Planting My Roots

AQHYA member Maggie Cincotta shares the story of how she planted her own roots with the American Quarter Horse.

American Quarter Horse Youth Association

Maggie and her American Quarter Horse mare, Chics Got Guns. Photo credit to Maggie Cincotta.

The first time I heard of the "My Roots Run Deep" writing competition was while I was at an AQHA-National Reining Horse Association show in Burbank, California. 

My mom and I were waiting in line for a celebratory hot chocolate after winning my first reining class on my new mare. That’s when Mom noticed a sign for it on the door of the snack shack. She told me I should enter, and I immediately declined.

"I don't have any roots to the horse world." I said. "This subject fits trainers’ kids or third-generation farmers, definitely not me. I'll have nothing to write about, for I have no place to start." 

Although all of this was true, the idea of writing something, anything, was something I couldn’t get out of my head. I may not be a trainer's kid and, no, my bloodlines don't have any ties to American Quarter horses whatsoever, but I do have a special way that my roots run deep and through every part of the AQHA show world.    

I began riding at age 6, but my mom swears I came out of the hospital yelling, "Horsey! Horsey!" Growing up, I never played with Barbies. Nope, it was always My Little Ponies. I would build stalls for them out of branches, and bed their stalls with torn-up leaves. One Christmas, my parents bought me one month of riding lessons from a local trainer, who was five minutes away from our house. Well, one month turned into six months, and six months became one year. I was lucky to have a great trainer growing up. As I began riding with one to two lessons per week, she focused heavily on horsemanship and hunt seat equitation. Soon, she had me coming out to the barn five days a week – riding, longeing, saddling, grooming and cleaning tack. She would put me on as many as eight horses a day and I never minded. Each horse would teach me something new, especially the challenging horses. She had a mixture of different breeds of horses in her barn. I was always willing to ride anything. However, I gained an appreciation at a young age for American Quarter Horses and their ability to be versatile. 

When I turned 10, I was entered in my first competition.  At the time, cowboy races were growing in California. My trainer had me work on obstacles with speed at home, but there were a few at the show I had never encountered before. Nervous as ever, my little gray pony and I went through every obstacle. Beaming with joy and adrenaline after my run, my non-riding parents knew I was hooked, and this "horse thing," as some may call it, was not a phase. 

The next three years of my life were spent cowboy racing. Not only did this type of competition build up my show confidence, but it also taught me how to show through mistakes, spooks, noise and crowd pressure. It also gave me experience at a young age with hauling long distances to world shows, where I met people from all over the country. Twenty-eight-hour hauls were not exactly fun, but introducing myself to new people and types of riding has really helped me in the long run. 

One thing led to another and new disciplines of riding began to buddy up with cowboy races. This led me to get a new horse that was ready for the many competitions in which we would be showing. I still remember to this day receiving her official papers in the mail and thinking, "I've got a fancy Quarter Horse."

From there, I began to compete in western dressage, western pleasure, western equitation, trail, sorting, ranch riding, reining and reined cow horse, all within a one-year period. We would haul every weekend to a new show, and boy, did I meet and ride with a ton of trainers. My mom and I also got involved with affiliate associations of AQHA, and began working at local Quarter Horse shows while my dad made friends with the men and women who worked in the cow pens. 

When I began this crazy year, I wasn't sure what discipline I wanted to stick with. By the end, I had narrowed it down to two: reining and reined cow horse. Unfortunately, this meant I had to leave my trainer of six years, and find a trainer strictly dedicated to reining and cow horse. This was tough on my family and me, but my first trainer completely understood and she still follows my show-pen successes on Facebook, as I do with hers.

After a good amount of research, I had three trainers in mind. They all met my top priorities of what I needed in a trainer, with priority No. 1 being that they attend a heavy amount of AQHA shows. By the first lesson with my current trainer, we clicked, and I knew she was the one. It wasn't too long after I began working with my new trainer that I started showing with her and her barn. I loved the feeling of having a barn family and riding around at shows together. Thanks to them, I now know the names of pretty much every person at any local show. We also traveled to big AQHA, NRHA and National Reined Cow Horse Association shows together, and would be there for each other when a much needed "heads up" was to be called in the warm-up arenas. 

Two years and several large titles in the working cow horse boxing class later, we decided it was time to upgrade to a down-the-fence horse. It took us six months to find the right horse, but I believe those were the most thrilling six months of my life. Not only did I get to meet and ride with numerous big-name trainers, but I also got to go all over to different shows and experience the unique ways of training. I never met a mean, rude or even impatient trainer, seller or client. Best of all, every trainer made me feel not like they were trying to sell me "their" horse, but rather the right horse for me.  

Currently, my new mare and I have been on a non-stop show spree. We have continued to meet new people and go to new shows. I have now been riding for 10 years, have had three incredible American Quarter Horses, two remarkable trainers and have encountered countless amazing people who care for me, my family and my horses. Although I may not have been born into a horse family, I have found one all by myself. It is filled with the wonderful people who have accepted me into their barns, disciplines of riding, and even personal families. No, my roots may not have started deep, but they have run through every heart that has made my journey through the horse-show world possible. Therefore, I know #MyRootsRunDeep.