Mary Huddleston of Farmville, Virginia is not your regular teenage girl. She just placed sixth at the Congress in the Novice Youth 14-18 Hunter Under Saddle with her horse, Assets In A Artbeat (Ralphie), and she also maintains straight A's in school. While, these accomplishments may seem exceptional for anyone--that is not the only thing that makes this young girl an inspirational young lady. Mary is also in a fight for her life trying to overcome her second bout with a rare type of bone cancer known as Ewing's Sarcoma.
Huddleston, remarkably, has been unable to ride her horse since July due to her recent hip replacement surgery. The doctors told her that she couldn't ride for six months to a year, but she told her doctors that she was going to show at the Congress no matter what. And she did!
"The Congress is amazing," Mary excitedly told GoHorseShow. "It is a goal I work towards all year long. It is the only show that I worry about and get nervous over. The feeling when you trot in the pen takes my breath away," she says." Placing in the top ten was incredible. It was something I dreamed of as a little girl. Never in my life did I think I would own a horse good enough to take to the Congress, let alone place. Excited just isn't even the word to use. I couldn't stop smiling and it was even better because the Congress Queen was from Virginia (Courtney Sturgill), and she was able to hand me my medals."
Mary's mom, Amy Huddleston adds,"If it were not for horses I am sure that Mary would have given up a long time ago. They keep her going," she told GoHorseShow. "When we are at a horse show, Mary can have a normal life away from doctors and hospitals. When Mary is on a horse it is something that she can do, and she does not feel different or look different than anyone else."
Amy continues, "Mary feels pretty good most days except for some during the week of chemo and the week after she has chemo. She has chemo treatments every three weeks and that will continue until February or March," she says."She is doing physical therapy three days a week for her hip. As a result of the hip replacement, she has foot drop and is unable to lift her foot up but the doctors are hopeful that in about six months that should improve. It makes it challenging for her to walk and ride with the limited mobility of her foot."
Her mom was also a little concerned about her showing at the Congress this year. Amy says that her daughter Mary is the most amazing person that she knows.
"She is very strong willed and determined," the proud mom says. "No matter how horrible she feels she does not let it stop her from doing what she wants. Her doctors are amazed and said that they have never had a child on the chemo that she gets continue going to school much less keep up and continue making straight A's."
The night before the Novice Youth Hunter Under Saddle, Mary's hip was hurting from all the walking and standing at Congress and her mother asked her, 'How are you going to get Ralphie around the show pen?' and she simply said that, 'There is this thing called will power.'
When the orthopedic surgeon told Mary that it would be six months to one year after her surgery before she could ride again, she looked at him and said, 'I have a horse show to go to in October,' and he told her we 'will see.' She looked him in the eye and said, 'you do not understand; this is the Congress and I will show there.'
Mary's left leg is weak from the hip replacement and her mom was worried that she would not have enough strength to keep Ralphie going. Then, when she found out that there was going to be a semifinal and then a final, Mary's mother was even more worried. But, Mary had an awesome ride and they were pretty sure she had placed. When the announcer called her number, they were happy and teary eyed. "I was so happy for her because she has been through so much," Amy says.
Amy mentions that the the horse industry has been phenomenal towards her and her daughter. "The generosity and response of people has just floored us. There are so many people that I need to thank that I could never get them all. People have donated money, offered to pay our show expenses, offered to haul our horses, we will go in a store to buy something and the owner will say that we do not need to pay for it, shows will donate the show expenses or stalls, and the list could go on and on."
Mary has also received an extensive amount of support in and out of the arena by her trainers, Justin and Joy Wheeler of Greensboro, North Carolina.
"Justin and Joy have been wonderful. They have gone above and beyond what I have ever expected," Amy says. "Justin did a fabulous job of preparing Ralphie for Mary. Ralphie needs a lot of leg to keep him moving at the canter and we were not sure if Mary was going to have enough strength in her legs from the surgery to keep him going. Also, Justin made sure that Ralphie had a good whoa button in case something did happen, so Mary could get him stopped and not fall risking injury to her hip."
Mary also talks admiringly about her trainers. "Joy and Justin support me one hundred percent and say they will do anything to keep me in the show pen and riding Ralphie," she says. "Joy and Justin have made my dreams come true two years in a row--getting my name called at Congress."
We congratulate Mary and Ralphie on their success this year and plan to see her again next year. What an inspirational young lady!
what an amazing story. It's stories like this that need to be put in the national spot light to show that dreams come true with a lot of determination, help and support from an amazing industry. Mary - good luck to you and all of your travels. I'm sure your journey is one filled with hope and love.