Meet Sally: Facing fears, finding passion

When Sally was 10 years old, her mom decided it was time to do something about how debilitating her daughter’s anxiety was getting. Sally was especially nervous around animals, so her mom wanted to find a place she could work through that. A friend recommended Taking the Reins (TTR) – not only so she could be around animals, but also so that Sally could confront these fears in a safe, nurturing environment.

“On one of my first visits to Taking the Reins, my mom and I were standing in the barn,” Sally recalled. “My mom said, ‘One day you will walk a horse down this aisle.’ I answered her, ‘No way,” because of how scared I was. Now, not only do I walk horses down the barn aisle almost every day, but I compete on the show team.”

Through a lot of patience from staff, and bravery to investigate her natural curiosities, Sally has become one of Taking the Rein’s most involved students. In fact, she recently returned from a trip to the Arabian Horse Association’s convention where she represented the Arabian Horse Youth Association as the Region 2 Youth Director. See more about this trip here.

Sally worked closely with staff member Misty for the first few years she spent at TTR. She became comfortable with the horses and eventually got the courage to get in the saddle. Bleu was the first horse to give Sally a ride. However, before she could climb aboard, Misty had an idea to help Sally tackle another one of her fears – speaking to a group. Misty channeled Sally’s natural desire to reflect and get lost in her feelings, and asked her to write a story about Bleu. Once Sally completed that, she read the story to the group and then was allowed to ride.

“That was scary for me to do, but it was a requirement to ride,” Sally reflected on the day her life changed. “By that point, I wanted to ride so I was willing to face my fear.”

Sally credits TTR with helping her public speaking confidence. She says she channels these skills often at school and in other parts of her life.

“Misty was great at getting me out of my shell when I was younger,” Sally said about the first day she rode, along with many others before that. “I have taught lessons to younger kids and voiced my concerns or asked questions about a horse. That kind of exposure taught me how to speak up in the real world and at school.”

Sally is now an active member of the show team and the treasurer of the TTR Junior Board. In her time at TTR, she has participated in every program offered. She credits Liz Aulestia and being part of the show team with a lot of her growth in recent years.

“Liz has brought my horse world to a new level,” Sally shared with admiration. “I would never have the opportunity to show without her or without Taking the Reins. It feels like those of us on the show team have grown up together.”

Sally, and many more girls, are supported through financial aid. We are grateful for the staff at TTR and the generous donors who make these girls’ dreams come true.

As many lessons Sally has learned from staff, peers, and mentors at Taking the Reins, her whole demeanor changed when talking about the impact that Kiss me I’m Irish (Finn) has had on her life.

When prompted to describe Finn in one word, her response was simple and impactful. “Special. It’s like we are friends,” Sally lovingly shared.

Sally added that she and Finn have both learned new disciplines alongside each other. Those experiences – along with many other special moments – have bonded her to him, unlike any other horse.

“I just adore him,” she continued. “He is like a little light beam every time I see him.”

Sally’s growth thanks to the people and animals at Taking the Reins is a testament that speaks for itself. Her mother investing Sally’s time at Taking the Reins entirely changed the trajectory of her life. A girl who was once too anxious to touch a horse is now attending national events for her involvement with those same horses. She also repeatedly states that riding horses is her passion.

Horses provide unspoken emotional security to people they interact with. Every girl in Los Angeles deserves the chance to experience this connection. Sadly, there are some girls who will remain stuck in the place Sally was in six years ago. Our hope is to reach all girls who need us. But, we can’t do that without the support of our community.

Please consider a donation to our financial aid fund so girls like Sally can know the support of positive mentorship, and experience the love of a horse. In addition, please share this story with one friend so that Sally’s story, and many others, may reach a wider audience.