The Harbinger Online

Mane Attraction

Circling the arena, junior Allie Mellor tugs at her horse’s reins as she guides her over a jump. Nose up, toes up. She repeats the saying her trainer first told her when she was little. Landing gracefully, she quickly turns to take another lap. Her trainer, Courtney Mellor, adds a few corrections and praises her for a jump well done. Allie listens to Courtney’s corrections. After all, Courtney’s not just her trainer: she’s her stepmom.

Courtney has been riding for 30 years, much longer than her stepdaughter. Allie’s interest in horseback riding was sparked by the stories of Courtney’s accomplishments.

“She saw a picture of me riding and put her little hand on her hip and declared ‘Well, I love horses too,’” Courtney said.

Allie’s connection with horseback riding was almost immediate. At nine years old, Allie’s stepmom took her to a family friend’s farm in Cleveland to ride side by side on a trail in the country. Scared at first, Allie had to be coaxed by her stepmom to saddle up. As Allie and Courtney made their way home following a gravel road, she looked out into the huge green field and knew riding was a fit for her.

“At first I was scared because I was so little and the horses were huge, but once I was on, I loved it,” Allie said.

[media-credit name=”Art by James Simmons” align=”aligncenter” width=”697″][/media-credit] Shortly after, Allie bought her first horse. She was only able to ride about once every month due to the commute she had to make between her mom’s house in Wisconsin and her dad’s house in Kansas. However, the sporadic rides didn’t stifle her love for riding.

When Allie finally moved to Kansas in seventh grade, she was surprised with a second horse for Christmas and started riding five days a week in preparation for competitions. Riding horses was a love both Allie and Courtney shared, and it has strengthened their relationship.

“Courtney and I always got along really well, but it was something that made us closer because it was a common interest we both had,” Allie said.

Having her stepmom as her trainer allows for the lessons to be brought home. Courtney is also familiar with the way Allie responds to different teachings and examples and uses those in a way that Allie will relate to.

“It’s nice to have a coach that you can go home and talk to about what happened later,” Allie said. “My riding experience doesn’t stop when I leave the barn.”

With all the opportunities Allie has been presented by having a trainer in the family, she has chosen to stick with horseback riding instead of pursuing school sports or other extracurricular opportunities.

“[Riding] horses takes a lot of dedication and time to get better,” Courtney said. “The struggle is balancing school, work and social life.”

At least three times a week Allie makes her way out to Kurin farms, where she trains. By the time she prepares her horse for the lesson, rides for an hour, and takes care of her horse after, combined with the round trip drive, she has dedicated at least three hours of her day to the sport. The time spent for Allie is worth it, though.

“Sometimes when I’m stressed I just go out and ride on my own or I go hang out with my horse for a half hour,” Allie said. “You can get so frustrated, but your worst ride is still better than not riding at all.”

Allie has always set high goals for herself, the biggest being qualifying for the National Championship in Kentucky.

Allie worked all summer to qualify for the National Championships. She woke up early each morning to drive to the farm, staying there all day. Oftentimes she would ride her horse more than two times a day. With the help of her stepmom and two other trainers, Kris Cheyne and Sarah Pence-Bloss, she was able to qualify.

“Allie is an incredibly talented rider and [a] joy to work with,” Pence-Bloss said. “Whether she is working hard to qualify for national championships or teaching a young child how to brush a pony, she puts her heart into it and is dedicated to every aspect of the sport.”

Allie has been influenced throughout her whole riding career by the passion and dedication Courtney shows when working with horses. Courtney has noticed that she can use their “daily life and closeness” to teach Allie lessons, and they have found that knowing each other as well as they do allows for them to accomplish as much in a ride as possible.

“It is nice being with Courtney just because we know each other so well but it can be stressful because there is that added pressure since it’s your parent you don’t want to disappoint,” Allie said. “She knows she can push me really hard and she knows how to push my buttons.”

Just as Allie has drawn inspiration and guidance from Courtney, Allie has given Courtney the satisfaction of watching her grow through her riding.

“Allie has grown from a timid little girl to a strong and determined young woman,” Courtney said.

In addition to training with Courtney, Allie is coached Kris Cheyne and Sarah Pence-Bloss. Having a variety of teachers has proven to be a huge benefit to Allie. Courtney has noticed that she can “use their daily life and closeness” to teach Allie lessons. At the same time, Allie is sometimes able to learn more from different coaches because they aren’t family.
Allie and Courtney have found it obvious that knowing each other as well as they do allows for them to accomplish as much in a ride as possible, but at times Courtney has to work to set aside her “mommy moments.”

[media-credit id=168 align=”alignright” width=”199″][/media-credit] “Sometimes it makes more sense to step back and let a less emotionally involved person help,” Courtney said. “Horse shows can be difficult in that respect because the tensions and expectations can run higher than normal.”

Seeing the passion and dedication that Courtney has had with riding since she was eight has influenced Allie throughout her whole riding career. Although she has had to cut back from riding five days a week to three, not including competitions, the motivation she receives from the amount of time she has put into the sport and owning two horses has kept her from wanting to slow down or stop completely to pursue school sports or other social opportunities.

Allie’s independent and determined attitude showed through at a young age when she proclaimed “she would ride the biggest horse on the farm all by herself,” and those are just the types of goals she set for herself.

“Getting up early and focusing only on riding all day every day and getting home late was exhausting, but the sacrifices were ones worth making,” Allie said. “It got me in great shape and made me really appreciate air conditioning.”

Seeing her do this was equally as rewarding for Courtney.

“Allie has grown from a timid little girl to a strong and determined young woman,” Courtney said.

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