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The Rundown: Capturing World Championships

AQHA's Tara Matsler describes how her American Quarter Horse reminded her during the Ford Youth World why telling stories of AQHA world champions is her dream job.

By Tara Matsler
The American Quarter Horse Journal
August 13, 2014

Jesse Spence and TC Lena win the working cow horse world championship at the 2014 AQHA Youth World Show

Jesse and TC circle up for a score of 220 in the cow work portion of the working cow horse finals. (Credit: Tara Matsler) Below is the infamous interview where I fought back tears as Jesse talks about his world championship.

I love interviewing newly crowned AQHA world champions. 

Those Journal interviews are, honest to goodness, my favorite part of my job. There are so many emotions to capture – shock, passion, pride, relief, joy, love for the sport and the thrill of teamwork. I even cry with the winners because I know how that moment feels.

In a way, I feel like Santa Claus getting to wrap up those emotions, creating a time capsule of sorts, for the new champs and their friends and family to enjoy weeks, months and years later. And for the other competitors, watching and reading, imagining themselves in world-champion shoes? My hope is that those interviews give them a dream to dream.

I was 15 when I set my heart on one day working for The American Quarter Horse Journal. I made that decision because I was a horse-crazy girl trying to decide what career she could do and still be involved in horses. 

And, it all began with a little black horse who was foaled on our place in Snohomish, Washington, in 1999. When that colt was just a wee fireball, we labored over his registered name, finally agreeing that TC Lena suited him best. It was short, sweet, memorable and included the initials shared by me; my dad, Terry; and my brother, Travis. Indeed, “TC” has been a member of the Christiansen family like no other horse has.

He was a homebred – raised by my grandmother, Bonnie Christiansen. My grandfather, Dave, gifted TC’s dam, Sugari Colonel, to Gramma as her 50th birthday present.

Fast forward to a hot summer night in 2006 in Fort Worth, Texas, when TC and I fulfilled my dream of winning the AQHA world championship in working cow horse at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.

Our family’s tale with TC coursed through my mind during my interview with the Journal, right after our win. I was exuberant, if not a tad emotional. But who wouldn't be? Sure, when we crossed Sugari Colonel with Lenas Wright On, we definitely hoped it would come to this. Who doesn’t dream of breeding and raising a world champion?

But that world championship just scratched the surface of TC's awards. He has won much, much more in National Reined Cow Horse Association competition with me, Dad and Travis. TC and I won the 2007 AQHA high-point working cow horse title and earned a Superior in reining. He has been named an NRCHA Supreme Reined Cow Horse, a designation that has only been earned by a small number of horses because the qualifications for it are so steep.

That interview about our win at the 2006 Youth World Show made me understand the value of taking the time to tell a winner’s story and I wanted to share that magic with every other rider who labored to win the be-all and end-all of awards.

I’ve achieved every goal I ever set my heart on, and I truly believe I have TC to thank for that. He gave me the confidence to see that I was capable of the best and proved to me that hard work really does pay off. My success with TC set me on a course: I competed on a three-time national champion collegiate equestrian team, graduated debt-free and started a career three days after graduation as the Internet editor for The American Quarter Horse Journal.

Then, my once-in-a-lifetime horse made a dream come true for another horse-crazy kid this year. 

When our longtime horse trainer, AQHA Professional Horseman Jim Spence of Yamhill, Oregon, was horse-shopping for his son, Jesse, Dad offered to lease them TC until they could find the right horse. 

TC and Jesse qualified for the 2014 Ford Youth World in reining and working cow horse. With scores in the prelims that were good enough for them to make the finals in both classes, it occurred to me that a world championship was within their reach. 

I was nervous, actually dreading the potential interview. Sure, I knew the kid – when he was little, he begged me to watch “Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron” innumerable times. And, of course, I knew the horse backward, forward, upside down and inside-out. What was there to be nervous about?

Eighth in the order of go, Jesse and TC took the working cow horse lead with a 435.

The butterflies took over.

“This is just another interview,” I told myself. “Just another interview.” 

This was not just another interview. This was a story about another horse kid’s dream to be an AQHA world champion. To me and my family, it was proof that a horse that we bred, raised and trained could be an AQHA world champion, not once, but twice, with eight years between those gold trophies. My now-twice-in-a-lifetime horse was the reason I was even standing there, taking photos, interviewing world champions and capturing that world show magic.

It was my story to tell and TC had put me in the perfect position to tell it.

Enjoy more horse-showing quips, quotes and anecdotes from AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler by visiting The Rundown archives at www.aqha.com/therundown.