Horse riding expertise is part of Courtney Woodard’s DNA, literally.
The 16-year-old 4-H club member followed her mother’s footsteps into the arena of horse show competitions, and she’s making quite a name for herself in it.
Woodard recently won not only the championship ribbon and medallion at the Dixie Nationals in Jackson, Miss., in the Novice Youth Horsemanship class, but the embroidered Dixie National jacket, too. It is a prize only sported by class champions.
The Dixie National competition is the third largest horse show with participants coming from across the United States and Canada.
Her American Quarter Horse Association horse, “Good ’n Plenty Sunshine,” trotted its way to the top 10 in the Novice Western Pleasure and Novice Trail classes.
Woodard joined the 4-H club when she was in fourth grade. Her interest was sparked from the competitions her mother was involved in, as well as those she watched with her family.
“Really, my mom’s done it ever since she was little, so it’s just something that I’ve grown up with and just grown up around,” Woodard said. “It’s just kind of became a part of me.”
Though Woodard’s family was her original inspiration, she has found it as her own unique way of expressing herself.
“I just love it,” she said. “It’s kind of like my freedom ... my getaway from the world and where I can be me.”
Woodard and her family own six horses. When entering competitions, Woodard said she has two competition horses and changes horses for each discipline to switch it up a bit.
She said the familiar faces she goes up against make it all the more fulfilling.
“I always love it because I love competing against people I know, because you know, you get bragging rights,” Woodard said.
Another championship that paid off the most for Woodard was the recent State Show in Perry. The two-year master 4-H member won the Contesting Division as Reserve Champion in the Stock Seat Division, which included two $500 scholarships and a $300 award for winning Reserve Champion status.
“It’s just such a great program with the scholarships they offer and then being involved in UGA,” she said.
“It’s just a great opportunity to get to go.”
Woodard, a volunteer at the Hall County 4-H Club office, is planning to use her experience in horse competition to work in a special kind of physical therapy called hippotherapy, or equine therapy. This utilizes the therapeutic power of horses.
She said beyond career goals, the life lessons 4-H and competitions have taught her have been the most valuable.
“I think it’s taught me a lot of responsibility and self-motivation, and it just shows that if you want it bad enough, you’ve just got to go work for it.”