Wednesday, June 12, 2013

North Fulton teens train toward equestrian goals.

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Courtesy by Nicole Dow; Neighbor Newspapers

Addy Howe, a 13-year-old student at King’s Ridge Christian School, fell in love with horses when she was about 2 or 3 years old.

“I had a babysitter who took me and put me on a horse,” she said of her first introduction to riding.

That initial love for horses led her to start competing in local horse shows about five years ago. She is now ranked 22nd nationally in the Younger Large Junior Hunters Division. Part of her improvement in the sport over the past year and a half can be attributed to training at FoxCroft Farm, an equestrian center in Alpharetta on New Providence Road.

“Here I’m always learning something,” Howe said.

Abbey DuBose, a 14-year-old student at Mount Pisgah Christian School, has also been training at FoxCroft Farm, having started in January. Coming from a family of horse riders, she first started riding about seven years ago and now competes in the Medium Pony Hunter and the Large Pony Hunter divisions, she said. She currently ranks ninth in the country.

DuBose said her skills have improved since training at FoxCroft Farm, and she enjoys the atmosphere at the center. “It’s been more like a family environment,” she said. “I know everyone, and it’s just fun to train here.”

Head trainer Tim Sweat has been working with both teens and has seen their confidence levels improve while riding. “When you increase your confidence level, your ability to ride around the ring is better,” he said. “Confidence is a major part of what we do.”

The two compete about twice a month and recently participated in the Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania — a first time for both.

“It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious horse shows in the country,” Sweat said. “You have the best of the best of every division that’s there. Your first time there you can be pretty overwhelmed.”

He said the girls handled themselves well but made some minor mistakes, which kept them from receiving ribbons. While her performance did not go as great as she would have liked, DuBose said the experience taught her to know what to expect next time. Howe also said she views her first time at the Devon Horse Show as a learning experience.

Both teens have goals to reach the top ranks in their divisions. Yet aside from the competitive aspect, they both simply love riding.

“I just like horses,” Howe said. “I like being around them.” She is content going to the barn just to spend time with the horses, even when she is not riding that day. DuBose said she enjoys connecting with the pony she rides.

“I really don’t love any other sports as much as I like riding,” she said. “It just feels good to go out and ride and just have fun.”

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