A family affair|[08/09/2008]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 9, 2008

Headleys and their horses reining in awards with hobby

PORT GIBSON – Horses are a family affair for the Headleys, a name with many saddles, trophies and medals to their name.

“I’ve been riding and showing since I was a little guy,” said Shelton Headley, now 15, who started riding at age 4.

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“We’ve been showing horses all my life,” said his father, Dr. David Headley, 55, who, like his son, began young with his father and brother, Mott Headley Sr. and Mott Headley Jr.

Headley’s interests moved away from horses when he went to school, but returned when Shelton, his second son, showed an interest.

“I got him on a horse when he was small, and he caught on real quickly,” said Headley. “I never really intended to get back in, but then Shelton came along. I guess I waited to get into my golden years.”

Shelton started with a pony named Midnight and progressed to a horse named Roanie. He won his first saddle when he was 9 or 10.

Now Shelton, a St. Aloysius High School sophomore who plays football and basketball, is a 15-time World Champion. Most recently, Shelton took home two championships in the youth stake race and the open stake race at the American Paint Horse Association’s 2008 World Championship Paint Horse Show in Fort Worth, Texas, in late June and early July. His father took home a championship title in the amateur stake race.

Paint horses are simply quarter horses with spots, Headley said. Quarter horses are small and stocky and are known for their agility and speed over short distances.

Booger is the one Shelton rode for his two wins in Fort Worth. Another quarter horse, A Lone Hero, has given Shelton several barrel racing wins.

The matriarch of the family, Jezelle Headley, has started riding as well.

“She got tired of running our errands,” laughed her husband.

Shelton estimates his family has about 23 horses, along with other animals that keep the horses company, such as black Labrador retrievers Rocky and Ruppy and barn cat Simba. Shelton’s uncle Mott Headley Jr. has kept 40 or 50 horses.

During the fast-paced competition, Shelton said he no longer gets nervous. Barrel racing involves completing a set of patterns around a set of barrels, with the fastest time winning.

“I care, but I don’t get worked up about it,” he said. “When you’re both on a good day, you can really do something.”

Awards include cash prizes, and Shelton said that’s being put toward his college education.

“It’s a thrill,” his father said. “We’ve been lucky to have some really good horses.”