Can’t Is Not An Option
Looking back, most people probably wouldn’t say high school was the easiest of times. Homework, college pressure, and having a social life are ever-looming. Add into the mix a competitive show career in the pony hunters, and it’s a recipe for stress. Brittany Walters-Bardwell, from Temperance, MI , has found the perfect balance between maintaining good grades and showing her medium pony, Woodland’s Love Story, all over the country.
“I try to get my work ahead of time, but most of the time I take it with me,” says Walters-Bardwell, who turns 16 this month. “We get a good bit of work at school, but I do it ahead of time and try and work around it. I also schedule my lessons around my homework.” And that seems to be working out for Walters-Bardwell, who placed fifth out of 155 in a Medium Pony Hunter over fences class at the 2015 Pony Finals, won the Best Presented award, and was 25th overall.
To place (well!) in such a competitive field is an amazing feat in and of itself—to set a record at the same time, however, is extraordinary. Walters-Bardwell was the first little person to ever qualify for Pony Finals (in 2014, her first appearance), opening the door for aspiring riders and inspiring many. After all the press attention and people fawning over her achievement, Walters- Bardwell keeps a cool demeanor.
“It just feels normal to me, but I’ve been riding my whole life like that,” she says matter-of-factly. “If I was taller, and I started riding, and all of the sudden I lost my legs or lost height, then it would be different. But it’s just normal to me. So I’m like, ‘Why are you guys so freaked out about this? It’s just normal.’”
One vocabulary word doesn’t exist for Walters-Bardwell. “There’s no such thing as can’t, at least not in my mind,” she says. With that kind of conviction, Walters-Bardwell is apt to give out advice to riders struggling through their own challenges, whatever they may be. “Keep practicing and learn from your horse,” she advises. “It’s never the horse’s fault. The horse does what the rider tells it to do, so the rider has to be the pilot and say, ‘This is where we’re going, this is what we’re doing.’ Just be active and in sync with your horse.”
As for the future, Walters-Bardwell will continue to show in the Medium Pony division this year with Sarah Haas at Swept Away Farm in Temperance, MI, and hopes to move up to a horse soon. “I want to do the equitation—the Maclay, Harrisburg, and possibly Washington,” she says. From staying on top of her schoolwork to attaining her horse-fueled dreams, there’s nothing Walters-Bardwell can’t do.