A local seventh-grader who began riding horses just three years ago recently claimed a national title. Asher Mabe, a student at Forbush Middle School, rides at Boone’s Farm & Stables in Concord. Not only is he the current title holder of the ASAC (American Saddlebred of the Carolinas) W-T 11-13 year olds for equitation and showmanship for North and South Carolina in the Academy division, he is now also the Jr. WT Equitation National Finals Grand Champion for 9-12 year old.
“Seeing our son win this competition was like a dream come true for him,” said his parents Nicci and Bobby Mabe. “He had been training for so long and it is every kid’s dream to ride hard all season to get to the Nationals. I told Asher in the last month before the competition, that if he kept riding like he had been, he actually may have a shot of taking that blue ribbon home with him. He stayed pretty focused on his riding and it paid off in the long run.”
The Mabes said they were on pins and needles awaiting the announcement of the winners at the competition.
“While waiting, for the big announcement, we joked that it would be amazing if they called out Asher’s number and name and 10 seconds later, they did,” they said. “It was surreal. Lots of jumping up and down, whoo hoos, and tears, the best part was seeing the look of shock, then that giant smile that came across Asher’s face. It was priceless! We still can’t believe, even a month later, that our son has this natural gift with riding, along with a lot of dedication that got him to the spot that he so well deserves and earned.”
Asher trains with Betsy Boone and assistant trainer Kathryne Stief. For the National competition he rode an American Saddlebred named Chief’s Put out the Fire, or Chief for short. Asher said he was thrilled to claim the National title in his division.
“It felt amazing to win the National Academy horse show,” Asher said. “Words can’t begin to describe how lucky I am and how great it felt to have this riding accomplishment. I trained for so long to go to Nationals and I’m thankful for having the opportunity to go and show against some of the best riders in the nation. When I went into the show ring, I gave it 110 percent. I was competing against top riders that have been riding a lot longer than I have been. Some have been riding since they were born and I have been riding a little over three years now. I felt I did my very best. I pushed myself and the horse, Chief, to our best potential possible. When they called my name out for first place, I was in shock; I just couldn’t believe it.”
Asher said riding horses competitively is both fun and challenging.
“The thing I enjoy the most about riding horses competitively is just how fun it is,” he said. “I get to do something that I love and show people the beauty of the American Saddlebred horse. To be honest, showing horses is the best thing that has happened to me in my life. I love riding out in the arena against others.
“Some of the challenges I face when training and competing are staying focused and keeping my body position perfect and making sure the horse is how it needs to be,” Asher said. “It’s tough to focus on your head, hands, arms, back, chest, legs and feet all while trying to get the horse to keep his head up, maneuver through a full ring of other horses and do the cues all while trying to look like it’s effortless. When you show, you have to stay focused. A small distraction either coming into the ring with something else on your mind, or something that rattles you while showing, you always have to keep your mind on what you’re doing and remember why you are there — to give it your best!”
Asher always enjoys music, playing the guitar, hunting and reading. He said he plans to continue training with horses, including his own, and he plans to continue showing horses.
“I plan to move up to the next division. Also, I am working with my own horse, which is also a Saddlebred, to eventually show him in competitions. I am currently trying to train him and show him on smaller, local venues before I move him up to the circuit I currently ride in,” Asher said.
The Mabes said they are so proud of their son and all he has learned through this process.
“There are many thing that Asher has learned — having a horse and training with horses is hard work,” Mabe said. “It’s dedication like no other. You can’t just do it one day and decide you don’t want to do it for a while. He’s a kid, so of course we’ve encountered that and when he goes back to it, he sees that it shows. He’s learned that when you lose your focus, it impacts everything. He’s learned many things about character, loyalty, friendship and teamwork. All trainers believe that kids who hang out at the barn stay out of trouble because they have so much responsibility on them with taking care of the horses and riding. He also has learned that you win some and you lose some. We always tell him (even though he hates it), that ‘sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug!’ We never want to pressure him with winning. I always tell him to give it his best, think smart and most of all, to have fun. As long as I know he has given it his all, I am never disappointed in what color of ribbon he gets.”
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.