Moon Struck Sue and Payton Carnahan
by Alicia HarrisThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Payton Carnahan came into the finals with his gelding, Moon Struck Sue, in seventh place. But by the time the runs were over, he and “Sue” had made up for lost time. They were named the pole bending champions of the 2013 Built Ford Tough Youth World Championship Show.
“When I came into the finals, I was coming in at seventh,” Payton said. “I just figured I gotta go for it. All that my friends told me, all my dad told me and all my grandpa told me was to be a normal 16-year-old kid. Try to show off and try to go fast. I’ve never had that advice before, so I went for it.”
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When they started competing at the Ford Youth World, Payton was a little skeptical about what the week would hold. Sue lost his footing on one of the turns in the pattern, and Payton just knew it was over.
“He slipped up when we first started,” Payton said. “To tell you the truth, I was kind of just thinking, ‘Well, let’s just go home. You know, I don’t have a chance.’ But I didn’t expect him to speed up again. I expected him to slip again on the ground. He handled it great. But the first run, he slipped and took care of me. He said, ‘No, I don’t want to fall. I just want to be easy on you and make sure I get you where you can compete.’ And that’s how he does it. I just sit there and hold on. There’s nothing to it.”
Payton thinks of Sue as a “big brother” of sorts.
“I’d like to say he’s like my son or my little brother,” Payton said, “but he bosses me around way more than I boss him around … He’s a fun horse to have. He’s my best friend, you know? I love him. (At home) we just call him Sue. That’s probably where he gets the attitude from. He’s a boy named Sue.”
Payton is no stranger to the pole bending world. He is the third generation of pole benders in his family, following closely in the steps of his grandfather, Ross Carnahan, and his father, John Dirk Carnahan. Ross has won AQHA world championships in pole bending 13 times, and John has won numerous high-point awards. Payton started riding horses when he was 4 years old, and won his first pole bending race when he was 9.
“It’s pretty cool to have three generations of us that can say that we’ve won a bit,” Payton said. “It’s a family thing.”
Even though he is proud to be a part of a family tradition, Payton adds that showing with his friends is just another part of the reason he loves pole bending so much.
“I run against really fast pole benders every weekend,” Payton said. “Brock (Dugle Bawel, the 2013 Ford Youth World reserve pole bending champion,) and I run against each other every weekend. It’s the same youth class with a few more kids in there. So it was really cool (showing at Ford Youth World). I really like coming out here and letting my friends and myself show everyone what we’ve got. Show everyone how we run in the Indiana and Kentucky area.”