Riding with western pleasure

Published 7:07 pm Thursday, July 8, 2021

Adams County resident Faith Anne Johnson rides calmly around a dirt track on her horse named My Only Appointment at her home in Adams County.

He is a painted horse, and on his neck, he has a spot with the appearance of a Mickey Mouse head. She saw it and gave him the barn name Mickey, Johnson said.

Together they placed fourth in western pleasure at the Pinto World Championships held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 18.  While a rodeo is about dust, mud, boots and blood. Western pleasure is all glitz and glamour in the arena.

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It was over 100 degrees in Tulsa that week. Johnson had to keep her cool in the arena because every detail matters in competition.

“When you are in there, it is show time,” Johnson said. “You have to ride with your legs. Mainly, I’m thinking of everything that is going on. ‘Is he on the right lead? Is he going slow enough? Is the judge looking at me? How can I get his attention if he is not? Is his head down?’ When you turn around, you have to look behind you. You are always thinking when you are in the show ring, but you can’t show that you are thinking.”

She started riding when she was four years old and taking part in competitions at 5 years old. The first horse she ever rode is a 20-year-old mare grazing in the pasture at their home in Adams County.

Faith is the daughter of Chretia Johnson and Randy Johnson.

Riding horses is a lot of fun because it creates a family between riders, horses and trainers, she said. Mickey and Johnson also share a special bond, she said.

“To do what you do, whether it be barrel racing or western pleasure, you have to be with that horse. You can’t just go in there and do it,” Johnson said. “It takes a lot of practice because every horse is different. You have to trust that horse too. It is a heavy animal. One wrong move and it can kill you. You have to have a lot of trust in that horse. He knows my flaws, and I know his.”

One year, Johnson went to a show, and her mom was not there to do her makeup or hair. She walked over to a trailer and got help from another parent, and met Ady Lock, her best friend now. She rides horses and is from Brookhaven. 

They are like sisters, Johnson said. At the state show, they decided to have fun for the end of their class.

“We lined up together and held hands while we waited for placing,” Johnson said. “When she placed, we put our arms up, and when I placed. We put our arms up and walked out together. That was really memorable because everyone started clapping.”

In addition to riding horses, Johnson is a member of the Cathedral cheer team and does ballet. After a busy week of school and other activities, she still needs to ride horses, clean stalls and feed her horses. Mississippi does pose some challenges for owning horses, she said.

“Lord. The horse flies are terrible,” Johnson said. “My horse hates flies, much less a giant one. You have to constantly fly spray and be out there. You have to keep the fans on them. They are attracted to lights, so I have to keep the lights off.”

She said another challenge is that Ady is the only person she knows her age who rides horses in the area.

A goal of Johnson is to continue to place higher in competition. Another goal is to keep riding for as long as she can.

“Eventually, I hope one day I will get a scholarship onto an equestrian team in college,” Johnson said. “My dream team will be Auburn. I love theirs, but that is kind of far away. I’m not sure if mom and dad will let me go there.”