Pictured above, L to R: daughter, Kaitlyn; wife, Carolyn; Chris; and son, Collin
Operations Manager Chris Champagne recently celebrated his 28th anniversary at P1 Group. He was hired right out of college – to Huxtable and Associates at that time - and has spent his entire career here.
He earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering and has the distinction of being the first graduate from Kansas State University CEO Smitty Belcher allowed – er - hired.
When Chris started, Computer Aided Design (CAD) was new to the industry, but he had familiarity with it from classes at school.
“When I came here, we were still drawing by hand, so the deal was, I was going to help them get started in CAD and they were going to teach me the contracting business,” Chris said.
He started out in estimating, but over the years has been a project manager, operations manager, and is currently a team leader and operations manager in Lawrence.
Chris said he has really enjoyed being involved in different roles within the company.
“P1 is a great company to work for and I’ve always appreciated that they have allowed me many opportunities for growth and given me a career I am proud of,” Chris said.
P1 isn’t the only thing Chris has stuck with. Training and showing American Quarter horses has been a hobby most of his life.
Chris grew up north of Topeka on a 30-acre farm near Hoyt, KS. His family always had horses for both showing and racing, and he caught the bug at an early age, competing in his first show at the age of five.
He even met his future wife Carolyn at a horse training clinic when he was 12 years old.
“She actually grew up near Hutchinson, and we would cross paths through horse showing through the years, and ended up getting married,” Chris said.
Chris and Carolyn continued the tradition of horse training and showing after they got married, passing it along to their own children as they grew up.
They don’t raise horses, but will buy and train them. They typically try to find a horse that is around two to five years old and has certain characteristics.
“We look for an attractive animal that has a quality of movement. We like for them to be five to six feet tall at the shoulder and have a calm personality,” Chris said.
Once they have purchased the horse, they train it to compete in several different classes.
Although there are many classes for competition, their focus is on the classes of showmanship, horsemanship, and trail.
Chris routinely participates in 10 -12 competitions per year. He shows them in riding and leading classes around the country, but normally stays in the Midwest area.
Over the years, Chris has even had the opportunity to compete at the world championship levels.
“We have been to the World Championship and Youth World Championship shows approximately 10 times with six different horses,” Chris said.
Chris says he gets a lot of satisfaction from training horses and teaching them new things, which includes working with horses that might otherwise not have had the chance to be a show horse, and developing their abilities.
“The horse my daughter shows was being used as a trail horse in Colorado when we purchased him. We have trained him in many events and he is now a successful show horse that performs many different events at a high level,” Chris explained.
Currently Chris and his wife own a 15-acre farm near Lawrence, KS, where they have four horses and have recently completed an indoor training facility so they can work year round.
It’s more than a hobby. It’s part of who he is.
“This is something that has been part of my life for as long as I can remember and it’s something I will continue long into the future.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Chris has enjoyed handing his hobby down to the next generation. That includes his daughter, Kaitlyn, 19, who is currently attending K-State and majoring in Kinesiology and Spanish.
The equine past time isn't the only thing shared: Chris's son Collin (some may remember him from his time interning at P1) has followed in a similar career, currently working as a project engineer for HME in Topeka.
SHOWMANSHIP focuses on the exhibitor's ability to fit and show a horse at halter. Judges evaluate the grooming and fitting of the horse and the expertise of the exhibitor in presenting the horse to the best of his or her ability. Contestants must work a predetermined pattern consisting of maneuvers such as walking, trotting, pivoting, backing, and setting up.
WESTERN HORSEMANSHIP is judged on the horsemanship abilities of the rider using western rack. Individually, riders must first follow a prescribed pattern consisting of maneuvers such as walking, jogging or loping in a straight or curved line, pivoting, stopping or changing leads. Exhibitors will also show their horses around the perimeter of the arena, or "on the rail." Judges pay close attention to the riders' body positions, how they sit a saddle, and their ability to control the horse.
TRAIL Just as a decathlete must train in several events, trail horses must also be accomplished in numerous obstacles such as passing through gates and crossing bridges. Trail judges focus on the skill of the horse to handle certain situations that might occur on an outdoor trail ride. Scoring is based on the horse's willingness, ease and grace in negotiating the course.
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