Most any weekend when Michael Kirton isn’t at a band/school event or at his part-time job, you’ll find him at the stable which is home to his Tennessee walking horse, “The American President” better known as “Prez.”

Most people who know Michael don’t know this, but he has been riding and showing walking horses since he was 8 years old. He has shown several nice horses through the years and has earned countless ribbons and trophies with many proudly displayed in his room.

Michael speaks with fondness of his years showing the horses. He says he has learned much, one of which is how to win and lose with respect. Some of his greatest memories are of the friends he has made from Texas to Louisiana and Tennessee to California, both adult and youth.

“It is my world separate from Waxahachie,” he said.

For Michael, it has been a ride from the bottom to the top.

He’s come close with a couple of the other horses, but when he and Prez hooked up in 2007, it’s been quite the ride.

“Only once in a lifetime you find your equine soul-mate, and Prez is mine,” Michael said. “Prez is a happy-go-lucky kinda horse and sometimes he wants to work his best and sometimes not. When he doesn’t, there is no use arguing, so we just go in the show ring and have fun.”

In 2009, as Prez was beginning to mature, the team finished third in the Tennessee Walking Horse Youth National High Points, which is a point system tallied from all walking horses in the U.S.

In 2010, Michael set his goal to win the top honor since he would be turning 18 and would not be showing as a youth any longer.

Michael recalls how he had a stern talk with Prez and, along with the help of Prez’s trainer, they began their quest to win the title.

“We started hitting the shows with one blue after another, until one night last summer at the International Horse Show in Murphreesboro, Tenn., the panel of three judges thought we were reserve, breaking our blue ribbon streak,” he said.

But more determined, they headed into the fall show season finishing the year with all blue ribbons.

At the year-end banquet for the local Southwest Walking Horse Association, Michael was awarded Youth Champion Rider of the Year, still not knowing the results of the national points.

Then, in January, the announcement came from the headquarters of the Walking Horse Owners Association — Michael and Prez had won it.

The practice, patience and perseverance had paid off, they were National Youth High Point Champions.

On Feb. 12, the awards were presented to the champions at the yearly awards banquet in Murphreesboro, Tenn.

In the fall Michael will venture to Texas Tech where he will become a member of the Red Raider Band and study music education. He will hand Prez’s reins off to his little brother Nicholas in hopes that he will have as much fun and success as he did.

Michael said he will return as often as possible to show as an adult.

“Once a horse lover always a horse lover … you just can’t get it out of your heart,” he said.

Prez and about 35 other Tennessee walking show horses live at TennTex Farms in Kaufman.

Michael’s grandparents own the training facility and trainer Stan Urad lives onsite and trains the horses for various owners and riders who compete in shows.

Michael said they would have loved to have built the barn in Ellis County, but the Kaufman area was better situated for most of the horse owners and the sandy soil was a plus.

For more information on Tennessee walking horses or to tour the training facility, contact Mary Kirton at 972-935-3230.