Local girl rides all the way to Oklahoma City

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 15, 2003

When Ironton resident Leslie Best had to choose between a car and a horse as a graduation present, she said it was an easy choice.

About a year and a half later, that decision has really paid off as Best and that horse - named Inevitably A Mr. and affectionately known as Freddie - are heading to the American Quarter Horse Association's World Championship Show in Oklahoma City on Nov. 22.

For Best, the excitement is really building as she prepares to once again compete with the horse that she said "is like a best friend."

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"Freddie was my graduation present and it has just been a surprise. I am shocked at how well we have done together," Best said. "With this only being my second year in the AQHA, everyone is kind of shocked."

Overall, 2003 has been a good year for Best with her winning four grand championships and two circuit championships. By beating more than 150 horses in competition, she earned enough points during the year to earn the right to compete in the World Show.

Riding has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember and has really helped her mature as a person, she said. Showing the horses was just the next step.

"Showing has helped me to grow to love my horse more and has actually helped me to travel and see other parts of the state and the country," she said. "It has helped me to see what is out there and better myself and my horse."

Best, the daughter of Dee Ann Staley and Lonnie Best, said her success would not be possible without the help of trainer Bill Coffman and his girlfriend Brenda Regoa and, of course, all the rest of her support group.

"I would like to thank my parents for letting my dreams come true," Best said. "I would also like to thank all my friends and family for being right there behind me."

For Staley, this tournament is kind of bittersweet because the family plans to sell the valuable

quarter horse afterwards.

"This is Leslie's last hurrah with him. She has done all she can with him and is at the pinnacle of showing," Staley said. "He is only 7 years old and can still make another little girl's dreams come true."

As Best prepares for the biggest tournament of her life, she said she is a little more nervous than normal.

"Before, it wasn't too bad, just kind of jittery. But now I am getting more nervous," Best said. "I will be showing against the biggest horses in the world."

Before they make it to Oklahoma City, Staley and the family will stop in Kansas City where three children that Staley works with at the Mighty Oaks and Little Peanuts Therapeutic Riding School in Franklin Furnace will compete in the American Royal National Championship Challenge Cup in Kansas City, Mo.

Earlier this year, Best was also named Miss Rodeo West Virginia 2003.

In January, she will return to Oklahoma City to enter the Miss Rodeo USA pageant, sponsored by the International Professional Rodeo Association.Tuesday's workshop since being defeated by Larry McDaniel in last week's election.