Ward ready to move to next level

Sarah Ward in the irons on Blink will compete in the $10,000 Mini Prix Sunday on Ludwig Storgaard at Highfields Event Center. (Photo Shawn McMillen)

The new year will bring a great deal of opportunity for Sarah Ward as she works on making the transition from a successful career as a Junior rider to the Adult Amateur classes. This Sunday she'll also be competing in her first Mini Prix at the Aiken Winter Classic Horse Shows at Highfields Event Center. Ward has enjoyed recent success at the Aiken-based facility on her horses Blink and Isaac, both during the RMI Holiday Show in December and last week at the Aiken Winter Classic. A hectic schedule is among the challenges the 18-year-old rider has to face on a routine basis, but she's ready to graduate to the next level and is brimming with enthusiasm and excitement. Ward and her jumper Ludwig Storgaard, also known by his barn name, "Louie," will contest this weekend's $10,000 Mini Prix, and she has embraced aging out of Juniors with poise and determination. Ward is ready to compete against a strong field of amateurs and professionals. Louie has had the past month-and- a-half off after winning a Junior Jumper classic in Atlanta. Ward will leave for Wellington, Fla. at the end of the month to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival, where she'll go against the nation's and the world's best in the adult amateur classes. Ward has learned a great deal through observation, and during her Junior career, when not riding, she spent a great deal of time watching many of the world's elite compete while in the show ring. Ward signed a letter of intent in December to attend the University of South Carolina, and starting next fall will be a member of the equestrian team. "The Towells, Finally Farm and my parents are the best," said Ward. "I'm extremely lucky to be a part of the team. They got me to where I am today, and my parents have been really supportive. Jack (Towell, Ward's trainer) is really amazing, and having the opportunity to watch Hardin (Towell) and Liza (Towell-Boyd) win everything, I couldn't be luckier."