By DAVID GUNTER
SANDPOINT — It’s a darn shame that television westerns are no longer in vogue. If they were, Roy Rogers would have traded in Trigger, the Lone Ranger would have left Silver lonely and Hopalong Cassidy would have hopped right off of Topper — all to sit proudly on a handsome steed that goes by the name of Dusty.
Dusty and his owner, Barbara Tibbs, recently returned from the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show in Tulsa with a boatload of ribbons and honorific hardware to show for the trip. At the end of the event, Dusty emerged as the high point scorer, far outdistancing the closest competitor and fulfilling a dream his owner has held dear for the past couple of decades.
Leading up to the show, sisters Barbara and Laurie Tibbs were just settling into the idea of retirement, having wrapped up long careers as teachers in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. Both retired at the end of last school year and, at least in Barbara’s case, wondered what the following first day of school would feel like without a classroom waiting for them.
“The day I turned in my letter of intent to retire, I was a little worried — what’s going to happen in the fall?” she recalled.
Thank goodness for bucket lists, because she quickly came up with a plan to fill the void.
“I told Laurie, ‘We’re going to Tulsa in the fall,’” she said.
Tulsa — home of the highly esteemed horse show that Laurie had competed in three times before, but Barbara had only dreamed of.
“I told myself I was going to do it before I turned 40,” she said. “That didn’t work out, so I kept moving it up.”
She knew Dusty had a shot at placing, despite the fact that some of the best horses in the nation also would be strutting their stuff for the judges. But walking away a champ? Even that lofty achievement wasn’t out of the question — not with Dusty as the horse to beat.
“He has this attitude,” said Barbara, comparing him to her previous multiple-award-winning horse, Telly. “Dusty has that same, laid-back personality. I mean, he lies down to take his afternoon naps. Horses don’t do that.”
Laid-back or no, the horse was in his element when the Western Trail portion of the competition got underway. He made his way through the bridges, gates, poles, side steps and back-throughs that make up the obstacle course as if he was born to the task. And when the two days of judging was in the books, Dusty had racked up a total of 437 points — fully 11 points higher than the next-closest challenger in a field of 15 horses.
“He really did smoke the competition,” said Laurie. “He was way above and beyond anything there.”
The judging, the sisters noted, was based on a scoring system where each entry starts out with 70 points and then gains or loses points based on how well they do in the arena. Along with the compulsory stages of the course itself, each horse can amass “style points” for how good it looks in the process. Let’s just say that Dusty owned it on both counts.
“He was steady all the way through,” Barbara said. “I knew I could depend on him.”
So confident was she in her mount and so smooth was his performance that time flew by and she found herself at the end of the course, standing in front of the judges and questioning whether Dusty had made all the moves required of him.
“I panicked,” she said. “I thought, ‘That was too fast — I must have left something out.’”
The fear melted away when she saw the looks on the judges’ faces.
“It was a neat feeling, because, as we jogged out of the arena, all five judges told me, ‘Nice ride,’” she said.
The sisters have been training and riding horses since they were youngsters and seem to have a knack for both preparing them and picking them out in the first place. In the case of Dusty — whose registered name is, Ravenwood DunIn Style — it was the horse that chose the owner.
Now 10 years old, Dusty came into Barbara’s life when she and Laurie traveled to Ravenwood Arabians in Montana. He took a liking to her immediately and let her know it.
“He picked me out when he was two-months-old,” she said. “Dusty wouldn’t leave me alone. He followed me all over the pen. On the way home, I asked Laurie, ‘Well, what did you think of the baby?’”
Within a couple weeks, Barbara was back in the pen — accompanied this time by sister Marianne Love — and Dusty was just as enamored as he was on the first visit. Marianne, too, found another young horse at her heels that day.
“We ended up buying both of them,” said Barbara.
Dusty, though, was the first to cross the border and join the other horses at Tibbs Arabians, north of Sandpoint.
“Now we have 11 of them,” Laurie said. “We can’t go over there any more — it’s too dangerous.”
Barbara had just lost a favorite trail and show horse before Dusty came onto the scene. Laurie, meanwhile, recently lost her champion horse, Mani, who swept the awards at the Arabian Horse Association’s Sport Horse Nationals competition in 2012. (You can read more about that event by searching for “Laurie Tibbs Mani” on the Daily Bee website.)
Like Mani before him, Dusty was a tad flummoxed to find himself back in the barnyard, just one of the guys, after the excitement of training and competing were behind him. Both champions might have a challenger in a young upstart by the name of Pache, who now is the sisters’ focus as they prepare him for dressage competition in 2018. That preparation comes on the heels of Pache’s pair of Top 10 showings as a 4-year-old, as well as his reserve high point overall win in the Spokane Sport Horse series.
“He thinks he’s hot stuff — and he is,” said Laurie. “He’s a little bundle of hot stuff. He doesn’t walk across the barnyard, he full-on trots.
“Everybody said Mani was a dream horse — the horse of a lifetime,” she continued. “But I’ve had six of those ‘horses of a lifetime’ and I think Pache has even more potential, in the long run, than Mani.”
Horse lovers and the general public are invited to attend a celebration of the horses’ awards and the sisters’ retirement on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 1-3 p.m., at Tibbs Arabians, 84 Center Valley Road, just off U.S. Highway 95 North. Dress warm, as the celebration will be held in the barn — where the champions live.
To view Dusty’s winning performance in Tulsa, go online to arabianhorselive.com, select the “Pavilion Arena” tab at the top of the page and then click on “Class 1894/Semi-Final.”