Lauren Stepaniak and Kari Jewell will be doing a picture of the day for us throughout the show.

Kari Jewell & Lauren Stepaniak’s Final Picture of the Day from Level 1 Central Championships

Our final picture of the day from the Level 1 Championships in Oklahoma City is of 12-year-old twins, Tee and Taylor Worley, who were champion and reserve champion, respectively, in the Youth Cutting this morning. Tee showed eight-year-old Spoonful of Jewels (Preacher) and Taylor showed 11-year-old High Rolling Country (Kat). They will also be competing in the Youth Boxing later today. The twins are here with their parents, Rick and Jennifer from Newkirk, Oklahoma, where they ranch on 4000 acres.

Tee started showing Preacher just this year and his favorite thing about Preacher is that, “He always does good and just knows his job.” Taylor has been showing Kat for two years now, and her favorite thing about Kat is her laid-back personality and her affinity for always playing with her tongue.

The twins only started cutting three years ago when they purchased their first cutting horse and have obviously picked up on this event very quickly. Rick says watching his kids compete is “pretty special” since they are following in their dad’s footsteps as he previously competed in NCHA events for around 20 years up until about 15 years ago.

This family is very well rounded when it comes to competing. Taylor also shows in western pleasure and trail with her horse, Solicited Invitation (Beamer). She and 11-year-old Beamer finished 4th in the Level 1 13&U Pleasure and 14th in the Level 1 13 & Under Trail earlier this week. Taylor is planning on competing with both Kat and Beamer at this year’s Youth World and Congress.

Her first time competing in cutting was at last year’s Youth World, which she said was a great experience. Tee has already qualified for the Youth World in boxing with 28-year-old, Rattle N Hum Merada (Hummer), and is working on also qualifying to compete with Preacher in cutting. In addition, both brother and sister compete in ranch horse events, goat tying and barrel racing, among other events, with their ranch geldings, Shorty and Concho.

According to dad, Rick, when brother and sister are competing, “They don’t worry about their neighbors or anyone else. They are only concerned with competing against one another.”

However, Taylor sometimes decides she needs to make sure Tee wins to keep his confidence up, especially since she also competes in all-around events, and, therefore, has more chances to win prizes. Taylor is the twin with the true passion for competing and Tee participates “to be with my sister.” According to mom, Jennifer, “Taylor has always been down on the living room floor, spinning like a horse and practicing her patterns.”

One might say that Taylor is a bit of a tomboy, especially since it took four people to hold her down the first time she had to wear lipstick to show in the all-around events. Tee said, “Luckily, I didn’t help hold her down because I’m the only one she actually would have hit so she could get away!” Tee claims he used to have a brother but now she wears lipstick. Family and friends now refer to her as the “Lipstick Brother.”

It’s apparent that this hard-working family shares a special bond and all support one another. Taylor and Tee both enjoy coyote hunting and playing guitar. Rick said, “We don’t have hired hands, so the kids work hard on the ranch, cutting trees, fixing fence, and working calves.” Older brother Ty really enjoys farming and keeps things going at home, so the twins can continue to compete at shows.

The Worleys want to say a special thank you to Tommy Marvin and family. Tommy is a trainer and works with the kids on cutting whenever they need the help and he also helps in finding the right horses for the twins. Also, their farrier, Tommy Kilgore, for keeping their horses sound and going.

We want to say thank you to the Worley family for allowing us to interview them. They are such a neat, down to earth family and are a perfect example of why the AQHA organization exists. It’s wonderful to see a family where the American Quarter Horse plays such an integral part in their lives.

That’s it for us here in Oklahoma City. We hope you’ve enjoyed our stories because we have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know people we might otherwise have never met. This has been a great show and the best part has been the camaraderie we’ve experienced. We all have to start somewhere and this show has been a great experience.

Picture #5 –  Friday, April 14, 2017

Our picture of the day is of Sydney Ann Banta and her horse, Touch My Potential (Casper) from New Liberty, Iowa. They had an outstanding day today with a win in the Level 1 13 & U Western Pleasure. They are also currently leading the nation in this event.

Casper is a four-year-old gelding by A Touch of Sudden, (who is also owned by Sydney’s parents, Brian and Sherri Banta.) This is the team’s second year showing together, and they finished third at the 2016 Congress in Novice 13 &U pleasure. A Touch of Sudden is also the sire of 11 & U Western Pleasure Congress Champion, Suddenly Charming, ridden by Stevie Wheat.

“The most fun part of owning this stud is watching the kids do so well on his offspring,” Brian said.

When asked what her favorite thing about Casper is, Sydney said, “His personality. He loves to stick his tongue out like a dog. He and I are a perfect fit because we’re both happy, busy kids.”

With the help of her mom, Sherri, Sydney has been riding since she was three years old.

“Sydney even did eighty percent of the riding on him as a two-year-old. We are very blessed to have our stud and the talent that both Sherri and Sydney possess.”

Sherri says she is “overwhelmed” by the success Sydney and Casper have shared in the show pen. “We were never planning for them to lead the nation – it just happened.”

Sydney’s goals are to make it back to Congress again this year and to hopefully continue to lead the nation.

According to Sydney, “It’s great having my mom as my mentor because I always get to ride at home, and I don’t have to go other places.”  Sherri laughed and responded. “The only time she listens to me is when she’s riding.”

Sydney also wants to thank her parents for all of their love and support. It’s great to see a family who has such a close bond and loves this industry as much as the Banta family does. We wish them all continued success.

Picture #4 –  Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our picture for today is of Rachel Nissen and Invitation By Choice (“Bosco”) from Rochester, Minnesota. This pair had a very exciting day today with a win in the Level 1 Amateur Hunter Under Saddle. They also finished 3rd in the Amateur Performance Geldings, 4th in Rookie Amateur Western Riding and were finalists in the Amateur Western Riding. They will finish out their show tomorrow in the Amateur Horsemanship and Western Pleasure.

Last year Rachel told her trainers, Mike and Bonnie Minor, that she was looking to lease a new horse and right about the same time, Bonnie received a phone call from JoLee Messerli asking if she had anyone who would be interested in leasing Bosco. It was fate, this team was obviously meant to be.

Rachel will be done leasing and showing Bosco in May, which made her win today even more special. “This was my last chance to come here, and I never expected to win the hunter under saddle of all classes.”

She will be graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire this December and entering the workforce with a degree in Marketing Analytics.

Rachel described Bosco as having a great personality. “He loves to rub his nose on you and always wants to be good. His favorite treat is Lifesavers but only from the blue bag.”

She had a very sweet story to tell – when she was in first grade, she was named Student of the Week and when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied, “A riding champion!” (first-grade response pictured left) That dream came true today making it even more special.

Rachel also made note of her favorite saying that happened to be on her t-shirt that was made for her by Jen VanHal of Unbridled Boutique. “You Didn’t Wake Up Today To Be Mediocre.”…it truly fit the day today.

Picture #3 –  Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Today’s picture of the day is of youth competitor Emily Wynne and Ima Mocha Chip (“Mochee”) from Decatur, IL.  Emily is here with her mom, Jill, and trainer, Brad Dohm. Mochee is a 17-year-old gelding owned by Anne Demirjian who has previously placed in the Top 10 at the Congress in western riding and is a Region 3 Champion in trail and western riding.  Emily and veteran gelding currently compete in showmanship, trail and ranch riding. They finished 13th in the 14-18 Level 1 Youth Showmanship yesterday and had fun showing in the ranch riding for only their second time this morning.

This is Emily’s first time showing at a major horse show like the Level 1 Championships, and she has a great partner in Mochee.  “I love that he is small and sweet-natured and he’s a very patient teacher.”

Emily and her gelding came together as a team this year, and this is only their fourth show together. “I donated my 20-year-old mare, Double Sugar Coated, to Partners for Progress earlier this year, and I’m so grateful to Anne for allowing me to lease and ride him,” Emily said. “I have to thank my parents for their support and allowing me to be here and Brad for all of his guidance.”

When asked what her future goals are, Emily, laughed and said, “To come back here next year and do the ranch riding pattern correctly!”

Emily has enjoyed her time here in Oklahoma City and appreciated the opportunity to show in novice classes with the atmosphere of a championship show. We wish Emily and Mochee the best of luck as they compete in the trail later this week.

Picture #2 –  Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The show started today in Oklahoma City with the halter and showmanship classes. Our picture of the day is of Invious Mister shown by Sara Koster of Spring Lake, Michigan who was the Youth Halter Champion of Champions. They won the Level 1 Youth Performance Halter Geldings and came back to win the Champion of Champions.

Invious Mister aka Linus is a 2008 gelding with “the most adorable face and personality. His heart is as big as he is, and his favorite treats are definitely sugar cubes,” Sara told us.

Sara bought Linus right before the Congress last year in October, and he was delivered to her in Ohio to show. Sara is under the guidance of Adam Winter. “He is one of my biggest role models,” says Sara about her trainer.

Sara said she is super excited about her success today, but her wins have been bittersweet since she recently lost her horse, Mr User Friendly (Al), that she showed last year at the Level 1 East Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In May of 2016, Sara says she came to the barn and “Al” definitely had something wrong with him. Many vet visits later, they found out he had laminitis. Unfortunately, in late July, they decided to put him down because there was no way for him to recover.

“Al’s death did change me as a person and made me realize to never take anything for granted and do everything like it’s your last,” Sara reflects. “You never know when it’s all going to be taken away. I have worked so hard and taken every minute to heart, and that’s why this win means so much for me. It’s all for Al.”

We would like to congratulate Sara and Linus and wish them the best of luck the rest of the week!

INTRO – Picture #1 – Monday, April 10, 2017

Hello! We are Lauren Stepaniak and Kari Jewell from the great state of Iowa. We are here in Oklahoma City with our trainer, Millissa Daurer of MKD Performance Horses, competing at the Level 1 Central Championships.

This is Lauren’s second time attending the championships in Oklahoma City and Kari’s first. We are hoping to get some good experience under our belts since we plan to come back in November to compete at the AQHA World Show.

This year at the Level 1 Central Championships, Lauren will be showing MWS Flashn My Jacks (Flashy) in the Level 1 Amateur Hunter Under Saddle, Western Pleasure, and Hunt Seat Equitation, while Kari will be showing Native Iron (Stan) in the Level 1 Amateur Trail and Western Riding. Stan is 24 years young and still going strong. Kari will also be showing her new horse, KM Zip Me Suddenly (“Jack”), in the Level 1 Amateur Performance Halter Geldings, Trail and Western Riding.

We would like to thank our trainer, Millissa Daurer, for all of her hard work in getting us here, and we want to wish everyone the best of luck. The show kicks off tomorrow, so watch out for our pictures of the day throughout the show.