Ava Garriott and her horse Banks ride into winners circle in 2013

San Clemente resident Ava Garriott with her horse, Banks. Courtesy photo
San Clemente resident Ava Garriott with her horse, Banks. Courtesy photo

By Steve Breazeale

The bond between a girl and her horse can be a powerful thing. Just ask competitive horse rider Ava Garriott, whose labor of love involves her spending dozens of hours each week taking care of her 19-year-old horse, Banks.

When at the stables to take care of Banks, Garriott, 10, is under the watchful and knowledgeable eyes of her grandma, Karen Unfried, but it is Garriott who does all the hard work.

“She does all the care for Banks. She brushes him, cleans his feet and gives him baths. That really adds to their bond,” Unfried said.

The bond was never more evident than earlier this year, when Banks had a problem with his foot placement while training for competition. Garriott’s grandfather, Rick Unfried, recalls Banks tripping several times while Ava was riding him, but the horse would fall on his front legs, rather than rolling over on his side. Banks was aware of the little rider on his back and refused to fall in a way that would hurt her.

The Marblehead Elementary fifth-grader, who trains out of San Juan Capistrano, has built such a bond with her horse that the two have translated that to first-place finishes at major events.

At the Del Mar National Horse show on April 19, Garriott won the 11U Overall Reserve Championship. She accomplished the feat by grabbing first-place in the Western Pleasure event, earning two second-place finishes in Western Trail and two second place finishes in Horsemanship.

“I was really excited, it was the first ribbon that my horse had won,” Garriott said.

The youngster continued her solid showing at the Sun & Surf Circuit, again in Del Mar, on May 17. She had two first-place finishes in Horsemanship, including one second-place finish, and three second-place finishes in Western Trail.

Garriott trains with San Juan based trainer Travis Hunter at the Ortega Equestrian Center and is eyeing a late-July event for her, and Banks’, next competition.

In the meantime, Garriott will continue to work with Banks, building on that special bond.

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