Amanda & Athena | Spring 2017

March was a great month for us. You can read all about it here!

Athena is my rescue mare and came from a rough place. You can read all about how I found her, how she overcame a deadly leg injury, and our journey to the 2018 PtHA World Show HERE.

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April and May was a little slow and turbulent for Athena and I. Athena was sore off and on, and we could never quite pin point what was causing it. Some days we would ride for about 30 minutes and she would come up lame or sore at the end of our ride, and when I got off her and gave her a 15 minute break she would be walking fine again. Other times she would come up sore immediately while lunging, or just walking a little off. We played with time off, bute, stretches, vet visits and nothing seemed to really tell us what was going on. She would be fine for a few days, up to two weeks then become sore again. It was very frustrating and upsetting. I got her adjusted and she had some acupuncture work done. We reevaluated my saddle fittings. Everything came back normal.

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Since she was all over the place soundness wise, I made the decision to pull from a few shows. It really sucked pulling from some of the larger ones because we worked SO hard, but Athena’s health and wellbeing will always be my first priority.

One day she just magically didn’t get sore anymore. We have a few theories as to what might have caused it, but ever since she has been back to her normal, sweet and sassy self! Thank goodness!

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(She can go from elegant and the epitome of beauty to goofy in a flash! Love this horse!)

Her soreness made us put our normal training on hold. During this time she had lots of spa days, massages, and cuddle time. During this time I realized how Athena and I are so similar. She is so sensitive and intuitive. She is truly is my mirror, and however I am feeling is instantly reflected in her. If I am calm, she is calm. If I am upset and frustrated, so is she. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but she has really taught me how to reel in my emotions and remain calm.

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(Does this braid make my butt look big?)

She is a perfectionist and gets so upset when she gets it wrong or doesn’t understand. She thrives on praise and positivity, which alone is her most effective training technique. She hates to be left alone, and although she can be sassy and stubborn sometimes she is the sweetest mare and loves with her whole heart. She truly is my equine soul mate, and as cheesy and cliché as it sounds, I have really grown as a person because of her.

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(Athena and I had a photoshoot with Lauren Blaha Photography! Check out her work y’all!)

Once she was fully ok again, we started concentrating on her canter. To be able to get a hunt seat horse to pick off and canter correctly requires a lot of strength. You could totally jam on a horse, rush them and get them ready within a few weeks. They probably will last a couple show seasons then retire due to injuries. If you want to do it in a safe and healthy way it takes time. So we worked on getting her used to cantering with me on her back. At first it felt like we were racing around the arena. Every few days I could feel her soften up a little more, and then a little more a few days later.

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(Athena has been doing this thing where she chases my car and whinnies when she sees me come/leave. Makes leaving the barn that much harder!)

Finally, Sherry tasked me with the hard task of getting Athena to canter off from the stand still and walk.

Holy, freaking cow. It was SO hard! I worked and worked on Athena’s cantering, between getting her to canter off my leg, to getting her soften up, to getting her to listen to my legs while we were cantering. I worked for weeks and weeks, and was getting so frustrated at times trying to teach Athena to canter off. She would get fussy, I would try to push her through it. In June we had one of our worst days. I left the barn almost in tears and was so insanely frustrated. I almost wanted to give up (almost, haha). The next day I came out and saddled up. She was a tad fussy with the canter then all of a sudden I felt everything click and she did it. She finally cantered off! The first time it happened I praised her like she won the world show. Then she did it again. And again. And again. Then the other direction too. Once she figured out what I was asking, she was EXCITED to try it. Not going to lie, I was crying big, happy tears. It was one of my proudest moments I had with Athena!

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(We were obviously so excited! Haha)

Training your own horse is really, REALLY hard and frustrating sometimes. It is a long, slow process (when done correctly), and some days it can be tempting to give up. But when you have those amazing breakthroughs, it is the best feeling in the world. Training Athena myself under the guidance of Sherry Stewart has been by far one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my life.

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I am so blessed to have Sherry as my trainer. She is the best and she blows me away with her horsemanship every time we have a lesson. Towards the end of June, we took Athena to one of Sherry’s good friends, Rickey Moore from Valley Hill Farm. I was pretty nervous, but there was no need to be because Rickey was SO friendly!

He was a little apprehensive because Sherry told him on the phone we had this rescue horse with a lot of talent. People have a totally different picture when you say rescue horse, then off steps Athena haha. We loaded her off the trailer, got her saddled. Rickey found out about her past, and my hip surgery, and watched us intently as we warmed up. Long story short, he was blown away by Athena! He fell in love with her and her movement. He said he would have never known that she was a rescue and that I was a no name, injured rider. He gave us a few pointers, and then said something that blew me out of the water. Like Sherry, Rickey honestly believes she has a shot at the Pinto World Show! He was amazed by her, and said we were doing the right things and to keep doing what we were doing. Take our time and we would have a World Champion that we could continue showing for the next 10 years. I was floored!

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Athena and I face a lot of negativity when it comes to going to the World Show. To have two phenomenal trainers truly believe that you can do it, and are working their tails off to get you there is beyond amazing. I am so, so grateful for them both. They are honest, hardworking, and so dang knowledgeable. I hope to be half the horsemen that Sherry and Rickey are one day!

Thank you for reading and being so supportive of Athena and I!

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 and show horse!

Want to follow our journey to the Pinto World Show? CLICK HERE so you never miss a post and are the first to receive updates!

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