Since she was young, Gabi Ahles ’18 had always been afraid of horses. However, that all changed when she became involved with Westernaires.
Westernaires is a non-profit organization and a team sport where groups of about 30 or more individuals ranging from ages 9-19 years old organize and carry out complex sequences of maneuvers on horses.
Ahles started out as a “Tenderfoot,” someone who has never ridden a horse before and can recall her first time on a horse.
“There were a few rides where I really wanted to quit because I freaked myself out and didn’t believe in myself,” says Ahles. “But I finally got over it.”
As Ahles is constantly overcoming new challenges, her family is always there supporting her.
“I have loved every minute of watching her tackle challenges and overcoming each of them,” says Ahles’ mother, Tadari Ahles.
Over the last two years, Ahles has since moved from the Blue Division (the lowest division) to the learning or second division, the White Division. Within the divisions, there are three levels: single A, double A, and triple A, the highest level. Ahles is currently on a triple A team and is trying to move up to the Red Division, the highest division possible.
While Westernaires has provided Ahles with a competitive drive, it has given her valuable life skills as well.
“Overcoming fears and constantly improving her riding skills has instilled in her a great deal of confidence that she has been able to carry over to other aspects of her life,” says Ahles’ mother.
Ahles wants to continue being involved with Westernaires-and horses in general-in the future, despite the program ending for participants when they have finished high school.
“I plan on graduating out of Westernaires as alumni so that I can come back. When I’m older, I want to be able to help out,” she says.
Ahles is currently going through wrangler training where she will train with and get to learn more about the horses in the Westernaires program. That way, she is able to return and assist other riders without having to go through the training again. After her Westernaires days are over, Ahles wants to continue working with horses and hopes to own some for leisurely riding.
“I really like the fact that you can have a bond with something other than a human that will still love you unconditionally,” says Ahles.
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