An Uncertain Future
Having survived a traumatic experience, Leo was initially distrusting and fearful of his handlers when he came into the care of an adoption group in Canyon, Texas, in 2012. A local horse trainer stepped in as a foster for Leo, affording him the space and time to decompress and build confidence in people. She intended to give him a few months to relax in one of her expansive pastures, but her barn also offered training to many young students learning to ride—and it didn’t take long for Leo to garner attention. Nine-year-old Katie slipped into his pasture one day and to everyone’s surprise, tall and fearful Leo was gentle with and welcoming of his tiny young visitor.
“After my lesson one day, I ran up to the fence to meet the new horse, and he came right up to me and licked my boots. Leo and I have been like peanut butter and jelly ever since,” Katie recalls of their fateful first encounter eight years ago.
After every riding lesson, Katie would make a stop to visit her new friend. Their friendship blossomed … but months later, Katie arrived to find that Leo had been moved from his regular pasture.
It’s a Sign
“That Christmas, I was surprised to find Leo in the barn aisle with a big red bow around his neck. Leo chose to leave his past behind and commit himself to the goals we made together.”
Their journey wasn’t easy at first. Katie was still learning to ride, and Leo needed time to gain additional training and experience with his young rider. Katie fully embraced the challenge and devoted every spare minute of her time to caring for her new best friend. To further earn his trust and continue building their partnership, Katie asked her family to go to the barn each week for dinner. They’d pack up their meal and sit outside Leo’s stall, enjoying dinner with both the two- and four-legged members of the family.
Katie and Leo tackled goal after goal.
First, they jumped a small cross rail. Then they attended their first horse show together—and another horse show after that. As they attempted higher jumps and more complicated maneuvers, Leo displayed more trust and confidence in Katie.
Today, the pair successfully travels to riding clinics and participates in eventing competitions across the Southwest. Eventing is a challenging discipline where riders and horses are tested over three phases called show jumping, cross country and dressage. Dressage requires intricate training moves, while the cross-country phase demands power and endurance from the riders. It’s a discipline of riding that requires precision, accuracy and a high level of trust and communication between horse and rider.
Leo’s trust in Katie is instantly apparent when he steps on the course. He is bold and brave—an incredible transformation from the circumstances he endured as a young horse. With a room full of ribbons and memories, it would be easy to focus on Leo’s competitive success, but Katie knows that true horsemanship and friendship is about a little something more.
“You can find diamonds in the rough when looking to adopt a horse. I do this sport for the horse, not to win. When you find the right horse, it shouldn’t matter what they’ve gone through. That love should spur you to give them the best life they could have, and in return they give you a constant friend.”
Katie’s words ring true—Leo’s been her constant friend, confidant and partner through the years.
“For the past seven years, he has heard all my secrets, caught my tears and has given me his all in everything I’ve asked of him. He’s never said no to a challenge. I am so thankful for Leo’s forgiving heart and his patience with me. He’s taught me everything I know as far as riding goes, and how to be a better human,” Katie shares.
Leo and Katie have grown up side by side, and are a perfect example of what can happen when the right horse finds the right person.
Ready to explore equine adoption and find a right horse of your own? Visit myrighthorse.org to get started and browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide.
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