From the time she was a young girl, Ann Eaker knew horse riding was something that piqued her interest.
At 12 years old, Eaker was living near Hinesville while her father was stationed at Fort Stewart. It was in nearby Allenhurst where she found Dixie Stables, which is home to many horses and riders.
She had one simple request of her parents: let her ride. This is where her journey began.
Many years have passed, but one thing remains — Eaker’s passion to ride and gaining so much more than titles.
“My parents were supportive of it. They were not horse people by any means,” she said.
Her father purchased her first horse. Eaker said he felt it was better for his daughter to hang out with horses than boys. As soon as she was old enough to drive, Eaker took herself to competitions and shows.
For years, Eaker took lessons at Dixie Stables with Lynn Pace. Pace, who still works at the stables today, has been a part of Eaker’s journey since the beginning. After moving away from Richmond Hill with her family, Eaker returned to attend college at Armstrong State College, where she received a nursing degree. After spending several years on the floor as a nurse at Memorial University Medical Center, Eaker now works for GE Software Company. She has managed services for the software division since 1999.
When she isn’t working, Eaker is faithfully riding and training. Taking lessons is not just for beginners, according to Eaker. She believes you can learn so much from not only the instructors, but also the horses.
“It is about continuing to make myself better as a horse woman and learning new skills,” she said.
Being able to train at the stables where it all started many years ago is special for Eaker. The camaraderie at Dixie Stables — now known as Southern Legacy Stables — has proven to be a great support system over the years.
At 13, she began competing locally through her 4-H Club. It wasn’t until age 40 that she began taking it to the national level.
“Even in the national shows, horse competing is a small community,” Eaker said. “I love competing with anything. Working so hard and then getting in the show ring and doing exactly what we’ve trained the horse to do is rewarding. I still hang out with people I knew when I was 12 years old. The camaraderie is special.”
Eaker takes riding seriously and continues to push herself. Her drive comes from within. Recently, she took up Cross Fit. Working out at High Tide in Richmond Hill has proven to benefit her core strength and has made a huge difference in her riding.
Despite experiencing the devastating loss of her son Tyler two years ago, Eaker said riding gives her a reason to push on. The barn life, memories and friendship have allowed her to continue to heal.
“As a parent you just don’t ever process losing your child” she said. “When you lose a child, there is a hole that gets created that I never knew could exist. It is an overwhelming grief that has at times taken over my life. There are lots of things, riding being one of them, that gave me a huge support group.”
The barn has proven to be a great place to heal. Eaker’s youngest son, 13-year-old Logan, has recently gotten more serious about riding. Eaker said she couldn’t be more excited to see her son taking up her favorite sport. They both enjoy training and spending time at Southern Legacy Stables. Despite always wanting the boys to ride, Eaker said she wanted them to pursue their own interests. Now, mother and son are sharing the special community of horse riding together.
As she faces age 52, Eaker and horse Daisy are sitting as champions. Eaker and Daisy were recently named Region 10’s open hunter overall winner, where they hold the highest points earned. Region 10 spans Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina. The pair recently captured the Open Hunter Championship at the Georgia Fall Classic Horse Show in Perry. In addition, she won another first place in the Open Hunter Pleasure Class and a second in the American Saddlebred Hunter class.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in 40 years of riding is how to lose and move on,” Eaker said. “As I’ve gotten older and after losing my son, you really begin to understand what is important. Having a good time and showing is a fun activity. When you do lose, you have to be a graceful loser. It is all about the friendships and learning together.”