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Raising horses are a lifestyle for first sergeant, family

Master Sgt. Shana Cullum and Otee enjoy their day at a training stable near Trenton, Ill.  Cullum and husband, Clint, have been raising, breeding and training horses since 2004.  Cullum is the first sergeant for the 932nd Aerospace Staging Squadron.  Read more about the Cullum family and their horses next week on the 932nd AW official web site.

Master Sgt. Shana Cullum and Otee enjoy their day at a training stable near Trenton, Ill. Cullum and husband, Clint, have been raising, breeding and training horses since 2004. Cullum is the first sergeant for the 932nd Aerospace Staging Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Daniel Oliver)

From left, Odee, Clint Cullum,  daughter, Montana (riding Lumpy), Master Sgt. Shana Cullum, and their son, Shields on Top.  The Cullums raise and train horses for a living in southwest Illinois.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dan Oliver)

From left, Otee, Clint Cullum, daughter Montana (riding Lumpy), Master Sgt. Shana Cullum, and their son, Shields riding Top. The Cullums raise and train horses for a living in southwest Illinois. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Daniel Oliver)

Scott Air Force Base, Ill -- Master Sgt. Shana Cullum and her family love horses. Actually, it's more than that. They breed, raise and train horses in Breese, Ill.

When Cullum isn't training horses, she is a reservist and first sergeant for the 932nd Aerospace Staging Squadron.

More than a past-time, horses are a lifestyle and livelihood for the Cullums.

"It's definitely a lifestyle for us," said Clint Cullum, Shana's husband. Clint has been around horses since he was a young boy growing up in rural Illinois.

Clint is a master horse trainer and has bred, trained and sold hundreds of horses.

"My dad still trains and sells horses so, it's a family tradition," he said.

Shana Cullum says horses are like people.

"They have personalities, moods and routines just like we do."

And, the entire Cullum family is involved with horses. Their son, Shields, enjoys feeding, brushing and generally taking care of the horses.

Their daughter, Montana, loves to ride. Although she is just 9, Montana has been on a horse ever since she could walk. She has already participated in several horse shows and plans to ride in competitions this summer.

Today, Montana is riding Lumpy, a quarter-horse. She takes Lumpy quickly around numerous barrels placed about 50 feet apart. This is Montana's second time on Lumpy which prompts a quick command from Mom.

"Push-'em up, push-'em up!" Cullum shouts. 

Giving commands is second nature for Cullum, who is also a former Air Force military training instructor. She said motivating new recruits and training horses aren't all that different.

"They both require lots of time and commitment."

Since horses are large animals, they require plenty of room to exercise and train.
Currently, the Cullums' stable eight horses near their home and maintain about 20 horses in southern Illinois. But, when it comes to training and riding, they use a professional stable with a large indoor riding area located in Trenton, Illinois.

Horse breeding and training is also a business. For example, the Cullums' first year in business, they bought and sold more than 350 horses. This includes show horses, quarter-horse and those in-between. After moving to Illinois in 2008 from Texas, that number has dropped significantly.

"We concentrate on training and breeding.  Currently, we buy and sell about 25 horses a year," she said. 

Managing a thriving family business and first sergeant duties have several common characteristics. Organization, keeping records and a 24-7 dedication (to people and horses) are important to be successful at both, Cullum said.

Cullum's first sergeant skills were evident when she was named the 932nd Airlift Wing First Sergeant of the Year for 2011.

Besides her first sergeant duties, Cullum was appointed as the 932nd AW Yellow Ribbon Coordinator.  This duty requires added preparation and travel to help set-up events across the country for reservists preparing and returning from deployment.

"It's great duty to be able to support our deploying reservists and their families," she said.

Not surprisingly, it was Shana and Clint's mutual love of horses which sparked a friendship, and then a marriage ten years ago.

At the time, Cullum was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base as a "TI" and Clint was a San Antonio police officer who trained and sold horses part-time.

She was looking to buy a horse and made some calls.

"I've always wanted a horse since I was a young girl," Cullum said.

They met and it was an instant attraction. Three months later, Shana and Clint were married.

"We clicked right away and had a lot in common--especially the love of horses," Cullum said, with a smile.