She returns almost everyday to her second home out in Liberty Hill, the barn. The smell of dirt, hay and the earth fill her nose. She walks into the stable and meets up with her best friend, Sinnamon, her horse.
Junior Shannon Brand has been riding horses since she was two years old. Throughout her equestrian career, she’s rode enough horses to count one for every month she’s been alive, placed first at multiple riding competitions and currently works two jobs to make up for the $400 she spends monthly for her horse. They share a deep connection.
“[I first connected with my horse] when I was in the round pen with her and she wasn’t listening to me,” Brand said. “I got frustrated and sat down and I waited for her to come to me for an hour. She finally walked up to me and just stood there, and let me pet her. We finally connected with each other.”
Brand and her horse connect through being stubborn and sassy. They met through Brand’s personal trainer.
“I feel like she [her horse] kinda found me,” Brand said. “My trainer got her from Connecticut. She wasn’t working out for my trainer and she didn’t know what to do with her. My trainer was putting her up for sale. I never knew I had a connection with her, until I saw her being loaded on the trailer. I just lost it and started bawling. I couldn’t fathom the thought of her leaving so I was kind’ve like ‘I have to do something about this,’ so I did and now she’s mine.”
Brand is currently working two jobs to keep up with her horse. She works at HEB and as a trainer for young equestrians.
“I pay $200 towards her payment every month,” Brand said. “Then I pay from $200-270 every month, on top of that $200, for her boarding facility so she can have a place to stay and be fed, horseshoes, dewormers and a lot of stuff. Not even including the other things I have to get for her like saddle pads, bits, bridles and saddles.”
Brand uses a lot of responsibility with her money when she gets her paycheck and a large percentage of it goes towards her horse.
“All of my money goes to her,” Brand said. “I get paid every week so I put $50 into savings. Then I put $100 towards her every week which adds up to the $400 for the whole month. If I have to take more out, I will.”
Brand currently lives with her mother in Leander, while her father lives back in her home state of New Jersey.
“I ride mostly because, when my parents got divorced, it was super hard for me,” Brand said. “I didn’t really have a lot of things going for me. I was super nervous and scared, especially moving to Texas. When I moved here, I didn’t ride for about a year until I met my trainer who asked me to ride her horse because she was getting married, and then it just blossomed from there.”
Sinnamon is Brand’s closest companion. She spends more time with her than most of the people she knows.
“My horse is my best friend,” Brand said. “Horseback riding is a sport. It’s being able to compete with your best friend that doesn’t speak to you at all. And I think that’s the coolest thing, because I can go sit in my horse’s stall and cry and she won’t do anything. She’ll be there and she’ll listen. She just always picks me up, she’s always there. We’ve never had a conversation in words, but I talk to her all the time and she talks back.”