Advice for a Winning Mindset

Ten AQHA youth world champions dish on how they discovered their state of mind for horse-showing success.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

“Coming in, I knew I had to give it my all; this was it. This was the moment that I’d been dreaming of forever," said Rebecca Anderson, the 2013 AQHA youth trail world champion from Gottenburg, Nebraska. (Journal photo)

What goes on in the mind of a champion? Well, judging by the responses from the champions crowned at the 2013 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, everyone is different.

It seems that for some competitors, like reining and tie-down world champions James Michael Glenn Phillips and Spencer Bramble, slowing down and taking everything in stride is the key to success. For others, such as showmanship and pole bending world champions Rebecca Anderson and Payton Carnahan, cranking your performance up to the max is the ticket.

Good, all-around advice for any competitor at any level – that’s how to best sum up the insight gleaned from 10 of the 2013 Ford Youth World champions. So, with the 2014 show season barely underway, take a page out of these world champions’ play books.

  1. “I didn’t watch any of the other girls or boys go. I just thought, anything could happen; the judges have their own opinions. But no matter what, I decided that I was happy with the go.” –Gabrielle Lofton, trail world champion from Westmoreland, California
  2. “Last year, I was thinking, ‘This is the finals, I can win it!’ And I ended up doing the opposite and messed up. But this year, I didn’t get excited about it so much. I slowed down and thought about it more.” – James Michael Glenn Phillips, reining world champion from Hartshorne, Oklahoma
  3. “The atmosphere at the Youth World is so intense because everyone wants to do really well. But then, the parade of teams is a realization that this is really all just about trying your best, having fun and meeting new people.” – Paige Stopperich, hunt seat equitation world champion from Venetia, Pennsylvania
  4. “Coming in, I knew I had to give it my all; this was it. This was the moment that I’d been dreaming of forever, and walking out with this gold trophy is something that I’m never, ever going to forget.” – Rebecca Anderson, showmanship world champion from Gothenburg, Nebraska
  5. “When I came into the finals, I was coming in at seventh. 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.” – Payton Carnahan, pole bending world champion from Vincennes, Indiana
  6. “Even if you have a rough run, stay in it and keep going; there’s always another show. I came in just hoping to mark a score, not caring where I marked. I came out world champion and I can’t be more excited with my horse. He’s done the best he can.” – Megan Bishop, cutting world champion from Guthrie, Oklahoma
  7. “You gotta go out there and make your horse look good. You can’t just go fast. You have to go out there and just be smooth and make a good run. Let your horse do his job.” – Spencer Bramble, tie-down roping world champion from Queen Anne, Maryland 
  8. “What’s fun about hunter under saddle is being able to go out there and strut your stuff, show off what you can do. It’s like saying, ‘Here’s me. Here’s what I can do.’ ” – Katerina Mendel, hunter under saddle world champion from Ann Arbor, Michigan
  9. “(AQHA Professional Horseman Alfred Hewitt and I) talked about trying to set the bar high and get a good time and make turns that would make other people have to go fast. We knew those were our strengths.” – Mallory Myers, jumping world champion from Sharon Center, Ohio
  10. “I was thinking about catching, roping two feet, trying to win something. (AQHA Professional Horseman C.R. Bradley has) taught me what it takes to win and how much work you’ve got to put into it. It’s all about the number of hours you have to do to win.” – Bryce Briggs, heeling world champion from Pilot Point, Texas

With the 2014 AQHA show season just getting underway, plus new levels available for competitors of varying experience, it’s an exciting time for horse-show enthusiasts. To find an upcoming show near you, check out the AQHA online show schedule at  

The 2014 Ford Youth World is August 1-9 in Oklahoma City. Qualifying for the event wraps up April 30, 2014, meaning exhibitors still have time to earn a berth to the world’s most prestigious event for youth competitors. Visit for qualifying info and show updates; the site is also the home for the show’s official show coverage, brought to you by The American Quarter Horse Journal.