By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
(Photos by Susan Shinn)
Aubrey Overcash had a pretty good reason for attending Catawba College — 50 of them, as a matter of fact.
Overcash, 23, raises miniature horses, and the college was convenient to his family's farm in Rowan County. His grandparents started raising the animals when they retired, and now Overcash is carrying on the family tradition.
Overcash started showing miniature horses when he was seven. This fall, one of those horses, California, earned the honor of World Champion Senior Stallion at the American Miniature Horse Association competition in Fort Worth, Texas. The horse has also been named Junior Champion, so Overcash has retired the 3-year-old, who's full- grown at 34 inches in height.
"As a stallion, he's won all he can," says Overcash, a business administration major who will graduate in December. "I wanted to retire him while he was on top."
To quality for the world show, Overcash has shown his horses in North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.
A mare, Classy, was named World Champion Amateur Junior Mare.
The judging is confirmation based, which means that horses are compared to the standards of the breed.
When the horses are shown, they are completely groomed — so much so, Overcash says, "You wouldn't even recognize them."
At the moment, the horses have grown thick winter coats and are covered with burrs from spending time in the pastures of the family's 40-acre farm. Overcash's parents are Donald and Susan Overcash, and he has two sisters, Mary Ashleigh and Stephanie.
The family owns several llamas to protect the herd from coyotes. "They're terrible around here," says Overcash, who is an avid hunter.
Overcash has some 15 pregnant mares. "We breed to sell, for the most part," he says.
Overcash explains that miniature horses have the same bone structure and body structure, making them proportionate to full-sized horses, whereas ponies are not.
He chooses horses to show based on how well he believes they will stack up against breed standards, as well as their attitude.
While the American Miniature Horse Association judges horses up to 34 inches in height, they may be up to 38 inches in height in the American Miniature Horse Registry. Overcash has shown for both groups, although he mainly shows in the AMHA.
During competition season from April to October, he spends some 20 hours a week at the barn. At the moment, he spends a couple of hours every day feeding and checking on the horses. "Right now," he says, "it's kinda a vacation for me and for them." Abby, his Australian shepherd, is never more than a few steps away.
He's got about a half-dozen horses lined up to show in 2011.
Although he's due to graduate in December, he's not too excited yet because he doesn't have a full-time job, although he works part-time at Village Inn and Catawba. He's looking for a job in sales that's in the area. "I'd like to stay kinda close if I can," Overcash says.
With all of these miniature horses to look after, that's understandable.
Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.
PHOTOS: Student Raises Miniature Horses