By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRATDecember 19, 2013
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command civilian employee trains to win whether in space or on horseback.
When not working, Kristine Alcorn, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Narrowband Consolidated-SATCOM system expert Global Narrowband Watch Office, G-6 watch officer, spends her free time showing American Paint horses, or Paints, with the American Paint Horse Association, or APHA, and the Colorado High Plains Paint Horse Club, or HPPHC.
"I grew up in Oregon with horses, and other than my time in the Navy, I have tried to keep horses in my life," she said.
Alcorn served in the Navy for eight years and her last duty station was at the Naval Satellite Operations Center, or NAVSOC, as a duty satellite manager, where she stayed on after her military service. She left NAVSOC after 18 years to join the ARSTRAT team in May. Her office is responsible for UHF satellites, global payload management, configuration management, EMI resolution and situational awareness for Narrowband SATCOM systems.
She talked about what made her want to begin competing and why she enjoys it.
"Having a goal to work toward helps me stay focused and motivated when I work with my horses," Alcorn said. "Judging is subjective, so I am not as concerned with placings as I am with having a good ride.
"The best part of competing is the atmosphere," she added. "I have a group of friends that show together, and I really enjoy spending time with them. We clean stalls, ride horses, and cheer each other on. Getting to the barn early, having my horse 'nicker' at me, getting him fed and clean and shiny -- it's a great feeling. When you have a great ride, and the judges reward you with a good placing, it feels fantastic."
Alcorn said she has done shows all around, competing in many events, including halter and showmanship, as well as Western and English classes. In December 2012, she bought her 4-year-old mare, Sayitwithflowers, barn name Daisy, and began training her.
Alcorn began showing her in May, and won the High Point Overall Champion or Reserve Champion at every show they entered this year. She ended up the HPPHC Year End Novice Amateur High Point Champions and the Open Horse Reserve High Point Champions.
"I knew she wasn't ready for the World Show, as it was her first year under saddle, so I decided to buy a yearling and take him to the World Championships, as he would be on a more level playing field, as most yearlings were at the same experience level -- all new to the show ring," Alcorn said.
Alcorn talked about competing and what makes the crowds come out and support these events.
"I have competed all over Colorado and gone down to the World Championship in Texas," Alcorn said. "The people who watch the shows are typically owners and exhibitors of the other classes, family and friends. The Denver Stock Show and the State Fair has a lot of non-horse spectators as well, and I try to make sure I let the curious come up and pet my horses or let the little kids sit on them, so they take home a special memory."
Alcorn purchased Peter Parker, barn name Spidey, in late May.
"He had the breeding and flash I was looking for, but there was a catch: he was an unbroken baby, 14 months old, fresh out of the pasture," Alcorn said. "I wasn't sure if I could get him ready in time. I brought him home and started baby boot camp immediately. I took him up to my trainers for a month, then brought him home in July and worked with him twice a day to get him ready.
"We started him on a new diet, grooming, and exercise schedule," she added. "On the days I couldn't work him, my 21-year-old daughter, Kellie Ashby, stepped in and made sure he continued his training. I taught him to lead at the walk and trot; go over obstacles; perform side pass and back up; and set up, standing correctly for the judges. We took him to the last local shows of the year, and he got better each time. When he earned a Grand Championship and a Reserve Grand Championship in Halter, I knew he was ready."
In November, Alcorn headed down to Fort Worth, Texas, for the APHA World Championships. They entered Halter Classes and In Hand Trail Classes. Halter classes are judged on the appearance of the horse, its balance and conformation. In Hand Trail classes have obstacles set up in different patterns and the handler and horse must navigate them precisely without touching an obstacle, going off pattern, or showing hesitation or fear.
Spidey and Alcorn also entered the Silver Yearling Halter Futurity and the Silver Yearling In Hand Trail Futurity, which are classes that only nominated horses can enter, and that offer cash and trophies for the winners.
"ARSTRAT has been incredibly supportive, both in allowing me the opportunity to attend the World Championship show and in encouraging me and supporting me," Alcorn said. "Having the support of your command and coworkers makes it so much nicer, and getting to share successes with great people is fantastic."
Over the course of the seven days, they showed, placed in all their classes and won the Silver Breeders Trust Halter Futurity Championship, among others.
"Spidey went from not understanding how to lead to being a World Show Futurity Champion in just over five months, so I am incredibly proud of him and our accomplishments," Alcorn said. "Placing in the Top Five was a goal, and I am very glad we achieved it, but I am ready to go back next year with a new prospect and try to improve upon my performance and maybe come home with that In Hand Trail World Championship.
"Spidey will sit out this year, I'll start him under saddle in the spring and ride him lightly," she added. "Daisy will be back in the ring this year, and I am breeding her to a World Champion stallion this spring. Hopefully that baby will be my first home grown World Champion."
During this year's competition, Spidey's world show results included: 2013 APHA Silver Breeders Trust Futurity Champion Yearling Gelding, 2013 APHA Silver Breeders Trust Futurity Reserve Champion In Hand Trail, 2013 APHA World Show Top Five Amateur In Hand Trail, 2013 APHA World Show Top Ten Open In Hand Trail and 2013 APHA World Show Top Ten Tobiano Color.
Alcorn spoke about how special these animals are, and what she enjoys most about competing.
"So much is special about horses," Alcorn said. "Having this big, powerful creature happily meet me at the gate, seeking out my attention, is pretty rewarding.
"I enjoy the challenges of teaching my horses how to move correctly for the ring, how to listen to my cues," she added. "I then refine the cues until they are so subtle the judges can't see them. I love watching them gain confidence, both in me and in themselves, and that is when I know we are ready for the ring. Then we just go out and give it our best."