Holding on to your Sweetheart
On our November 2018 issue cover, a photo by Louise Sedgman of Angie Johnson and her Quarter Horse and sweetheart ‘RL Double Hunch’ (a.k.a. Hunch), a 17-year-old gelding who is a double cross to the stallion Hunch Bid.
Angie grew up immersed in the Western showing industry, mentored by her mother who showed successfully while Angie was a child. It didn’t take long before she was competing in leadline classes and junior showmanship.
After finishing school and her final youth year, Angie took time off riding altogether, retiring her older horse and selling the young horse she had been producing. But, it didn’t take long before Hunch found a way into Angie’s heart and brought her back to the world of Western showing.
“I had to take a break from horses, try to have a ‘normal’ life like my other friends. All through school, I was always showing and never went to parties, so I had a couple of years’ break” says Angie. “But when I came across Hunch, I realised I wanted to go back to the show pen. I’d had a long-enough break.”
Angie works at the small but busy Avonsleigh Vet Clinic near the Dandenong Ranges, combining dog washing duties with vet nursing. “It’s a mixed practice” she continues. “We do a bit of everything which is interesting and, for a smaller clinic that is available 24/7 it gets pretty hectic”.
Angie has always had a passion for Western disciplines and Quarter Horses; “I think I did one day of Pony Club and I hated it!” she laughs. “I appreciate the other sports like dressage and eventing, but there’s always been something about Western that grabs me.
“The Quarter Horse itself is a big attraction. Their temperament I find so much nicer and, as I’m not a very tall person, they are more to my size as well.”
But it’s not just the horses and showiness that keep Angie in the saddle. The finer details of training that produce a polished performance are the challenges that drive Angie’s passion.
“I like the degree of difficulty involved in making it look easy” she says. “I am quite excited about training Hunch for Western Riding because it’s an event I have not competed in before.
“In Western Riding classes you have to lope a set pattern that the judge picks from the rule book” explains Angie. “The patterns vary for each age group but they include a series of serpentines between cones and changes of direction, and I am enjoying working with my trainer, David Norbury, on perfecting Hunch’s flying lead changes.
“Western Riding can be quite difficult. Being an older horse, Hunch has to be ridden one-handed, which adds a degree of difficulty. While I wouldn’t say that it ‘looks’ easy, it doesn’t look that hard, but I think it’s one of those events that are more challenging than they appear” she continues.
“I quite like the degree of difficulty in making riding a relaxed horse on a loose rein look easy and, when you get a horse that moves correctly, it’s so comfortable and you can sit back and cruise along. When you have a good horse and you achieve that, I find that really rewarding.”
“And I couldn’t do it without help. My mum, my trainer David and his daughter Courtney and my friend Adele, who owns the property where I keep my two horses, are my support network. They are very patient with me and forthcoming with advice and help when I’m working late. They are always there and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
And as to why Hunch holds a special place in Angie’s heart…
“My previous horse was quite challenging and unpredictable, I think due to events that happened earlier in his life, so when I got Hunch and he was so calm, and easy to do things with… I fell in love with him straight away.
“Plus, he’s going strong for a 17-year-old. He’s quite a natural and very strong. He has strong movement and he’s a very honest horse, willing to try anything you ask him to do.
“And he loves a cuddle!” she laughs. “He’s quite happy to put his head in your arms and just stay there. He’s one of those horses that become a girl’s best friend. When you’re feeling down he’ll just stand there and make you feel better.
“He’s just a sweetheart.”
This article was published in Horses and People November 2018 magazine.