From Humble Beginnings to Blue-Ribbon Winnings

October 6, 2020


Una encountered many hardships before coming into the care of the West Virginia Horse Network. She had every reason to doubt humans, but against the odds, instantly put her trust in a young rider named Cariana.

When Una arrived at West Virginia Horse Network’s (WVHN) main property, there was a flurry of excitement. As part of WVHN’s program, Una would receive regular handling and training in order to prepare for adoption. Cariana, a young volunteer, had been following updates about Una online and was smitten with Una even before she arrived at WVHN.

“The first time Cariana got Una out of her stall, it was obvious they had an instant connection. Una was instantly fascinated with Cariana. Being five, Cariana was lively, wild, loud and a little hyper. There were other horses in the barn who were not a fan of her spirit, but not Una. Una loved it. Una would hear her walk in the barn and would instantly look for her. Una seemed to instantly trust Cariana,” explained Beth, Cariana’s mother.

As Cariana continued to work with Una, their bond deepened.

“Una would follow her anywhere without a lead rope. If Cariana would stop, Una would stop. If Cariana would run, Una trotted beside her. Una just wanted to be with Cariana, and Cariana loved Una just as much.”

Although Cariana already had a pony at home—and Beth certainly wasn’t planning on adopting a new horse for her daughter—it didn’t take long for Beth to decide to officially welcome Una to the family.

“The connection between Cariana and Una was undeniable. Everyone could see it whenever the two were together. After much consideration I applied to adopt Una. When our application was approved, Cariana cried because she was so happy.”


Cariana was determined to hit the ground running with her new best friend. Una had never been to a horse show before, and shows can be intimidating for a horse who is not used to them. Often, a professional horse trainer takes a horse to their first show so that they can teach them to be confident and relaxed in the busy environment.

Nevertheless, Beth and Cariana loaded Una into their trailer and took her to the local show grounds. Unsure of what to expect for Una’s first show and Cariana’s first show without someone leading the horse, Beth held her breath and watched. Staying true to character, Una never stepped a hoof out of place and the pair brought home a prestigious red ribbon, placing second in their first-ever competition.

Soon after their first horse show together, Una and Cariana started taking lessons at a local riding barn. Cariana was extremely proud to be riding her own horse and the pair continued to progress as a team. The next summer they put their teamwork to the test and attended several more horse shows. Although they received great feedback from the judges, the first-place ribbon eluded them.

Just as Una and Cariana were hitting their competitive stride, Cariana took a bad fall off a different horse while attending a summer camp. Her confidence was shattered, and she was nervous about getting back in the saddle. Beth feared that Cariana would never trust herself on a horse again.

But Una didn’t let her down. Ride by ride, she slowly helped Cariana regain her confidence.

Finally, it was time to get back in the show ring. Equine competitions are designed to test the partnership between horse and rider. It’s part of what makes the sport so exciting—it’s all about the trust and communication between two species.

So how did Cariana and Una do in their first competition back after Cariana’s trust was shattered with the fall? They finally won first place and brought home three blue ribbons.

“Beyond the ribbons, Una is beyond willing to do anything Cariana asks of her. It is a beautiful thing to see the love these two have for each other, but it is even more special to me that Una is able to love and trust Cariana after the many ways humans had failed her in the past. I believe, with all my heart, Una was brought into our lives for Cariana. Una has helped her through so much.”

Una’s past may have been uncertain, but Beth knows one thing for sure—Una will always be a special part of their family.

Interested in giving a horse a second chance? From October 3-11, which we’ve designated Hooftober, equine adoption groups around the country are putting their best hooves forward and showcasing their work online so you can virtually meet a horse. Check out our calendar of events and browse adoptable horses now!