Hannah Louis with her horse, Mo: Photos by Andrew Williams

Hannah Louis with her horse, Mo: Photos by Andrew Williams

If all goes well, Woodrow Wilson High School senior Hannah Louis will be an internationally recognized equestrian rider this month.

“I can just imagine my little 12-year-old self looking at what I’ve done and thinking it’s amazing,” she says with a laugh.

But, as with any sport, the journey to where she is now has taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice. She rises early every weekday before school to take care of her horse, and spends her evenings practicing and her weekends traveling the country to compete. For years she has given up Friday nights, lazy summer days and even teenage milestones such as homecoming dances. She almost didn’t go to prom because it was the same weekend as her final show, but the date of Woodrow’s prom changed.

Like many little girls, Louis begged her parents for a horse. They thought she’d outgrow the desire — and then she didn’t. “I just became obsessed,” Louis says.

Eventually her parents allowed her to take riding lessons and she began “eventing,” which involves competing in dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

Hannah Louis: Photos by Andrew Williams

Hannah Louis: Photos by Andrew Williams

She leased a horse for the first year, and then a friend gave her a quirky little horse that otherwise couldn’t be sold. The pair had a good run, but when Louis reached high school, her trainer encouraged her to start shopping for a better horse if she wanted to be able to compete at higher levels.

“Horse shopping is like car shopping,” Louis points out. “You have your budget and you have what you want, and you realize whatever is in your budget is not what you want.”

She found a 16-year-old horse named Mo that she felt confident could take her to the top of the lower eventing levels, and she hoped to eventually break into the upper eventing levels before graduating high school.

“I wanted to be able to say I’m an upper level rider,” she explains.

Louis and Mo made it to upper level during her junior year. Not only that, they placed second in the preliminary level.

“On my super cheap, ancient horse,” Louis says. “I was over the moon. That qualified me for the national championships in September, which are held in Tyler, Texas. And that also qualified me for the CIC, which is an internationally recognized event. That was a goal I had in mind, to get to compete in a one star event before I graduated high school, but I didn’t think I’d ever qualify.”

With everything in place for her fall season, Louis went on a family trip to look at colleges. While away, Louis’ trainer called her and told her something was wrong with Mo. An MRI revealed an issue in Mo’s foot, and the doctors told Louis that Mo needed at least three months off. Then her trainer called her and told her they “needed to find something else for Mo to do.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard,” Louis says. “He’s meant so much to me.”

It didn’t make sense for Louis to buy another competition horse at the beginning of her senior year, so she is leasing a horse from her friend until she graduates, which is what she’ll ride for her final show, a competition in Weatherford that is internationally recognized by the Federal Equestrian Internationale.

“That was a personal goal for me, to be able to say I’m an international level rider,” Louis says. “I feel like I’ve exceeded my expectations for myself. I’ve gotten some lucky breaks and ridden everything I could get my hands on.”

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