She is 18 and she has a plan.
Katharine Work, the youngest of five Work children, said she will attend college in the fall and then, in two years, would like to become a police officer on mounted patrol or a game warden on mounted patrol.
And while some skeptics may cast aside an 18 year-old’s ambitions as fleeting, they would be wise not to challenge Ms. Work — Katharine, or Kat as she is known by most, has spent the last year proving her doubters wrong.
While completing her senior project at Barrington High School, Kat far surpassed the required hours of field work, finishing her year-long project of leasing, boarding, training and caring for a horse with more than 450 hours of time lodged.
In just about every phase of the project, Kat went above and beyond the normal expectations. For starters, she paid for everything associated with the project — it was her own money earned working three jobs that paid the monthly boarding fees at a nearby stable and it was her money that covered the bills for veterinary visits and farrier help.
It was her own personal time spent easing an anxious and ornery quarterhorse named Naria, transforming her from an animal that distrusted everyone into a horse gentle enough to let young girls ride her for hours.
Kat has always loved horses.
When she was three she started riding, and by the time she reached the middle school she realized that she was happiest when she was around horses — riding, training, caring for them.
But this senior project tested her limits right from the start.
Kat and her mother Sherry Work clearly recall the day they first met Naria. They drove to a farm in Pembroke, Mass. and spoke to the woman in charge. She told Kat and her mother that Naria was sweet, but the strong-willed horse immediately bucked the woman onto the ground, leaving her injured.
Mrs. Work said the woman looked up from the ground and told Kat “I guess this means you won’t want her.”
Kat’s reaction was the complete opposite.
“I thought she’d be fine,” said Kat. “I like a challenge.”
In addition to covering all costs associated with training and boarding Naria, Kat also managed the everyday care. She spent hot days mucking stables and hauling bales of hay. In the dead of winter she’d smash the buckets of ice to make sure Naria had water to drink.
Kat also spent countless hours riding Naria — sometimes inside the barn and other times taking long trail rides through the woods surrounding Saddlebrook Farm.
“She threw me good about six times,” Kat said.
But eventually the work began yielding returns. Naria became more approachable, and even allowed younger girls to ride her.
At times, the schedule was overwhelming, including long days at school, work at the barn or at the speedway or gardening for a neighbor. Homework and other projects nearly brought Kat to tears some days. She also spent time riding and training Naria and sometimes working with other peoples’ horses.
“There were days when I really wanted to take a vacation. I felt like I needed a break,” she said. “Then I would take her for a ride and it was like a vacation. It was great. That’s where I wanted to be.”
Kat’s work impressed many people, including Sarah Hogan, who runs a local horse farm. Ms. Hogan penned a letter of recommendation for Kat that read, in part “To be able to successfully train a young horse you must put forth compassion, maturity, patience, time, physical labor, along with much more, Katharine proved to execute all of these qualities… Some of the training Katharine did was natural horsemanship (learning how to communicate with an equine through body language) this is not the easiest of jobs and she took in everything she learned and passed it along to her horse very well.”
Naria’s owner, Melissa Duggan, was also quite impressed with Kat. Ms. Duggan sent a letter to Kat after the local girl returned Naria to its home stable, Wild Irish Farm, stating that Naria was “in excellent condition.”
Mrs. Work said Kat surpassed all expectations while completing her senior project.
“Coping with so many obstacles, challenges, she was unbelievable,” Mrs. Work said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her.”