Published 12:00 am Monday, October 7, 2013

CHINA GROVE — When Caleb Goodman was about 2, he got away from his momma. Darlene had turned her back for just a moment out in the yard, and suddenly couldn’t find him. Frantic, she called husband Alan at work.
Go down to the pasture, he told her. Sure enough, there was Caleb, toddling among the horses, hugging their necks, grabbing their manes. The horses weren’t even fazed — they just kept on munching grass.
These days, Caleb, now 23, still loves being around his horses out in the pasture. Truth be told, after a nuzzle or two, the beasts go right on back to grazing. But Caleb has work to do. There’s mowing the grass, mending fences, taking the horses to the vets and the horse chiropractor for one of his charges (yes, there is such a thing).
In addition to tending his herd, Caleb has been entering horse competitions since he was a teenager. And come next month, he’s headed to the biggest competition of his life: the Color Breed Congress, sponsored by the Pinto Horse Association of America, Nov. 5-10 in Tulsa, Okla.
For years, Caleb watched Beth Schenk show horses. She introduced him to Chuck Nifong, a Mocksville trainer, and his path to competition began. When Caleb got his learner’s permit, he learned to drive a truck and trailer, and started driving himself to competitions as soon as he could. He’s competed at American Paint Horse Association shows in the Carolinas, and in 2014 plans to branch out to Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.
He’s collected a few horses along the way — right now, he has eight. Only three are used for competition. The rest are just good ol’ trail horses, although Caleb allows that he doesn’t get to do as much trail riding as he’d like.
He works at his family business, Goodman Farm Supply, to support his habit — his competition habit, that is. It’s a good thing his dad makes horse feed there. The horses go through about 100 pounds every week and a half, in addition to grazing in the pasture and eating hay, Caleb says.
The competition season runs April through November, so Caleb will wrap up his year in a big way.
“You have to pick and choose,” he explains. “I’d like to go to all of them, but you have to make sure you don’t stretch yourself too thin.”
He practices at the East Rowan Saddle Club three days a week, then heads to Concord once a week to work with Jessica Moore in Western Pleasure training. He’ll compete with horse Kara in this division. Caleb traveled to Ohio to purchase Kara.
“I liked her from the beginning,” he says. “It’s been a fun ride with her so far.”
Competing in Western Pleasure is decidedly more sedate than the games category.
“I ride slowly and we have a Western saddle,” Caleb says. “The horse is at a walk. It’s really slow.”
Caleb will be asked to back up one horse length, four steps, then reverse directions as part of the paces. It’s all about control of the horse and the way she behaves.
With Fancy, an Appaloosa, he’ll compete in the games category: timed events with barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole and figure eight patterns. His games trainer is Amanda Tucker McGuire, who lives close by in the Millbridge community.
When Amanda and Caleb train, Amanda rides first to get Fancy headed in the right direction. Then Caleb starts practicing patterns. The two have worked together almost a year, and this is Fancy’s first year in competition.
“She’s still a newbie at it all,” Amanda says, “and Caleb is just now jumping into the big pond. He is ready and willing, so we’re going to Oklahoma.”
Amanda points out that most riders concentrate in either games or Western Pleasure. Caleb is doing both, kinda like playing two completely different sports, Amanda says. “He is challenging himself to learn both disciplines at the same time.”
With Spirit, another paint horse, Caleb will compete once again in the barrel event. Spirit’s trainer is Justin Pendry, who lives in South Carolina. At present, Spirit is training with him.
This month is jam-packed for Caleb. He’ll be going to the state fair in Raleigh, home for two weeks, then start packing up for Oklahoma. His team will include Jessica and Amanda. Beth and Barrett Anderson, his partner, along with Caleb’s family, will be watching from home online. You can visit and click on watch live to see the events.
Barrett is a choreographer and gymnastics instructor, and the two support each other at one another’s competitions.
“It’s been a learning part of our relationship,” Caleb says. “We don’t want to be away from each other.”
As for his own competitions, he says, “It takes a lot of hard work and money and dedication, but it’s totally worth it. So far I have been very blessed to have everything I do.”
Caleb gives a special shout out to Jessica and Amanda for all their support and dedication to getting him where he is today. He also sends along thanks to his family members for their support. He has ads in the October edition of Paint and Quarter Horse Connection magazine.
He won’t put a limit on the number of years he’ll compete. “There’s nothing that with time and knowledge, I can’t overcome. It’s more than just a hobby. To me, it’s a lifestyle, really.”
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.