The local horse community showed up Sunday for a memorial show at the Boulder County Fairgrounds to honor the legacy of Ashley Doolittle and raise money for the foundation started in her name.
“This is to gather family and friends and do what Ashley loved most, show and ride horses,” said Ann Marie Doolittle, Ashley’s mother. “She always told me that horses were her life. It’s awesome to see everyone and to see everyone supporting Ashley and just having fun.”
Ashley Doolittle, 18, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in June 2016. Berthoud’s Tanner Flores, who was 18 at the time of her death, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Ann Marie Doolittle said her daughter started riding horses at age 5. She was in 4-H Club and was a founding officer of Thompson Valley’s FFA club. She was in line to become the Boulder County fair queen and was crowned posthumously after her death. She had planned to attend Colorado State University’s agricultural business program.
Ann Marie Doolittle started the Ashley Doolittle Foundation five years ago to raise awareness about teen dating violence. Fundraisers pay for the cost of workshops for teens and parents, making them free to the participants.
Mead High School senior Desiree Shaklee is the teen advisor on the foundation’s board and helps facilitate the workshops. She said health classes typically only offer a short presentation or video on dating violence that’s easy for students to tune out. The foundation’s workshops, she said, include Ashley Doolittle’s story and provide relatable information that students need.
“What they do is so important,” she said. “I see the need to learn about the signs of relationship abuse in my school and with my friends. Society normalizes all the unhealthy things, like constant texting and always asking where you are.”
She also shows horses, though she skipped the show Sunday to help with the event.
“I knew Ashley through 4H,” she said. “She was that older kid I looked up to. … It’s such a great way to honor her legacy.”
Sunday’s daylong event, with about 50 horses registered, included a traditional horse show and a ranch show focused on the skills of working horses. The day started with a “Cowboy Church” service for dating violence victims.
Ava Reed, a junior at Berthoud High School, rode her horse, 18-year-old Buttermilk, in the ranch show. She’s showed horses since she was 10, and said Ashley Doolittle was her neighbor.
“I came out to support Ashley and keep her memory alive,” she said. “It’s such a great atmosphere.”
Ayla Hermanson, who also rode in the ranch show, said she’s wanted to participate in the Ashley Doolittle event for several years, but this was the first time she wasn’t traveling out of state to compete in other shows. She knew Ashley Doolittle through the FFA club at Berthoud High School and described her death as “a very hard thing.”
Now 17, she joined 4-H at 8, then moved to Interscholastic Equestrian Association competitions before traveling to competitive shows. She learned ranch riding techniques through her trainer.
“It’s very rewarding to show horses,” she said. “You get to see your horse grow. I learn at the same time she does.”
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