These days, each time Abi Owings Tuiasosopo swings a leg over the back of a horse she closes her eyes and thanks the Lord for the opportunity to be in the saddle again.
Because for a very long time that didn’t seem possible.
Abi was seven years old when she discovered what made her feel “alive.” It wasn’t the ballet class she went to try out when her dad said “no” to her playing baseball or football with her brothers.
“I knew that wasn’t for me,” she recalled. “Then I went for my first riding lesson. I was in heaven.”
She soaked everything up like a sponge and worked hard to become better at it. Soon showing became the next challenge.
“Showing became the product of loving to ride,” Abi said. “I wanted to learn new events compete at higher levels. I have always liked to challenge myself and competing was something I enjoyed.”
And she remembers clearly and fondly her first horse event – an open show at the Rolling Hills Saddle Club in Alpharetta, Georgia.
“I showed in the Walk Trot,” she recalled. “I still remember how excited I was. I made my mom take me to get my ears pierced so I could wear real earrings for the show. That was really important to me.”
By her teen years Abi was showing at the highest level. She competed at her first American Quarter Horse Association Youth World Show with Island Fever, a 1991 brown gelding by Skips Evade Two and out of Ever Lovin Mama.
In 1999 Abi claimed her first Quarter Horse Congress bronze by winning the National Youth Association Team Tournament (NYATT) Western Pleasure aboard Lopin Leaguer. That same year the team captured a Reserve Championship in 15-18 Youth Equitation there and placed third in 15-18 Youth Western Pleasure.
She graduated into the Amateur status and continued to compete in all-around events, accumulating 1,300 AQHA points; 55 All-Around and Reserve All-Around awards and countless. Top Five and Top 10 placings at the Congress and AQHA World Shows riding such talented horses as Smart Asset, Definitely Chocolate and Putyourselfinmyshoes.
Then in 2004, after returning from what would be her last appearance at a World Show for over a decade, it all came crashing down. Abi was attacked in a park near her home – an act which would send her into a long and deep darkness filled with fear.
“I have never known fear like that awful day, but I have experienced love from those around me and in so many ways over time that helps heal deep wounds,” she said.
Abi did start to heal. With the support of close friends and her family: parents, Jim and Danise Owings; brothers, Josh, Micah, and JonMark; and sister, Becca, she slowly rebuilt her life.
Abi is married now, to Matt Tuiasosopo, a professional baseball player with the Atlanta Braves organization she met in 2009, six years after her attack. They met in Round Rock, Texas and were married in an intimate ceremony five years ago at the home of the same friend who introduced them to each other, in Michigan during the baseball season’s All-Star Break.
Since then they have welcomed two sons, 3-year-old Josiah Teige and year-old Haven Elias. Raising two boys in Georgia, especially with Matt’s busy travel schedule, keeps Abi busy.
Then one day while Abi and Josiah were driving home from spending time with Matt in Florida for spring training, Abi made a stop at Bret and Candy Parrish’s place in Pavo, Georgia, that would ultimately lead her back to her love for horses and back into the show arena.
“I have looked up to Bret and Candy since I was a youth,” she explained. “They were my role models. My plan was to break up my drive and stop by to see dear friends from my past.”
They rekindled their friendship and Abi stayed in touch with Bret and Candy. Then in 2015 Bret and Candy told Abi they had a horse they think would be a perfect fit for her.
That horse is Lexus Made Lady, a 2013 bay mare by Machine Made and out of RLs Lexus Lady, that Cody and Chase Parrish raised.
“Bret told Matt and I, that ‘I had a gift, and that I should use it,” Abi said. “If it wasn’t this horse that was OK, but that God had given me a gift and I needed to ride.’”
Abi and Matt decided to purchase “Iggy” and she made her show debut at The Little Futurity last June by winning the Limited Open 3-Year-Old Western Pleasure with Cody Parrish aboard.
The next month Abi returned to the show arena at the Tom Powers Futurity in Michigan where she and Iggy won the 3-Year-Old Limited Non-Pro Western Pleasure and Cody rode her to a win in the 3-Year-Old $2,500 Limited Horse Western Pleasure.
Abi’s mom was there with her boys, making the victory comeback especially sweet.
“To look out and see them blowing kisses and waving. That was a memory I will keep forever,” she said.
Then in August Abi and Lexus Made Lady won the 3-Year-Old Limited Non-Pro Western Pleasure at the National Snaffle Bit Association’s World Championship Show and Cody once again rode Iggy to a win in the 3-Year-Old Limited Open Western Pleasure.
Abi suffered another challenge just before the Quarter Horse Congress when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She thought showing horses would once again be out of reach. But doctors told her to go ahead with plans to show and that there would be no danger in delaying surgery a few weeks. And so they did.
In Columbus, Ohio, Abi claimed a Reserve Championship in the 3-Year-Old Limited Non-Pro Western Pleasure and then, after Abi returned home to undergo surgery, Cody capped off an impressive show year by winning the 3-Year-Old Limited Open Western Pleasure.
Abi said following surgery, doctors told her that the cancer had been removed and that margins were free of cancer cells. However, as a precautionary measure, to decrease the chance of cancer returning, she will undergo chemotherapy treatment. She is focusing on on the future.
“It’s a blessing to be able to ride and show again. I truly believe that when you are given a second chance to dream you do it so differently,” Abi said. “I appreciate the horses and the people around me in an entirely new way. I never want to lose the wonder and awe of being able to enjoy the journey God has for me.”