Dawson County teenager Baylee Cowart grew up in a family full of horse riding enthusiasts.
Her mother competed in barrel races, and her grandmother competed in horse jumping competitions, so Cowart always knew she would follow in their footsteps. Now, the 13-year-old competes in horse jumping shows and recently placed 20th out of more than 80 competitors in a national-level junior finals competition in Pennsylvania.
Cowart’s mom, Amanda Cowart, said this was the first time her daughter qualified for the junior finals and was the youngest entrant to travel to Pa. to compete.
“It’s pretty much like the Super Bowl of horse shows for her division,” Amanda Cowart said. “You have to qualify at previous shows to get to compete in it, so she ultimately represented part of Georgia and Dawsonville really. Most of the girls she competed against were two to three years older than her so it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Baylee Cowart said that she had recently moved up into a new division, which is determined based on the competitor’s age groups. She didn’t expect to qualify for the junior finals, so she was surprised and thrilled to learn that she was to compete.
“This was my first year I could qualify for it and I qualified at my first show of the season; we did not think that was gonna happen,” Baylee Cowart said. “So I went to Pennsylvania and there were competitors from all over the world and I was the youngest one to compete -- I was expecting to just go and have fun but somehow I ended up placing and I was so excited.”
Cowart, who is in eighth grade at Dawson County Junior High School, said that riding horses is one of her favorite things and that riding brings her a lot of joy and relaxation.
“I’ve always wanted to do the jumping, and I always wanna go out and ride; that’s all I wanna do,” Baylee Cowart said. “Whenever I’m riding I can be free and bond with my horse. We both trust each other so much and we have such a nice bond and it brings a lot of comfort.”
The horse Baylee races is a 9-year-old dark bay named Charlee, who goes by “Quick Check” in competitions. Baylee Cowart said that Charlee loves competing just as much as she does and is the perfect horse for her.
“Horses don’t mature until 12 years old and he just turned 9 so he’s a really good boy — he’ll do anything for me and he’s a really good horse,” Baylee Cowart said. “He loves the jumps and messing with stuff; he’s always really curious so he always wants to go look around.”
Since the competition, Baylee Cowart has gone on to qualify for several other big, out-of-state competitions.
“I qualified for a horse show in Maryland, so I’m going to Maryland soon for a horse show, and I’ll also be going to Kentucky in October for a show — I qualified for that a couple weeks ago,” Baylee Cowart said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to be able to qualify for all of this because this is my first year doing the big shows in this new division, so it’s just huge.”
Amanda Cowart said that she’s incredibly proud of her daughter, especially taking into account her success compared to her age. .
“I’m so proud; she placed top 20 out of more than 80 riders,” Amanda Cowart said. “There’s teams from everywhere there, so it’s a huge accomplishment to walk home with a top 20 ribbon in that.”