“If I see something and I want it, I will work hard, and I will get it.” These are the words of Oriah Abo, and it would appear they have been hard-wired in her psyche since birth.

Life has not always been easy for Oriah, but she has taken every opportunity that has been afforded her and turned it into a force multiplier.

Oriah’s fascination with horses began at age 10 when as a foster child, she had the opportunity to attend horse camp at Diamond D Farms near Jacksonville, FL. From that point on, she was smitten. She decided then and there that one day, she would have a horse.

At age 12, Oriah had the good fortune to be adopted by Joel and Twyla Abo. She and her family lived near St. Augustine. Despite being a gorgeous area, St. Augustine is not exactly horse country, and affordable opportunities for kids to be involved with horses were few and far between. Oriah was not dissuaded. She took advantage of whatever opportunity to ride or be around horses that she could and kept her steely gaze focused on the future.

While she dreamed of horses, Oriah continued to demonstrate her stellar work ethic. She graduated early from high school where she took dual enrollment courses toward her college degree. So then what?

To Oriah’s father, a professor at St. John’s River State College, it was clear that his daughter had the horse bug. He used his knowledge of the various specialty programs in Florida’s college system and guided Oriah to the College of Central Florida in Ocala. Prior to taking a trip to Ocala to visit the school, Oriah had no knowledge of the area, but one look at the surrounding horse farms along with an examination of the equine program offered at CCF and Oriah was hooked.

Oriah completed her certification for veterinary technician and quickly earned her Associates Degree in Equine Business. She is now working on her Bachelors in Agriculture with a focus on Equine Business. Her longterm goal is to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine and one day open a riding center with a primary emphasis on a riding program for foster children, veterans, and the disabled.

Her time in Ocala has provided Oriah with a multitude of opportunities to meet and work with many talented and caring people. Dr. Judy Downer of CCF introduced Oriah to STRIDE member Anna Toomey while Oriah was volunteering at a show. This led to Oriah working around Anna’s farm in exchange for lessons. Oriah credits Anna with providing her with a strong dressage foundation and significant help. Eventually, Oriah met and worked for Dee Loveless. A high point was getting to ride Dee’s talented Morgan, “Mo.” After her time with Dee, Oriah began working at Follow the Sun Dressage for Heather Smith and met Anna Merritt who provided her with a lot of assistance. Everyone along the way has been instrumental in adding to Oriah’s knowledge and experience.

But what about that horse that Oriah has longed for?

She found him! She and a friend’s mother adopted Atlas Shrugged, an 18 -year old standardbred who she hopes will make his show debute at the May STRIDE show in gaited dressage.

Last year, you may have seen Oriah taking photos at the year-end awards banquet for STRIDE (you can see her photography on Facebook at Oriah Photography). This year, you may very well see her on the other end of the lens accepting an award. Whatever the situation may be, Oriah’s positive, persistent attitude translates into one word—champion.