Handling the competition | TheUnion.com

Handling the competition

Tyler Mehew, 7, handles his horse Junior during the Youth National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show held July 18-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Submitted Photo |

Tyler Mehew brought home some pretty impressive souvenirs from this year’s Youth National Half Arabian and Arabian Championship Horse Show.

There’s the trophy — a silver horse standing on a wooden platform — a couple of ribbons and a sash for his horse, who’s nicknamed Junior.

Not a bad haul for the 7-year-old, who barely stands taller than Junior’s chest.

Tyler, along with Junior, earned first place in their competition category — gelding in hand stock/hunter — in the competition organized by the Arabian Horse Association for children 18 and younger and held July 18-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tyler, who will enter the third grade at Cottage Hill Elementary School in the fall, loves soccer and playing games on his tablet — but he also loves showing horses.

“It’s fun,” Tyler said.

His passion for horses runs in the family. Paul and Marcella Mehew, Tyler’s grandparents, own and operate Parkside Arabian on Garden Bar Road in Grass Valley, where they’ve been breeding and halter training Arabian horses for more than 20 years.

Paul Mehew worked for decades as a horseshoer. Marcella Mehew also shows horses, as did Tyler’s father.

Paul and Marcella Mehew moved up to Nevada County about 15 years ago, and built the horse training facility on their sprawling property. The business requires significant time and energy.

“It’s a 24-hour, seven-day a week job and you have to love it to do it,” Marcella Mehew said.

Halter training horses to show in competitions is a lot like training body builders, Paul Mehew said.

The animals require special diets, and spend time walking on a treadmill each day to help build muscle. They spend time on an automated hot walker to keep them well-conditioned. They’re groomed and given a hot bath daily.

Tyler has been around horses since he was about 18 months old, and started showing horses at 5.

He practices his handling techniques with Paul Mehew every three days or so, and handles the horses in some manner every day to keep him comfortable around the animals.

He knows their personalities pretty well — his horse, Junior, likes to lick Tyler when feeling affectionate.

One of the horses, Sunny, will smile if it’s having its picture taken. The family is caring for an abandoned foal, and Tyler is often responsible for giving the horse its milk.

“He thinks I’m his mom, and I get to pet him all the time,” Tyler said.

Like any task, Marcella Mehew said, learning how to handle a horse for competition takes practice. Horses are judged on qualities like their appearance, their walk, and the way they stand when at rest.

Tyler was armed with an experienced horse for the competition, Marcella Mehew said; she jokes that Tyler also brings an “added cute factor” into the show ring, with his bright blonde hair and wide smile. But when it comes down to it, the judges focus on the horse and its behavior.

Tyler was the youngest handler in his class in the competition, by far — the next youngest, she said, was 15 years old, and most competitors were between 15 and 18 years old.

“It was just really cool and exciting” to see him win, Marcella Mehew said.

Tyler said he was nervous at the start of the competition, but when he won, he felt “happy and excited.”

Upon winning, he said he had one main thought.

“I’m about to give my horse a hug,” Tyler said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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