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Focused on miniature horses

Shawn Rusing is a 6-year-old with more energy and excitement coursing through him than he can control. It’s hard for him to concentrate and he can get so eager to do something that he falls over himself to do it.

But horses help him focus — specifically, miniature horses.

Thomas Spicer and his family own several acres in east Lincoln County where they raise and train miniature horses. One year ago, they took custody of Rusing and introduced him to to what they do. He took to it very well.

Spicer said it helps the boy to stay calm and to focus.

Spicer’s 20-year-old daughter Haley is a nursing student. His son Caleb is 14.

“This was kind of a challenge for us to take on a new one just starting school,” said Spicer, since his children are already an adult and a teen.

The family began raising and showing horses in 2011, and have shown at registered, sanctioned shows since 2012 in the American Miniature Horse Association. The Spicers went to the world competition that first year in Fort Worth/Dallas, and both Haley and Caleb competed.

The Spicers have had horses in AMHA competitions almost every year since and have repeatedly gone to the world competition.

In 2018, Rusing got his chance, competing in a show in Monroe, Louisiana. He was the only competitor in his class, so easily won. From there he advanced to central regionals — where he won both shows he competed in, earning a belt buckle for highest points in the 7-and-under age group. Then Rusing advanced to world.

He showed and placed first in his age group in Senior Mare and Reserve World, and also placed first against 16- and 17-year-olds in the special needs class 18 and under.

Caleb also competed in the Youth category of Training Exhibitors class, winning world with the same mare Rusing won with in his competitions.

Rusing has his very own horse now, a gift from someone in North Carolina. The Spicers took a trip to pick up the horse, just a few months old, returning home this past weekend. The trip was tiring, Spicer said, but fun.

“We got to feed the baby tiger at the zoo and Shawn got to feed the giraffe a banana,” he said.

Now comes the work of getting the new horse ready for showing.

“We’re having to halter break him, train him how to stand and everything to show him,” Spicer said. “I’ve already started Shawn walking the horse and I have to stay right there with him to let the horse get used to him, also. If I would just go out there and train him, the horse might act up with Shawn. He’s running with the horse and walking with him. We’ll probably be ready in April for the first show, in Tennessee.”

The family owns 17 miniature horses that they raise and sell, and they show three of them.

Raising the horses to show and sell has been the family’s business for nearly a decade now, and Rusing will be there with them, with more shows — and hopefully more wins — ahead.