Three years ago, Zack Zalewski was killed in a car accident, leaving his girlfriend, Kaitlyne Wadman, behind. At this year’s All American Quarter Horse Congress, Wadman dedicated her freestyle reining performance to him, incorporating a flag at the end of the run that read, “In Loving Memory of Zack.”
“This year at Congress, I decided to dedicate it to him because it finally hit me that he’s really gone and he’s not coming back,” Wadman said.
Her performance was made even more special because she was joined by her best friend, Teagan Newhall, who helped her get through losing Zalewski. Newhall rode Wadman’s Mustang, Ciscos Sassy Sensation, aka “Sassy.” The fact that Wadman was able to bring Sassy to the Congress was thanks to Zalewski’s family.
Wadman originally met Sassy through the Extreme Mustang Makeover. Trainers have 100 days to work with their Mustangs before the competition, and afterward, the horses are auctioned off to the highest bidders. Wadman felt like she had bonded with Sassy, saying, “There was just a connection, and I could not let someone else have her.”
“I was talking to my ex-boyfriend’s parents and they looked at me and said, ‘You bid as high as you need to go; Zack will buy this horse for you,’” Wadman said, explaining how Zalewski’s parents made it financially possible for her to purchase Sassy. “At that point I was like, ‘All right, now she needs to come to the Congress, because not only am I dedicating it to him, but from above, he’s still helping me.’”
Wadman, riding TP Harley Daniels, and Newhall, riding Sassy, placed ninth. Because the mare is “really quick and gets in the ground good,” Wadman got Sassy her National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) card. She hopes to compete with the mare in NRHA-approved shows. Even if that never happens, she was excited just to go to the Congress and see her mare compete there.
“I can’t even explain it. Between wanting to cry, to riding for Zack, and just the accomplishments I’ve made with her, it’s unexplainable,” she said.
Zalewski may not have been a horseman, though Wadman said he “tried really hard,” but there is no doubt that he was cheering on Wadman and Sassy from above.
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