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‘She’s more like a pet’: Centerville grad has an award-winning partnership with this miniature horse

She’s 32 inches at the withers, has a blush-colored mark on her nose, and during this particular meeting has clover slobber. That’s because this miniature palomino has just returned to the barn after grazing in a Miamisburg field.

Her name is Sandra, and she belongs to Olivia Shooter, a recent Centerville grad. The 18-year-old shows miniature horses, and Sandra is her star.

We’re in a barn at McCabe’s Training Center. When Olivia acquired her four and half years ago, Sandra’s name was MTC Endless Love. MTC is run by Mike and Barb McCabe. The American Shetland Pony Club sponsors competitions across the nation.

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“She’s a national champion. She loves people, and loves people coming into the barn,” said Shooter. “She’s more like a pet; she gets crabby when she knows she’s going to a show. She would be so happy to stay in the barn every day.”

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Sandra and Olivia have just returned from a show in St. Louis. Since these minis live to be 20-something, this 7-year-old will have a very happy early retirement, because her owner is planning to go to Xavier to start her college career. She’s majoring in biology and pre-med.

“I want to be a surgeon. But after working with horses, I don’t think I could be a vet,” said Shooter, who’s trading in her black and gold for blue, gray, and white. “I’m going to miss my friends, cause we’re all going to different schools.”

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Shooter didn’t know a thing about horses until six years ago when her dad, Gary Shooter, started dating Kim McCabe, the owners’ daughter. About 18 months after that, Olivia met Sandra, and it was ‘endless love’ at first sight. Gary and Kim own Perry and Mitch.

“Perry’s a lot taller than Sandra; he’s a little more skittish because he’s a stallion, not as lovey,” said Shooter. “Mitch is a little sweetie. I’ve won with him before too.”

Shooter has won many ribbons and awards with Sandra, but it hasn’t always been a walk in the clover. There was a jumping incident early on.

The horses are judged on poise, performance, trotting, following commands, and a jumping exercise they call hunter. The organizers will place fake or real plants beside the jumps to dress them up. When Shooter was 14 she was showing Sandra at an event in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They had real greenery, and Sandra “can be stubborn sometimes.”

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“I walked her up to the jump, and she plants her feet and stops dead in her tracks and bends down to eat the plant. You get three refusals, so I thought, ‘Okay we’re going to do this again,” remembers Shooter. “The second time she jumps, but turns back around to bite the plant again. Then she did it a third time, and we got kicked out of the class.”

“I probably won’t show Sandra again; we might want to get her to have a baby or something,” said Shooter, whose bedroom is covered with ribbons and awards from the shows.

Whatever that is, Sandra will enjoy eating clover, apples, and just hanging out in the barn.

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MTC was first known for its Arabians. Now they specialize in growing and breeding miniature horses.

Contact contributing writer Pamela Dillon at pamdillon@woh.rr.com.

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