Horse People Horse Shows and Competitions Lifestyle Young Rider

Horse Show Siblings

Did you become interested in horses because your parents had them, or maybe you saw a friend riding? For brother-sister duo Chesney and SaDee Watkins, their introduction came from a South Texas horse trainer, and the two fell headlong into a sport their parents knew nothing about. But once they got a taste for all-around, these South Carolina-based kids were totally hooked on the horse show game. And they’ve got no plans of stopping.

The Start

The Watkins have four children: Elijah, 27, AnneDee, 16, Chesney, 13 and SaDee, 12. Chesney and SaDee are siblings adopted by the Watkins at birth. AnneDee has disabilities and was already enjoying equine-assisted therapy when the family lived in Virginia. But SaDee and Chesney had never ridden before.

A portrait of the Watkins family
Left to right: dad Jonanthan and mom JoDee; SaDee; brother Elijah and his wife; Chesney; and sister AnneDee. Photo courtesy the Watkins Family

“AnneDee was doing PATH therapy from 8 years old, and Chesney and SaDee would watch when they were little bitty,” says their mom, JoDee Watkins. “One day Chesney said, ‘I want to ride a horse.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I mean we’re all going to be there, so get on a horse.’ Then all three of them did lessons.”

Chesney connected with horses on an emotional level as well.

“My favorite thing about horses is they help with anxiety and stress, and I just like riding horses,” he says.

An Introduction to Horse Shows

Their local equine therapy barn took the kids to a horse show for fun, and the Watkins siblings had a ball.

JoDee and Jonathan Watkins don’t have a horsey background. JoDee is in direct sales, and Jonathan is a professional bird dog trainer. But when Jonathan was asked to guide bird hunts for the famed King Ranch in South Texas, the Watkins all went for the four-month-long hunting season.

While there, they met American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) all-around trainer Reid Thomas from Boerne, Texas, when he was conducting a clinic in Corpus Christi. After quickly connecting, Chesney began training with Reid.

“We went to the clinic, one thing led to another, and Chesney just adores him,” says JoDee. “Reid is amazing—he’s a great teacher and he knows how to communicate with children and adults on what they need to do to ride well.”

Once he experienced riding and saw the possibilities of horse show competition, Chesney was immediately drawn to training horses someday, and began riding with Reid.

“I wanted to start showing, because when I get older, I want to be a horse trainer, and I want to meet people in the horse world before I do that,” Chesney says.

Two siblings riding together at a horse show
You may recognize Chesney (right) from the September/October 2022 cover of Young Rider! SaDee (left) loves the connection that comes with each horse. Photo by Kirstie Marie Photography

JoDee says Chesney works hard, loves to win and loves to ride—and is also encouraging to everyone at horse shows.

“One of his biggest strengths is that he loves to watch people succeed,” JoDee says.

SaDee, who has always been naturally competitive with her brother, joined him in equine pursuits about two years ago.

“I was really into watching equitation, and my siblings started riding horses, which made me want to ride even more,” says SaDee. “And we have an amazing trainer, which makes me happy to ride every day. The thing I love most about horses is that each one comes with a connection—you have to bond with your horse, and you can have a special connection with them. And I like showing because I get to go against my brother!”

Farm Life

Being enrolled in online school, the Watkins have traveled all over the country showing in all-around events at the national level. They’ve even competed at the AQHA World Show a few times.

“It’s enjoyable to spend time together because my mom and dad love to travel and watch the horse shows, and they’re fun to be around,” Chesney says. “My siblings are too, and it’s fun to be able to share the horses with them.”

In 2014, the Watkins moved to a farm in Gray Court, S.C., on 100 acres, where they set up a 30-run dog kennel that employs folks with special needs.

The Watkins enjoy spending time at the barn together, and JoDee and Jonathan hope to build an equine therapy center on their property in the future. JoDee loves that the horses offer a chance to be together, as well as learn skills that could help them in their family’s future endeavors.

“We really feel like it’s college right now for our kids, to prepare them to hopefully run the equestrian center one day,” she says.

School and Horse Show Goals

These days, AnneDee competes in Equestrians With Disabilities competition at AQHA shows, and Chesney and SaDee compete in American Quarter Horse Youth Association (AQHYA) competition.

Chesney’s been showing a Quarter Horse named Ill B Lazy Lopin RV, nicknamed Skittles.

“She only did the pleasure when we got her, and now after about a year, we’re doing all-around,” he says. “When I’m nervous to go into a show, I can talk to my horse about it, and I know they understand.”

Since her last horse retired, SaDee has been leasing a Quarter Horse named WPQ Making It Always (“Warren”).

“Having that connection with the horse just relieves stress and anxiety before you show,” SaDee says. “Like Chesney says, you can talk to them, and they understand, they help you, and if you do something wrong they’ll nudge you a little bit to fix it.”

Now enrolled in a local school, SaDee does cheer, volleyball and basketball, and Chesney plays basketball and football, but horses are still their top extra-curricular activity. Chesney is learning to do reining this year, and SaDee hopes to show at the AQHYA World Show.

“I’d really like to win first place in the hunter under saddle at Youth World,” SaDee says.

This article about horse show siblings appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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