COLUMBUS, Ohio —For decades, a Springfield native has dominated a horse riding competition at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, the largest single-breed horse show in the world.
- Springfield natives Shawn Flarida and his son Sam share a passion for horses and competition
- Shawn Flarida has been a reining champ, but this year all eyes are on his teenage son
- The All American Quarter Horse Congress attracts more than 650,000 people to Columbus each year and generates more than $400 million for central Ohio's economy
Shawn Flarida has been a reining champ, but this year all eyes are on Flarida's teenage son who's looking to follow in his father's footsteps.
Shawn Flarida has attended each All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus since he was eight.
Since then, he has become the National Reining Horse Association's only member to earn $6 million in his lifetime and be a member of the organization's Hall of Fame.
None of that matters come competition time. The yearly homecoming still gives the 50-year-old veteran equestrian the same rush it did all those years ago.
“So, I do get very nervous, I do get the butterflies, I do get the jitters, but that's what makes it fun,” said Shawn Flarida.
But the thing he may be most proud of is his 16-year-old son, Sam, who is quickly taking over the ‘reins’ of the reining competition.
“You got to have a lot of courage. You have to know that you're going to get knocked down sometimes and you have to be strong enough to get back up and do it again,” said Sam Flarida.
Judges closely monitor the western riding competition, which takes place on a dirt track and requires competitors complete eight patterns of circles, spins and stops.
The Shawnee High School sophomore and his horse Footwork Revolution brought in the loudest cheers and the hardware, not to mention the smiling approval from his father.
“I'm very proud of him, and I push him some as far as to be a better horseman, but as far as pushing him in that career, that's his decision. You know, I don't say much about that, but he loves it,” said Shawn Flarida.
For the Flaridas, they both look forward to what he future holds.
“After I graduate high school I'd like to go pro. Long term goal is I'd like to win the Futurity. I want to be a million-dollar rider, the youngest million-dollar rider,” said Sam Flarida.
“You know, my father loved horses and I got to enjoy that with him also. So, it's kinda coming full circle and it's sure fun to watch,” said Shawn Flarida.
The All American Quarter Horse Congress is now in its 53rd year.
It attracts more than 650,000 people to Columbus each year and generates more than $400 million for central Ohio's economy.
The event runs through October 27th at the Ohio Expo Center.