The Wyoming Quarter Horse Association (WQHA) has an active youth division (WQHYA) led by Jill Stucky (Jill.firstname.lastname@example.org). I asked Kristen McPherson and Madeline Stucky --two top WQHA youth exhibitors-- to share their experiences in the show pen with their horses, and to talk about how they balance showing with the other parts of their busy lives. As their answers make clear, showing requires tremendous discipline and commitment, and much support from parents too! Maddy lives in Laramie and is a freshman at Laramie High School. Kristen lives in Lander and is a senior at Lander Valley High School. She’s headed to college at Baylor University in the fall, where she will ride with the equestrian team.
Maddy and Kristen, tell me a little about your Quarter Horses.
Maddy: My horse's name is Hudson (Be Invited). He is a 2015, 16’3 all-around horse by Good I Will Be, and out of Invitedfourcocktails . He is exceptional in all aspects but shines in showmanship and horsemanship. Even though he is a 6-year-old he performs like a veteran horse. I really love how determined he is to please his rider and how hardworking he is. When we first got him he was green in most of the classes we show in, but with hard work and determination, we became a successful duo.
Kristen: My horse Jag (Overdue to be Invitd) by ‘Invitation Only’ is a 2011 gelding. He is exceptionally smart and quick to learn new things. We began our career together in February of 2020. Our relationship is quickly growing and I love how willing he is to do new things.
Competitive sports all require lots of practice, perseverance, and passion. Showing horses also requires a partnership with a horse. How important is that partnership and how do you develop it to excel in the show pen?
Maddy: A partnership between a rider and a horse is one of the most important ingredients of success. Learning each other's cues and creating a bond between rider and horse can guarantee success. Creating a bond does take time and lots of patience, as required for many other sports. Learning my horse's strengths and weaknesses helped me a lot; for example, when we got Hudson, he would get anxious in the trail. Learning this about him helped me to be able to help him overcome his anxiety and ultimately help our riding get better as a whole.
Kristen: I agree. Partnership is the biggest key to success in showing horses. The main way to build a relationship with your horse is to constantly practice and take the time to understand each other. Creating trust between your horse and yourself does not happen overnight or even in a couple of months. There are always going to be “fights” to see who the boss is. In the end you just have to push through all the hard times to see the progress. I have only known Jag for a little over a year, we are through many of the fights, and the success is finally coming through. I have learned to stay patient and have adapted to Jag while he has done the same for me.
I know from my own experience how much time is involved in preparing for shows. How do you balance showing with school, family and social life, and other activities?
Maddy: Balancing showing, with school, family, social life, and other activities can definitely be a challenge, and I've always had a busy schedule. Currently, Laramie High School is doing a hybrid school schedule where I go to school twice a week and go online the other 3 days. With this schedule we try to get to the barn and ride on Wednesdays and sometime during the weekend. Although being in a different state from my horse and trainer has challenges, we try to get in as many rides a possible. On top of that, I play club volleyball and run track so a lot of the time I go to club volleyball practice after I ride and go to track practices on the days I can.
Kristen: Balancing life while being busy is never easy but my parents have always helped me to make horses a priority in life. I actually decided I would graduate at semester in January 2021, to open more time for riding. Being 5 hours away from my trainer has never been easy, but we plan to drive down once or twice a month so I can practice. I also swim on the Lander Valley High School girls swim team. I do not usually ride during this time because of the practice and meet schedule but I know that my dedication to the team is important. I am fortunate to have my retired paint horse at home to be able to practice on.
What are your favorite classes to show in? Why? Do you have a least favorite class?
Maddy: I personally really enjoy showing in showmanship and horsemanship because of the challenges each class brings. When we first got Hudson he knew nothing in showmanship and with hard work and dedication we have made him into a phenomenal showmanship horse. I also enjoy horsemanship because of the attention to detail needed with every aspect of the class.
I would say the English events aren't particularly my favorite, I wouldn't necessarily say I hate the classes just that I prefer the Western events. I also like the fact that in Western there is no specific style required so anyone can be unique.
Kristen: I love showmanship and trail. I have been very lucky to have the horses I have. They all taught me joys of showing. I learned to love showmanship and trail for the uniqueness of having your own style. These two classes are very similar in making everything flow. The point of these classes is to not just get through the pattern but take every maneuver and create a dance out of it. There are many amazing showmanship and trail horses but when you come across a team that looks like they belong together, it is amazing to watch.
Like Maddy, I am not a huge fan of English classes. I rode hunter under saddle and hunt seat equitation since I was young but I never truly enjoyed them. In western classes you can tell the riders apart by their outfits and style, but in English classes everyone looks the same. I just prefer being able to stand out and feel different than everyone else.
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment in partnership with your horse? Do you have a particular goal for 2021?
Maddy: I think Hudson and my biggest accomplishment as a partnership would be placing 8th at the AQHA Youth World Show in 13 and under hunter under saddle 2 years ago. Going into the 2021 show season a goal that I would like to accomplish would be pointing out of a Level 1 class. (Me: so despite not liking English so much, you are very good at it!)
Kristen: I think the biggest accomplishment for Jag and I was how much we have grown. 2020 did not give us many show opportunities and Covid-19 changed our travel plans. With limited riding time and shows we still grew and established a strong base for the years ahead of us. My goal for 2021 is to enjoy my last youth year. Even though I have two youth years remaining, I will be in college and I am not sure if I will have time for showing. I hope to make this year the most memorable one yet.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! Would you like to encourage other youth riders to participate in WQHA shows? Could they contact you if interested?
Maddy: As a former vice president of the WQHYA, I would encourage youth riders to keep practicing, and getting better and better. And find a way to get involved in more shows that WQHA puts on or sponsors. Riding is a great way to de-stress and WQHA is a stress-free association with opportunities to meet great people.
If you would like to contact me, my email is email@example.com.
Kristen: Riding has been my way of relaxing. Showing has expanded my love for horses. It has opened the door to many opportunities that I could not have known without the help of these associations. I encourage youth to get involved in the WQHA shows. They are a great way to understand showing and open new doors. I would be open to other youth reaching out and asking questions or even developing new friendships. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021 WQHYA officers are Ainsley Marshall (president), Kristen McPherson (vice president), Emily Johnson (secretary), and Madeline Stucky (treasurer).
Written by: Nicole Ballinger
It is official - the new name for the WQHA July show, that will replace the Woolly Circuit and the Energy Capital Circuit, will be the "WQHA Cowboy Summer Classic". This show will be held July 14-18, 2021 at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas, WY. Thank you to everyone who submitted suggestions for this new name. A new scheduled will be announced shortly. We look forward to seeing everyone for a great show this summer!
We are all on the lookout for bright spots these days. One big one, for those of us looking to get out and show, was the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association (WQHA) combined Woolly and Energy Capital show circuit, held July 16 – 19 2020 at the State Fairgrounds in Douglas, Wyoming.
Due to concerns and uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, the WQHA Board had delayed the May show but then took a gamble and decided to go big in July by combining the delayed May and scheduled July shows. With the support and guidance of the Wyoming Department of Health the gamble definitely paid off! The combined show attracted 900 open entries, 1,038 amateur entries, and 1,125 youth entries. Almost every one of the Pepsi Center’s 237 stalls was sold out.
Exhibitors showed to six top-flight AQHA judges over the four days, including judges David Denniston, Scott Merritt, and Cindy Chilton Moore on July 16-17, and Christi Brown, Clint Fullerton and Clark Parker on July 18-19. The show attracted top trainers from the region, and highlighted the high quality of performance horses across the disciplines and the skills of both Western and English exhibitors in our neck of the woods. There was something for pretty much everyone (sorry jumpers and ropers!), including halter and showmanship, trail, western pleasure, western horsemanship, and western riding; hunter under saddle and hunt seat equitation; ranch riding, reining, ranch trail, and ranch horse conformation; even barrels and poles. A number of All Breed classes gave exhibitors of Appaloosas and Paints a chance to join in the fun.
There were too many circuit champions, reserve champions and great goes to mention. But combined show all-around winners included Kammi Carson and No Doubt Its Handled (Rookie Youth), Catherine Dekker and Shez Gota Lot (Rookie Amateur), Madeline Stucky and Be Invited (Level 1 Youth), Caitlyn Kaufman and Prettiest Cowgirl (Level 1 Amateur), Terri Kenney/Jeff Burley and SL Just One Look (Level 1 Open Horse), Stephanie Miller and Valentines At Last (Youth All Ages), Kellie Wicker and Zip N Mac (Amateur), Debbie Unrein and Lazy But Good (Amateur Select and Senior Open Horse), Roxanne Doogan/Leslie Lange and Snap Chat Diva (Junior Open Horse), and Ashlyn Stuckey and Fancy Party Favor (All Breed Walk Trot). Combined show versatility ranch horse winners were Jodi Witt and Lil Bit O Badge (All Breed), Dona Ramsteck and Picos Cat (Amateur) and Garrett Ashby and Mr Gallo Tee Cross (Open).
As for the future…. the Board has voted to go for it again in 2021, holding another 6-judge show in July. There is talk of adding another day to the schedule, so the days are not quite so long and packed. (Though the Wyoming skies will surely be just as clear and the air just as warm.) Stay tuned and please join us! And please become a member if you are not already. Members have the potential to earn great (pick your own) prizes at year end; the total value of 2020 year end awards is $8,620!
We’d like to thank the Wyoming Department of Health, the State Fairgrounds staff, the many folks who helped manage what turned out to be a huge show, especially Mary Glass, and all the participants for showing respect and doing their best to keep each other safe.
Written by: Nicole Ballinger
Pictured: Julian Nemmers riding One So Good, Nemmers Performance Horses
Recently I attended a Lyle Lovett concert in Cheyenne. The music was beyond wonderful. But it was also a joy for a horse lover like me to hear Lyle talk about his love of horses and his friendships with several great cowboys and trainers. My head was nodding up and down when he talked about how much we learn from horses, and how they help us be better people. I looked around and saw a lot of others nodding too. Here’s a link to a Horse and Rider interview with Lyle if you haven’t seen it:
Listening to him and his great acoustic band play and harmonize, I was wondering if Lyle ever entertains at horse shows, and how cool would that be. That’s when it occurred to me that we are pretty darn lucky at Wyoming Quarter Horse Association shows to sometimes have our own in-house entertainment in the form of WYQHA member Stuart Thompson of Pinedale. In the picture below he is playing during a potluck at the May 2019 Douglas show.
In fact we have a ton of fun at Wyoming shows. Dogs are welcome and it can be a good place to take a snooze, as demonstrated by trainer Julian Nemmers (Nemmers Performance Horses) in the picture below.
The first time I ever attended a Quarter Horse show as an exhibitor was in Torrington in 2010. I was already 57 years old and didn’t even have a trainer. I was bound and determined to do it, inspired by a friend in California who had died the month before after a battle with leukemia. She and I had shared horse tales and both of us were aiming to start showing seriously, despite our advanced age. So I packed up my trailer and my natural pleasure horse Good Terms a Blaze, and headed all alone to Torrington. I was a nervous wreck and had little idea what I was doing or getting into, but the experience was hugely rewarding. John Sedgwick, who was WyQHA president at the time, and Brent Knox made sure I knew what to do, found me a Chicago screw when I lost one from my bridle, and gave me a list of trainers to look into. A young assistant trainer at the time, Jeff Burley, put my horse’s tail in for me. I recall chatting with Nancy Nemmers at the wash rack, and thinking how nice she was, and now she’s my trainer. I don’t know if she’ll remember, but Debbie Unrein (WyQHA’s current Vice President) complimented my saddle blanket, and folks I’d never seen before told me I’d done a great job. And this despite the fact my horse stopped to poop in the middle of the trail course!
A decade later, WYQHA shows are just as fun and folks are just as supportive. There’s also strong competition with some of the top Quarter Horse trainers and exhibitors attending from both Wyoming and Colorado. And there are classes for everyone, from Ranch Riding to Halter, from rookie to World Show contender. So please check out the show bill for our upcoming Wooly Horse Circuit show in Douglas (May 15-17) on the WyQHA website: https://wqha.org/
Written by: Nicole Ballinger