Mell took her first horseback ride as a newborn. Her mom, Suzanne
Koch of Stevinson, California, placed Sherri atop her first Appaloosa
the day Sherri came home from the hospital, beginning a love affair
with Appaloosas that would last a lifetime. Barely a year and
a half later, Sherri won her first rodeo trophy for Best Appearing
Cowgirl and so, too, began a succession of accomplishments in
These days the San Antonio, Texas, cowgirl has a houseful of hard-earned
hardware-more than 100 National and World show grand and reserve
trophies, a slew of award saddles and a bevy of buckles, ribbons,
medallions and prizes. In the pen, Sherri is probably best known
for her work with a rope, an event she comes by naturally. Her
father, the late Hennig Koch, was an expert roper, and her mother,
Suzanne, a top-notch roper and barrel racer in her own right.
As 2003 Hall of Fame inductees themselves, Henning and Suzanne
passed that talent on to Sherri, who in 1991, became the only
roper in the Women's Pro Rodeo Association to win a tie-down calf
roping title on an Appaloosa. She won the title aboard Dubs Charge,
a Koch-bred Appaloosa, whom she's competed on for more than 20
years. Nineteen of those years included trips together to the
Women's National Finals Rodeo where Sherri has competed for 27
consecutive years in a variety of events.
"Calf roping is something that just eats at me," says
the Women's Professional Rodeo Gold Card member. "And to
be able to do it on horses that I've raised and my parents have
raised is just very satisfying."
The Koches raise quality, versatile Appaloosas at their California
spread, including Hall of Fame stallion Double Or Nothin. Sherri's
made the most of that versatility, competing in classes ranging
from jumping to games, and cattle to English pleasure.
Out of the performance pen, Sherri incorporates Appaloosas into
her profession as a physical education teacher. She started out
taking Appaloosas to school once a week for enrichment day. Now,
Sherri actively introduces special-needs riders and inner-city
students to the joys of riding horseback through a variety of
programs, several of which Sherri herself started.
Sherri is the founder of ROPER (Riding Opportunities Promoting
Exceptional Riders), a program consisting of summer camps for
children and adults with disabilities, as well as Inclusive Campers,
Equestrian Therapy sessions and Special Olympics events. She's
also the founder of Inclusive Riding, a program developed for
special-needs athletes that enables participants to perform horseback
at the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. In addition, Sherri's
been a Special Olympics coach for 12 years, with certifications
in 11 events including equestrian, athletics (track and field),
basketball, bowling, bocce, softball, table tennis, roller skating
and unified teams. She's served as the Area 20 Special Olympics
Equestrian Games Coordinator for the past five years, and was
named the 2005 Area 20 Coach of the Year. In all, Sherri coaches
nearly 75 athletes on her teams, 21 of which ride her Appaloosas
in the Special Olympics Games. In 2002, Sherri added the role
of St. Jude's Children's Cancer Research Center Trail Ride Coordinator
(and fundraiser) to her schedule.
Additionally, Sherri has served as the Inner City Games coordinator
for San Antonio area equestrian activities since 1997. Through
the Inner City Games program, Sherri has introduced literally
thousands of kids to not just horses, but Appaloosas. "One
year we had 815 student riders in just two days," Sherri
In 2004 Sherri's success in the show pen and dedication to enriching
the lives of others through the use of horses brought her to the
attention of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort
Worth, Texas. Recognized as a classic example of an all-around
cowgirl, Sherri became the youngest inductee, joining the likes
of Anne Oakley, Dale Evans, Patsy Cline and Martha Josey.
With true cowhand roots, a lifetime of achievements in the saddle
and a tireless devotion to her work with special riders, it's
only natural that Sherri would follow in her parents' Hall of
Fame footsteps and also earn the right to be awarded the Appaloosa
Horse Club's highest honor.
"The Appaloosa Horse Club is like a second family to my family,"
Sherri says through tears of gratitude. "I know just about
everybody that's been inducted into the Hall of Fame that's been
alive during my lifetime. And, I've been at every induction since
the Hall of Fame started in 1986. My mom and dad are in there,
our stallion is in there, people whom I look up to and horses
that I admire; they're all in there. So, its pretty awesome and
amazing to be inducted myself."