'Born in a barn' - practically

July 12, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Sarah Shantz and Lititia Butts love animals so much, they both aspire to become veterinarians when they grow up.

The two girls have already gotten plenty of practice working with horses. Recently Shantz, 13, beat a world-champion horse to become the champion novice rider in the junior exhibitor 13 and under division at the Delmarva All-Morgan Summer Classic in Upper Marlboro, Md. Butts, 11, was named reserve champion in the same division.

For both girls, the awards just bring them a step closer to fulfilling their ultimate dream of someday competing as equestrians in the Olympic Games. They estimated that they have each won about 30 horse show awards so far.

"Our goal right now is to head them to Oklahoma City for the World Championships," said Michael Butts, who is Lititia's father and also works as the girls' trainer.


Michael Butts trains about 35 students at Antietam Farms in Keedysville with his partner, Rebecca Madison.

The girls both compete in an English equestrian style called "hunt seat," in which they get the horse to walk, trot and canter before a panel of judges. The judges look at the horse's gait as well as the rider's posture. Riders must adhere to precise rules including instructions on how far the horse is supposed to go and which foot it has to start on.

Shantz, of Sharpsburg, said she has always loved horses but she didn't start training at Antietam Farms until she was 9 years old. That's when she got her own horse, a Morgan named MLF-Topic Rose.

Caring for a horse takes up more time than many people realize, but Shantz said the work is well worth it.

"It depends on how hot it is, but mostly I come down (to the stable) in the summer every day," she said.

For Lititia Butts, who lives in Keedysville, working with horses has always been a way of life. She said she started riding horses by herself when she was just 2 years old.

"Do you know the phrase, 'Shut the door. Were you born in a barn?'" she asked. "Well, when people ask me if I was born in a barn I can pretty much say 'yeah.'"

Butts said she loves taking care of her three horses, including the one she rides in horse shows, a Morgan named Crosslane Angelique.

Butts said she is excited to start her first year at Boonsboro Middle School in the fall, where Shantz is already a student.

Until then, Michael Butts said he will be working to prep the girls for their next competition, the Children's Benefit Horse Show in Quentin, Pa., where proceeds from the contest will help fund cancer research for children. He stressed that above all, he tries to teach them that sportsmanship, not winning, is the key to success.

"Just because they come out (of a contest) without a ribbon doesn't mean they didn't do a beautiful job," he said. "They need to come out with pride that they did the best they could."

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