Andy, who works at the National Academy of Sciences but has a graduate degree in horse breeding from the University of Maryland, said he competed in riding competitions when he was younger and he still does "once in awhile."

He said he has always loved horses, so when he bought the property off Owen Brown Road 25 years ago he also bought a horse, named Loretta.

"I thought I would teach riding lessons after work for income," he said.

Andy's riding lessons only lasted for about a month, but Loretta stayed on the property with the family for 20 years before she died.

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Jacob grew up with Loretta, but he and his family have also take in other horses throughout the years. The most horses the Popes had at one time is three.

'Like best friends'

While she's grown accustomed to having horses next door after 25 years, neighbor Sherrie Black appreciates how unusual it is.

"I love the fact that we can be a mile from the Columbia mall and still have horses," she said.

Black said she uses the paddock fence that encloses the pasture as a landmark when giving people directions. She tells them to look for two horses.

The Popes said people come by all the time to look at Timmy and Monty.

"Probably more than we know," Barbara said.

Timmy was given to the Popes about two years ago by the McDonogh School because he wouldn't jump anymore after a couple bad falls. Jacob started working with Timmy to overcome the horse's fear of jumps, and now he is "back to pretty much normal," Jacob said.

Jacob sometimes rides Timmy at local competitions. One of his favorite aspects of riding, he said, is "the relationship you make between the horse and rider.

"Timmy and I — I don't want to sound like a weirdo — but we're like best friends," Jacob said. "I know how he's feeling. I know if he's going to be scared of something."

Miranda Grabill, coach of McDonogh's varsity riding team, of which Jacob is a member, praised Jacob's ability to connect with horses.

"One of his strengths is getting on many different horses and figuring them out, what makes each one go well," she said.

That strength has become particularly useful in the past year, as Jacob has started competing more at the national level, where he rides unfamiliar horses. Jacob rents or borrows for national competitions because "warmbloods," horses bred for competitive horseback riding, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Grabill said Jacob one of the top competitors in his age group in the area, and one of the top 50 nationally.

Just in the past year, Jacob has qualified for the United States Equestrian Federation medal finals in Harrisburg, Pa., and the national Maclay finals in Lexington, Ky., Both are national, elite competitions for junior riders.

Emerging athlete