2016 Merial AQHA Region Five Championships: June 22

Here's the Journal's slideshow from the one-day 2016 Merial AQHA Region Five Championships in Logan Township, New Jersey.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Maggie Evans and her son, Jack, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, haven’t been home in two weeks. Neither one shows a horse, but they follow Anna (Jack’s sister) from one AQHA show to the next.

This week’s stop: the Merial AQHA Region Five Championships in Logan Township, New Jersey.

During the summer, Maggie and Jack travel with Anna, a 12-year-old all-around exhibitor, from horse show to horse show to cheer the youth rider on and provide much-needed support in grooming and prepping for each class. It’s hard, hot work most of the time, but there’s also time to relax and recharge.

“The Gloucester County Dream Park is energizing. It’s cool here and gives everyone a chance to decompress from last week’s show,” Maggie said.

Event organizers offer recreational activities to encourage exhibitors and helpers to relax.

“When we’re not helping Anna get her horse ready, we can play a game of corn hole,” Jack said.

This year’s Merial AQHA Region Five Championships were a popular stop for many youth and amateur riders. Entries totaled 458, an increase of more than 100 over the previous year. Held in one day, the regional championships recognizes riders for their hard work and commitment to showing.

Region Five directors choose to host the regional championships as a separate event rather than running the classes along with the split/combined show that runs Thursday through Sunday.

“The exhibitors like the recognition. We announce each exhibitor by name as they enter the ring for pattern classes,” said Linda Cerensani, a New Jersey Quarter Horse Association director.

“The quality of horses here is very good,” said Judge Rick Baker of Elizabethtown, Tennessee.

A love of horses drives exhibitors and trainers to attend shows, especially the regional championships. Region Five planners invited two special groups to showcase the way in which they ride horses.

Four riders from the Therapeutic Riding Center of South Jersey, which is based at the Gloucester County Dream Park, negotiated a trail class.

“We want to demonstrate to other horse lovers how beneficial horses are to special needs people,” said Terry Lewis, director of the program.

“It is an eye-opener for our discipline to see the benefits of the therapeutic riding program,” said Brian Ale, a Bridgeton, New Jersey, trainer.

NJQHA youth members sold pretzels and the proceeds are donated to the American Quarter Horse Foundation’s therapeutic riding fund.

Following the therapeutic riding trail class, a vaulting demonstration highlighted the athleticism and horsemanship needed to be successful in gymnastics on horseback. Freestyle performances set to music captivated spectators in the stands.

“We wanted to highlight the variety of ways in which people enjoy their horses,” said Flossie Ale, NJQHA youth adviser and director of the Gloucester County Dream Park.