By AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines
Ranch trail classes on three lush outdoor courses kicked off the 2018 Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships June 13-17 at the Lazy E in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The course had a real ranch feel, where exhibitors navigated a grassy area and encountered natural obstacles.
The rest of the week only got better from there.
This record-setting show had 2,575 entries for the Zoetis VRH World, the Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals, the AQHA Level 1 Cattle Championships and the first national championships for the National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance. People and horses were literally cross-entered in as many classes as they were qualified for. The VRH entries alone grew 66 percent from last year. We had nearly 60 in each of the VRH amateur, limited amateur and open ranch conformation classes – the variation of horse coat colors in those classes was a sight to see!
To keep the show moving throughout the day, we topped most days with a big awards celebration in the Lazy E Cantina, where we handed out ribbons and trophies, and toasted all the winners. The AQHA Cook Team rose in the wee hours of every morning and threw together breakfast. The cowboy tacos or biscuits and gravy were piping hot every morning by 6 a.m. for all exhibitors, visitors and show staff. Thanks to Brett Burke, with title sponsor Zoetis, for serving food every morning.
Yes, it was hot and humid each day, but these exhibitors and their horses are used to doing their work in these – and even worse – conditions. It was heartwarming to see exhibitors and their horses standing in the shade outside the Reliance Arena, prepping themselves or their horses to go into a class and chatting with other exhibitors. Horseless kids were riding their bikes, and kids with horses were hanging out together.
We crowned six VRH world champions, 36 VRH class champions, seven NRSHA all-around champions, eight Level 1 youth and eight Level 1 amateur class champions, and 18 RHC champions. Three of the VRH world champions are Ranching Heritage-bred horses; three other of the VRH world champs are actual working ranch horses. We paid more than $100,000 in purse money to our VRH class champions and world champions; more than $50,000 to the Zoetis RHC Finals champions; and $8,500 in Level 1 Cattle Championships jackpot earnings.
Sometimes, we throw a loop at a steer and miss. Sometimes, we catch. This was one of those times. We caught big. The show was a complete success, thanks in no small part to our exhibitors, whose amazing patience and cowboy can-do spirit made the week a pleasure for all of us.
In the words of AQHA Director of Ranching Kim Lindsey, “This was the best ranch horse show ever!”
So how do we top this next year?
I visited with Executive Committee members, exhibitors and key staff regarding what made this event so successful and what should be protected. Our thoughts include:
- Make sure this event remains fun. We should always keep the exhibitor experience in the forefront.
- Preserve the intent of the competition: a ranch horse event that rewards and celebrates the versatility of the horse.
- Preserve the heritage, style and purpose of the ranch horse and ranching community.
- Make sure the event remains family friendly with its own unique and beloved culture.
- Assure that our judges understand and judge the classes based on the ranch horse standard and not over weigh a bias toward a specialized alliance partner standards.
The Executive Committee and the show staff will meet soon to discuss plans for next year’s show. We hope to announce the dates and schedule soon.
We appreciate and congratulate all of the exhibitors, owners and trainers for their wins or for simply hitting personal bests at the 2018 Zoetis VRH World. We couldn’t have done this without them or without the support of Zoetis, the rest of our corporate partners and show sponsors, volunteers or the crew at the Lazy E.
Our hats are off to all of you!