Passing the reins
By Emma Bayens

Shanda leans in and embraces Janie, a 10-year-old horse, as she massages her shoulder in preparation for an upcoming show. “It’s all I think about. This isn’t how I make a living. This is for me, and they [the horses] love it, too,” Shanda says.

The first time Shanda Meredith ever sat on a horse, she was a 1-month-old. Now 34, Shanda is passing the reins to her 7-year-old son, Logan. Shanda’s family has a long history of nurturing reciprocal relationships with horses and barrel racing.

“When you’re born into it, it never goes away,” Shanda says.

In March of 2022, a quarter horse from Mississippi named Kid showed up for sale on Facebook, and Shanda and her dad, Gerald Beatty, fell in love with Kid the first time they met.

“He’s perfect. I prayed and prayed and prayed for a horse like him. Now I know that all those times I didn’t find the right horse, it was because I was supposed to have Kid," Shanda says.

Before Shanda owned Kid, he was diagnosed with Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, a neurological disorder that causes the horse's brain to forget how to tell the back feet what to do. This disease struck Shanda’s curiosity and in searching for a good way to treat it, she found a job representing Complete Equine Performance, a nutritional equine performance company.
Parallel to Kid’s health issues, Shanda’s son Logan was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome and five other defects in utero at 25 weeks. He had his first open-heart surgery when he was 9 1/2-month-old and now has a pacemaker. In 2018, the Merediths found out Logan is in heart failure.

"He physically is so limited, so this [riding horses] is something that he can do. It means so much to me and to my family and to see him want to do it . . . he loves it too," Shanda says.
Following the pandemic and the stress caused by these health issues, Shanda desires a place that is just for her – a separation between being a mom and being herself. This is when she picked up equine athletic massaging.

“A lot of people don't understand the horse thing and why I'm so involved and wrapped up, but I would lose my marbles without it,” Shanda says.

The cycle of nurturing and being nurtured by horses allows Shanda to refuel her energy and give more to Logan.

Shanda smiles as Logan embraces Kid during an afternoon exercise. “Logan can’’t do contact sports, but for Kid to be that safe – it says something about Kid and how much I trust that horse,” Shanda says.

Logan hangs out at the barn after school while Shanda feeds Kid.

Gerald watches from his horse, Junior, as Shanda fixes the reins on Kid. “My dad is just always there. He always has been. He’s still is at the gate every time me and my brother run,” Shanda says.

Logan plays with a toy truck while Shanda prepares for the next day’s show at the Saddle Club.

Shanda lures Kid in with food before putting the reins on him for an afternoon ride.

Logan plays on Shanda’s phone while eating Mexican at Mi Camino Real in Leitchfield. “They don’t even have to ask our order when we walk in. They call Logan ‘chicken nuggets,’” Shanda says.

Shanda laughs while talking to Gerald during pre-show warm-ups at the Saddle Club. Gerald is the Vice President of the club, which started in 1969.

A feather, representing Psalms 91:4, is branded onto Shanda’s horse and tattooed on her wrist as a symbol of her faith. This verse says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Shanda and Gerald take their horses for an afternoon ride into the woods behind the Beatty family home.