Amanda & Athena | July 2017

Y’all! We are less than a year out from the 2018 Pinto World Show! Wooohoooo!

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.

July was a super fun and positive month for Athena and I. Those past few months I rode Athena every single day, except on Sundays and worked HARD. I mean HARD. We made the decision to go to the first day of the Triangle Wide Horseman Association Show in Raleigh, and therefore show prep began! Although we had been working really hard on her canter, she just wasn’t quite ready so we concentrated on her walk and trot.

I thought it would be a breeze to get ready, but Sherry really started polishing us up the week before. I had to watch my hands, present my horse more confidently. Sit back, watch my legs. Athena needed to slow down at the walk, and not be so forward at the trot. I needed to slow her legs, but extend her out. We did a ton of exercises geared to engaging her hind end.  Athena needed to get off my hands and be on a looser rein. Sherry taught me some new things and I was amazed how effective they were. I worked on so many things for showmanship, but could see the improvements. We worked really, really hard.

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Like many amateurs my age, we are horse broke. Haha we are ballin’ on a budget, and I was trying to come up with ways to cut back my expenses for a two day show since I am saving for the Pinto Worlds. I decided to sleep in my friend’s empty stall. Problem? Heat index was 105 all weekend! Thank goodness I was stalled right next to the showers, and I brought extra fans. It was SO hot though.

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(I was pretty comfy on my cot and with my fan!)

Sherry (my amazing trainer) was judging the second day of the show, so we decided I wouldn’t show that day and she wouldn’t help me the day before. So I was completely on my own and by myself for this show, and honestly I was pretty nervous about that. To combat my nerves, I tried to remain as organized as I could.

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(One of my favorite images I have taken, Athena for 4th of July)

The day before the show I worked Athena for a long while in the indoor arena. It was only her second time inside an indoor, and she wanted to look into the stands. We were the last ones to leave that night, but we left in a good place and with her more focused. I stayed up late braiding her and prepping as much as I could. I went to sleep around 1:30am, but didn’t get much sleep at all due to storms and horses freaking out in their stalls. I was the first to wake up around 5am, feeding Athena and getting myself ready as she ate. My first class was at 9am, and I had two outfit changes. So after Athena’s tummy settled, we lunged for a while then worked in the indoor arena for a little bit, until she was completely relaxed and focused. We were the first ones in the indoor arena, then we rushed back up to get her ready for halter.

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(Practicing for her Team USA Photoshoot) 😉

Getting her halter ready, trying to memorize the showmanship pattern (that was put out 30 minutes before our class), trying not to sweat, and running back and forth from the barns to the arenas was a little stressful! Haha! Athena placed 3rd in a moderately sized English halter class. Not bad for a rescue! We literally ran back to the show barns to change into our showmanship outfit. We got changed with literally 5 minutes to practice showmanship and I realized I forgot my number! We trotted back to the barns and I lost my number magnet in the shavings. I was ready to scratch from the class when my stall mates next door helped me out and pinned by number on for me.  We trotted back down to the arena as they were calling my class. We didn’t have any time to practice ANY showmanship before the class. Crap.

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(Workin’ hard, rain, shine, or trying to beat the heat!)

We started our pattern and Athena threw her head up the first two transitions with the walk/trot. The first time she threw her head over the photography flash, the other was just pure sass. She has NEVER done that before, ever. Other than that, she had a wonderful pattern. We placed 4th. I feel she was probably picking up on my stress from almost missing the class so I am not upset at her at all. Doing all this without anyone there to help is so hard!

We got ready next for our hunter under saddle classes. I let her munch on hay and water while I tacked her up and got myself ready. We made our way down to the arena and I watched our competitors in the warm up. I was a little nervous, we were competing against some professional trainers and some really, really nice horses. I sighed, patted Athena and whispered to her “We are going to do great! We got this!” as we walked through the in gate. Some open show judges don’t like Athena’s big, extended huntseat movement so I held her back a little. We placed 3rd and 4th. I decided to show her like I would at the Worlds, extend her out and do our thing and we won every class after that!

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In between classes people would come up to compliment Athena, or asked about her bloodlines. Everyone was shocked when I said she was a rescue, and this was only her fourth show! Literally, jaws hung open! Word started to spread about Athena and her story, and after we would win another class she got more and more cheers, even from fellow competitors! Everyone was falling in love with the copper colored pinto. Someone told me they made bets that she was at least a $20,000 horse, another told me that she carries herself prettier than any other horse they have seen. Towards the end of our division, people sought her out to pet her and ask if she really was the rescue I found in a pasture with horse skeletons, or if this really was only her fourth show. I was blown away by everyone’s kindness, encouragement, and love for Athena. Tears would build as people sought me out to tell me how amazing Athena was, not just for a rescue, but as a show horse.

We won four classes that day, with a few of them being pretty large with some great horses in there. My stall mates were AMAZING and held my ribbons and prizes for me, offered to get me water, or help in any way they could. I was so grateful for them! As I untacked my precious Athena, I don’t think I was any prouder. People kept stopping by to see her and hear her story. When things died down, I snuggled my mare and gave her some extra treats.

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(I owe everything to Sherry, who is patient as I not only learn how to ride a high performance show horse, but train one too. She puts just as much work in as I do, and has so much faith in us. She taught us the hard right to do things rather than the easy, dangerous wrong. Love love love this lady right here!)

We did it. It was a pretty big show, and Athena stole it. We did it through hard work, patience, and perseverance. We did it right, without drugging her, beating her, or jamming on her. She was happy, although tired, and it showed. It felt so great to do so well, and to have her be so well received. After the high of the day fell, I was utterly exhausted and realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day. My good friend and I decided to split a hotel room so I grabbed a bite to eat, took care of Athena, and went to bed early.

The following day I was the ring steward for Sherry and learned so much watching others perform and learning what to watch for when judging. But man, it was hard work! We stood all day in the heat, and I honestly thought my legs would fall off! I gained SO much more respect for judges after that day.

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(Athena and all her wins from her first four shows! So proud of my mare!)

I learned so many do’s and don’ts for overnight summer shows. Since Athena is so new to showing, we are still figuring out our routine and what works best for her, although I am pretty sure we almost got it down pat. I learned to just show my horse like we train to do. If they like us they like us, if not oh well. I learned how to manage my time when I am showing by myself. I learned to appreciate my trainer so much more since she taught me the healthy “right” way to do things, although it requires more work. I learned that doing it the hard, healthy right way truly produces better horses, and there are no real shortcuts in horse showing. I learned so much from this show!

After our show we went right back to work, busting our tails to get Athena ready for the NC State Fair. My goal is to enter her first pleasure class there!

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Besides the show, another exciting thing is that my little prissy city dog has become a country pup! She LOVES to ride with me and play in the shavings. Athena was a little weirded out at first, but now patiently stops and walks softly when my dog Tinkerbell is on her!

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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The Blog here at Southern Horse Photography covers amazing topics that are horse related such as my adventures with my rescue horse Athena, my latest and greatest sessions, and horse tips. and hacks that I can't live without! Make sure you subscribe to stay up to date and get emails on the newest posts!


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