15 Horse-Showing Goals for 2015

Try one of these New Year’s resolutions horse-show competitors. (We recommend No. 4!)

The American Quarter Horse Journal

No. 4 on our list is to be featured in The American Quarter Horse Journal, and it's easy enough: Just send a photo of you, your friends or your American Quarter Horse to bnewell@aqha.org. Journal photo.

A year ago, I vowed to make trail riding a habit. My reined cow horse training program, I said, was going to include winding my way through Texas state parks like the Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons. We’d pick our way through the prickly pear, dodge mesquite and kick up red dirt. My mares’ lives were going to be changed. It was going to be majestic. 

Did it happen? No. 

Despite all my good intentions, that New Year’s resolution never picked up steam; I got stuck in a rut and my training never left the confines of an arena. But this year, by golly, is going to be a different story. I’m putting that goal (No. 8 on our list below) into play. 

  1. Start earning prizes for all those hours you spend in the saddle. Sure, awards won at AQHA shows are pretty awesome, but why not also earn prizes for the time you spend training? Join the AQHA Horseback Riding Program now and start logging your hours for 2015. And here’s the best part: Enrollment is a one-time fee for a program you can enjoy in a lifetime. 
  2. Don’t just get fit; get horse-showing fit. We’re not talking about some boring old New Year’s resolution cliché. This attainable goal can be met with help from equestrian personal trainer Emily Harrington, whose “Q-Fit” series debuting in the January American Quarter Horse Journal starts you on the on track to stretch, strengthen and tone your riding muscles. 
  3. Earn a Versatility Award. Youth and amateurs achieve this award on a one-horse basis. Together, the team must earn 65 points in eight events with a minimum of 10 points earned in each of five separate events and five points earned in each of three additional events. Keep in mind that halter and performance halter do not count toward the Versatility Award.
  4. Be featured in The American Quarter Horse Journal. Send in a photo of you, your friends or your American Quarter Horse to Journal Editor-in-Chief Becky Newell at bnewell@aqha.org. Submitted photos will be compiled and featured in the “Snapshots” section of an upcoming issue. Need ideas for photos? Snap a few while you’re at shows, tooling around the barn or winding down after a great training session. 
  5. Visit one of the 31 American Quarter Horse historical markers. From the first AQHA show in Stamford, Texas, to the Arizona Sun Country Circuit in Scottsdale, Arizona, to the AQHA Headquarters in Amarillo, get in touch with American Quarter Horse history. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate AQHA’s 75th anniversary.
  6. Try a new class. The beauty of the American Quarter Horse breed is its versatility. Since AQHA shows offer a wide variety classes, why not give something new a whirl? Show off your reiner’s fancy lead changes in western riding, step your hunt seat equitation mount up to hunter hack or even take your rope horse through a ranch riding pattern (formerly ranch horse pleasure). And if you and your horse are newbies to a class, you can easily compete in the Rookie level for beginning competitors.  
  7. Qualify for an AQHA world championship show. Competing with a specific goal in mind, like qualifying for a world show, puts fire in your belly as you train and show this spring and summer. We rounded up info that you’ll need to reach that goal at www.aqha.com/qualifying, including how to qualify and the qualifying period. 
  8. Hit the trails more often. Many a horseman will attest to the magical powers that trail riding has on all horses, including show horses. What could be better than enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors from the back of an American Quarter Horse? OK, fine, maybe finding the winning lottery ticket in your pocket while you’re on that trail ride would top it.
  9. Progress your horse from a simple to a flying lead change. In many classes, either a simple or flying lead change is perfectly acceptable, but there’s a definite degree of difficulty and potentially a higher score if you can execute a flawless lead change. 
  10. Start your hunt-seat horse over fences. A well-trained rail horse often makes a great over-fences horse. And learning how to jump will make good rail horses even better. Like AQHA Professional Horseman Chuck Briggs says, over-fences training makes horses mellower, plus it gives them something to look forward to besides going around in circles.
  11. Design your own show clothes. If your show clothes budget is limited, try blinging a nice shirt yourself. It’s surprisingly easy and fun. 
  12. Perfect your showmanship set-up. This, my friend, is the year that you and your showmanship dance partner nail the two-step set-up. Your telepathic communication is going to be the stuff of legends. 
  13. Add cow work to your repertoire. There’s no question that the American Quarter Horse is the West’s favorite ranch horse, and that’s for good reason. Unleash your steed’s uncanny ability to read a cow and you’ll be set for fun in cutting, boxing, working cow horse, ranch cutting and working ranch horse. 
  14. Compete at a big circuit show. At the end of the day, it’s just another horse show. But there’s some level of mental fortitude that’s called for at a big circuit show, and that’s why they’re great for building confidence in the show pen that’s called for at AQHA world and Level 1 championship shows. 
  15. Leave every show knowing you had fun. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the finances of showing, plus all the pressures that come with needing to achieve our dreams (and those darn New Year’s resolutions!) As long as you keep that smile on your face and in your heart, you’ve already won. 

There are so many other horse-showing New Year’s resolutions out there, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. I’d love to hear what 2015 has in store for you, so shoot me an email at tmatsler@aqha.org.