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October 6, 2013

Mindy and Red Ride Wherever the Road Goes

Trying new AQHA events at the SmartPak AQHA West Novice Championship is what Mindy McKay is all about.

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal

Melinda McKay

Mindy McKay and CLG Mito Money "Red" trying something new - AQHA showing, new classes and the SmartPak AQHA West Novice Championship.

“ ‘Red,’ We’re going to Vegas,” Melinda “Mindy” McKay told her 13-year-old mare, CLG Mito Money, when she found out she’d qualified for the 2013 SmartPak AQHA West Novice Championship in Las Vegas.

From Jackson, Wyoming, Mindy lives on a ranch near Hoback and cleans houses in Jackson. She bought Red (Gator Red-Tammys Lark by Larks Dandy) as a yearling and no other hand but Mindy’s has trained her.

“I use her on the ranch, moving cows,” Mindy said – the ranch includes 45,000 acres of permit range in the Rocky Mountains. “I got bored and thought we’d try a Quarter Horse show. We have been going to Pocatello (Idaho) and doing poles, barrels and stake race.

“Then someone mentioned, ‘You qualified to go to Vegas!’ They had a stake race where you could qualify, and I got third and qualified, so here I am!

“When I got here, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s never seen a stall or a barn.’ She lives out in the corral. But she’s been, ‘OK. Just feed me.’”

Mindy and Red came for the speed events, but Mindy went ahead and tried halter and western pleasure.

“The halter was fun,” she said with a big smile. “I knew we couldn’t compete against those horses. But it’s just fun being with your horse. I was getting nervous (standing on the wall), so I told people as they came up, ‘Don’t laugh! I’m just here to take last place so none of these nice halter horses have to be last!’”

She added with a laugh, “You’ll see, in the western pleasure I’ll be going laps around everyone. What did I get myself into?!”

But going out on a limb to try something new is Mindy’s trademark.

“I’m from Maine, and being out west is a whole new experience. When my daughter turned 18, I thought, I want to go West. And she said, ‘Go, Ma.’ So I threw the cat in the Jeep and came out. And I bought a couple of horses. That was 15 years ago.”

She had been housekeeping at hotels in Maine, so she got a job doing that at a guest ranch in Arizona. After working there for the winter, she moved to Jackson and another guest ranch for the summer, and has followed that pattern since. She’s worked as a polo groom in California and a racehorse groom at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

Her horses and her cat go with her, a life on the road: “I’ve traveled all over the west with my horses."

Mindy has ridden Red in an endurance race in Green River, Wyoming, and does 4D barrel racing at the Jackson rodeo. She’s ridden her on trails from the Texas hill country to the mountains that rise up from her back door.

“I try to tell every woman – just do it! When I left Maine, (my friends) were like, ‘Oh, what if you get a flat tire?!’ Well, change it. Change it and go.”

Mindy has been around horses all her life, and has always bought young horses and started them herself: “I take them as far as I can, with my ability. I’ll never sell them.” Red was her first American Quarter Horse.

“I ride up in the mountains, and clean houses, and have fun with my horse!” Mindy said. “I gotta keep trying things. You can do anything… Just find out where the road goes.”

Update! Mindy and Red won the Novice Select Amateur High-Point Rookie award for the show!