Fall 2016 brought some absolute CRAZINESS ya’ll.
August-November is busy season for us photographers, so if I wasn’t at meetings with clients, shooting, editing, or the other hundreds of business tasks that owning a photography business brings, I was cramming in any moment I could at the barn to prepare for our show in October!
In August Athena had her first big girl riding trips off property! I was a proud momma!
The first place we went to was Raven Rock State Park. I hadn’t ridden there in such a long time! Athena hopped right on in and was so mellow when we got there. I was so excited! It was our first official trail ride!
It is always a little nerve wracking taking a green horse out on it’s first trail ride. You really have to be prepared for ANYTHING, but I decided to go into it relaxed, calm, and trusting Athena would do the right thing. Man, she really blew me out of the water! She did so great. She wasn’t hot or spooky at all! We decided to get out of the heat and let the horses hang out in the water. At first Athena really did not want to go in but eventually we ponied her in and she did great! She was calm and didn’t try to bolt out. I was already so proud of her!
Athena ended up crossing wooden and grounded bridges, went up and down stairs, and even took over as trail boss for a good stretch of trail. She seemed to have had a lot of fun! A few deer even came bounding next to us and she didn’t spook. I was so impressed with my mare. I had an absolute blast that day!
Our next big trip was a few weeks later. I tagged along to a trail challenge with Sherry to get Athena exposed to a show ground atmosphere.
We pulled up to the Southeastern Ag center and it was already busy! Horses were tied to trailers, people were warming up their horses, and music was playing loud across the field. I unloaded her and she was a little excited, so I lunged her pretty good. I walked her around until my legs hurt, exposing her to all that I could. Athena saw some wagons, horses carrying flags, and all sorts of spooky trailers but she did so well! She even saw cows for the first time! I felt confident to ride her so we rode the grounds for hours. We watched the trail classes, walked around the indoor arena, and worked on our trot. She had some hot moments, but overall I was so proud of her! She was handling spooky objects and obstacles better than some of the seasoned horses! We left hot, tired, and a little sunburned, but I felt so much more confident in Athena and our upcoming show!
In September we continued to work on collecting Athena and making her trot more consistent. She had a tendency of not keeping a steady pace and we did a LOT of circles to help her with that. At the end of September we finally put her in english tack and my heart swooned! Athena was made for it!
Sherry introduced me to showmanship around this time. At shows I had never really had an interest in halter or showmanship and used that time for a break, but Sherry was confident that Athena would do great so we gave it a try. As soon as I realized how insanely hard showmanship was, I was hooked! We must have walked/stopped, walk/trot, trot/stopped, stopped/trot miles upon miles around the barn. I would trade my boots for tennis shoes as I worked with Athena. I was fascinated how we could work off each other completely off of body language. We mastered things bit by bit. We finally got to the pivot and I was so frustrated! We really struggled with our pivot, but Sherry would point out the what seemed like tiny things that would make a HUGE difference, and a few corrections would send Athena into what I was trying to get her to do. I loved it and would often work on showmanship in the morning and evenings to polish all that I could before the show.
Since we decided to jump into showmanship, I needed a showmanship outfit. Of course all of the ones that I loved were like $3,000+ dollars, I decided to make my own. I wanted something that would offset Athena’s little white patches, so I decided with an all white outfit, with gold+pearl+rust rhinestones. I wanted something classy and simple. Here is what I made! I am pretty proud of it!
Now that I was riding english again, I needed to work on my equitation. We had a totally different feel, and things were beginning to look very real! I couldn’t believe that the progress Athena was making, not to mention I was learning so much from Sherry. I learned how to move my horse on/off the rail without turning Athena’s head. I learned how to collect her without it looking like I even moved. We learned pivots and turns, we got Athena exposed to horses crowding her, and we went over every “what if” that comes with showing. It was a lot of work, but there was no where else I would have rather been! I couldn’t get enough of it!
It was around this time that Sherry told me Athena, MY ATHENA, had a lot of potential and could possibly go to pinto worlds if she kept a level head at the show and responded well to the training we had in the upcoming months. I was blown away. Winning a national title was a dream that I think we all have in the equestrian world, but it was something I never thought I would achieve. But here was Sherry saying that if we continued to work hard we could really achieve some big stuff. Having someone else believe in you, your horse, and your WILDEST dreams was something else. It gave me so much hope and lit this fire in me. My little rescue horse, the horse that no one had wanted, had some REAL potential. I was blown away!
The week of the horse show butterflies set in. Every spare moment I had was polishing up my showmanship, our rail work, or packing things together. I had no idea what to expect from Athena. I had no idea how we would do, and every time I doubted myself I had Sherry there to lift us back up. I really am so grateful for her!
Unfortunately the week of the horse show, Hurricane Matthew came barreling into North Carolina. Initially we were ok, but as dams began to break across the Sandhills we were forced to evacuate. Evacuating 20+ horses in the middle of the night, soaking wet, as the temperatures began to drop below 40 was a nightmare. We camped out in a field near Angier the first night with the horses. I stayed with Athena the entire time! I couldn’t leave her. We had to stay away for a week, unsure if other dams would breech. I stayed with the horses during this time. Thankfully, we came home with everything mostly intact and dry. Roads were washed away, rivers were high, homes had flooded.While my home was ok, many close friends had lost their homes and other properties and it was heartbreaking.
Needless to say the horse show was canceled as eastern NC tried to get back on it’s feet. I was a bit sad at first, but then I was grateful we had more time to prepare. We decided to go to the next show, November 6th. It would be my first show in years, Athena’s first show ever, and the determining factor of Athena’s very uncertain show career.
Thank you for reading and being so supportive of Athena and I! Stay tuned for our next update with Athena!
Read more about our journey together by CLICKING HERE! You can read how I found her, how we overcame an injury that most said she wouldn’t recover from, and how she went from an aggressive and scared rescue to a stunning and loving friend!