WINSTOM-SALEM, N.C. -- With 45 acres of lush farm land including a four-acre pond and 300 acres of undeveloped earth surrounding his property, Ray Crouse certainly has the space for horses to run free.
Crouse, president of Allegacy Services, LLC, the CUSO for Allegacy Federal Credit Union, not only raises horses, he shows them and his two daughters have collected a number of accolades for their mares' showmanship.
Crouse has two show horses, Carter and Jack, a trail horse, Rusty, and Jasper, a horse currently in the process of being broken in. Crouse's interest in showing horses actually came through his wife, Lynn, he said. About five years ago, one of Crouse's passions was raising and racing Siberian Huskies. As the dogs started aging coupled with the demands of work and raising daughters, the hobby had to be put on hold. It was Lynn's idea to buy a horse and from there, an interest was sparked in training them for shows.
"My passion is land and being out in the country," said Crouse, whose brother and parents also have homes on the property. The Crouses also board 17 other horses belonging to other families.
The Crouses horses compete in about four shows each year. Daughters Marissa, 14, and Miranda, 11, have both won state championships. Marissa competed in a show in Delaware and noviced out to the next level. Lynn competed in a two-wheel cart competition and won despite their horse's first time ever pulling such a cart. In the judging process, how a horse carries itself including its gait and gait transitions as well as how it rides and pattern classes are carefully scrutinized, Crouse said. It typically takes 60 to 90 days to break a trail horse and a year to train show horses. A trainer comes in to help Crouse's daughters.
"Some people might be surprised to know just how scared horses can be," Crouse pointed out. "They're not predators, they're prey so their instinct is to flinch or run. Fortunately, show horses [aren't as jittery]."
Horses tend to get hurt or sick very easily, Crouse discovered, saying vet bills for his four mares have been higher than those combined for the 15 dogs he once had.
He's not sure how far his daughters will want to go with competing but he likes the lessons that have come along the way.
"It's allowing them to create a goal and working hard to accomplish that goal," Crouse said. "You really have to work with horses. Later in life, they will realize that you can't always demand what you want, you have to be able to convince people. It's definitely teaching them responsibility."