California Riding Magazine • October, 2009

California Riding
Reader Writes…
Thank God for horses, daughters
and the power of love.

by George Thomas

Proud dad, George, with his daughters Courtney and Brittany (on Liberty).

Thanks for letting me share the joy I experienced at our oldest daughter’s horse show. The fact that she was show champion at the Hunter/Jumper Medal Finals in Sacramento pales in comparison to what went into getting there.

Our daughter Brittany is now a senior at UC Davis and rides at her school. One of the riders at UCD had a horse named Liberty that had undergone surgery for testicular cancer and actually survived. This made it difficult to find a buyer when the owner put the horse up for sale. Add to that a very wild streak in Liberty and many riders were simply afraid to get into the saddle! He had been a stallion up until his surgery, and continued to think he still was afterward.

Be that as it may, our daughter helped out by riding the horse so that Liberty got his exercise and schooling. Even when he threw her, she’d get back on and keep working with him. Being unable to find a buyer the owner eventually reached the point of giving Liberty to a good home – Brittany!

Over the year leading up to the April finals, Brittany worked very hard to school Liberty and get him to the level where he could compete in shows, which was a huge leap of faith. Brittany’s hard work paid off and the bond between horse and rider enabled them to do well enough to qualify for the Sacramento Hunter Jumper Association Medals Finals, in the Mini Medal division. Talk about tough competition! There were 31 riders in the class and I remember my daughter whispering to me, “Dad, some of these horses must cost around $100,000!” She knew it didn’t matter. All she had to do was bond with her horse and do her best.

What made the competition even more challenging was the fact that Brittany got kicked by a horse the first day and had to decide to drop-out or ride with some very sore, possibly cracked, ribs! She chose to ride without hesitation.

At the end of round 1, Brittany and Liberty were in sixth place, and they moved up to second after round 2. They qualified and competed in the work-off among the top four riders and their only chance of winning was to show some incredible horsemanship skills in their last go-around. Horse and rider did just that! Their go was so beautiful and Brittany’s command of lead changes, halts and voice/leg commands were terrific. To watch her be presented with the championship trophy and lead the riders in a victory-lap was very moving for dear old Dad.

So what’s my message? It’s not about winning trophies or blue ribbons. It’s about a horse that survived a life threatening disease and a girl who worked hard to show that she and her horse could overcome and compete with the best of them.

It’s all about the power of love.

Horse show dad George Thomas lives in Westlake Village. He thanks Alexia Roberts for her inspiration and support in getting him to share this experience with California Riding Magazine’s readers.