Vying for Scholarships, Learning Horsemanship Skills

Kylie Krueger’s story is proof that the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program is working.

Special to The American Quarter Horse Journal

Kylie and "Kota" recently completed their show requirement by competing in halter and showmanship at the Minnesota Quarter Horse Association July State Show in Winona, Minnesota. (Credit: courtesy of Kylie Krueger)

While some girls go to the mall or the movies to hang out, Kylie Krueger spends her spare time with “Kota,” a yearling filly she received through the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program.        

Kylie is a 15 year-old teenager from Boyceville, Wisconsin, a rural farming community 60 miles from the Minnesota border. She and her mother share the horse bug and together compete in barrel races across the state.           

“Horses,” Kylie says, “are my life.”          

She has ridden as long as she can remember. She started to run barrels at the tender age of 8 and fell in love with the sport immediately. She is also an active member in her local 4-H club and her regional Western Saddle Club Associations club.           

Kylie learned about the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program from a friend who had applied for, won and received a weanling from the program in 2012. It is a scholarship program that puts weanlings raised by AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders in the hands of AQHYA members.          

To participate, youth must be between the ages of 12 and 18, write a 200-word essay about why they want to raise an American Quarter Horse weanling and fill out an application and questionnaire. Applicants must describe their facility, including the intended feeding program, the care provided, convenience of the stabling to a major highway, as well as a description of the trailer the horse would be hauled in.         

Intrigued by the program, Kylie applied. The ability to win a $2,000 scholarship appealed to her parents, and the opportunity to receive a weanling – one that would be Kylie’s to keep forever – made the application process a done-deal.          

Jim Hunt, owner of Open Box Rafter Ranch; Kylie and former AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway Jr. at the ranch's production sale

Kylie receiving "Kota"

A few weeks after turning in her application, Kylie received a call telling her she had won a weanling from Jim and Joni Hunt’s Open Box Rafter Ranch in Faith, South Dakota. The fifth-generation cattle ranchers and Quarter Horse breeders donated six weanlings to the program in 2014. Program winners were invited to the ranch’s annual production sale to choose their weanlings.           

On September 6, 2014, Kylie and her mom made the nearly 700-mile trip to Rapid City, South Dakota, for the sale. 

Each donated weanling was labeled with a tag Y1-Y6. Excited and nervous, Kylie instantly began checking out the horses and picked her favorite. But Kylie lost her pick of weanlings on a coin toss and was awarded Y1, the only weanling still at its mother’s side. 

Kylie insists, “It was meant to be. It was hard to get a good look at her beforehand because she kept hiding behind her mama. She was very petite.” 

Regardless, Kylie fell in love with the filly, and after completing some paperwork, the Krueger girls were free to take the filly home. While driving home, mulling over the filly’s Colonel Freckles heritage, Kylie decided to name the filly Lil Kota Frost, “Kota” for short. 

Requirements of the Young Horse Development Program include monthly reports written by the youth member that describe the colt’s progress, assignments and utilize www.onlinestable.com to document achievements, feed plans and health updates. In addition, the youth must meet with an AQHA Professional Horseman for an evaluation and show at one show. 

As the requirements are met, the papers and reports are graded. At the end of the season, the four participants with the highest marks are awarded scholarships. 

Impressed with Justin Mundt’s training style, Kylie decided to get some help from the horseman and took advantage of a winter special he offered. Justin gave Kylie homework and helped her set boundaries with Kota so the filly would learn to understand and respect Kylie’s space. 

“When I first got Kota, she intimidated me,” Kylie says. “But she has taught me a lot, as well. Justin taught me new ways to maneuver Kota around. Kota and I share a special bond. She walks up to me in the pasture and I talk to her when I have had a bad day. It is a special relationship.” 

Kylie recently completed her show requirement by competing in halter and showmanship at the Minnesota Quarter Horse Association July State Show in Winona, Minnesota. 

“Kota behaved very well and it was a really fun experience for both of us,” Kylie says.

For her final requirement, Kylie will meet with an AQHA Professional Horseman for an evaluation. 

“The program has impacted me because it has it has given me the opportunity to train a horse from the beginning when they are little, I get to figure out how to put all the pieces of the puzzle together myself. It gives me another excuse to spend time with my horses and it gives me a little more responsibility,” Kylie says. 

She credits the program for making her grow as a horse person and making her “more receptive to people and horses without using words.  The program just makes me feel more alive in a way with all the frustration, excitement, happiness, and clouds of emotions that happen when something you do goes right or wrong. It is so much more rewarding when the exercise you are teaching your horse finally clicks in their brain and you realize you taught them something yourself. 

“There are times when you get frustrated with your colt or they are being naughty, but that's when the program teaches you something,” Kylie continues. “It teaches you to overcome obstacles. It is an amazing feeling once your colt finally understands what you are asking. That's what I've loved most about the program – the rewarding feeling you get when your horse does what you taught him or her to do. 

“The program has brought my love for horses to a whole new level, and I can't wait to see what the future holds next for Kota and me,” she adds. 

Although still several years away, Kylie has high hopes for making Kota her future barrel horse. 

Kylie and the other program participants will continue to send in progress reports through September. Each is required to document their training, health care, nutrition and management practices using www.onlinestable.com. The AQHA Ranching Council will judge the youths’ work and sponsorships will be awarded later this fall.

Find out how to apply to the AQHA Young Horse Development Program.

Kylie’s story is proof that the Young Horse Development Program is working. AQHYA members are given an opportunity to participate in hands-on training that teaches the fundamentals of good horsemanship. The youth get a chance to showcase their skills and knowledge and compete for scholarship money. The program has been a huge success engaging numerous youth in the horse industry at a fundamental level that is both fun and educational.

For Kylie, the program has instilled not only the importance of good horsemanship skills, but also the importance of developing strong relationships with people, organizations and especially with her horses. The Kylie-and-Kota duo are just starting their journey and together with AQHA, they intend to do great things.

Stephanie Lynn is a special contributor to The American Quarter Horse Journal. The AQHA Professional Horsewoman, judge and steward from Fall Creek, Wisconsin, serves on the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission, is the chairwoman of the AQHA Show Council and was named the 2014 Professional's Choice Professional Horsewoman of the Year. To learn more, visit www.stephanielynn.net or www.stephanielynnsblog.com.