Dan, a Special Horse with a Story

9 04 2010

by Stephanie Veloff Histed

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Leigh knows Dan is a very special horse.

Leigh Mills has spent the last 8 weeks preparing for Ariat Jumping with the Stars! on a very special guy, his name is Dan, aka Stand By Me. His owner, Elizabeth Benkert, was a very special student of mine, the best actually. I started teaching her as a small child and coached her to many championships. She was my prodigy child if there ever was one! Unfortunately, 3 years ago this August, shortly after graduating form high school, we lost her to an accidental drug overdose. Since then we have been continuously brainstorming to try to find the best way in which to honor and memorialize her that is befitting to how special she was, we believe we have finally found it.

Liz at her jumper debut in Mason City. Photo by Roger Lohr.

Every year, Timeless Farm hosts our Series of Horse Shows which equates to almost one per month, 2010 being the 11th season. This year, we have launched a campaign that will kick off with the first show of our outdoor Summer Series in May. We have just partnered up with “The Partnership for a Drug-Free America” to run an ongoing charity event within our shows. We are building a fence that we plan to unveil at the May 23rd horse show, the “Elizabeth Benkert Memorial Jump For Charity”. Every time this fence is jumped, TF will donate $1 to the Partnership in Liz’s name (will total a minimum of $100/show, could easily double or more with the success of the campaign). It will be ongoing throughout the season, we have plans for a Mini Grand Prix in September, with awesome prizes and money that will add to the pot. Also, we plan to offer for local troubled teens involved in drug rehab programs to attend the shows as “honorary jump crew”. We have created an account at Heartland Credit Union in Liz’s name to encourage individual donations. There is no end to our excitement in creating new ways to promote our cause.

Liz and Dan.

Our hope is that, in making sure Liz will always be involved in the show ring she loved so much, in keeping her memory alive every day, we will, in turn, help other families by promoting awareness, support and understanding to prevent future drug related tragedies.

So, since then, Dan has become the head honcho school horse, paving the way for new and aspiring equestrian talent. Everyone he teaches is a reflection of Liz, like I said, he’s a very special guy, he has his very own guardian angel! This has been a great way to get the word out for the cause, especially in light of recent drug related tragedies I’ve been seeing on the news lately. I know Liz’s parents would have appreciated improved awareness and assistance, it may have made all the difference.

Leigh's first lesson on Dan.

What has made this even more special is that, at our first show of our outdoor season May 23, during our ceremonial unveiling of the “Elizabeth Benkert Jump for Charity” fence, instead of a “ribbon cutting”, Leigh Mills will ride Dan for the fence’s first ever jump effort! She also plans to have NBC 15 cover the event.

Liz and Dan earning a championship in the jumper ring.

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Liz and Dan.

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