By Bella Wehner
With only 10 competitions under her belt, 12-year-old Neveah Barraza climbed her way up to third place on the USHJA Zone 7 Small Pony Hunter leaderboard and was well on her way to the USEF 2022 Pony Medal Finals not long after.
The journey started when Barraza was nine years old. After watching a popular equestrian show on Netflix, she turned to her parents and said she wanted to try riding. So, in December 2019, they headed straight to their local barn for her first lesson. She immediately knew it was where she belonged.
After a bit of riding on lesson ponies, Barraza’s parents knew it was time to purchase Neveah a pony she could call her own.
That’s where Fozzie Bear came in, a Welsh Pony gelding who would help her reach heights her family never imagined. In less than six months, the pair was already heading off to compete at local shows in Texas. With their barn only a few miles from the house, it was hard to stay away. Barraza quickly fell in love with the sport and her pony.
“I loved to ride and compete because I knew that Fozzie would always try his hardest,” Barraza said. “That also pushed me to try my hardest.”
Deciding that their daughter was ready to enter a more competitive space, Barraza’s family moved Neveah and Fozzie Bear to Cedar Haven Stables under head trainer Kelsey Marcus a few months later. Showing on the North Texas Hunter Jumper Club circuit, Barraza and Fozzie quickly racked up ribbons. The duo even won the 2021 NTHJC Pony Medal Finals and were 2022 THJA Small Pony Hunter Champions.
Barraza put in the work so that she and her pony could achieve their bucket list goal: qualify for the USEF 2022 Pony Finals. Drawing inspiration was an easy task. Above all, her family inspired her the most to work hard to accomplish her dreams.
“To give up now is to give up on all the hours my family and I have worked just to get me to where I am today,” Barraza said.
As Barraza and Fozzie Bear continued to collect ribbons, they gained more experience and began closing in on their goal. Landing third place in the USHJA Zone 7 Small Pony Hunter Division came alongside other milestones. Barraza qualified for the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals in Las Vegas, NV…and the 2022 USEF Pony Finals in Lexington, KY.
“I was amazed and overwhelmed with love and joy,” she said. “I was very proud of Fozzie, and I just thought of how much work it took to get to that point.”
Having crossed off all of her dream pony competitions off her bucket list, Barraza decided she wanted to begin a new journey and pursue show jumping with her new horse, Gaspari. Her family couldn’t be prouder.
“She has this amazing natural talent,” commented her father, Jr Barraza. “You would not believe all of the things she has done and can do, going on three years of riding.”
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