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Skyler Nipper on Tahiti Sweetie, her mother, Janessa Nipper, and grandfather Joel Nipper after the lead line on pony competition at the Racking Horse World Celebration in Priceville on Saturday. Skyler is the fifth generation of her family to compete in horse shows.
Courtesy Photo
Skyler Nipper on Tahiti Sweetie, her mother, Janessa Nipper, and grandfather Joel Nipper after the lead line on pony competition at the Racking Horse World Celebration in Priceville on Saturday. Skyler is the fifth generation of her family to compete in horse shows.

World champion, age 2
Little Nipper is 5th generation of family to compete in horse shows

By Jessica Schneider
Daily Intern

news@decaturdaily.com 353-4612

"Mom, I'm a world champion!" How often do you hear that statement from a 2-year-old girl?

Janessa Nipper heard it from her daughter, Skyler, Saturday night after she won the lead line on pony category on top of Tahiti Sweetie at this year's Racking Horse World Celebration.

Surprised that she actually knew what it meant when the judges called her name? Not really. After all, Skyler is the fifth generation in her family to show horses. It's in her blood.

During the competition, her pony acted up, but instead of being scared, Skyler just looked at her mom and grandfather, shrugged and said, "He did it again."

Not much different from puppies

Other children might be frightened around animals that are five times taller than themselves, but Skyler acts like even the biggest horses are not much different from puppies. She walks up to them and pets them as if the big teeth and heavy hooves didn't exist.

But her mom teaches Skyler respect for the horses.

"She knows the rules, that she is not supposed to walk up too close behind them or go inside the stables by herself," Janessa Nipper said.

Just like her daughter, Janessa has been around horses her whole life.

"I remember that my horse was my friend. I never looked at them as those big animals. They were more like part of the family," she said. "I guess it's the same for Skyler. Horses have always been a big part of her life."

She said Skyler sometimes smacks her own butt if she is in a hurry, just as you would smack a pony to make it go faster. Once, she lined up all of her friends and played "horse show" with them.

Skyler first started exhibiting at last year's World Celebration.

"She is used to it. She watches us ride, and I put her in front of me and ride around with her," said her grandfather Joel Nipper.

"He used to do that with me to help me go to sleep," Janessa Nipper said with a smile.

Janessa Nipper was the first woman in the family to show horses. She competed for the first time in the World Celebration in 1982 at age 5.

'Like second nature'

"It's like second nature," she said. "I stayed home a few times but got bored."

Janessa Nipper won first place in the ladies style category on Choice's King Bee this year. She also plans on having her dad show King Bee in the world grand championship.

The family started competing in the Racking Horse World Celebration in 1981, but the Nippers were active in the horse business long before that.

"My dad and granddad both trained and showed horses. I'm the third generation," said Joel Nipper. "We started out with walking horses, but at the beginning of the '80s, we started showing more racking horses. I couldn't imagine doing anything else."

Even family members who don't ride or exhibit are somehow involved. Billie Nipper, Joel's mother, is an equine artist and paints — no surprise — horses. She taught her son how to ride but has never trained or competed herself. Joel Nipper's sister and her two children enjoy watching the shows from a distance.

'Part of our life'

"Everybody is wrapped up in it," says Janessa Nipper. "It's part of our life, what we do."

She said that the many memories the family has made over the years have brought them closer together.

"I think that's why you pass it on throughout the generations. We have so many good times and also heartbreaks, it makes you stronger as a family. I don't think that a heart surgeon has that many memories to share with his family, so his children might not be interested in continuing what he does."

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