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Riding for Mom By Deborah Turcott


I


f by chance you attended the Aiken Fall Festival II in September 2010, you might have noticed a young woman hobbling around the showgrounds on crutches and with a knee brace. This pretty brunette was not a spectator—she was 20 year old Sarah Ward, a competitor that weekend in the hunters and jumpers who just one week before suffered a terrible knee accident. Against her doctor’s advice and casting her crutches aside, Sarah went on to win four hunter classes that weekend and the championship in Amateur Owner Hunters. Sarah was more concerned with competing for the finals known as the “Indoors” and the Capital Challenge Horse Show coming up in early October than she was with the pain of riding. Yet behind that winning smile is a story far more devastating to Sarah than her injured leg.


How It Began Most little girls, at one point or another, dream of a pony for Christmas. If they are lucky enough to get that first pony, their dreams shift to becoming a super-star Grand Prix jumper or striding around the ring with perfect equitation winning ribbon after ribbon with crowds of people cheering their every victory. By the time they become teenagers, for most of those same little girls, thoughts of ponies and the big lights of show finals drift to thoughts of


50 January/February 2011


make-up, boys, and getting their driver’s license. Not Sarah Ward. While growing up, Sarah never asked


for a pony for Christmas. At age 13, while bored with normal early teenage life, she began to ride horses on a whim. Living next door to a large equestrian facility, her mom, Diane Ward, convinced Sarah to take lessons to give her something to do. “I didn’t have friends that rode but my mom had owned a horse when she was young…an Appaloosa named Appy,” Sarah comments with a giggle. “Riding had evidently been a part of her world, but it wasn’t something I had ever considered until then.” Unlike most young riders who begin with weekly lunge line lessons practicing their balance on an almost- retired lesson pony, Sarah jumped in with both feet. Unfortunately the barn next door to their family home in Atlanta, Georgia had a three-year wait to get into the schooling program. So Sarah’s family decided to take a more aggressive approach to solving the problem: lease a show horse. But less than one month later, Sarah and her family instead purchased her a horse, a Thoroughbred named Happy, and so began Sarah’s dream-like riding career.


ABOVE: Sarah and two of her Warmbloods. Isaac on the left. On the right is another successful Hunter, Carnival Street. Photo by Flashpoint OPPOSITE TOP: Sarah and Moose. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: Sarah and Happy.


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