story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
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Meet the Member Shari Wilkins
story by Michele Toberer
A lifetime of riding horses, specifically running them fast on the barrel pattern, and a special horse called Hula has led to a spectacular year of qualifying for the SPRA finals as well as two other association finals, and winning two rodeo series, for single mother, Shari Wilkins, of Franklin, Georgia. Although being horseback has been a constant since she was 5 years old, it wasn’t until this past year that Shari decided to truly make a run for it all. “I grew up in Rockmart, Georgia and rode in all the federation shows before running barrels in jackpots and rodeos. Hula, my 9-year-old sorrel mare registered as Littleshot of Corona, has been my once-in-a-lifetime horse; she is just phenomenal, and this season has been incredible.” Shari initially intended to sell the mare she had in training with Terri Alexander. However, after Shari’s third time entering on her, she left the arena in tears as she heard the announcer claiming she had just run the fastest time of the 72 horses entered. Over the next couple years Hula was in and out of soundness, and was bred and turned out; but thanks to Carrie Deck of Healthy Equine Therapy in Alabama, and Dr. Pike of Piedmont Equine, the mare was brought sound enough to run again, and Shari took full advantage of the opportunity to run her this past season and bought her card with the Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association. “I was really excited to run Hula and do so well, it was an exciting start to the season. Unfortunately, on October 14th, before we made it to the finals that we qualified for, she severely tore a tendon while playing in the pasture, and it may very well be a career-ending injury for her. Sometimes you have a once-in-a-lifetime horse that you think you’ll run for years, and it doesn’t work out that way.”
For the past 17 years, Shari has been the owner of The Cowboy Shop, a western-wear store in Roopville, Georgia that sells everything from boots and apparel, to tack and feed. Besides her storefront, Shari has also been a vendor for many years at SPRA rodeos, where she brings her store on wheels to many sanctioned rodeos. Shari puts on about 30 events each year at the Heard County Covered Arena in Franklin, between practice nights and barrel racing jackpots, as well as being an SPRA rodeo producer. She will put on a fantastic SPRA rodeo for the 14th consecutive year in Carrollton, Georgia on July 19th-20th, and will be producing the first SPRA-sanctioned rodeo in Bremen, Georgia on April 12th-13th.
Shari is very proud of her sons; Danny Wilkins, 20, will be graduating from Army boot camp soon, and David Wilkins, 17, has enlisted in the Marines and will be leaving in July after completing high school. Shari’s son, Corbin Ashworth, is a 16-year-old junior in high school and when he’s not competing on the track team, he is often helping Shari at The Cowboy Shop.
Shari credits her dad, Johnny Sims, and step-mother, Louise MacIntyre-Sims, for much of what she knows about horses and riding. “For years, I rode their bloodlines. Louise is an IFR qualifier and she’s won the A.C.A., she’s always been a help factor in my riding. My dad trained horses, and they still give riding lessons.” Shari is also grateful to Terri Alexander who has been a great help to her with Hula, and to Josh Pack of Barnsville, Georgia for keeping her horses tuned up and on point through the year so that she can just ride. “I have two sorrel mares I’ve been riding while Hula was injured that have done a great job for me. Stella is a 6-year-old mare that has done wonderfully running against more seasoned horses, and Ivy has been so honest, winning a good amount of the money towards qualifying for finals, so she will probably be who I ride there.”
Although the season didn’t finish as she hoped, Shari is still hopeful for the future. “Hula has had so much against her, and still accomplished so much, she was like a little miracle horse. Who knows what the future will bring. I have a coming 2-year-old stud colt from her, and I’m really hopeful that he’ll make something great too.”