The heart behind the horses
By Sean McInnis

Avery Meredith attaches her spurs to her boots before practicing barrel racing for an upcoming rodeo competition. Her horse Storm waits behind her.

Avery Meredith is running late; she walks into her barn and quickly brushes her rodeo horse Storm’s mane. She’s in a hurry to prepare for a competition and begins stripping hay from a bale and stuffing it into a bucket to feed Storm, a task she usually delegates to her boyfriend, Nick Kerr.

Two years ago, Avery fell in love with competing in rodeos. Even though her mother says she began riding before she could walk, rodeos have given Avery a new outlet to hone her equestrian skills.

She lives with her mom and grandmother on a 72-acre farm. They have three horses, three dogs and a flock of chickens. There is always work to be done.

“Everything here we built,” Avery says.

Her name is written on the stables in her family’s barn. She built them herself after their pervious barn burned down.

They lost three horses in the past eight years from various health issues. She hasn't had to put any animals down herself but knows when it's time to let go.

She recognizes that if she doesn't finish her farm chores, she doesn’t have time to hang out with friends.

At school, Avery focuses on her studies. She hopes to become a veterinarian someday, so she also likes to learn hands-on skills that will help her. Having taken anatomy and veterinary science classes, she is currently one of four girls in her school's machinist program.

Although she works hard at school and around the farm, her true passion is her horses.
Avery got her passion and for her horse from her grandfather. They had always talked about rodeos and watched them on TV before he passed away in 2021.

“We were together every day," she says. "Hung out, dressed the same, did everything together. I was a mini him.”

Avery recalls that her grandfather’s last ride before he died was with her. She hopes someday to ride rodeo professionally. “I’m doing better and winning a whole lot more," she says.

At a Saturday morning rodeo competition, she's nervous. It has been almost a year since she last competed with Storm, who has been recovering from a leg injury. Storm is saddled up and fitted with his riding equipment. She holds her flat-bill cap in her mouth while she ties her hair in a ponytail and attaches her spurs to her boots. Then she mounts Storm.

Although she says she's nervous, she looks focused. She finishes the barrels race in 20.1 seconds.

Avery (left), Rhea Stillwell and Tanner Finley (right) hang out and look at their phones before beginning a class in Grayson County High School’s agricultural program.

Grabbing a bag of feed from a pickup truck and throwing it over her shoulder, Avery walks into her barn to feed her horses.

Avery leads Storm out of her boyfriend Nick Kerr’s trailer to be fitted with riding equipment before a rodeo competition.

Avery warms up Storm behind a row of horse trailers before a rodeo competition at the Grayson County Saddle Club. It’s the first time Storm has competed in almost a year.

Avery gets her rodeo equipment ready and attaches spurs to her boots before a competition.

Avery’s grandmother, Jean Meredith, listens to Avery and her mother, Amanda Meredith, talk about a new iPhone application growing in popularity at school.

Avery visits with her father, Jimmy Poteet, who is divorced from her mother, and rides his horse Sterling around his backyard.

Avery wrestles with her boyfriend Nick Kerr in the front yard of her house on Grayson Springs Road. Avery says Nick is supportive in whatever she wants to do and always has her back.

Avery walks away from her grandfather’s monument after visiting it in the cemetery beside Broadford Baptist Church.