The Duo That Could: How a $2,500 4-H Project Horse Turned into a Level 1 Champion
On Friday, Missouri native Dani Picard and Zips Ultimatum (Armani) won the Amateur Horsemanship at the AQHA Level 1 Championships in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In a class of 40, they had two firsts and were an impressive 59 points ahead of the reserve champion. Dani and Armani have been a team since 2012, when she purchased him from Tom Williams of Adrian, Missouri. They have come a long way in the past five years.
“I bought him when he was three years old for $2,500,” Dani said, “I originally bought him as a 4-H project. My 4-H leader at the time had shown in the AQHA and APHA circuits with Stacey Roberson, and I eventually decided that’s what I wanted to start doing. I met Stacey in the fall of 2012. She asked me what my goal was and I said it was to go to the All American Quarter Horse Congress next year. Stacey just smiled and said, okay, well, we are going to have to start out a little smaller than that.”
Stacey Roberson of Diamond R Quarter Horses has played a huge role in Dani’s AQHA career. She has been there from the beginning and helped every step of the way.
“Stacey is a blessing because she understands I’m not a ‘big money’ client, but has always worked with me as equally as all her other customers,” Dani said. “She is unique because she teaches her clients to effectively ride their horses, not just how to get them shown. That’s been helpful in me being able to maintain him at home. She teaches me how to teach Armani.”
Dani can still remember the day she first saw Armani. Originally, she had no intention of buying him and didn’t think she would have an interest in him.
“I was looking at another mare the same day I went to see him, but she ended up being lame,” Dani said. “I had it in my mind I didn’t want a tall, lanky sorrel. He was at the end of the barn looking out the window of his stall when I got there. I opened the door, and he came right up. He put his face on my chest and shoulder, and I was sold. I brought him right then without even riding him.”
The first few years together were full of shows. Dani took Armani to the Missouri Quarter Horse Association shows, the AQHA Region 8 Championship, the Redbud Spectacular and much more. Armani has become a seasoned show horse.
“I started showing AQHA in 2013 in Missouri,” Dani said. “In 2014, I went hard for my last year as a youth to qualify for the world show. We went and showed, which was the goal. That same year we also went to the East Novice Championships in Tennessee and placed third in showmanship out of a class of around 110 entries. In 2015 and 2016 I took a break from showing since I started college. I leased him to a friend in 2016, who did well at all the big shows. This year we have been to the Prairie Classic and the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Spring Show. With those last two shows, we finished our level two and three qualifications.”
Dani is currently a junior at Missouri State University studying agricultural business. She works for the university equine center along with taking twelve credit hours and riding for the IHSA equestrian team. Riding for the equestrian team has helped with her horsemanship skills.
“My favorite class is showmanship, but I have started liking horsemanship since I started doing IHSA,” she said. “I used not to like it because I didn’t feel very confident with my big hunt horse. We always did fine, but I never placed super well, so I didn’t love it. After doing the IHSA this past year, I have grown to like it a lot.”
Being a working college student has made taking lessons and preparing for Level 1 Championships difficult. Dani is in class every day of the week five hours away from Armani.
“It has been hard working around my class, work, and practice schedule at school,” she said. “Finding time to go to Stacey’s has been one of my biggest struggles.”
Being diverse is one of Armani’s strong suits. It is one of Dani’s favorite things about him, along with his very relaxed attitude.
“He honestly does everything,” she said. “He doesn’t live with a trainer 24/7, which is cool. Whenever I have him home, I’ll go chase cows on him, win money at local barrel races, and watch my mom trail ride with him. He’ll just go in any class as well. He’s a pretty laid-back guy.”
Dani is a strong believer in working hard with what you have to achieve greatness. She has worked extremely hard the past five years for a win like this.
“If you want it, you can have it,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a $100,000 horse in the pen or not. If you work your butt off and you want it enough, you can get it. I want to thank my mom, Stacey Roberson, Tom Williams, and my friends for everything they have done.”
The AQHA World Championship Show is the next step for Dani and Armani. They will be competing in showmanship and possibly hunter hack if they qualify in time. This win gives Dani big hopes for the future with her once in a lifetime horse.
Photo © KC Montgomery