For Geneseo's Thomas sisters, horses are an unbridled passion

Claudia Loucks
For the Republic
Téa Thomas is photographed on “Cakepop” at the Arabian Youth Nationals in Oklahoma City, OK.

The Thomas sisters were “born into horses,” according to their Mom, Trudi Thomas, who was showing horses while pregnant with daughter Tea, now 19.

Téa Thomas, and her younger sister, Talisa, 15, have been showing horses since they could lead a horse, and their love for the animals has gained them numerous accolades.

The sisters won several divisions at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in showing five of their horses in Halter, Hunt seat, Western and Saddle seat.

They both were High Point and Reserve High Point in the Saddle seat division at the Junior State Fair held prior to the State Fair in Springfield.

The sisters will be competing in Kentucky and Ohio in October and November with their 4-H team after winning the 4H State HorseBowl Contest in Champaign. Talisa also won the 2022 State Horse Judging Contest in April and the 2022 Hippology Contest.

Talisa Thomas is photographed on her horse “Don Vitorio” at this year’s State Fair in Springfield.

In 2019, Téa won a Top Ten in Western Horsemanship at the Canadian Nationals, and in 2021, she earned two Top Tens at Youth Nationals in Country English Pleasure. In 2022, she won the National Championship in English Pleasure and an additional Top Ten in Oklahoma City, OK.

Téa Thomas is a sophomore at Black Hawk East College, Kewanee, an Agriculture major transfer, competing with the school’s Horse Judging Team. Talisa Thomas is a high school junior with an online academy that allows for all the traveling and time it takes to compete with her horses.

She said she loves softball and has been playing for the Green Xtreme since she was eight years old and has been on the Geneseo High School Maple Leafs Softball Team for the last two years.

When asked about her passion for horses, Téa Thomas said, “Horses are my life. I am thankful for the opportunities that have come my way. My days can be really long, yet I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Her future plans include transferring with a degree focusing on Equine Rehabilitation and Therapy…”Who knows,” she said. “I do know you’ll find me near a barn. I am thankful for my parents who wouldn’t let me quit when things got hard.”

Talisa Thomas said, “When friends ask me if I get tired of being in the barn or working around the horses, my response is ‘Nope!’ I can’t imagine not being out there. The horses give me a peace.”

“During Covid, my life stayed the same,” she said. ‘I don’t believe most people understand the amount of hours of work it takes just to take care of a show horse’s everyday needs, let alone to win at a high level.”

She said her future plans include striving to win a National Championship.

“After high school, I have an interest in Equine Dentistry or something within an Equine Hospital setting,” she said. “Whatever the case, I hope to be able to share my horses with others by giving lessons and teaching.”

The Thomas sisters live with their parents, Trudi and Craig Thomas on the family farm, Heritage Hills, located in rural Geneseo.

Téa and Talisa Thomas most likely inherited their love for horses from their Mom Trudy, who grew up around horses.

“My Dad, Michael Johnson and Great Uncle Max Ruberg had a Shetland pony farm near Osco and were well-known for their harness racing Shetlands,” Trudy Thomas said. “They could be found at the county fairs across many states….”My Mom, Kathy Talbot, a native of Geneseo, always loved horses and finally was able to convince her Dad to get a horse for the family. When Michael and Kathy married, they began raising and showing Arabian horses.”

“From there, I had the horse bug,” Trudi Thomas said. “They couldn’t keep me or my younger sister, Kelly, out of the barns or off the horses.”

She earned a four-year degree in Equine Science and Business Management form William Woods University, (Fulton, MO)”, and worked at numerous horse farms showing several different breeds….”I always returned to my favorites, Arabians and Half Arabians,” she said.

The entire Thomas family is involved at the family farm, Heritage

Hills, which has a 10-stall barn attached to an indoor riding arena.

Trudy Thomas gives riding lessons, and she said, “Currently, we pasture and board a few horses. I would say our main focus at Heritage Hills is giving kids the opportunity to learn all about horses, not just about riding. We don’t place a big focus on kids showing, but do lease a couple horses out here for kids that do show. Currently, we have an average of 50 kids a week that take regular lessons.”

Téa also teaches as her schedule allows and Talisa is in the barn by 5:30 or 6 a.m. every day, doing a little bit of everything, including chores, cleaning stalls, helping with lessons and working her own horses before logging in to her school.

Trudy said her husband Craig also is involved.

”You’ll find Craig baling hay, doing barn maintenance or hauling horses to shows.," she said. “Our farm is truly a family affair that begins and ends with our love for horses. We’re in the barn morning, noon and night."