What started as just "a girl and her horse" has grown into a passionate pursuit of equestrian excellence for Shelby Rader. Getting her first horse at the age of eight, Shelby is now an AQHA Professional Horseman, Certified Open Horse Show Judge, former IHSA Western Coach for two universities, CHA Certified Equine Facility Manager and instructor, and manager and trainer of her family farm, Country Meadow Farm, LLC in Amherst, Virginia.
Shelby's parents supported her quest for riding from an early age. At age three, she accompanied her older sister and best friend, Lisa, to take her first riding lesson. "I just remember not being able to see from under my helmet because my head was too small, even for my instructor's smallest helmet" says Shelby. Her mother grew up riding in Wakefield, Virginia under her "horse hero" Shelby has always known as "Mr. Peebles". It was her Mother's willingness to nurture Shelby's dream that gave her the determination to never give up form an early age. Her father, John, became one of her biggest fans. He helped her understand the business aspects of the horses and how to be smart, but he never crushed her plans of wanting to work in the horse industry.
One of Shelby's favorite memories was winning an Unanimous Supreme Championship in working western at an open breed show against 21 other horses with her first horse, "Beau". Shelby described this frozen memory in her mind.
"That did end up being our last show, our last class, and our last ride, and when I say "our", it was everyone's win who had followed our journey for the last twelve years before that day. My little 14.3 hand Arabian had lapped the other horses at the hand gallop while still maintaining perfect control and when asked for a roll back from that hand gallop he never missed a second. After being draped in roses and given a ribbon as tall he was, we took a victory lap. During that lap my heart knew this would be our last for some reason, I have learned to listen to my gut. After completing that first victory lap, we took another, this one at a full gallop, reins dropped on Beau's neck and my hands in the air flying through the ring that he and I had shown in since I was eight. I looked at my Mom at the gate, where she had always been, fists in the air and tears running down her face. As I passed the stands, there was my Dad in the stands on his feet, as was everyone a this point, smiling with such pride for the beautiful road that had gotten us this far and tears streaming down his cheeks. And here was I, saying a bittersweet goodbye to one chapter of my life with a horse that in my heart will always live. What a moment, what a horse. It was this moment that validated in my heart that God had much more in store for me than what I thought. I wanted to give other people a relationship with a horse like I had with Beau, and allow others to feel the way I did that day with my hands high and my heart soaring even higher."
Now an accomplished rider in several disciplines, Shelby has shown throughout the United States and Canada earning international, national, regional, and state titles. Shelby cherishes the time she gets to spend with her special mare, Diva N Diamonds +/, a horse whom she has also formed an incredible bond. Her days are spent working on the farm alongside her husband, Josh Rader, who also shares the love of animals and the outdoors. They plan to expand the equine facilities, as well as diversify the farm with other products in the future. Shelby credits her successful journey to those who have taken the time to invest themselves in her and inspire her, as well as the love and support of her husband, Josh. Bill Melendez, Kristal Raiger, Stanely White, Lawrence Narehood, Tony Benvenuto, Kathy Baker, her family, friends and many other incredible people have challenged her to never quit, and never be satisfied with mediocrity, but rather push on to excellence.