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World Class Grace
Photo by: Sally Blackwell Photography
Just like people, horses have personalities all of their own, often contributing greatly to a horse and rider's success or failure. When Jackson, TN trainer David Berrie gifted the grey mare, Graceful Skies, to one of his students, Ashley Owen of Collierville, TN he had no idea how well he had matched their personalities or the things they would accomplish together. Having been hurt learning to jump with a previous owner, Grace, as she is known around the barn, did not have much trust for people. She was, and still is, very skeptical of most people and was absolutely terrified to go over a jump. An only daughter of Sky's Blue Boy, who passed away in 2012, after having produced over 200 World and Reserve World Champions, Berrie couldn't pass her up. After a veterinarian pre-purchase exam, the 6-year-old mare checked out fine, allowing Berrie to give her to Owen as a reward for college.
Beginning in January 2013, 20-year-old Owen began riding the mare and taking her to AQHA shows under Berrie's tutelage. Having only 6 months remaining in order to qualify for AQHA Worlds, gaining enough points to qualify was the farthest thing from their minds. In addition, it is more difficult to qualify in Fences because not every show offers them. However, great things can happen when a horse truly loves her rider. In a short time, Owen and Berrie were able to help Grace overcome her fear of jumps and get her to the point where she was placing well at AQHA shows. The Dixie National AQHA show in mid-February was actually the first time Owen and Grace had been through the Fences course. They showed from 6p.m. until 3a.m., ending the night with 3 Reserve Championships. Before long, they realized that the AQHA World show was actually within reach and they went for it, even driving 8 hours for a show that would only reward them a half a point. “She is an Amateur rider on a green horse and she is out there winning against trainers,” boasted Berrie, who is obviously proud of the duo. “They just click,” he says.
In November, Ashley Owen and Graceful Skies will head for the American Quarter Horse Association World Championships in Oklahoma City having officially qualified in Progressive Working Hunter, Amateur Working Hunter and Equitation over Fences. While others had a year to accumulate enough qualifying points, Owen and Grace did it in merely 6 months. They continue to train, preparing themselves for November and striving to bring home a World Championship.
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