When she was 9, Bunny Braun took her first horseback ride while visiting Chile. That ride ignited a passion for horses that has led to an ASHA championship.
Her mother, Lisa Burnette, thought at first that her daughter’s interest would fade. Burnette told her she would let her to take lessons in six months if she behaved and received high grades, Braun begged the whole time and kept her part of the bargain.
So her mother signed her up for lessons. Seven years later, Braun is a junior at FPCA, an A student and captain of the cheer squad. She is also a national champion equestrian, recently winning the 17-under American Saddlebred Horse Association Saddle Seat Equitation.
Braun began lessons at Bluff Creek Stables. Later, she moved to Pine Haven Stables in Brunswick, and trained under of Christy Parker. Parker, who has been named coach for the United States Equestrian Federation’s 2017 Young Riders Team USA.
According to Burnette, Braun thrived under Parker’s guidance. Braun trains four days a week at Pine Haven, and has attended numerous camps and clinics. She usually competes in show pleasure and equitation divisions of the sport.
In show pleasure, the horse’s performance is judged. In equitation, the rider is judged on poise, form and style.
Winning the national title is a season-long process, based on a point system. Every rider earns points for their placing at the shows. The rider with the highest points at the end of the season is crowned.
Reflecting on the horses she has shown, Braun said, “You become emotionally attached. You are a team. My goal is to make any horse I get on look good.”
She praised Pine Haven Stables and her trainer.
“The atmosphere at Pine Haven is so encouraging and supportive; I feel I am in the best possible hands,” she said. “They are not only concerned about our development as riders, the horses are meticulously cared for. Christy founded the charity, Saddlebred Rescue, and her love for the sport and the horse is inspiring. The competitions we attend all support different charities, such as the Ronald McDonald House and the Special Olympics. Our entry fees to these competitions go to the charity.”
Braun’s ASHA’s title is with United Professional Horsemen’s Association Chapter 16, and the Gasparilla Charity shows. She was reserve grand champion at the UPHA Horsemanship Challenge. She also won juvenile show pleasure champion and reserve grand champion award at the UPHA show. She is an alternate for the World Young Riders Team.
Next year, she hopes to tryout for the World Cup Team. After graduation she plans to attend Georgia Southern University to pursue a career as a dentist or real estate law.