April 24, 2018
My Inaugural AQHA World Show Journey
If anyone had asked me in February of this year if I had plans to attend the 2013 AQHA World Show in November, I would have laughed hysterically and complimented their sense of humor. In February, my 2004 bay roan gelding, “Islehava Mocha Latte” (aka The Roanie Pony) and I were gearing up to make our AQHA debut at the Dixie National Quarter Horse Show in the Amateur Ranch Horse Pleasure. That first show didn’t go well. We were both nervous, not able to handle well the pressure of four judges, photographer’s flashes and large entries. But we survived by staying on pattern and keeping a leg on each side.
We didn’t let our subpar debut bother us, and it fueled us on through the spring, summer and early fall with seven shows in Florida and Mississippi. We practiced five days a week and added Reining, Horsemanship, Trail, Barrels, and Poles to our repertoire. We rode with my trainer/mentor Tom McBeath of Union, MS every few months to check our progress and get homework.
At some point in the spring, we had qualified for both the Open and Amateur Ranch Horse Classes at the AQHA World Show. But I didn’t get really excited about going all the way to Oklahoma City (OKC) – until one day in July. When a close riding friend and mentor died suddenly, I was reminded of how precious life is. Not being a person who lives with regret, I decided I was going to the World Show, in spite of it being my Rookie year and I had never even been to the World Show before. All I had to do was stay on pattern with a leg on each side, right?
By the time we were to leave for OKC, we had earned 34.5 points, our Amateur Performance ROM, and our Open ROM. We were leading the AQHA/Justin Rookie Award for Alabama and 10th in the nation for our age group. Going to the World Show was icing on the cake. Our “only” job was to get there, stay focused, on pattern, and a leg on each side.
Good planning leaves room for error or “wiggle room.” Little did I know how much I would need! My plan was to leave Friday at 6 a.m. so I could be ahead of commuters and be at my layover in Shreveport, Louisiana by 2 p.m. But at 8 a.m I was broke down on the side of the road. The nemesis: water in the fuel. Fortunately, I had a friend who drove an hour and a half to help. Armed with new fuel filters and the knowledge of how to fix it, he was a welcome sight and a blessing!
Six hours behind schedule, I arrived in Shreveport by 8:30 p.m. The Roanie Pony was elated to finally be off the trailer!
By the time I finally reached OKC the next day, checked in and found my stall, it was 8 p.m. I had only two hours to unload shavings, feed, hay and tack and then retire to a friend’s home. After a short nap it was time for the first ride.
Three early morning and two late night rides later, it was time to show. There were 79 entries and I was sixth in the draw. My horse and I were so tired, we were just ready for it to be over regardless of the outcome. We rode our pattern, exited the pen, and just kept on going to the stall, not hearing our score. When I walked back to the arena, a fellow exhibitor told us we looked good and had a 218.5 score. Was that good? After waiting for all the other rides to go, we learned that the cut off was 218.5. I had just made the Finals!
The night of the Finals came and I was just thrilled to be there. At the time, I felt I had my horse ready, but looking back, I think we could have been a little less fresh. We were 15th out of the final 16. For our first World Show in our Rookie year, I am thrilled to have been in the same arena as those other amazing horses and women!
After a few days off, it was back to the arena to learn a new pattern for the Open Ranch Horse Pleasure that had 108 entries. Part of the art/science of showing horses is learning how much work they need in order to perform their best. It’s tricky learning how much “fresh” to take off and how much to leave on. In my case, I don’t think I took enough fresh off, but as a Rookie that’s something I am still learning. We marked a 207 and it took a 225.5 to make it to the finals.
My horse and I have come a long way in a short time. It’s been a great Rookie year! We have one more show to finish our Rookie points, then have a few months off to recover and refocus.
“Stay on pattern and a leg on each side!”
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