Defying the Odds: Athena’s Story
Amanda was in the saddle before she could walk. She spent her childhood sharing her parents’ love of horses, a passion that led her to volunteer at a local rescue as an adult. It was there that she met a horse named Athena. Athena was thin, having experienced a period of neglect prior to rescue and was mistrusting of her human handlers, but what Amanda saw was a horse with a spirit and grace that took her breath away.
Even with Athena’s tragic beginnings and clear lack of training, Amanda could tell she was special. Soon after, she made the decision to adopt and prepared to bring Athena home.
Amanda recognized that Athena needed consistent, patient handling to build her confidence, so she spent the next few months working with Athena on the ground to gain her trust and teach her the basics of being handled and saddled. Her patience paid off, and soon it was time to climb on Athena’s back for the first time.
“I finally got to sit on her,” remembers Amanda fondly. “It was one of the coolest moments of my life. Athena was one of the first horses I had ever trained from start to finish, and it was special.”
Athena calmly accepted Amanda as her rider and the two quickly progressed and further bonded. Amanda started to wonder what was next for Athena.
“I decided that I wanted to show this horse. We’ve already beaten the odds and defied expectations,” Amanda explained.
She trusted Athena fully and saw greatness in her equine partner, however not everyone agreed. Some of her fellow competitors and barn-mates tried to discourage her from showing Athena, but Amanda was determined to show the world what her horse could do—and almost a year to the day Amanda brought Athena home, they entered their first horse show. The pair brought home all blue ribbons, signifying that they’d won every single class they entered. Their first horse show was a remarkable accomplishment and a catalyst for a journey that would take them to the very top of equestrian sport.
“What else can we do?”
After their first horse show, Amanda’s mentor encouraged her to look into the Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA) where Athena would be eligible for registration (despite her unknown lineage). Upon completion of the registration process, Athena was eligible to compete in all PtHA shows and the Pinto World Championship Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Amanda set her sights on the World Championship, and despite a lack of belief about her rescue horse from her fellow riders, she was determined to see her dream to fruition.
In 2018, She and Athena and made the long drive from Georgia to Oklahoma. The horse show was a dream come true and the pair walked away with multiple top 10 and top five finishes. Amanda was thrilled and knew Athena could do more. After the horse show, she switched up Athena’s training routine and set her sights on 2019. Once again they made the trek back to Oklahoma and took on the best in the world.
“In 2019 we won our first two world titles,” Amanda recalls. “I broke down bawling in the ring and fell on her neck. It was, by far, one of the best days of my life.”
It was an emotional day for Amanda and her team. Athena claimed two World Championship titles in a sport called Western Dressage. This is where the horse and rider are judged on their ability to complete maneuvers. The sport requires excellent communication and trust between horse and rider. Athena had finally gotten the recognition that Amanda had always been certain she deserved.
Amanda realized she’d found the discipline that Athena loved and was elated at their result, and once again asked herself the guiding question that’d brought them to the world stage in the first place: “What else can we do?”
Climbing to New Highs
Next, she set her sights on showing with the Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA), the governing body for the sport where she’d won two classes at the Pinto Horse World Championship Show. There are hundreds of qualifying WDAA shows around the country and a World Championship event in the Oklahoma City area.
Two years after finding their sport, the pair is thriving. They’ve captured multiple National year-end recognitions and eight more World Championship titles, bringing Athena’s total to 10. They’ve continued to move up the levels, and now, Amanda plans to become a professional horse trainer to help others accomplish their dreams.
Amanda is quick to credit Athena for bringing her on this journey. “It’s silly: people tell me I’ve saved her and that it was such a great thing to do, but she’s saved me in a lot of ways. She’s given me so much hope and so much peace. It’s been so amazing, and now through her, I’ve been given a career in the horse industry. She’s taught me so much. Because of her, I can pursue my wildest dreams and I’m in awe of her.”
This #RightHorse Found Her Right Person
Amanda found her #RightHorse through adoption. Through their success, she’s been able to open doors for other transitioning horses by helping riders and horse-lovers consider adopting their next horse. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the right horse finding their right person.
“The Right Horse, for me, means that I’ve found my partner … my best friend. My Right Horse has saved me in ways I never thought possible. She’s given me goals and things to work towards when I’ve been at my lowest and she’s given me a friend in my hardest times, and she’s given me something to look forward to,” Amanda explains. “She’s a part of my soul and my greatest partner. I’m so grateful for her and her willingness and trust in me. I feel with my Right Horse I can do anything, and that we can do anything together.”
Feeling inspired and ready to adopt a horse of your own? Visit myrighthorse.org to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, gender or discipline.