angle-left A Very Good Place to Start

A Very Good Place to Start

It doesn't matter if you're a kid or and adult, riding a green horse or a seasoned pro, AQHA walk-trot classes are a good place to start.

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By AQHA Editor-In-Chief Becky Newell

When it comes to AQHA walk-trot classes, it’s not so much the ages of the exhibitors and horses that matter; it’s more about their experience and confidence levels.

Take, for example, Misty Hobbs of Canyon, Texas, who has been around horses most of her life, but is breaking new ground with a green mare she bought a year ago.

A few years ago, Misty decided she needed to start looking for a successor to her elderly race-bred gelding. Then when her gelding died unexpectedly, Misty’s search took on a little more urgency. She really wanted another gelding.

“I had a friend, who said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this 2-year-old mare and …’ and I said, ‘No, no. I don’t want a mare and I don’t want a 2-year-old,’ ” Misty said. “We met up again at the (AQHA Central Level 1 Championships) the next year, and she said, ‘I’ve still got that mare; she’s really cute.’ I just couldn’t do it … I just didn’t want a mare. I looked for several months, but just never got that warm, fuzzy feeling for any of the horses I tried. So, because I knew this friend had good horses, I gave in and went to look at her mare.”

It was love at first sight, when Misty walked into “Pepper’s” stall.

“I fell in love with her immediately,” Misty said. “And my friend was right … the mare was really cute. That’s when I got to feel that warm and fuzzy feeling inside!”

But the quiet Iron Age daughter was green.

“But she was so good,” Misty said, adding that the barn the mare was at was pretty chaotic and Pepper, who is registered as Ask My Age, handled it all well. 

So after Misty got her home, she and her trainer, Kelly Weathers, started with the basics to ensure that the mare’s training foundation, as well as her connection to Misty was solid.

“I wanted to be very careful, to learn all her quirks and learn how to read her,” Misty said. “She’s so quiet. When something scares her, she either cha-chas in place or she freezes. And Kelly has coached me that when she tenses or tightens up like that, I need to just let her stand and soak it all in. She handles things so well.” 

Showing in a couple of walk-trot classes at the AQHA Central Level 1 Championships in Oklahoma City this week was only the second time for Misty to show Pepper under saddle.

“We won walk-trot amateur hunt seat equitation and were fourth in walk-trot amateur hunter under saddle,” Misty said. “And she stayed with me and trusted me. In the trot-in for hunter under saddle, her ears were working back and forth, back and forth, listening and staying connected to me. It was so cute. I felt like she was saying to me, ‘Why is that guy (a ring steward) standing at the end of the arena? OK, if you’re OK with him being there, I’ll be OK with him being there.’ I also didn’t know how she would react to having to trot through a line-up of judges. But she did just fine.”

Misty said walk-trot classes are enticing because not every horse or rider or horse-and-rider team can handle the pressure of three gaits.

“For me it was awesome, because if there wasn’t walk-trot, we probably wouldn’t have shown this year, because we’re just not ready for all three gaits,” Misty noted. “These classes give people a really nice place to start and it allows us to get comfortable together in the show pen and not have a lot of things to think about at once.”

Misty and Pepper have one more class – showmanship – this week.

“It’s our best class because even if it’s cold and windy, you can still work on your showmanship,” Misty said. “If it’s hot, you can still work on your showmanship. You can work on set-ups every single time you’re handling your horse. So, preparation for a lot of it is very easy and you don’t have to drill it.”

After interviewing Misty, I wandered around the Super Barn, taking random candid photos, when I noticed a pretty little sorrel in the cross-ties, being primped and tacked up by a petite little girl and her entourage.

I stopped to talk to the little girl, found out she was showing in walk-trot classes and then asked her name.

“Trinity. Bell,” she said. And then under her breath, she said, “Joetta’s daughter.”

Holy cow, I thought, how could it be that Joetta Meredith Bell and husband Don’s daughter is old enough to show?

But there she was, wearing English breeches and getting her 13-year-old mare ready for walk-trot youth hunt seat equitation.

“Her name is ‘Faith,’ ” Trinty said. “Her registered name is A Certain Faith. She’s very kind, and she’s great in showmanship.

“My other horse is white. His name is ‘Jeffery’ and his registered name is Im Invited Too. He’s won lots … he’s a champion. He’s pretty cool, too. He loves doing trail and English. I would think hunter under saddle would be his favorite, though.”

Trinity’s favorite class? Coincidentally, it’s also hunter under saddle, “because you can go faster and it gives your legs more muscle.”

The 8-year-old from Weatherford, Texas, had already snagged two champion buckles – the first on Wednesday with Faith in walk-trot youth horsemanship and the second Thursday morning aboard 22-year-old Jeffery in walk-trot youth hunter under saddle. Faith and Trinity finished third in hunt seat equitation, and are entered in halter on Friday.

This is the first time Trinity has shown at the Level 1 Championships, but she has had a lot of fun. 

“The foundation for a sport begins with youth,” said Joetta of AQHA’s walk-trot classes. “Giving them opportunities to develop skills in different disciplines at all levels of experience is key for any industry to continue to grow and maintain interest. These kids love to learn and have a place to go and be celebrated for their hard work. What better way to help kids learn responsibility, people skills, make friendships, develop patience, and face adversity on a horse’s back!”