Sherri Mell

Sherri 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 the saddle.

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 says.

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."

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