Lucky To Be A Larkin

Photo courtesy of Lea Watson
(1999 – )
Owned by Sherri Barnes
Inducted: 2014

Photos

Lucky to Be a Larkin was born in 1999, the son of 1999 AQHA Super Horse Look Who's Larkin and Grandson of AQHA Super Horse Rugged Lark. His story is the story of a sensitive and kind horse and the bond he formed with Sherri Barnes and her daughter Kasey, born in 1993 with Downs Syndrome.

Randy Barnes described it as "Like being hit with a hammer". His newborn daughter, Kasey, had just entered the world, but doctors were already making grim predictions using words like quasi-normal and institutionalize. Little did they know then that Kasey Barnes would emerge as a champion barrel racer, encouraging others to "never, ever give up" on their goals.

When Charlie, as he became to be known, was only two years old, he caught the eye of Sherri Barnes. Sherri watched with interest as the cowboy riding him hit the ground with a resounding thud. But Sherri saw an extremely athletic horse. Although he appeared to Sherri to be afraid of his own shadow and challenging to ride, the talented horsewoman knew that all he really lacked was confidence. Then at the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Championship Show, when Charlie was four, Sherri talked the owner into selling him to her.

If Charlie could talk, he would now say his name should be Lucky to be a Barnes. Sherri and Charlie built a partnership step by step - wherever she worked on the farm, Charlie was by her side. If she was feeding in the far pasture Charlie was with her. He became her shadow as she guided him through the daily life of being a horse on the farm and returned to competition to fulfill Sherri's competitive aspirations.

But, in 2008 Charlie was seriously injured during the start of a barrel run, hyper extending his entire back end, tearing muscle from his hip down. Again at a crossroads, Sherri, Kasey and the entire Barnes family took on the challenge to care for him, hoping that he would recover some mobility to allow him to comfortably live out his life at her farm.

Remarkably, Charlie made a full recovery, but just as Sherri and Charlie started to rodeo again, Charlie's career took another turn.

Kasey started barrel racing at the age of seven. "She was on a horse as soon as she was strong enough to hold her head up", said Sherri. Deacon was Kasey's first "big" barrel horse, passed down from her mother. Kasey's abilities wowed everyone who saw her ride, and none more than the special needs riding instructors at Blue Sky Therapeutic Riding & Respite, who, in 2009, happened to move in next door to the Barnes home

Julie Coady at Blue Sky Therapeutic Riding & Respite encouraged Sherri to allow Kasey to compete in the upcoming Texas State Equestrian Special Olympics. Kasey jumped at the chance. The only problem was her horse Deacon was laid up with a minor injury, and none of the mounts at Blue Sky were suitable. "Kasey needed a horse for the Special Olympics show, and I just decided to put her on Charlie", said Sherri. "A lot of people looked at me like I was nuts". But Sherri saw something in Charlie and Kasey that no one else could see.

Six weeks after Kasey and Charlie began their partnership they made their debut at their first Special Olympics show in Ponder Texas in May of 2010 and dominated the competition earning medals in eight events. After that, Kasey and Charlie competed in National Barrel Horse Association events across the Southwest against typical developing peers, winning week after week.

Charlie returned to the Special Olympics venue in 2011, 2012, and 2013 - not just with Kasey but also as the mount for other team members. In 2013, Charlie competed with two other special needs equestrians in assisted trail and western equitation classes. Charlie met the needs of his riders with willingness and a faithful trusting spirit - from Kasey in the speed events, to the young teen who handled him successfully in showmanship and to the young girl who needed two side-walkers for her trail class.

Much like Sherri took care of Charlie when he needed her most, Charlie keeps an eye out for Kasey and other special needs riders. Once considered too skittish for competition, Charlie emerged as a solid mature minded mount and a true all-around athlete faithfully caring for special needs riders of all abilities, happily accepting side-walkers and various horse handlers and always willing to showcase his riders' abilities to the fullest. You can count on Charlie to always make the very best effort no matter the challenge ahead.

Charlie's story is not just about a special horse, it's a story for everyone about never giving up.