Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bonny & Justine: From the Backyard to the Big Competition in Texas!!

By Bonny Curless

It’s hard to describe the way I feel when I am riding my horse, Justine.

One word comes to mind: FREEDOM. Freedom from all the stress and strain that life sends our way. Freedom too, to be exactly who I really am.

I’ve had Justine – she’s a Morgan horse – for 15 years, ever since she was a six-month-old filly. Over the years, we’ve developed a partnership and bond that is incredibly powerful. We are mentally, physically and emotionally connected, and sometimes when I’m riding her, it feels as if we are one.

Justine gives me her strength of body and spirit to carry us wherever “we” want to go. We love to explore the world around us as we travel up and down hills, through meadows, across water and bridges. The flow and movement of her body as we traverse the undulating ground together is medicine to my soul. The sky is the only limit when we are together. We feel we can go anywhere and be free!

I have been passionate about horses for as long as I can remember. I am a third- generation horse-crazed female. It all started with my grandmother. And then it hit my mother. And now it’s me. I have had many wonderful opportunities to learn from and play with many different horses in my life – horses of all types, styles, sizes and personalities! Yes, horses have personalities just like people!

I began studying Parelli Natural Horsemanship in 1999 when I realized that my horse partner Justine needed ME to become a better leader for her and so I began the journey of becoming a better horseman. Currently, I am a Level 4 student in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program.

I also joined ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) in the beginning of this year in order to honor “Justine” for her patience in teaching me to become a better horseman. Justine’s favorite thing to do is go on a trail ride! Little did we know that would end us up competing in AFTHA’s reality TV show in Texas!!

Back in April, ACTHA held auditions across the country looking for finalists for the reality television show, "America's Favorite Trail Horse." More than nine hundred contestants tried out for the finals and of that group, 100 horse and rider teams were selected to attend the finals at Franklin Family Ranch in Austin, Texas.

JUSTINE AND I were chosen as one of the 100 horse and rider teams
to attend the finals!! Can you IMAGINE how excited we are? Please remember -- I am just a small town girl riding her backyard horse having fun!

The trip to Texas for the final competition was an experience of a lifetime. I had only nine days to prepare and pack for horse and human to go on the trip (of course I was working my 9-5 job seven of those days). The trip itself took a total of nine days -- three days traveling 2,000 miles to Texas, three days "competing," and then another three days traveling 2,000 miles back home to New York!

Whew! What a whirlwind of a trip! But, the GREATEST thing is that the relationship between Justine and I just got even better and stronger! She trusted my leadership in everything I asked of her and she stayed happy and healthy the whole trip! Sooooo coool!

Justine and I will be in episode #11, scheduled to air on November 22nd. Our number is 225.

Here is the promo that the American Morgan Horse Association wrote up for our episode:

"Justine" and her rider, Bonny Curless, have been together since Justine was only six months old. Now, 15 years later, Bonny says that Justine’s greatest talent has been helping her to become a better horsewoman. ‘She is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had and she’s made me a much better person,’ Bonny says. Both have lived their entire lives in their hometown of East Berne, New York.

Viewers will have the ability to vote for their favorite trail horse at after each episode and $5,000 will be awarded to each episode winner. Voting will open for 48 hours after each episode has been aired. The finale will feature all of the episode winners and will award $50,000 to the top three horses of the entire series.

ACTHA's mission is to showcase the wonderful attributes of the great American trail horse, granting these horses the recognition that they so richly deserve. ACTHA also maintains a registry open to all breeds and has a point designation system assigned to each horse for its lifetime. The registry adds to the horses’ value and distinction. The group also promotes the humane treatment of horses.

Justine and I invite you to watch the series and we thank you for any support you can give us.

It has taken me almost 12 years, but I have also begun a journey toward becoming an Instructor in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program. If Justine and I lucky enough to end up as finalists in AFTHA’s reality TV show, the money will be used so I too can “help make a better world for both humans and horses.” (Pat Parelli)

This has been the most incredible journey!

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