It all started last year when we went to watch for our first time. We were so impressed with the trainers! The 2015 winners, Team Candy Surprise and Team Powerball, did such a great job, as well as several others... After the Challenge, the horses are available for adoption. It's such an amazing process. On average, trainers charge around $700/mo for horse training. These trainers have their horses for 4 months ($2800 of training, not to mention farrier, worming, vaccinations, chiropractor, feed, etc) and the starting bid at auction is $800. Incredible bargain! When we left that day, Abby looked at me and said, "I want to do that next year."
She sent in her application and was accepted, so 4 months ago she went to pick out her horse with all of the other trainers. She was slightly disappointed because she drew the last pick and she watched as, one by one, all of her top choices were chosen. She ended up with Prancer, a sweet little chocolate palomino mare who took over 30 minutes to load into the trailer to come home! But Abby was gentle and patient with her, yet firm and began developing the trust relationship immediately.
Even though we were in classes at The Right Path, Abby has spent an incredible amount of time with Prancer over the last 4 months. If she wasn't conditioning our own horses, working on her Parelli certifications, or on PATH certification, she was working with Prancer. In fact, we've seen very little of her. Typically, I probably would have put my foot down because we have missed having her around, but I saw such a change in her demeanor. Grief has been hard on all of us and we are all trying to find our own way to press on. Abby felt like Prancer was a gift, chosen not by her, but given to her nonetheless. They developed such an incredible bond. Long before the required Challenge Trail Ride rolled around, Abby said, "I love the way Prancer takes care of her rider." The Lord moves in ways we do not comprehend often times and it is for our benefit.
For the Challenge, trainers work up a performance showcasing what the horse can do. Several of them have a fun theme and work the skills into that. I told Abby she would need to come up with a costume and theme, but she looked at me dryly and said simply, "I'm not doing that." For those who know Abby, can you imagine? Hahaha! Anyway, her first goal was to get a good, forever home for Prancer, so during her training she focused on skills that would benefit someone who wanted a companion. She took Prancer all over Oklahoma to horsemanship clinics and trail rides.
After Abby showed all the key points of what Prancer could do, she took off Prancer's bridle and repeated several key skills at liberty (bridle less)! Walk, trot, canter, whoa, back up... All with no reins, no bridle! The best part? When Abby dismounted, still at liberty, Prancer walked beside her to the trailer and loaded with no hesitation when Abby directed! Wow! What a transformation!
|Adult Champion - Zeke Zacharias, Youth Champion - Abby Ocker|
|Abby with friend and mentor, Leslie Kirkland|
Congratulations, Abby! And thank you, Lord, for the healing therapy You've given us in Your beautiful creation. May we always remember that even when things don't go according to our plan, You are still at work in our hearts and lives.
(I am hoping someone got video, but I haven't found any yet. If I do, I'll post some later.)