The IHSA Road

Transitioning from barrel racing to horsemanship may not be easy, but this West Texas A&M University equestrienne had the grit and guts to get it done.

By Addie Davis
The American Quarter Horse Journal
February 4, 2013

Addie Davis at the 2012 AQHA World Show

Addie Davis accepts her award won at the inaugural AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge from IHSA Executive Director Bob Cacchione and AQHA First Vice President Johne Dobbs. (Journal photo)

I could start off by telling you my life story right off the bat, but instead, I am going to let you take a walk in my black ostrich Justin cowboy boots.

Every day, I beat my alarm clock to a pulp around 6 a.m. while my phone alarm continues to go off; I fight the urge to ignore both. I know 6 a.m. does not seem too early, especially to the horse show world, but for the day I have ahead of me, it is.

I manage to pull my hair back, get myself ready for the day and rush out the door to feed my four Quarter Horses: “Immi,” “Bullet,” “Zeus” and “CC.” Soon after, I head to campus for 8 a.m. West Texas A&M University equestrian team workouts and then it’s off to back-to-back classes, which wrap up at 4:15 p.m. But that is not where my day ends.

Next, I head to the WTAMU Horse Center for my reining and horsemanship practices, and after practice, it’s time for me to ride my own horses until dark. Once all of the chores and horses are taken care of, I finally head home to do homework, take care of the house and my dogs.

Seems like a lot, right? Why do so much while taking 21 college credits?

Is it the passion? Yes. The rewards? Of course; who doesn’t like a few perks? But the real reason? It’s all for the American Quarter Horse.

I lived all over the place growing up. I was born in Puerto Rico, but we then moved around from Maryland to Florida to Texas and then to Washington. It was the great state of Texas, with the help of my amazing mother, that got me my first horse. Mom twisted my dad’s arm until he finally caved in and bought me Kacies Spanish Oak, my very first American Quarter Horse (who still resides at our home and is 28 years young).

Since I’m the kind of person who thrives on competition, I had to find my niche. I dabbled in showmanship, horsemanship, trail and even a little bit of hunt seat. At 7 years old, those events were not for me. I had this “need for speed,” as my mother would say. That’s when I found speed events and my barrel mare, Relentless Image, or “Immi.”

It is safe to say that I was born to run barrels and compete in rodeo. Growing up, I competed at AQHA events, including the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, plus 4-H events, junior rodeos and high school rodeos. I competed almost every weekend, year round, on my two Quarter Horses. With that in mind, I never thought that I would end up where I am today.

Today, I find myself in the great town of Canyon, Texas, attending West Texas A&M University. This town is now my home and everyone in it is my family. I am studying agriculture media and communications, as well as animal science at WTAMU, and, cross your fingers, I will be graduating in May.

At WT, I was given the amazing opportunity to be a part of the varsity equestrian team and compete in open horsemanship. How I was selected to be good enough to compete in the highest level of horsemanship, I am still not sure. I came from a rodeo and cutting background, with very little equitation showing experience. Yet, with a lot of hard work and determination, I was quickly climbing the ladder of success in the Intercollegiate Horse Showing Association, winning my first three shows my freshman year.

That year, I was a measly one point from qualifying for the regional championships due to illness earlier in the semester, but I was chosen as the team point rider at the IHSA semifinals, and with a hard draw, I placed fourth. I was proud of my accomplishments during my first year at WT, but as competitive as I am, I thirsted for more.

During the summer, I helped WT at horse camps and practiced riding all season so I could come back stronger the next semester. Well, my hard work had paid off; I earned all of my points to qualify for regionals, then won regionals and advanced on to the semifinals, where I was awarded the reserve championship and the chance to advance to the IHSA National Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As the days drew closer to nationals, I was practicing two to three times a day, striving for perfection. Before I knew it, nationals were upon me; there I was, sitting on the horse I drew, Peppy, and entering the show pen. It all happened so fast, and before I could blink, I was standing in the middle of the arena, filled with nerves, awaiting my placing. It got down to the top five and then my name was called: “From West Texas A&M University, in fourth place, Addie Davis.” It was such a blessing to be fourth in the nation for IHSA open horsemanship, and I later found out it was more of a blessing than I could ever imagine.

Sure, it wasn’t a win and I will be the first to tell you that it was not what I was hoping for, but it was an amazing accomplishment that many people thought was not possible. I had never showed horses like that before, and in a mere two years, I had learned a new event, defeated it to the best of my ability and was top four in the nation. That and I was selected as one of the eight IHSA riders to compete in the inaugural AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show. As horsemanship and barrel racing do not go hand-in-hand, I was pretty darn proud of myself for learning an event that was completely opposite of what I had been taught my whole life.

That year was also the year that I decided to be a part of the West Texas A&M horse judging team, another horse activity I had never done before. Oh gosh, that was quite the adventure. That fall semester, I think I had temporarily lost my mind. I decided it was a great idea to take 21 credits, be on the horse judging team and still compete for equestrian.

At that time, this is what my week looked like: Judging practice three or four times a week for hours on end, equestrian practice three or four times a week, athletic department-mandated study hall once a week and equestrian team workouts three times a week. Oh yeah, and school. Needless to say, I survived and came out of it all stronger than ever.

Joining the horse judging team provided me with unforeseen opportunities. My judging teammates are now my best friends, and I was lucky to find myself on a team that won the All American Quarter Horse Congress Senior College Judging team title, AQHA World Show Senior College Judging team title and the National Reining Horse Association Futurity Reserve National Champion Senior College Judging team title. Along with these team accomplishments, I was also a top 10 individual overall at the Congress and a top five individual overall at the NRHA Futurity.

Needless to say, AQHA has been a part of my life since I can remember. Whether it’s judging them, competing with them at IHSA competitions  or racing them around barrels, American Quarter Horses are part of me on a daily basis.

And speaking of, I just recently added two American Quarter Horses to my family. Snow Games, or “Zeus,” as I call him, is a 4-year-old brown gelding off of the track whom I purchased from David James of Purcell, Oklahoma. Down At The Jamboree, aka “CC,” is a 6-year-old palomino mare who runs barrels.

These two Quarter Horses entered my life as a means to continue my mom’s legacy. You see, my mom recently passed away after a 10-year battle with cancer. Her favorite thing to do was watch me run barrels and rodeo; my mom was my biggest fan. So now, I have my sights set to get ready for the pro-rodeo trail, starting in October after I graduate in May 2013. Hopefully, with the help of my two new Quarter Horses, plus all the support I have, I will qualify for the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

But that’s then and this is now. I am still honing my horsemanship and reining skills because our first equestrian team meet of the season is quickly approaching. I also juggle school work (it’s my last semester!) and ride all my horses. For as much as my mom and my horses have given me, giving them my best is the least I can do.