August 16, 2002 - "Horsemanship Forges Winning Bond"

It's a pretty big deal to be the world's champ at anything. But you can multiply that by two in our area. Sixteen-year-old Preston Collins of Denham Springs is one. Michael Kelly, 13, of Prairieville is another. In fact, there are two more champions, 12-year-old Ace and 11-year-old Taco, the horses these two youngsters rode to their crowns at the American Quarter Horse Youth Association.

Hundreds of horsemen from all over the world went to Ft. Worth, each with dreams of glory. When the dust had settled, Preston had aced out the world in the pole bending finals.

And nobody in the whole world was better than Michael and Taco in the stake race finals.

Preston has spent the last five years training his horse pretty much on his own. He says, "He hadn't seen a pole or a barrel when I got him, just cows. He has a pretty good handle on him. When he took to it the first couple of months, he just kept getting faster and faster."

Speaking of the Ft. Worth competition, Michael added, "I had a good feeling about it, but I didn't think I would win first, and when I did, I just couldn't believe it."

These guys compete against each other. But when Preston won his championship---"I told Michael it's his turn to go win."

And what did Michael do? "Went in there and ran a good run on stakes and won it," he says.

So as long as both of them are number one in something, the friendship will last.

"It'll last even if he does beat me!" says Preston.

Horsemanship, a way to forge bonds that will never be broken.

For the record, riders from at least 47 states competed in The American Quarter Horse Youth finals. Louisiana was named best overall.