These equestrians don't 'horse around'

Sally Smith and Jay McElveen, pictured here with Smith’s Quarter Horse named I’m Smart Jessie, recently earned coveted awards at the Southern Stockhorse Association’s season ending awards banquet.

A couple of local riders won coveted awards during the Southern Stockhorse Association’s annual season ending awards banquet recently in Lumberton, N.C.

Sally Smith received a buckle and a set of stirrups for being Amateur Reserve High Point Champion, while Jay McElveen earned a buckle for being the most improved performer in Cutting.

Smith and McElveen train at Joey Lewis Performance Horses in Conway. The awards were based on their performances at monthly shows held at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center in Lumberton.

Smith competes aboard a registered Quarter Horse named I’m Smart Jessie.

The horse’s barn name is Sugar, and Smith has owned the 11-year-old and now pregnant horse for the past seven years.

“We were both in training together the first couple of years,” Smith said.

A math teacher at Conway High School, Smith purchased Sugar after her daughter Sarah showed an interest in horses.

“She was very good at it,” Smith said of her daughter who is now grown with other interests.

Although Smith grew up in town and didn’t have a horse when she was young, she always enjoyed spending time with friends who did and riding whenever possible.

Smith was Novice Reserve High Point Champion several years ago, but decided to expand her horizons this year.

“This was the first year I decided to do all the classes instead of just one or two,” she said.

Smith’s specialty is Stockhorse Cutting and she was the overall winner in that category.

“That’s what she’s good at,” Lewis said. “That takes a very athletic horse. It’s like riding on the back of a cat. This was definitely Sally’s best year.”

In addition to Stockhorse cutting, Versatility Ranch Horse competitions promote the athletic ability and versatility of the horse, which is also demonstrated in four other classes including ranch cutting, ranch trail, ranch conformation and pleasure class.

“It’s a long process to do cutting and everything,” Lewis said.

According to Smith, the season consisted of four shows and her division usually attracted 10 to 12 competitors for the larger shows and seven to eight for smaller shows.

Smith finished second in the overall competition behind North Carolinian Ray Youngblood.

“She’s accomplished a lot,” Lewis said. “She’s learned so much.”

McElveen, 22, was excited about the most improved award, which caught him a little off guard.

“It was a surprise,” he said.

McElveen hopes to win first place in the Novice Division when competition for the new season begins the third weekend in April.

McElveen’s specialty is Cutting, a competition in which the horse and rider work as a team to demonstrate the horse's athleticism and ability to separate and keep a cow from the rest of the group for a required amount of time.

“I used to do barrel racing, but cutting is my favorite,” McElveen said.

According to Lewis, McElveen had a very good season.

“Jay did very well this year,” he said. “He’s improving. He’s got a huge heart for it.”

According to Carla McElveen, her son is a true cowboy with a little pellet in his arm to prove it. He eats, sleeps and dreams being on a horse 24 hours a day.

McElveen competes aboard a Paint horse named J.R.

“He’s been riding horses since he was four or five,” his mother said. “When he was a little boy learning to walk he wouldn’t wear shoes, but if I bought Cowboy boots, he’d wear them. He wouldn’t watch cartoons, but he loved Westerns and John Wayne.”

McElveen’s favorite country music entertainer is George Strait, largely because of the annual George Strait Team Roping Classic.

“My first horse was a black and white pinto like Little Joe rode on Bonanza,” he said. “My second horse was a Buckskin like Matt Dillon had on Gunsmoke.”

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