Clydesdale Lily loves trotting through
Manti with her master, Kathy Roberts
By Doug Lowe
Dec. 14, 2017
The best love stories always reveal more about love than they do about those who love.
When love shines most brightly, everyone knows it and feels it—even a horse knows it and feels it.
In this case, the love story centers on a horse living in Manti named Lily.
A registered, pure-bred Clydesdale mare, Lily stands 17.2 hands high and is owned by Kathy Roberts.
Lily cannot tell her own love story so Kathy, who has been, and is, intimately involved in Lily’s love story, reveals her side of the story, giving us an open window into the heart of this horse.
Kathy operates an old-fashioned horse and carriage business in Manti, which means Lily gets to do almost all the work and receives food, shelter and care—especially good care—for her efforts.
Kathy isn’t much interested in getting more publicity herself, and, of course, neither is Lily.
Almost completely seriously, Kathy even asked, “Can you make sure that whatever you write gets put in the very back of the Messenger right next to the classified ads?”
So the story Kathy tells is a love story about horses—her lifelong love for and involvement with them, especially Lily.
Just as Kathy requested, her story is more about the love than about her and the horses.
Kathy’s love of horses was kindled early in life by her father, Kent Thursby, who loved horses and passed that love on to his daughter.
Remarkably, that love continued unabated even after Kathy witnessed her father die from a riding accident in 1989.
“It was meant to be,” she says with a spirit of peaceful acceptance. “I believe he had received a new calling, so he needed to leave this earth.”
“My dad’s roots were deep in Sanpete County,” Kathy notes, “And, so are my roots. Like my dad, I’m a proud Sanpete native—though my mom came from Ogden.”
Kathy enjoys remembering how her dad, as a member of the Army Air Corps, happened to meet her mom who was working as a secretary at Hill Air Force Base during the war.
After earning an associate degree at Snow College, Kathy went to Utah State University yet cut her formal education short in her early twenties as her love of horses led her to work at Salt Lake City’s old Laurel Brown Racetrack and then at Centennial Race Track in Littleton, Colo., just outside Denver.
After returning to Sanpete, Kathy began working for Colleen Hess, who owned and operated Yesteryear Horse and Carriage in Manti.
“Mostly I worked as Colleen’s relief driver,” Kathy recalls. “I took over when she needed someone to take her place at the reins.”
When Colleen decided to retire, Kathy bought her horse, Easter Lily—the same horse Kathy calls Lily.
Kathy got herself a different carriage and started her own business providing “pretty much the same kind of services” Colleen had.
Those services include giving carriage rides to happy brides and grooms, to tourists and other visitors to Manti and to families and many other kinds of groups. She also gives special holiday carriage rides and other special kinds of rides.
More than once Lily and Kathy have helped someone “wanting the coffin of grandpa or some other family member carried to the cemetery in a horse-drawn wagon, rather than the typical hearse,” said Kathy.
Kathy clearly considers Lily the most important asset of her business, and here’s where everyone knows and feels the love: “Lily is great! She’ll do anything I asked of her. I’m sure she could even handle the kind of traffic that horse-drawn carriages encounter up in Salt Lake—though I’d never ask that of her.”
The simplicity of her Sanpete lifestyle and business operation makes Kathy grateful. That gratitude was especially visible and audible when she recounted the sad story of a carriage driver up north who died from an automobile collision.
“The poor horse survived and recovered pretty well but was always afraid of traffic after that,” she recalls.
Occasionally Kathy (at 5’2”) has difficulties harnessing up Lily: “Sometimes when I try to throw the harness up on her back, it will miss and come sliding down on me. But, thanks to the hardheaded persistence and sense of humor I inherited from my father and his Danish and Norwegian ancestors, I just keep smiling and trying until I succeed.”
Another great asset helping Kathy through the trials of life, in addition to Lily and her rolling stock—the carriage and wagon—is her husband of more than 20 years, Bart Roberts.
A North Carolina native and carpenter, Bart was in Sanpete and doing some work for Colleen when he met Kathy.
“With both of us having been previously married and both having two children—one boy and one girl—the symmetry seemed promising,” says Kathy.
Courtship led to marriage and to Kathy and Bart having another child—a son they named Oran after Kathy’s dad. “Seeing Oran with us, some people sometimes wondered if he was our son or grandson,” Kathy says with her typical cheery tone of voice.
When not being a wife and mother or operating her horse and carriage business, Kathy not only gives private riding and horse handling lessons but also teaches students in Wasatch Academy’s outstanding equestrian program, which won recognition as the Best of State in 2016.
According to Kathy, her association with Wasatch Academy as an equestrian program staff member goes back over 10 years or so.
The current head of that program, Todd Tree, gives high marks to Kathy’s ability to teach students about the care and handling of horses, in addition to her overall helpfulness.
“She brings a great attitude and great knowledge to all three parts of our equestrian program: Western-style riding, English-style riding and recreational riding,” said Tree.
Though her primary responsibility is working with students on English riding skills like dressage, jumping and eventing, according to Tree, “Kathy is always willing to pitch in and help in any way she can—with a happy, friendly attitude and tons of knowledge.”
Recently, for three weekends in a row, Kathy’s willingness to go the extra mile had her driving to transport horses to St. George where Wasatch Academy’s rodeo team competed in the Dixie Six High School Rodeo (so named because it was held on three consecutive weekends with two rodeos held each of those three weekends).
Tree points out that Kathy’s helpfulness extends way beyond the Wasatch Academy Community: “Really, out in the surrounding community, anybody who knows Kathy knows she can be counted on whenever help is needed.”
When love shines most brightly, everyone knows it and feels it, including the horses.
Kathy finds her work with the students at Wasatch Academy very rewarding. The students come to Wasatch Academy from so many different states and nations that she says she finds herself “learning things from them while they are learning things from me.”
Some of those students have never been around horses before and may never be around them again, while others bring their own horse with them to Wasatch Academy—especially those interested in rodeo competition. Any and all of them benefit from Kathy’s years of in-depth experience.
As Lily is well aware, even with all her hours of teaching, Kathy continues to operate her old-time horse and carriage business.
“Thankfully, that business is mostly on weekends,” explains Kathy, “And it slows way down in the winter when I’m busy at Wasatch Academy. Then in the summer, when Wasatch Academy slows way down, the horse and carriage business picks right up!”
Nowadays, the lion’s share of Kathy’s horse and carriage business comes from return customers and word-of-mouth recommendations. Many an out-of-town visitor to Manti, and repeat customer of Kathy’s, first heard about her horse and carriage from the owners and operators of overnight accommodations in Manti.
Marlene Yardley, now retired and living in Spring City, operated Yardley’s Inn with her husband Gill Yardley for some 20 years and sings Kathy’s praises enthusiastically.
“She was a wonderful asset to our inn,” said Marlene. “I always told our guests about Kathy’s horse and carriage rides. And those who acted on my suggestion always loved the experience! Touring the town with Kathy, they learned much of the history of Manti, and she was so warm and friendly they couldn’t help but enjoy themselves.”
Lily went along with all this for years, of course, hearing all the happy conversations of newlyweds and tourists, never drawing any attention to herself.
For some 17 years, Julie Snow Christensen happily and confidently referred her guests at the Rose Cottage in Manti, brides and grooms, their family members and other out-of-town visitors to Kathy’s horse and carriage service.
And, according to Julie, all those who opted for the fun of a fascinating carriage ride around Manti were never disappointed—thanks to having Kathy holding the reins with Lily in the harness and the love they brightly share with all who come into their presence.