Broken bones can’t stop Enya Sober from competing at Garfield County Fair

15-year-old Enya Sober walks her 4-H market goat around the indoor arena at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Whenever Enya Sober falls down, she gets back up — and then some.

The 15-year-old Rifle resident is in her eighth year with 4-H, and her passion is the Garfield County Fair. But on her way to nabbing buckles, this young equestrian chock full of true grit has endured quite a bit of physical adversity. 

Sober suffered a compression fracture in her back the first year she was to barrel race her American quarter horse or showcase a market goat for the Garfield County judges. Instead, she couldn’t ride for the next eight weeks, she said.

Injury struck again about three years ago when she took a hoof to the femur from her horse, Little Foot. Sober was in a horse stall with her father, Ryan Sober, when kids yelling from a next-door carnival ride spooked her pony. Little Foot then grew more uncomfortable when Sober simultaneously brushed up against her with a shavings bag, which is used to hold bedding for horses and other barn animals.

“She really didn’t know what was behind her and she just kicked out because she was so scared,” Enya recalled. “She had got me just right, and I broke my femur.”

15-year-old Enya Sober prepares for another busy week at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

The incident confined Sober to a wheelchair and later crutches over the next several weeks, with her mother, Leia Sober, conscientiously bringing her to a boarding stable where Little Foot stayed.

These trips to visit the same horse that caught her in the leg were for her mental health, Enya said. But there was also another strategy behind them. The more Enya spent time with Little Foot, the better Little Foot could get used to her.

“She was a younger horse,” Enya said. “She had to trust me again.”

“It helped her understand I was OK.”

Enya continued her path to recovery via physical therapy twice a week. Growing stronger, Enya was eventually told by her doctor she could ride Little Foot bareback but only “at a walk.”

She went with her mother to see Little Foot again. Once her mom wasn’t looking, Enya and Little Foot picked up the pace.

“When she had left, I just walked, trotted, loped — just did everything,” Enya said. “I still had a brace on while doing all that.”

Leia laughed in surprise being this was the first time ever hearing this story.

“I think that, sometimes, when you’re competitive and you want to do stuff, you do kind of push the envelope a little bit,” Leia said. “You know your body better than anything, and with horses it’s always unpredictable. But all’s well that ends well, I suppose.”

Enya is a naturally competitive person and really doesn’t enjoy staying inside. The incoming Coal Ridge High School sophomore also has her sights on studying horse nutrition at Colorado State University to become a trainer later in life. Maybe a little rodeo is on the horizon, too — she said she’s not sure.

“As she gets older, I’ve noticed that she’s humbler, and I’ve seen her reach out to the younger kids a lot more this year, encouraging them and showing them what they can do if they work hard,” Leia said. “That’s been really nice.”

15-year-old Enya Sober walks her 4-H market goat out of the stall at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Unsurprisingly, she’s also helped Little Foot grow and become more confident. She decided to keep a shavings bag with her as she rode Little Foot while recovering from her broken femur. The crunchy material used for stables was used to better acclimate her horse to its feelings and sounds.

“I think horses can translate into anything,” Enya said. “We learn body language and how it affects things around us with horses especially, because it’s so important.”

“I feel like with goats, with pigs, with rabbits, with steers — when you’re introducing yourself to somebody — you can put this aspect towards anything.”

In addition to showing her horse at this year’s Garfield County Fair, Enya shows a market goat in a Thursday round-robin competition. Working with horses is a lifelong commitment that doesn’t make a lot of money, so having an opportunity to show people she can also succeed in working with goats is big.

“I had always gone in each year thinking I’m gonna be 10 times better than I was last year,” she said. “When I was sitting in my wheelchair, I was thinking when I get back I have to work really hard or else I’m not going to be better than I was last year, so that was really important to me.”

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