. Then I tacked up a horse and rode. I rode both days on the weekend. Heather let me show her walk-trot horse to get back in the ring and qualify for Louisville.”


Goldman showed at Statesville, Clemson and Roanoke before heading to the green shavings. While Boodey’s horse worked well for regional shows, being competitive in Freedom Hall called for a different mount.


“I couldn’t afford a $70,000 horse but could afford show expenses for one horse show,” Goldman recalled. “Marilyn [Macfarlane] had a great horse, I’m Fit To Be Tied, which I could lease for that one class.”


Boodey and Macfarlane stood together at the out-gate as numbers were called for the 1992 UPHA Adult Equitation Championship. They raced in together as Goldman rode to pick up her ribbon and medal.


“I would never have won at Louisville if Heather and Marilyn hadn’t helped me,” Goldman said. “So few trainers these days would do what Heather did for me. She didn’t sell me a horse. I didn’t pay for training or for lessons. I think doing that helped her career; she really blossomed after that.”


Goldman may have been Boodey’s first world’s champion rider. She wouldn’t be her last.


Victoria Woodruff moved to Ingleside Farm when she was 10 years old. She already had an impressive equestrian resume with such horses as Hey Covington and Enchanted Dance when her trainer and parents selected CH My Korbel for the teenager’s five-gaited mount. They debuted together at the North Carolina State Championships, winning the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited qualifier and championship.


Their 2003 season could be called nothing but fantastic. By then, the team had mastered the flat walk and dominated five-gaited show pleasure classes at Raleigh Spring Premier, J.D. Massey, Bonnie Blue, Carolina Classic and Blue Ridge before heading to Louisville.


In August, they tackled the green shavings. Boodey sprinted into Freedom Hall to head Woodruff and her gelding after they won the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Pleasure qualifier. Their only defeat of the season came in the junior exhibitor championship, in which they left with the reserve world’s championship ribbon.


Boodey raced to head CH My Korbel and Victoria Woodruff

on their world’s championship victory pass. The 2003 victory

 was the first performance win for one of Boodey’s riders.


At the 2003 North Carolina State Championships, CH My Korbel returned to the five-gaited performance ranks with Boodey in the irons. They won the ladies title and the reserve grand championship.


Perhaps Boodey’s most memorable ride was aboard CH My Korbel

at the 2003 North Carolina State Championships.


“The night Heather rode that bay gelding at Raleigh stands out in my mind,” said Claude Shiflet, her long-time friend and former trainer. “What a great ride she put on that horse! It was the best show I’ve ever seen her make. She’s got more amateur and juvenile horses and doesn’t get to ride many good ones. She looked so good on him and rode his pants off. She got a standing ovation when the judge tied her reserve to Peter [Cowart.]”


Carol Love recalls the nine-year-old Boodey – as well as the lady who trains her She’s Extra Charming, Picabo Street, Our Town Spirit and teaches her son, Drew. They became friends shortly after the Boodeys moved to the original Ingleside Farm.


“If the kids didn’t have their caboodles and hair nets ready at a show …” Love paused, hesitating to use the name they used to describe how strict Boodey could be. “She’s really good with the kids. On Saturday [March 16,] they rode, cleaned their tack and got ready for the first show.”


Drew and Caitlyn Leith hang out together at the barn. Caitlyn has ridden with Boodey for almost five years; her younger brother, Conner, followed soon after.


Conner Leith and his roadster pony, Zildjian, have added two world’s championship ribbons to Ingleside’s collection. They first won the 13 and under qualifier in 2004. In 2006, Conner again drove out with the qualifying blue, returning to tie reserve in the 13 and Under Roadster Pony Championship.


“She’s been so good with Caitlyn and Conner. Caitlyn is more like Heather’s daughter than a client,” K-Dee Leith said. “Heather has taken her under her wing and does a lot of things with her and the other girls. She always has great ideas on extra stuff such as the Head Over Hooves Youth Club.”


While Conner stays in the road bike, Catilyn is the family’s performance rider. She moved out of walk and trot with the proven show pleasure horse, CH Future Treasure, winning numerous blues before stepping up to something new. She has won good ribbons in junior exhibitor five-gaited and later five-gaited pleasure competition with Callaway’s Maelstorm, and includes winning rides on her brother’s roadster pony, Zildjian, in her resume. Last fall’s selection of Mahvalous Asset for Caitlyn’s junior exhibitor three-gaited mount has worked well thus far. They accumulated three blues and a yellow ribbon at the two Carolina shows.


Calling Boodey a workaholic would not be inappropriate. She and her assistants, Jenny Glennon and Megan Whitby, work horses and teach client riders. Sara Bowman Scheck now teaches 50 to 60 academy lessons weekly. Boodey also does all the bookwork, handles entries, makes hotel reservations for herself and her clients and handles the myriad details involved with running a business.


She also is working on building a new facility. She and her family have purchased seven acres about a half mile from her current location. It will feature a 20-stall barn designed so riders can work around the stalls. A 10-stall addition will house lesson horses.


Boodey has worked hard for her success. Those who know her best describe a serious young lady, intent upon her students, horses and the Saddlebred world.


“I’ve known Heather and her parents for as long as I can remember,” trainer Lewis Eckard said, explaining they first became acquainted on the smaller Carolina circuit. “Heather started doing her own thing after her juvenile years.


“Her forte is with juveniles, getting 10 and unders and other riders started. She started an academy program that worked real well. And she has a really good eye for matching junior exhibitors and their mounts.”


Eckard spoke of Boodey’s willingness to reach out to other trainers. “She’s real good about asking for others’ advice and opinions. These days, I call Heather when I’m looking for a junior exhibitor horse. She’s got a real good grip on what’s out there, what’s available. I respect her opinion as a friend and colleague very much. I consider her one of my best friends.”


Frazer spoke of her friend and trainer’s horse show demeanor – and of her ability as a communicator.


“She’s very businesslike at a show, making sure everyone does a great job. Sometimes I stay with her. It’s hard keeping up with her energy level. She’s at the barn at the crack of dawn, works all day and in the evening takes time to go out for a drink or for dinner with the customers. And she can go to sleep the minute her head hits the pillow.


“Heather has become so well-rounded [in her business,]” Frazer continued. “She has up and coming young horses and a lot of performance horses for kids and adults. She’s not just a good horse trainer. She is a good communicator and knows how to tell someone what to do to get the best out of a horse. She gives every rider very specific things to do.


“Heather is a good combination of people and horse skills. She takes riders strengths, what they need and what they are best suited for when selecting a new mount. And if you want brutal honesty, she’s the one to ask.”


Frazer also knows the ‘other’ side of Heather Boodey. Travel, especially trips to Las Vegas for the Professional Bull Riding Finals and to Atlantic City just to play, are her favorite ‘away from the horses’ activities.


“Vacation is our middle name,” Frazer said, speaking of trips to New England and Ireland as well as Vegas and Atlantic City.” Her favorite place in the world probably is Vegas.”


Frazer continued speaking about her friend, and the parents who helped make Boodey the person she is. “If you know Heather, you know Ken and Sue. They’re devoted parents who would give you the shirts off their backs. That’s where Heather gets her generosity. They’re just kind people.”


“My parents are the most important people in my life,” Boodey added. “They made me what I am today. I’m very blessed to have wonderful, wonderful clients. My closest friends are the people at my barn.


Sue, Heather and Ken Boodey


“My parents are pretty strict about me getting too deeply into this. Still I am happy doing what I’m doing. I’m single. If I were married, I would want to take more free time. But I would have to find someone who understands and appreciates the horse business.”


Now a new season is underway. Horses have been body clipped. Riders’ new habits have been delivered, their fitting checked. Trunks have been packed – and many unpacked again. Like all horse trainers, Boodey looks forward to the new season with unbridled optimism. She has paid her dues.


Claude Shiflet has many sayings. One of his favorites is: “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you’re fooling with turkeys.” Boodey is taking many proverbial eagles into the 2007 season.


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