Young rider Emma DeJong from Bargersville, Indiana caught the horse bug early. Her mother, Amanda Cottingham-Johnson recalls, “When she was four years old, she told me horses were going to be her thing and that was it. Nobody in our family rides, so this was all on her own. We lived near a barn, and she was drawn to the horses.”
Emma adds, “I was completely obsessed with them. Every time I was at my grandma’s house, I’d visit the horses at her neighbor’s house and all I wanted to do was ride.” That led to some riding lessons on the neighbor’s horses and it was the start of an amazing experience for Emma and her family. With an active extended family that includes five step- and biological siblings, her mother, stepfather, father, stepmother and grandparents all make a point to attend her shows. Sixteen-year-old Emma has been fortunate to have strong support for her passion. Her mom fostered her dreams and was willing to take a leap of faith into the horse world to make those dreams come true.
Her mother, Amanda, says, “This was all new for me and there was a steep learning curve. I could tell that this was a real passion for Emma, and I said I would do just about anything to make this happen for her. She started out on ponies, then moved on to horses and then I built a barn in our backyard, and she got into open shows and 4-H. In 2018, she moved up to AQHA competition when she started riding with Tommy Sheets. Getting into the horses also led to changes in my life. After we built the barn, then I just kept thinking I need to do something else, so I developed the Bay Horse Inn event facility which is in a much bigger barn I designed from the ground up. We built it on our property behind Emma’s horse barn. It’s a beautiful event facility and it’s really taken off. We’ll be doing 115 weddings this year.”