Submitted by Merida The Bitless

Merida, an 11-year-old gypsy horse from Chehalis known as “Merida The Bitless” to her social fans, made the cut last night into the Top 10 for InTouch Magazine’s America’s Favorite Pet Contest. The contest benefits PAWS – Progressive Animal Welfare Society. The nonprofit is based in Lynnwood, Washington and has a mission to help injured and orphaned domestic pets as well as wildlife get rehabilitated and return home.Merida The Bitless

“I am so excited that Merida has made it to the top 10 and has helped raise money for a great local charity in the process,” shares Kristina Lotz, Merida’s owner. “Our own mission is to pave the way for horse competitions to be more accepting of bitless riding. I do a lot of clicker training as well. Merida and want to be role models for those working towards a deeper relationship with their horse.”

Merida still has several rounds of competition to get through in order to be named America’s Favorite Pet, which includes a two-page article in InTouch Magazine and the honor of the title. On September 22, voting ends for the top 5 cut-off for her group. At that point, if Merida makes it, she will be in the quarterfinals and will need to be first in her group by the time voting ends – 7 p.m. PST on September 29. If she is first in her group, then she will go onto the semifinals that run through October 20. At which point, she will need to be first in her group again to advance to the finals that end on October 27.

“We really hope that our local friends and neighbors will get behind us and vote,” shares Kristina. “Merida is such a special girl. She is the type of animal that leaves an impression on everyone that’s met her. I can’t really explain it. I had a girl run up to me when I was at a barn for a lesson. She excitedly asked, ‘Is that Merida?’ She had ridden Merida at her former owner’s, and she had helped the girl overcome her fear. Just as Merida did me. She is just one in a million. And now, she is helping other horses and riders that want to ride bitless but show rules are stopping them.”

Together, Merida and Kristina have accumulated an impressive show record, with almost 90 firsts over the last three years in trail, English and western pleasure, jumping, agility and more. They have won multiple high points and was the International Registry of Bitless Equestrians Horse and Handler of the Year for 2019. “We just hope to prove it’s possible and safe to do things bitless,” explains Kristina. “Some horses have injuries that make bitless uncomfortable, some horses do not like bits in their mouths, and some riders choose to ride bitless for personal reasons. They have every right to compete as much as a bitted team.”

As for all the competing, Merida thrives on it. “She whinnies and runs to the gate when I pull out the trailer,” shares Kristina. “I think it’s all the extra food and treats she gets while competing. But I really do what she likes. For example, I never jumped and wasn’t even much of an English rider, but one day we were playing around and found that Merida loves to jump. Her ears go forward, and her whole energy comes up. So, I’m learning to jump. It’s all about her. She gets massages and chiropractic work. And has special blankets to keep her joints warm. She really is spoiled.”

The America’s Favorite Pet title also comes with a cash award. “I don’t like to count my chickens,” laughs Kristina. “But, after taxes, the money will be used to further our cause in some shape or form. I may even let Merida’s fans help me decide how!”

You can vote for Merida for free once a day. You can also buy extra votes to support PAWS. Just go to Merida’s America’s Favorite Pet dashboard, or scan the QR code below. Merida is running some fun giveaways to boost donations to PAWs, so head Merida The Bitless on Facebook or Instagram.

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