Horses have always played an important role in the life of Move United Elite Team Member Andie Sue Roth. She was one year old when she was adopted from China. Her mom had been riding all her life, so the family has owned a horse since she was young. “I just love to ride horses. I would get on and go out riding trails,” Roth said.
When Roth was born, she had bones missing in her right foot. She could walk on it, at least a little bit at that time, but the doctors said that as she would get bigger and heavier, the foot wouldn’t be able to hold her anymore and that she would have to be in a wheelchair the rest of my life. “So my parents made the decision to amputate my foot so I could have the potential of walking and staying active,” she said. “I have an amazing prosthetic. It really hasn’t been a disability for me, because this is all I have known.”
At an early age, she got into eventing, an equestrian trial where a single horse and rider compete across three disciplines, including dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. She was able to take her horse, Tam, and went to the novice level.
“I like the feeling of being free on my horse. I feel like I am unstoppable. Like I can be normal in a way, you know, that I am not held by my disability. Other riders look at me the same, as just another rider.”
Since she was about 7 years old, Roth has honed her competitive skills, including activities like western and obstacle. She’s been competing in other events for about four years now. “I’ve been competing for a long time,” said the 15 year-old high school student. “I have always been a very competitive person. So having the ability to not only do the thing that I love but also compete against other people has just been amazing… I love it.”
Then along came Blue, a 9 year-old off-the-track thoroughbred they bought about a year ago. “Tam is a great little pony, but he is getting older,” Roth said. “We came across Blue through a trainer.” The previous owner saved him from a kill pen.
With Blue, Roth and the horse really got into dressage. “He is very new to all of this… but we keep going up the levels.” Dressage means training in French. This equestrian activity focuses on control and very specific movements of patterns as if the rider and the horse are doing a dance. “I love to be very connected to a horse. You need to have the ability to connect with a horse and be in harmony with it. In dressage, it is about that partnership. It’s like a secret that you are telling a horse and the horse is so in tune with you that it knows what you want it to do.”
Roth has been competing in straight dressage for about a year. But the Coronavirus hasn’t had allowed her to do a lot of shows this year. She has been able to participate in three local shows. She also had the opportunity to go to the national championship at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina. “I did very well, I got very good scores and placed first in all my categories.” Roth is hoping to participate in the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, in January 2021 if the event is able to take place. Her long-term goal is to compete for Team USA at the 2024 Summer Paralympic Games in Paris.
As part of Move United’s Elite Team, Roth received an equipment grant that allowed her to purchase a new saddle. “With our new saddle, he (Blue) has been able to move freely and be able to easily do all the movements that I need him to do,” Roth said. “The saddle has been a life changer for me. It is fitted for my horse and it fits me well, so I can ride in a good position and not be unbalanced. You don’t want a saddle that blocks your connection to the horse.”
Leading up to the 2020 Election, Roth had the unique opportunity to participate in a nonpartisan voting campaign, encouraging everyone to do their civic duty and vote. She was one of several riders as part of a Ride to the Polls public service announcement. “I loved being in that commercial. Being able to go run on the beach with my horse was a dream come true.”
She is also active in the United States Pony Club, a national organization started in 1954 to teach riding and the proper care of horses. “I’ve been in Pony Club since the age of 5; it has given me the ability to have other trainers see me and get to train with other trainers. It has given me a lot of horse knowledge.”
Although her main focus now is dressage, she still jumps once a week so her horse can work on out his muscles. She also rides another horse named Sunny about two times a week. “She has taught me so much, particularly how to train my thoroughbred better. To be able to feel that movement with a horse that knows how to do it and then bring that over to my own horse has really helped.”
“I’m the kind of person that jumps on anyone’s horse and is willing to ride any horse. Horses look like these strong animals, and they are big and strong, but they are tender hearted and they can feel your emotions. It takes a lot to be around horses and to get on a horse, she said.”
“When you are on a horse, just breathe. We are all so stressed and just need to relax and enjoy the ride. Your horse will be your best friend. It will be there for you. It trusts you. Horses have taught me so much, not only about riding but life lessons as well.”
Besides her equestrian pursuits, Roth is like many teenagers. She likes to try new things and enjoys adventure and seeing new places. “I love nature. I love to go fishing and target shooting. I also enjoy playing wheelchair basketball.”
Note: Photos by Ashton Kingsley and Lindsay McCall.