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A family that rides together

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By Lisa King

The women in the Ballard family are wild about horses, and they all have their tales to tell. The men are another story.

Matthew, 11, recalled an incident that didn't bolster his enthusiasm for riding.

"I had absolutely no experience and I was trying to drive the horse - I mean to stir it - and the horse went too far to one side going through the gate, and I fell off," he said. "I've kind of gotten a little more nervous around horses since that happened," he added.

Recalling the experience, his sister, McKenzie, 13, giggled.

"I had a friend over that day, and we were riding and Matthew and his friend were riding that horse," she said pointing to a timid-looking mount, "and when they went to turn, they started sliding off."

Matthew's father, Leonard, looked on as his wife, Debbie, and their two daughters, McKenzie and Kirstie, saddled up Tazar and Prince. Kirstie's daughter, 19-month-old Kamden, raised her arms to McKenzie, who had just swung up into the saddle.

"Ride, ride," she said.

As McKenzie settled her little niece onto the saddle in front of her, the toddler's face broke into a satisfied smile.

While McKenzie and Kamden took a turn around the Ballard's large yard on Harrington Mill Road, Debbie Ballard leafed through her scrapbook.

"That's me, showing when I was little, and  this is me with my ponies at home," she said. "We all got started when we were real young, and we still love them."

She comes from a family of horse lovers; her father was a horse trainer, and her brother, Jamie Hankins of Paris still trains horses. She has passed that love of horses down to her children, or at least, to her daughters and granddaughter.

"We've had these two pleasure horses for about three and a half years now, and  McKenzie competes in the Saddlebred tournaments, but I don't do any showing anymore; I just piddle now," she said.

When asked if he enjoys riding, Leonard Ballard shook his head.

"I'm not afraid of them," he hastened to explain. "I'll get on one and ride it around, but I really don't ride."

Debbie Ballard recalled the love-hate relationship she had with her first show horse.

"Rascal, my first show pony," she said with a sigh. "I'd go to canter him every day, and he'd always throw me off in front of the barn. He'd be fine at a show, but he'd throw me off every time at the barn."

Kirstie chuckled at her mother's tale. "What?" her mother asked, raising her brows.

"Remember what happened that time when we were showing in Milwaukee?" she asked.

"Yes, the horse stopped faster than you did, and you fell off," her mother recalled with a grin.

"When I fell off," Kirstie said, "my uncle and some other people were right there on the rail, so they jumped over and grabbed my horse real quick, and I jumped back on and the judges never even knew I fell off, and I ended up winning the class!"

Apparently, she could have set a new world's record getting back on her horse.

"Her cousin, Jennifer, was in the ring with her, and she never knew she fell off either," her mother, said, laughing.

Happy trails, ladies.