When Serge Lepage rode out as the winner of his amateur walk-trot western pleasure class July 22, it was more of a win than most onlookers knew.
“I had an accident and I was paralyzed for two years,” Serge said. “The mare I had made me start walking again. That’s what made me get back into it.”
For his first show, he chose the Merial AQHA Region Six Championships in conjunction with the Super 6 Series in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
“I asked my surgeons and they said you are allowed to go on, and be careful,” Serge said. “Western pleasure – it’s not hard on the back. My pelvis moves, so my surgeons were OK with that. It took me a while – I was scared.”
Serge didn’t quit. He had competed in western pleasure before, and his parents encouraged him to keep riding, despite the metal rod in his spine.
“There was a time when I was telling my dad, ‘Sell my mare,’” Serge said. “He said, ‘No, you’re going to walk again.’ My parents were there a lot. They pushed me to go through that. The horses might have saved my life.”
At the regional championship, Serge rode Ona Zest Of RL, a 2014 black gelding by RL Best Of Sudden and out of Struttin A Lazy Lope by Lazy Loper. “Tysyn” was bred by Masterson Farms LLC of Somerville, Tennessee, and Serge bought him as a yearling.
“He started training last year,” Serge said. “We brought him to other shows, not for showing, but to expose him. He just turned 3 a month ago. It’s his first show – it’s the first time we’re showing him.”
Serge has confidence in the 3-year-old and has never felt nervous climbing aboard. His trainer, Shandi Mitton, makes sure that Tysyn is quiet before Serge gets on.
“When I’m in the pen, I’m not stressed,” Serge said. “I just let it go.”
Serge also took Shandi’s advice on how to in show the class: Sit back, look up, let the horse go.
Serge might enter lope western pleasure later he said, but for now, he intends to continue doing what he’s doing.
“Take it a day at a time,” he said. “I’m not a person who changes every year. I want to focus on that horse and continue with him. He’s so young, so I’ll continue with him, putting points on him and I would like to go to Congress. Do something with him – not keep him in his stall – and be with him.”
The Merial Region Six continues through July 23.