Best of JN: What it Means to be Adult Ammy Strong

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Photo by Sassy Strides Photography.

Sarah Mahoney caught the riding bug at the age of seven after attending a week long ‘pony-camp.’ At the end of the week, she found herself crying her eyes out because camp had concluded and she wouldn’t be seeing the horses again. After seeing how much riding meant to her, her parents made arrangements with one of the trainers at the camp to allow her to come out and work at the barn in order for her to learn as much about horses as possible–and that’s where it all began.

Ten years later, she was still riding with that trainer and had even purchased her first pony and made it through the pony hunter ring on him. As it often happens, however, adulthood snuck up on Sarah. At the age of 17 she sold her ponies as she prepared to attend college in North Carolina. She still finds herself teary-eyed thinking about those ponies loading up on a trailer knowing they would never return. Sarah tried her hardest to make time for horses in her life and even rode a handful of times while in college, but her time playing NCAA Division II volleyball made it difficult to have horses in her life.

After college, Sarah coached a variety of high school and club volleyball teams, but volleyball had taken its toll on her physically. After moving from Florida to Georgia to be with her now husband, she decided to take some time away from the court only to find herself without a hobby to consume her time. On a whim, she scheduled a riding lesson at a local hunter/jumper barn.

Sarah recalls telling her husband after the lesson, “I can’t believe I hadn’t gotten in the saddle in 10 years. I forgot how much I loved the sport, the horses, and the barn atmosphere.” That lesson was the hook, line and sinker. Sarah found herself 100% submerged back into the equestrian lifestyle.

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Photo by Sassy Strides Photography.

While riding in Georgia, Sarah made many friends, several of whom were also Adult Amateurs. They bonded over many of the same struggles as devoted but busy horse lovers, in particular balancing their passion with  ‘real world’ responsibilities. At the time Sarah was driving 45 minutes to the barn 2-3 times a week to ride her lease horse at the time. Sarah and her teammates joked about making t-shirts with Adult Ammy Strong on them because of all of their struggles making their dream a reality, but nothing really came from it.

That is, until she and her husband relocated to Florida and she found herself looking for a new job and a new barn. Of course, the job search had to come first because without a job how was she going to pay for equestrian expenses? Her mind flashed back to the motto ‘Adult Ammy Strong’ and she thought to herself that she couldn’t be the only Adult Amateur struggling with balancing their real life with their passion for the equestrian world. Adult Ammy Strong was officially born.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Mahoney.

Sarah credits the success of Adult Ammy Strong to the fact that it’s a vast demographic of the sport, and yet deeply underrepresented. Juniors are often highlighted for the Equitation and Junior Hunter Finals and professionals will find the limelight when they score big prize money. She knew that AA’s work extremely hard (in more ways than one) to afford their time in the saddle and felt it was important that the community be able to connect to support and celebrate each other.

With the start of a new year, Sarah has plenty of goals in mind–both for herself and Adult Ammy Strong. She has intentions of showing her 2010 Thoroughbred gelding Wow Factor in the Thoroughbred Hunters and wants to dabble in the National Hunter Derbies. Their partnership is still fairly new, as she has only had him for about a year and they have experienced some rough patches along the way. He may not be the easiest of rides, but he makes her a stronger rider. The more they go through, the more excited she grows about their future.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Mahoney.

As for Adult Ammy Strong, Sarah wants to grow the audience base and continue to share stories that connect, inspire, and support the Adult Amateur community. She has selected the 2017 Adult Ammy Strong ambassador squad and is very eager to see what they will bring to the table this year. They come from all over the country and represent Hunters and Jumpers of all levels of experience, attending everything from local shows to WEF, HITS, and more. She can’t wait to see how they will connect with other Adult Amatuer riders and embody what it really means to be Adult Ammy Strong.

Check out Sarah and all of the Adult Ammy Strong Ambassadors and their stories at www.adultammystrong.com, and you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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