Bright Future: Hard work pays off for girl and her horse

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019


NATCHEZ — Earlier this month, two “almost” 12-year-olds bested the competition at the Dixie Nationals in Jackson, where a girl and her steed out trotted girls from across the nation in the 13 and under division.

For Faith Anne Johnson and her horse companion, Max, the Dixie Nationals show was like an early birthday gift, since she turned 12 years old last week and Max would too soon after, Johnson said.

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“Max is the same age as me,” she said. “We were born 14 days apart.”

Johnson has gathered up several achievements over the years from previous shows, she said, including a championship saddle she won in 2017 and several trophies and buckles she earned in state-level competitions.

This is the second year she and Max competed in the Dixie Nationals, a top honor for youth horseback rider, she said.

“It makes you feel like all of your hard work pays off,” Johnson said.

Johnson was introduced to Max, a sorrel and white colored paint horse, two years ago and only a couple of weeks away from her first shot in the Dixie Nationals competition, she said. Despite not having the time to get to know each other that well, Johnson and Max performed well, she said, and their relationship has grown since then.

“You have to have that special bond,” Johnson said. “We just clicked.”

This year, Johnson has had a bit more time to train Max, teaching him to walk, trot, canter and follower her directions while keeping her own posture to please the judges, she said.

By doing so, she racked up enough points to earn the top marks in the 13 and under division, and took home three blankets and a prize belt buckle for the overall prize, Johnson said.

Faith’s mom, Chretia Johnson, said Faith Johnson has loved horses her whole life.

“She’s loved horses since she was brought into this world,” Chretia Johnson said. “She is an animal lover, and riding horses was her dream. It was just a natural thing for her. …  She doesn’t have time to do much else, because it takes so much.”

In addition to training to compete, Faith Johnson also had to be responsible for cleaning the stalls as well as feeding, grooming and exercising her horse daily, Chretia Johnson said.

“Every little thing has to be done to keep them in tip-top show shape,” Chretia Johnson said. “We never told (Faith) she couldn’t do other things, but she had to choose. … A couple weekends out of every month, she travels somewhere to a show or rodeo.”

Faith Johnson has been on the saddle since she was at least 2 or 3 years old, Faith Johnson said, and later started training horses to compete in shows when she was almost 5.

“My dad (Randy Johnson) took me to the Dixie Nationals when I was younger, and said I told him I would be riding in this one day,” Faith Johnson said, “and I did. … When you’re on a horse, it not only relieves your stress, but it makes you feel free. You don’t think about all of the stuff going on around you.”