by Ellie Gant

I have ridden horses since I was 14 but only started showing three years ago. I went to the Spring Fun Show in Shelbyville five years ago with a friend and fell in love. Later, I rode my first padded horse, Touch Of Sunrise, at Charlie Green Stables. I knew then I wanted to be a part of the walking horse world.  However, I had no idea the friendships that would soon be made.

About that same time, I had to put my mother, who struggled with dementia, in a nursing home. It was extremely difficult to communicate with her at times. The one thing that she absolutely loved, however, was watching videos from the horse show that I showed in the previous weekend. It didn’t matter what ribbon I got, she always thought I was the best and every ride was a blue in her eyes. Dean Johnson put up with my last minute calls for a video so I could make sure she saw me show.

Last summer I met the Anthony Joseph family. I knew who they were and admired them. I thought both Carolyn and Ashley were awesome riders and such nice people. My fiancé, Johnny Montgomery, and I were at the Woodberry show last summer and it was there our friendship started with Anthony, Carolyn and Ashley. We have traveled together, been to each other’s barn and watched each other ride, sat with each other at the Celebration, celebrated Carolyn and Johnny’s birthdays while at the Celebration with Bruce and Robin McDonald. I always thought they had awesome horses and were such a neat family.

I knew they were really special people last summer when my mother got ill while we were in Tennessee together. I got a call one late afternoon after we had been to the barn and were getting ready for a horse show. My mother was in intensive care. Carolyn knew I was pretty upset and drove me all the way to Birmingham that night, encouraging me all the way. I learned then that she, too, is the caregiver for her elderly mother.

That was the beginning of a long year with Mother and a great friendship.

Adversity has really taught me to appreciate all that I have and especially my horse friends like the Josephs. Johnny and I were on the hunt for a second horse. I called Carolyn the day before I was to go to Tennessee and asked her if she wanted to ride up there with me. She was tied up with her mother and couldn’t go. Quite honestly, I thought I was going up there to “kick tires”. I didn’t know I would find a horse that day.

David Landrum had done his homework. He had a great horse at their barn for me to ride. I had a blast on him, then they said, “Come on Ellie, we are going to look at one more.” We went to Knox Blackburn’s and there stood Ritzey Zone, Carolyn’s horse that I had cheered on many times. Long story short, I had a great ride and fell in love. I knew how much Carolyn loved her so it meant all the more to purchase such a great animal. Thank you David for finding my dream girl.

Sadly, my mother never got to see Ritzey Zone show.

The entire Joseph family was to meet me in Tennessee the next Saturday for our announcement picture. However, the picture didn’t get made because my mother passed away the Thursday before. How bitter sweet. She would have been so happy to watch such a sweet mare show.

When I got to the funeral, there were so many flowers from my walking horse friends. Among them was a peace lily from Anthony, Carolyn and Ashley.