AQHYA’s International Competitors

AQHYA’s International Competitors

AQHYA international competitors share how they prepare and compete at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.

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By Lauren Pursley, AQHYA Member from College Station, Texas

The versatility of the American Quarter Horse appeals to people all over the world. From reining in Poland to equitation in Australia, our horse never falls short of amazing. Youth all over the world have fallen in love with the American Quarter Horse, its association and the sport that comes with it. One of the most exciting youth events in AQHA is the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show. Exhibitors from across the globe come together for one of the best and biggest shows of the year. Youth compete in both the English and western disciplines, along with halter classes. Read about what makes this show so different for our international competitors.


Eighteen-year-old Emilie Bendix says her favorite thing about the Ford Youth World is, “being able to learn from the other riders, since these girls are the best of the best.” She goes on to say, “Everything is bigger here in the U.S. – the class sizes, the mentality and the preparation before the show.” Bendix came to the United States July 5 to train with Michael Hunsinger in San Antonio, Texas. She explained how in Denmark, “Everybody helps out. If you’re on the wrong lead, someone will let you know. Everybody’s a team player.”


For Poland native Antonina Zarnawska, her favorite part of the Ford Youth World is the Jim Norick Arena. “The arena is so beautiful! It’s very nice and very big.” When asked what it meant to her to be at the Ford Youth World, the 12-year-old reiner said, “It means the world. I’m just so happy to be here and see reining on the highest level.”


Chevonne Day flew to the United States with her horse, mom and grandmother. In addition to bringing her own horse, she also leased two horses from Reid Thomas of Boerne, Texas. She believes that the horse shows in America are, “Very well organized and professional. There’s a lot more people in each class and they’re all really nice.” Chevonne is an advocate for international clinicians. She says, “If clinics weren’t available, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be here at the Ford Youth World. Reid Thomas came to Australia for a clinic and gave me the confidence that I was good enough to be here.”


After 22 hours in the car, Hannah Buijs made it to Oklahoma City from Ontario. Hannah shows in horsemanship, trail, western riding, hunt seat equitation and showmanship with her American Quarter Horse. She thinks the difference in showing in these events in the U.S. versus back home is, “You get to see people from equine magazines, which is pretty cool. The classes here are way bigger and the patterns are harder. There’s always a lot going on outside of the show, too.”

Out of all the international competitors interviewed, they all share the same belief that when it comes to showing in America, the shows are bigger, the competition is stiff and the weather is hot. (Well, at the summer-held Ford Youth World.) These competitors work hard in just a few short months to bond with the horses that they lease for the Ford Youth World. Their trip to the United States is jam-packed full of riding and training all for one show. These youth are devoted and dedicated to the American Quarter Horse and its diverse history.