By Garrett Mitchell
Abby Laney has loved horses for as long as she can remember.
Laney, an eighth grader at Laurens Academy, is now a national equestrian champion. Through a labor of love, and her horses, Laney has competed across the Southeastern United States, winning competitions and forging friendships along the way. It has been an amazing ride for the 13-year old from Cross Anchor.
“I was three years old when I started competing,” recalls Laney. “I’ve been riding my whole life, ever since I could sit on a horse. I was born into it. My dad is a horse trainer so I guess it’s just in my blood.”
Laney competes with her favorite horse, a Paso Fino named Caspian. She also has a Thoroughbred named Merlin, who she is currently training with in hopes of competing with him in the future.
“I’ve been (competing) with the Paso Finos the longest,” said Laney. “I’m the most accomplished with them. I am trying to go into eventing which is cross country, dressage, and show jumping which are all timed events. I’m trying to do that with my Thoroughbred. I haven’t been to do any shows with him yet because he’s only five (years old) and still training.”
Still, in the last two years, Laney has experienced resounding success in equestrian competitions far and wide. Along with her parents, Laney has traveled to shows ranging from Perry, Ga. to Lexington, Ky., to Memphis, Tenn. while bringing home two national championships.
Laney won her first championship in 2017 and again in 2018.
“It feels really good,” she said. “(2018) was my second time winning a grand national championship, the highest you can win at a national show. My first time was in 2017 on one of our mares. I won in performance which is one of the three divisions. This time I won in equitation which is all about the way you sit on your horse and how the rider looks.”
Also, in the summer of 2018, Laney competed in her biggest event to date, a World Championship event in Ocala, Fla. in which she had to qualify before being allowed to compete.
“I had to make the team first,” Laney said. “I made the team and then there were months of training, training with the team, and in July 2018 we went to Ocala and I took part in the biggest youth competition for Paso Finos in the world. I took fifth place which I was very pleased with.”
Abby’s mom, Brandy Laney, says she is extremely proud of the time, dedication, and effort that her daughter puts into her horses and the art of equestrian competition.
“It’s really inspiring,” she said. “I’ve always been very open to letting Abby explore and figure out what she wants to do. She is a great pianist as well, but she has really taken on a love for the horses. Her dad, of course, being a trainer with the Paso Finos, it’s all she’s ever known. To see her really dream and aspire to be the best she can be in whatever she chooses to do really means a lot and I will support her 100 percent.”
Brandy Laney added that the experiences and opportunities opened up for Abby and their family have been equaling rewarding as well.
“All of (Abby’s) best friends are from all over the country,” she added. “When we all get together, that three times a year they actually see each other, it’s really special. Just to travel, we do get to travel a lot of places with the (Paso Finos), I just look forward to the adventures and what’s coming in the future as well.”
Abby echoed her mother’s sentiments, saying she cherishes the many friendships she has made through equestrian and how much she looks forward to seeing her friends every year at competitions.
“I have my two best friends, the two best friends I’ll ever have, we have known each other since we were three or four years old,” she said. “I can always remember going to shows and seeing them and we always pick up right where we left off like no time has passed. It’s just really special to be able to see them again every year.”
With so much already accomplished, Abby is not resting on her laurels. On the contrary, she is already gearing up for a busy end of the year and a packed competition schedule throughout 2019 as well.
“I’m looking forward to getting my four-year-old (Caspian) better trained for the Paso Fino shows and of course training my Thoroughbred (Merlin) for the eventing shows and hopefully get him on the jumping circuit,” said Abby.
She added, “The next Paso Fino show is in March. We have an Ocala show that I’ll be going to. We have competitions in April, June, and then another one in July before the nationals in 2020. For my Thoroughbred, I think there is a show I might be going to in November for dressage so that will be the first show for him.”