Dillon and Jarret Vaughn ride together on the IHSA team at St. Andrews University.
By L.A. Pomeroy | March 26, 2017
Special to the American Quarter Horse Journal
Move over, Eli and Peyton Manning, and meet a new set of sibling sports stars.
Dillon and Jarret Vaughn of Gastonia, North Carolina, ride for the 2016 St. Andrews University team where AQHA Professional Horsewoman Carla Wennberg coaches. They were anchors for St. Andrews’ first western championship at the 2016 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals at the Kentucky Horse Park.
In fact, there’s little these two can’t do.
Jarret, 21, will graduate from St. Andrews in May after studying equine business management and business administration. Dillon, 20, is a junior also studying equine business management.
Looking ahead to May and the 2017 IHSA National Finals in Kentucky, Carla predicts a competitive season for the brothers and the equestrian team.
“Dillon has nerves of steel,” Carla says. “He just keeps his composure and keeps on riding. Jarret always makes me wonder what he’s thinking. He’s excellent competing western then decided a year ago to also ride (successfully) for our hunt seat team. I believe it made him a stronger western rider, but when he first came to the barn in boots and breeches, I was speechless. I’m sure he did it for my reaction, too!”
Carla was the 2008 AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year and the 2012 IHSA sportsmanship coach of the year. In 2016, she was named the IHSA western coach of the year.
The Vaughn brothers say her reputation for producing serious horsemen was a big factor in their choice to attend St. Andrews, and they prepared diligently for the team’s 2016-17 season.
“They both worked for AQHA trainers last summer and have come back to school looking great,” Carla says. “The exposure they had through working and going to shows has really given them and us an edge. I don’t worry when I send young men like this to jobs, as I know they will work hard and take direction.”
Dean Bogart Performance Horses of Delray Beach, Florida, hired Jarret as a summer training assistant.
“They provided me with the opportunity to ride their new 4-year-old, Febreeze, in the Little Futurity,” Jarret says. “I gave up my amateur card to show him. Hands-down absolutely the smartest horse I have ever been on. There wasn't anything he didn’t give his best trying and never put up a fight. Simply put, he comprehended what I asked with ease. Most definitely one of the best-minded horses.”
But Jarret’s not just a reserve champion in IHSA horsemanship, he’s also an all-around athlete who twice (2003, 2005) made the Indoor Speed Skating National Championships (including a national record-setting win in 2005) and consistently placed in the top 10 in American Motorcycle Association motocross racing.
Horsepower? Not a problem.
“I can’t remember a time our family didn’t have a pony,” Jarrett says.
Their dad, Jeff, had a background in reining. Their mom, Sheryl, competed on pleasure horses and even the grandparents had dipped a toe or two into the cutting horse world.
“We did a ton of sports,” says Dillon, a 2008 Top Gun JMX Summer Series and Iron City MX motocross winner who also got his first bike at age 3. “Speed skating, karate, motocross came first. But it always came back to horses.”
Dillon won his first trophy saddle when he was IHSA national champion in intermediate horsemanship. Then he got an invitation to join the Shane Pope Quarter Horses team in Conway, South Carolina, for a summer.
“I love my saddle,” Dillon says. “It was an amazing feeling to win my first national championship. And then I got a lot of pleasure out of working with the green horses. Now I’m focusing on schoolwork and shows.”
Both riders want another championship, their mom says.
“It's a close-knit team,” Sheryl says. “When one goes in the pen, the rest are strategically along the fence coaching and giving support.”
Jeff might be the family’s most avid motocross and motorcycle fan, but he also likes to see his sons ride.
“No matter, win or lose, we’re always proud of them,” he says. “Quarter Horses are all they've ever ridden, it’s the only horse they know, and whoever is showing knows they have the other one there. They always support each other.”
Like other athletes, Jarret and Dillon are committed to practicing daily.
“We’ve got the same schedules at St. Andrews,” Jarret says. “Our duty as riders will be to ride every chance we get, ride every horse we can, and take every chance we can to let Coach Wennberg tell us how to improve.”
Adds Dillon, “Stay on top and don’t let go. That’s what she says.”
Sheryl, who was finishing a batch of cupcakes to take to the boys’ IHSA show the next morning, brags about her sons’ commitment.
“They will eat, sleep, live riding,” she says. “But they won’t eat these any time soon. Coach Carla says no sweets, and on show days, if you eat sweets, you run a lap!”
Jeff jokes about being superstitious.
“We won’t sit in the same rows at a show,” he says with a laugh.
Supportive parents have been a key to success, Dillon says.
“Our parents come to every show at St. Andrews,” he says. “They support us on every good or bad ride. They push us to do better. They're why we are where we’re at.”
The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association was established in 1967 to give college students the opportunity to compete on horses whether or not they had ever ridden before.
This year, IHSA celebrates 50 years.
AQHA is a sponsor of IHSA, including the AQHA high-point western rider award, which includes competition in both horsemanship and reining.
The IHSA National Championships are May 4-7 in Lexington, Kentucky.
To learn more about IHSA, go to www.ihsainc.com.
AQHA also sponsors collegiate competition through the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. The NCEA National Championships are April 13-15 in Waco, Texas. To learn more about it, go to www.collegiateequestrian.com.