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Jean Llewellyn for PhelpsSports.com
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PHOTO: Heather Cook. From her personal collection
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A Writer from the Day She Could Hold a Pencil, Heather Cook Will Open Up the World Of Reining for PhelpsSports.Com
Wellington, FL - June 29, 2006 – Currently based in cowboy country in Calgary, Alberta, Heather Cook has spent many years writing about the western horse industry. As a young child she was drawn to the sport of reining with its flashy maneuvers and its focus on absolute unity with the horse, and candidly admits that, following high school, she passed her “Just git up ‘n hang on” degree as an assistant trainer for some of Canada’s top reining and working cow horse barns. Heather then spent a year in Austria teaching reining and horsemanship and, in very poor German, tenaciously tried to explain lead changes with just hand signals and body language.
Heather’s relationship with horses backdates to the age of 12, when she begged her cash-strapped single mom for riding lessons. She divulged that “I did everything I could to pay for the lessons myself, and my coach must have taken pity on me because she’d let me pay by washing her truck and trailer, polishing the silver on her bridles and saddles and doing just about any errand possible.” Adding, “I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a good horse, but I ended up with a great one!” Laughing, she continued, “I was given a Standardbred ex-race horse that was blind in one eye. Boy, he was ugly! But that horse let me do anything with him.” Originally Heather was warned that he would never lope, but he did, then she was told that he’d never be useful with his blind eye, “but we’d compete in Open Trail classes just fine.” She remembers fondly, “He really taught me that it’s the size of a horse’s heart that makes him great.”
Heather was 15 when she started reining with her second horse, an unpapered thoroughbred mare who decided her rider was completely insane when she was asked to spin and slide! Heather took up the story; “I’d watch a reining trainer and then try things with this mare when no one was looking. She was my poor square peg and reining was my round hole, but she was a great mare with incredible patience and willingness.” Later, as an assistant trainer, Heather competed in AQHA classes, usually showing the second or third string horses. She said, “I showed the ones that needed some time in the show pen to get over some nerves or other issues. My goal going into competitions was never to win but simply to complete a task with a particular horse.” And confessed, “I’m competitive by nature so it was difficult for me to let go of that dram of winning everything – but in the end I was making better horses.”
As a renowned journalist, Heather currently writes for the Western Horse Review, the Quarter Horse News and the National Reining Horse Association’s official publication – The Reiner. She sits as Communication Committee Chairperson for Reining Canada and spent several years on the board of one of the largest NRHA affiliates. She also runs her own company Clear Blue Media Inc., focusing on writing, editing and photography for the horse industry. Heather has also just signed with a literary agent to market her book Rookie Reiner: Surviving and Thriving in the Show Pen. She said, “Reining is really taking off as an international sport. We are years behind the equestrians in jumping, dressage and eventing, but we have the grit and determination and can’t wait to prove ourselves to be more than just ‘cowboy dressage’!”
PhelpsSports.com Executive Editor Jean Llewellyn said, “I became familiar with Heather’s work a few years ago when I was based in Calgary. Her knowledge, expertise and reputation within the reining and western disciplines are second to none.” She continued, “Since reining was included under the FEI umbrella for the first time at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez 2002, it’s really become recognized as a high performance discipline. I’m very excited that Heather has decided to join PhelpsSports.com and look forward to working with her in the future.”
In conclusion, Heather added, “I am ecstatic to be the reining correspondent for PhelpsSports.com. This unique initiative is sure to revolutionize the way that horse enthusiasts receive information about their sport around the world.”
PHELPS IMAGES is due to launch in August!!
Phelps Images is a joint venture between Phelps Media Group, Inc., International and HorseSource Ltd. One of the world’s largest stock photo agencies for equestrian images, HorseSource has serviced the industry for some 25 years. A huge resource of over 500,000 images – rapidly growing as more affiliate photographers sign on – includes a historic collecting dating back to the 1880s, and encompasses no fewer than 19 Olympic Games. HorseSource represents the most comprehensive library of equestrian photography worldwide. The formation of Phelps Images represents a major step forward for the equestrian industry, and in particular one-stop shopping for images and media services worldwide.
PHOTO: Heather Cook. From her personal collection.