October 1 - 5, 2014
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September 30 - October 5, 2014
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

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October 6, 2012

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Amateur competitor Patricia Claypool overcomes life’s hurdles and two mountain passes to make it to Tennessee.

By Tara Christiansen
The American Quarter Horse Journal

Patricia Claypool and GF Sir Lovestruck

GF Sir Lovestruck, a 2001 bay gelding, has helped Patricia Claypool rekindle her love for showing horses. (Journal photo)

When her letter arrived in the mail, Patricia Claypool was taken aback.

The Franklinton, North Carolina, horsewoman inherited GF Sir Lovestruck from her daughter, Victoria, in 2011 and went to town, racking up the awards. But times got a little tough for the Claypools, and Patricia decided to do what was best for their family and sit out the 2012 show season. So the amateur competitor was a little surprised when she received a letter from AQHA that informed her that she had qualified for the inaugural AQHA Novice championship shows.

“We pulled our pennies together, and I’m here,” Patricia told the Journal with a smile. A reserve championship in amateur showmanship at the 2011 AQHA Region Ten Championship secured Patricia and GF Sir Lovestruck’s invite to the first Nutrena AQHA East Novice Championship Show. But since Patricia and “Carter” – the equine half of the duo – haven’t stepped foot in the show pen since 2011, she wasn’t quite sure whether traveling to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was worth the effort. Several weeks ago, at the urging of her trainer – AQHA Professional Horseman Derek Bomberger of Greensboro, North Carolina – Patricia found herself back in the show pen.

“My trainer made me go to a futurity show … I got two circuit championships in showmanship and he said, ‘OK, if you’re gonna do it, do it.’ ”

And she has done it.

The Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, which slowed her trip to Murfreesboro down to nine-plus hours, were only a few of the hurdles she has been through, but Patricia said it has all been worth it.

“I had shown when I was 16 – long, long, long time ago – but then you know, marriage and children and building a career …”

Well, it doesn’t leave much time for horse showing. After daughter Victoria, 18, decided maybe Carter wasn’t the right equine fit for her, Patricia stepped right in to rekindle a love of showing horses. All it took was some prodding from her husband, trainer and good friends, plus a new love affair with her 2001 bay gelding by GF Fast N Fancy (TB) and out of Star Struck Rose by The Next Star.

“I was a horse show mom … I didn’t show so she could just because it needs to be her glory time and not Mom’s,” Patricia shared. “And then I wasn’t sure I could even do it, and with the encouragement of my husband and my trainer, and all off my friends who said ‘Get your butt out there!’

“I was the North Carolina Quarter Horse Association champion for Novice (amateur showmanship) my first year out, and it had nothing to do with me – it had to do with this beautiful boy right here,” Patricia said, patting her strapping gelding on the neck, “and my trainer, Derek Bomberger. He specializes in patterns – he’s an awesome trainer, he really is.”

Believe it or not, Patricia said, she grew up showing hunter-jumpers. And she hadn’t had her first AQHA show experience until several years ago.

“My daughter was doing open shows and when I got a hold of Derek, he said, ‘Just come and watch a Quarter Horse show.’ And I did,” she recalled. “I could not believe the difference: The caliber of people is just so far above (anything else).”

The friendliness and camaraderie of fellow competitors – even to cohorts they don’t even know –  astounds Patricia.

“I was at a show and I hadn’t packed my bridle and I didn’t realize it and my daughter was going into the class,” she said. “Someone just loaned me their bridle – just loaned me their bridle. That’s just outstanding.

“The last futurity, I repaid in kind when someone had an emergency and we were getting ready to load to leave. I loaded my horses, I threw that horse on, took it to the vet school and it got operated on.

“But that’s what you do – that’s what Quarter Horse people are all about. It’s an amazing organization and it’s extraordinarily well run, and it’s so fabulous for the youth. It teaches them so many things about life’s lessons. By using a horse, you learn honesty, integrity, defeat – you know, everything – and learning how to care for something and putting their needs first before yours.”

As grateful as she is to the horse and the Association, for providing such a great education for her daughter, Patricia is just as thankful for what she’s gotten out of showing GF Sir Lovestruck.

“It’s so fabulous at my age to find a passion – I mean, to find a sport I’m actually good at,” she laughed. “I’ve never done sports my whole life – I’ve finally found something I’m good at!”

She continues that passion throughout other facets of her life, such as Bedazzling show clothes. It seems only fitting that for someone who enjoys bling to have so much love and respect for perhaps one of the sport’s blingiest classes – showmanship.

“I tell all my friends who aren’t horse people, I say there’s no other place in the world they can get dressed up in a multi-thousand-dollar rhinestone-blingy outfit, put on makeup, perfume, earrings and dance with your pony for 45 seconds and get a ribbon.

“You’re out there by yourself – you’re being judged, the horse is being judged – but when you get out there, it’s just you and him. And you guys just dance together, and then you wake up and all of a sudden, you’re leaving the ring and it’s just a lot of fun – it’s hard, but it’s a lot of fun.”