Saddie Sue Keeps on Singing

In 2014, Horse&Rider sat down with Kelly Lear to hear the story of how she turned the fearful grade yearling her mom bought for $350 into a multiple world champion. What we didn’t know then was that Kelly would still be winning world championships with the now 27-year-old horse, Singin Saddie Sue.

When Kelly was just 8 years old, her mom paid for ‘Saddie’ by trading off babysitting for her $350 purchase price. The yearling was skittish and unsure of her new life with Kelly, but the two quickly formed a bond that continues to grow even 27 years later.

[More on Kelly and Saddie: The Little Horse That Could]

Since professional training wasn’t an option for Kelly, she trained Saddie mostly on her own with the help of occasional lessons, which she paid for by cleaning stalls. The pair started showing 4-H together and worked their way up to their first Pinto World Show in 2007. Kelly and her mom weren’t expecting this much success since they were often told the 14.3 mare was too small to compete at a high level, but they proved everyone wrong when they won their first world title in the novice amateur showmanship. Their first world show continued to prove that Sadie is just as competitive as the rest when they ended up winning several world championship titles and the novice amateur highpoint.

Kelly and Singin Sadie Sue at their first Pinto World Show in 2007.

Fourteen years later, the two are still competing at events like the Pinto World Show every year and don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. This year alone, Kelly and Saddie have won 8 world championship titles, 1 reserve world championship title, and were the all-around highpoint for their division at the 2021 Pinto World Championship show. Their success this year brought their total number of world championship wins up to 16 total.

Kelly and Singin Saddie Sue at the 2021 Pinto World Championship Show. Jillian Sinclair

There Through It All

Outside of their success in the show pen, the pair has been through several other life-changing events in their 26 years together, including Kelly getting into and attending vet school and her marriage to her husband, Justin.

“We’ve been through everything together. High school, college, vet school, and marriage,” Kelly shared. “Everywhere I’ve gone, Saddie has been there with me. She’s my best friend!”

Kelly, age 9, showing Saddie, then age 2 at a local 4-H show.
Kelly Lear

Because Saddie has proven to be a once-in-a-lifetime horse, Kelly decided to breed the mare so she could continue riding and showing horses with Saddlie’s bloodline.

“All of Saddie’s foals are extremely intelligent like she is. They pick up on training like she did, and they are all very willing and want to please,” said Kelly.

She is excited to have a few more pieces of Saddie in her barn and plans on showing her offspring as they get older.

While the time for Kelly to show Saddie’s babies is getting closer, she doesn’t plan on retiring Saddie just yet.

“I have no plans to retire her until she tells me she’s sick of it,” she shared. “As soon as she tells me she’s done or having trouble, then I will, but it keeps her young and happy.”

Young at Heart

Now that Kelly is a veterinarian, she keeps a close eye on her senior mare’s health and joints. After seeing her horse every day for 27 years, Kelly can tell if Saddie isn’t feeling her best.

Kelly and Saddie. Jillian Sinclair

“We’re really in tune with each other. If I walk into the barn and she doesn’t immediately neigh at me, I know something is wrong. I pretty much have her down pat at this point,” said Kelly.

As with a lot of older horses, Saddie has Cushing’s Disease, so Kelly’s very cautious of the food Saddie gets and has her, but other than blood work and hock injections twice a year, Saddie doesn’t require much other maintenance. Her joints are still as open as most young horses, and they haven’t shown signs of fusing.

“Still do this day, if I try to ride a different horse before her, she’ll neigh and neigh and get so upset in her stall,” Kelly said. “I think it would break her heart if I stopped riding her.

The two have become quite the pair over the past 27 years and have 

Kelly and Saddie after winning Horsemanship at the Pinto World Show. Jillian Sinclair

shown that a horse’s prestigious bloodlines and professional training aren’t all that it takes to become a world champion. Kelly and Saddie have won more than most, and it’s their desire, hard work, and passion that keeps them going after all this time.

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