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Aimee Witherspoon

Aimee Witherspoon, dressage, dressage competition, natalie perry dressage

A Personal Best, for Many Reasons

Micah & I after a rewarding show day. Photo by Barbara Dudley Photography


Yesterday I overcame adversity.
Today the memory dances in my head, strengthening my resolve and helping to heal my battered heart. I came home with a blue ribbon and a score that was a personal best — reaffirming that pushing on through pain is not just possible, but necessary.
I owe this win to my trainer, Natalie Perry, and my friend, Aimee Witherspoon. Both taught me much.
To say that the past few months have been challenging is an understatement. August brought bad news; September the loss of my dog; and just weeks later Aimee was thrown from a horse and died.
Aimee’s death was both terribly sad and a harsh reminder of the inherent dangers of equestrian sports. Her death rattled me emotionally and shook my confidence on my horse. I asked my trainer for help.
“I need you to help me keep my riding positive,” I said, explaining what had happened. “Please help me keep my confidence up.”
Natalie, who is always positive, was on it.
“We can do that!,” she said.
Her support meant the world to me. I made the decision to ride only with her supervision until I regained my sense of self. We had a show coming up quickly and I couldn’t afford to un-train my horse. Micah’s a great guy but, like most horses, will take charge if he senses a lack of commitment.
And so Natalie helped me keep my mind in the present moment — on my horse and the job of riding. Her comments were positive and supportive, even when I faltered.
Come the morning of the show, I knew I was better prepared than I’d ever been. And yet, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wanted to scratch out of our two classes — even hoped Micah would throw a shoe to give me an easy way out.
As my determination waivered, I knew that to quit would be an insult to Aimee. She’d be furious if I used her death as an excuse. One of the bravest riders I’ve known, Aimee loved competition.
I also felt I’d be letting Natalie down. She’d worked hard with me and was telling me “You can do this.” I needed to believe her.
And so, I tacked Micah up for our class despite my doubts, trying to maintain focus. He felt fresh, energetic, and willing to listen.
“Let’s do this,” I told him.
I even remembered to smile at our show photographer as I went by.
When my efforts were rewarded with my best-ever score, I was elated. I truly needed to be reminded that I can and should carry on, even when it hurts.
This weekend I’ll be attending Aimee’s Celebration of Life along with many of the Northwest’s finest equestrians. As we share stories, laughter, and tears, I’ll thank Aimee for helping me push on past fear and discouragement.
My sense of gratitude toward my trainer remains tightly wrapped around me. While non-horsepeople will never understand it, it’s always more than ‘just’ about the horses.

Related posts
Ode to a Fallen Friend
October 10, 2017
Aimee Witherspoon, dressage, Eventing

Ode to a Fallen Friend

Last week a friend of mine fell from her horse, suffered an irreparable injury, and died a few days later. While Aimee is beyond suffering, those of left behind are reeling, trying to make sense of the suddenness of her loss. Sorrow swirls through the season’s autumn leaves. The brilliance of their color is bittersweet.

Aimee & Alex (aka: Marshmellow). A beautiful partnership.


Aimee was an avid eventer and perhaps the most brave rider I have ever known. She knew the risks, studied the sport, and worked relentlessly to improve her riding. She loved the Northwest eventing community and took full advantage of the opportunities to train, compete, and celebrate with fellow riders.
I suspect that on that final October day she saddled up with a training goal in mind, eager to improve herself and her horse. I like to think that her final moment of consciousness was full of that joy and sense of anticipation.
Years ago, I accompanied Aimee on schooling sessions on the trails around Battleground Lake. She was developing her horse, Alex’s fitness and we’d do laps, galloping up the hills like maniacs. We scared more than one dog walker off the trail, yelling “Sorry!” as we passed. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a horse. Alex (aka: Marshmellow) was beautiful, fit, and full of himself. Aimee taught me to stand up in two-point, grab mane, and hang on.
We had a small group of friends known as ‘The Misfits’ and would kayak, hike, ride, and drink wine together as much as possible. We all knew we’d temporarily lose Aimee during the eventing season — when competing took priority. It was truly her passion.
And so, much as I miss my friend, I know she lived her life – right up to the end – pursuing what she truly loved. May we all be so fortunate.
As I saddled up this morning, I realized that I’m still riding in a dressage saddle I purchased from Aimee several years ago. As I care for it, I keep alive the memory of my friend. As I ride in it, I invite her to ride with me in spirit – perhaps infusing me with some of her courage and passion.
I’ve asked my trainer for a little extra help this week, admitting that the loss of my friend has been a blow. More than ever, I need to keep things positive with my horse and not let my confidence waiver. Aimee would want me to ride on.

Related posts
A Personal Best, for Many Reasons
October 16, 2017