Iroquois Steeplechase child ambassador is an avid equestrian with a fighting spirit

Posted at 6:30 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 22:35:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Through the years, the Iroquois Steeplechase has donated almost $11 million to the Monroe Carell Junior Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. It's a mission that helps children throughout Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky get well. And every year, a child ambassador is named to represent the hospital.

This year’s pick — 10-year-old Mattie Ann Hawell — is the perfect fit as an accomplished equestrian.

“Well, I love everything, but if I have to narrow it down to three — I love the connection with my horse, I love soaring over the jumps, and it just feels like me,” Mattie Ann told NewsChannel 5’s Carrie Sharp.

High atop her horse, Harry, Mattie Ann’s sweet demeanor is always on display. As is her will to improve. If only that drive could cure what ails her.

“I've had to get a lot of blood drawn, I've had a urine flow test, I've had endoscopies and I'm about to have a colonoscopy in a few more weeks.”

Since age six, Mattie Ann has been in and out of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital — eventually being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It's a lot for a little girl. But help isn't hard to find, both at the hospital.

"My doctors always help me, they always put a smile on my face,” she said.

The barn gives her a similar sense of security.

“I feel like my true self is out here taking care of the horses and riding,” Mattie Ann said.

And it's paying off — Mattie Ann and Harry just placed in an international competition at the World Equestrian Center in Florida.

“It went really, really good. I got sixth, seventh and eighth out of over 30 people in my category.”

Whether in an arena, or the hospital, Mattie Ann is wise beyond her years with just the right attitude to face any challenge.

“Always look on the bright side, and you can do this.”