While many people can understand the relationship between a human and a pet, not many will ever experience this connection with a horse. Macy Blake was very young when she started horsebacking riding and was given her own horse, Phi. Blake and Phi grew up together at the stables and formed a relationship of their own through their continuous riding and competing. While this relationship was pretty expected, it also formed an abundance of other friendships in Blake’s life. High Caliber Stables in Greensboro, North Carolina, is her second home where she can return at any time to see Phi and catch up with her father, Paul, and her trainer, Mary Orr.
Macy Blake was five years old when she started to ride and compete. Being adopted at a young age and growing up with three sisters that were twenty years older than her, Blake needed to find a set of relationships away from her life at home. Standing next to Blake, Phi is the horse she has rode and competed with since 2012. “My connection with Phi is exceptionally strong because she challenged me and we grew a lot together,” said Blake. “It took a lot of work and practice because I got Phi when she was young, but she taught me that having a horse was more than just winning ribbons.”/ Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Blake’s two parents, Penny Blake (left) and Paul Blake (right), have supported her hobby and helped her succeed in her competitions. The photograph they are holding is a picture of Blake at age fourteen when she competed with Phi at the Blue Ridge Classic Horse Show in Fletcher, N.C.. Blake’s parents have been at every competition and also have a unique bond with Phi. / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Ever since Blake was a child, her father has always come to watch her ride and compete. Since Blake was the first person to ride in her family, the idea of horseback riding was foreign to all of her family members. Paul Blake, a retiree, always wanted to learn more and had the time on his hands to make Macy’s dreams come true. “There was an instant connection between Macy and Phi. Like two divas,” said Paul. Watching Macy and Phi grow up together encouraged him to include himself in that bond by attending shows and practices at the barn. / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Blake’s dog, Tess, is another family member that always comes to the barn and watches her ride. Since Blake is now in college, the only times she can see Tess and her father are usually at the barn. High Caliber Stables has turned into a half-way meeting point for both herself and her family where they can catch up and watch Blake ride. This is a new tradition in Blake’s horseback riding career and she values the time she can spend with the people who have supported her most throughout this journey. / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Blake’s bedroom at her family’s home in Winston Salem, N.C., is covered with pictures of Phi and all the ribbons she has won throughout her years of competition. Blake is seen here holding her first tri-color ribbon she won in 2012 at the Asheville Lions Charity Horse Show. “Winning my first tri-color with Phi was one example to show how hard we had worked together,” said Blake. “To finally be recognized for our efforts was exciting and really made us want to work harder for the next show.” / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
In 2009, Blake switched barns and has found herself riding at High Caliber Stables in Greensboro, N.C., ever since. Blake’s trainer, Mary Orr, is part of the reason she made this decision. Orr has coached Blake since she started riding at their old barn and eventually left to open her own. Blake’s strongest relationships at the barn are with Phi and Orr, so she made the decision to make the switch as well. “I have known Macy since she was five years old and it has been a joy to coach and watch her grow up. I always enjoy when she comes home from school to ride. We pick up right where we left off,” said Orr. / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
When Blake arrives at the barn, she has to go out to the pasture to catch Phi and put on her halter and lead rope. Phi is now thirteen years old and has transitioned out of the competition circuit but still enjoys leisure rides with both Blake and other young riders who practice at this barn. This is the area Phi lives in now since she has retired from the competition part of her life. / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Before each lesson, Phi is taken to the stall for grooming so she is cleaned and prepared for others to ride her. Blake said, “When Phi and I competed, professionals mostly took care of her. Now that we’re out of the competition circuit, I can spend more quality time with Phi by grooming and taking care of her which is really special to me.” / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Although Blake found her passion at a young age, she has stuck with it and improved on her technique ever since. “Horseback riding has taught me many important life lessons such as working hard to achieve goals and has allowed me to spend time with family and friends while doing something I love,” said Blake. Blake’s supportive family has shaped the way she is today by allowing her to work hard and follow her dreams. The connection between Blake and Phi is unmatched and the emotional connection can be seen instantly through their times competing and riding together. / Mary Bowen Barringer for MEJO 180.
Through years of riding and competing, Blake has found a relationship with Phi she was searching for. Some of Blake’s most fond memories with Phi are winning their first tri-color ribbon together and attending the North Carolina State Championship every year on September 11. The North Carolina State Championship is one of the most special events for Blake because this competition falls on the anniversary of her adoption date. Being adopted and growing up practically as an only child, Blake needed something she could relate to. Being able to share these memories with Phi makes her really proud of who she has become and how horseback riding has shaped her life. Today, Blake is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill and does not have enough time to compete anymore, but she still visits Phi and continues to allow this relationship to grow along with her others with her father and her trainer.