Remember the community steak fry Lyle and Lance Headon used to host a couple of times a year, closing off the main street in downtown Creston?
Do you remember that little girl who busied herself serving guests and cleaning up? She worked hard and saved up her tips so she could buy a horse.
Snickers was a very small quarter horse, not much bigger than a pony really, but back then neither was Amanda Headon.
Today, the tall young lady is the owner of a small farm operation. She plants and harvests hay, gives riding lessons and teaches children how to care for and dress horses.
She is also the 2019 Illinois FFA Equine Entrepreneurship Champion, an award she set her sites on four years ago and received just before Spring Break.
“My family lived in (the town of) Creston when I was little, but at age four my interest in horses was already alive, so my parents let me begin taking lessons with Miss Marie at On Eagle’s Wings” she said. “When I started asking for my own horse, my parents explained we couldn’t have a horse in town, but said if we ever moved to the country and I raised the cash, I could buy my own. When I was about 8, my dad said I was big enough to begin earning money by helping at the steak fry. Between wages and tips I saved up $800 and bought Snickers.”
The Headons had moved out to property near Skare Park, northwest of Rochelle, but at that time it didn’t include a barn.
“Snickers was boarded at Diamond G Western Ranch,” Headon explained.
She began showing Snickers in 4-H competitions all the while asking her parents about a barn. Today, the barn houses her three Paints, a herd of goats and menagerie of other animals which are always a draw at Rochelle Township High School Ag Days.
Snickers was sold when Amanda outgrew her and bought a new horse, Lexus. Her beloved Lexus was lost in the 2015 tornado that hit the O’Rorke Farm (where Lexus was boarded) hard. That tornado also cost Mr. O’Rorke a horse.
Today, Headon’s business operates out of Headon barn where she teaches, sells the hay she bales, and has leases one of her horses to a young rider while she teachers her. She also has worked summers teaching at White Pines State Park.
When she began high school, Headon and FFA advisor Donna Page decided her equine operation would make a good SAE record book. SAE is an acronym for Supervised Agricultural Experience.
“So, for the course of my high school career, I have been documenting every aspect of my business; all of the feeding times, the feed, the care provided, all the costs, and my revenue,” Headon said.
That record book is what Headon submitted before undergoing extensive interviews about her SAE with the state selection committee.
“When they called my name (as the state champion), I was so excited,” she said. “It took a lot of work, but I achieved my goal and learned to operate a profitable business.”
“I plan to take my horses with me to Tennessee (in the fall) where I’ll enter a 4-year pre-vet program before applying for veterinary school,” she said.
She is using riding lesson income for her college expenses.
It’s a lofty goal, one Donna Page is confident she will achieve.
“Amanda’s passion for the equine industry is evident in everything she does. That passion and drive was showcased in her SAE. She set a goal her sophomore year to win state in Equine Production Entrepreneurship,” Page said. “When her name was called, she was ecstatic. She has trained and owned numerous horses over the years. And she took that same approach to her record book. The nose to the grindstone, work-hard-for-it mentality sets her apart from others.”