The Birth of The Rundown

Want to know the breaking news in the AQHA show industry? The Journal launches The Rundown, by AQHA youth world champion and AQHA Internet Editor Tara Christiansen.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Tara Christiansen and TC Lena. (Credit:Journal)

I’ve come to learn that Amarillo isn’t quite like College Station, Texas, where I went to college at Texas A&M University. And College Station is a far cry different from what had been my home – Snohomish, Washington. But what sent me trotting around the nation? The American Quarter Horse, of course.

As a third-generation American Quarter Horse competitor, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my 13 years of show experience with some phenomenal athletes.

I came up through the AQHA ranks, competing at weekend shows in all-around classes for several years with a little mare named Our First Millun and my lovely gelding, Zips Outta Town. They gave me a lot of great experience and knowledge and, in some ways, a certain amount of poise. 

At 15, I said hello to reining and working cow horse, fully embracing them as what-I’ve-been-looking-for-all-this-time, where-have-you-been-all-my-life events.

Through my years as a youth, I earned several top-10 finishes in reining and working cow horse at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, and I even won the 2006 youth working cow horse world championship and the 2007 youth working cow horse high-point award.

I attribute these wins to a great partner – my gelding, TC Lena – and a supportive family of fellow AQHA enthusiasts.

I’ve had the pleasure of showing “TC” twice since my last youth run in the reining finals at the 2007 Ford Youth World, and now every time the two of us step into the pen, I experience a wave of nostalgia and remember what it felt like to trot into the John Justin Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. That was quite a while ago – this will be the fourth straight year that the Ford Youth World is held in Oklahoma City.

I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t missed a Ford Youth World since 2004. For four straight years, TC and I returned to Fort Worth, but in 2008 (my first year as an AQHA amateur and a freshman at Texas A&M), I handed over the reins to my younger brother, Travis. For years, my father, Terry, and I fought over who had the pleasure of showing TC, but it was something else to add a third party – Travis.

For two years, I cheered on Travis and TC. But in 2010, I was devastated by the realization that I might not be attending the Ford Youth World – my brother, a freshman in college, had too much on his plate to continue showing during his final year as a youth and did not show in 2010, even though he was qualified.

But as it turned out, I had nothing to fear – I found another way in the door. As the intern for AQHA Publications, I had the privilege of seeing the show from another angle with two editors from The American Quarter Horse Journal – Christine Hamilton and Larri Jo Starkey.

Hands down my favorite part of my internship was when I interviewed the final world champion crowned at the 2010 Ford Youth World – Samantha Bayer, the working cow horse world champion.

My internship also included being the sole staff member covering the 2010 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup – an event that occurs every two years. In 2010, the event was held in Oklahoma City with the very first Battle in the Saddle. Turns out, my covering the Youth World Cup was Plan B in a string of “What ifs …” that actually happened. I think some people call that a “perfect storm.”

Today, as I sit at my desk in my terribly large, undecorated office (it’s four sizes larger than the cubical I occupied as an intern here last summer), I find it hard to believe that I’m once again back at AQHA – full time! It’s even harder to believe that my four years at Texas A&M are over. I’m proud to say that I left Aggieland with not only a diploma and a treasure trove of great memories, but also three Varsity Equestrian Western National Championships and a Big XII Conference Championship that I aided the Texas A&M Women’s Equestrian Team in winning. (Maybe those awards will find their way to my naked office walls.)

That said, I’m excited to have my chance to give back to AQHA and the American Quarter Horse. AQHA’s show industry is headed in a great direction, and I firmly believe that as members, we play a large part in the positive growth of the industry.

I would like to encourage AQHA’s members to help me stay informed with what’s happening in the show world. The Rundown, sponsored by The American Quarter Horse Journal, will be a regular blog on the Showing page of

Good luck in the show pen!