Do you have any advice for competitors getting ready to show at the Youth World Shows? Let us know. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

We Ask Current and Former Competitors: Things You Wish You Knew Before You Showed at Youth World

As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20”, so we asked several past and current youth exhibitors who have shown at their respective breed’s Youth World Shows, what they wished they had known before they showed.

The Youth World is one of the main shows that many youths strive and prepare for every year. The ultimate goal for many is to bring home the gold.

We received some excellent advice from several past Youth World champions as well as some competitors who participated for the first time last year.

Read some great reminders below and take it from us, have fun and enjoy the ride!

Hayley Rae Riddle
– The first time I went to the Youth World, I wish I knew not to change how I prepared my horse because I saw someone doing different things than what I did. A World Show isn’t the place where you try to change what’s been working for you all year just because you see someone else doing it. If you have to prepare your horse or yourself a certain way, don’t let the pressure get to you and make you feel like you have to change everything. Another thing I wish I knew my first couple years was to take a breath. Don’t stress and put any pressure on yourself. Youth World can be more fun than any other show all year, but if you let the pressure of the title of the show get to you, it can be the most stressful place. I think my previous years at Youth World would have been more fun if I would have just relaxed and done my own thing and not worry about how others prepare.

Ellexxah Maxwell – The thing I wish I knew before the World Show is that it’s just another horse show. It’s no different than the ones we do every week. Sure, the competition’s tougher, but in the pen, it’s just you and your horse and what you do in there together. I now know that the only thing you can count on is your horse, and the rest will play out, however, it’s meant to be.



Bailey Anderson
– Well, my first Youth World was when I was 16, so by that time, I knew what I was getting into..late night rides and lots of them. But, I think the sooner you can go, the better. That way, when it’s time for you to “peak,” it’s not all brand new. Another thing I can remember was the first year I went, I state qualified with zero points, because my horse was new and we hadn’t shown much. I almost felt embarrassed and didn’t want people to know that, so one thing I wish I knew at that point was no one knows who state qualified or who nationally qualified. Everyone has the same shot at bringing a globe home.




Taylor Searles – I wish I knew that the more you relax, the better the outcome. I’ve found that being nervous just creates problems. To calm my nerves, I listen to music before I show and then go out there and hope for the best.





Livvie Van Lanen – The Youth World is a show that truly puts on the pressure. The best advice I can give to any youth preparing to show is to trust in your riding, and more importantly, trust your horse. Your horse can feel if you’re nervous, angry, upset, etc. Don’t let all of your hard work leading up to the Youth World be washed away by nerves: stay calm and collected. It is also important to realize that if you don’t perform your best, it isn’t the end of the world. There is always another horse show.

Sydney Scheckel – Bottom line, that it is just another horse show. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do well at this show; we need to enjoy it more. I had no idea how fast my youth career would pass me by until it came. I will soon be competing at my last Youth World; I don’t know how that’s possible. Just enjoy your horse’s company and appreciate all of those around you who love and support you.


Clara Johnson
– My advice would be that I wish I knew how nice everyone was. I was very intimidated by some of the competitors, the “big kids,” the first time I showed. I wish I would have known that we are all in the same boat, and we are all very nervous. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you in the stands or even the person next to you in the lineup. I promise they don’t bite.





Paulina Martz – Things I wish I had known before I showed at the Youth World: It’s going to be an absolute blur… in a good way. The Youth World is chalk full of amazing things and experiences in and out of the show pen. It’s essential, no matter what you’re there for, to take a moment and soak it all in. Competing is always a nerve-wracking experience and doing so on the World Championship stage is another thing entirely. It’s easy to get lost in the breakneck pace, but the Youth World is an amazing and unique experience and getting there is such an accomplishment that you owe it to yourself to take a deep breath and commit those moments to lasting memory.



Natalia Devencenty – The Youth World can be a very stressful week. All your hard work you’ve put in over the years comes down to one moment. The main thing I wish I knew before showing at the Youth World is to not worry about the things that are out of your control. Focus on having the best patterns you can and letting the rest just fall into place. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.





Lauren Gralla – The best times to practice lines for patterns are in the middle of the night when the arenas are less crowded. The extra time spent in the actual show pen in the middle of the night can pay off. You will have lots of butterflies in your stomach. Take advantage of practicing elements of the patterns since they post them early. Finally, always go into a class and give it your all. Even if there are better riders than you, it is anyone’s game when it comes down to the end.


Cori Cansdale – My first Youth World, I was extremely nervous. As I’ve grown up and continued to show at the Youth World more times, I’ve begun to realize it truly is just another horse show. Everyone can have a good or bad run, and it’s truly anyone’s game out there. My advice is to try and enter the pen with a clear head; it sets you up for success. Try not to think of it as the World Show, instead just think of it as an everyday show.







Alexis Miller – I’d say that the competition is all it’s cracked up to be. A “bad go” at the Youth World could be pretty decent elsewhere. It’s intimidating, it’s challenging, but don’t let it discourage you because it really will better you as a rider. Secondly, everyone is willing to help, all you have to do is ask.





Carey Nowacek – I wish I had known at my first few World Shows how to control my nerves and turn them into confidence. All year long, we work to get to the World Show. When you get there, you have to remember, it’s another horse show. Ride your horse like you have all year.





Abigail Pait – 1.Take some time for yourself. It always feels like a time crunch at the AQHYA World Show. You only have until your 18, it’s only a week long, etc. You want to hang out with your friends when you’re not working as hard as you possibly can to be the best you can be. But remember to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the incredible opportunity you have. 2. If you have multiple years left as a youth, be a spectator before you show. It will allow you the opportunity to see what it is like. Watch the warm up, watch the prelims, and watch the finals. Get a grasp of what you want to accomplish, so that when you go to compete your first time, you have already experienced the show. Good luck to everyone competing at the AQHYA World Show. Enjoy being a youth – it goes fast!


Gavin Patterson – If I could’ve given myself any advice before showing at the Youth World, it would be to remain optimistic. At the Youth World, anything, and I mean anything, can happen. You never know what’s going to occur in any class. So with that in hand, I would say make sure you are confident and a showman while showing there. You have to be glowing with confidence to come out with a globe. Also, as much as you think you have shown, the Youth World is a whole different show. For example, in the pleasure, you have to go three rounds before you even make it to the finals, so you can’t prep your horse like you would for a weekend show.


Mackenzie Matthews – I wish I knew how truly massive the show ring is. When you go in and practice during the busier times, when it’s full of other riders, it’s hard to tell just how large the ring is. I remember the first time I showed, I went down the shoot and saw the empty ring. I thought I was going to turn around. It was just so intimidating. I suggest going and riding in the show pen in the middle of the night at least once or twice when it’s relatively empty.




Laska Anderson – I wish I had known that not everyone is watching you. It has taken me a long time to let go of the anxiety and feeling that everyone is watching and judging you. Just remember it’s just you and your horse.




Mallory Vroegh
– I would say that I wish I would’ve known that it truly takes a village to accomplish your goals at the World Show. Everyone who is there to help you in any way is vital. Don’t take anyone for granted and always thank the people who contributed to getting you where you are.




Emma Edwards – My first Youth World was last year, and I was quite jittery and nervous. I wish I had known that even though you have worked so hard all year and gotten yourself qualified for the “AQHYA World Show,” you need to treat it like any other day showing your horse. If you over think the whole concept of being at the World Show, it can affect you and your nerves. Another piece of advice I have is that even if you have just one bad go, shake it off because you can come back and your next go can be great. Also, I remember everybody telling me it was going to be hot, but I had never been to Oklahoma in August, so I wasn’t entirely sure how bad it was going to be. So be prepared for some sweltering weather and some serious humidity. Make sure to pack lots of tank tops and make sure to get your pony a fan.

Hannah Warren – I would say two things. One – how much of a support system there is at Youth World. The first year I went, like most people are, I was super nervous, but when I got there, I was shocked at how supportive and encouraging everyone I talked to was, even people I had never met before. I made a whole new group of friends to cheer me on and to support when they showed. It’s a great feeling to go in to show and know you have people in the stands rooting for your success. The second thing I wish I knew is how many opportunities there are at Youth World. There are so many “Ride the Patterns” and exhibitions from professionals and distinguished trainers that I found helpful to go to and will attend more this year. Even if I wasn’t showing in the class, it was great to hear the perspective and advice of such talented horsemen. I would recommend going and listening to the insight they give because it gives you the opportunity to hear from professionals you otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to speak to or ask questions.

Bri Bielecki – There are quite a few things I wish I had known when I was a youth at the World Show.

1. By far the most important advice I ever got from my trainer, Pam Wilson, that I am just now at 21 starting to understand is “don’t be so hard on yourself.” Of course, at the time it did not resonate with me, but when I was so busy thinking I needed to practice more or do this or that better, it distracted me from fully enjoying the moment. As competitors, it’s so easy to get caught up in being perfect, but it’s truly unattainable, and no amount of beating yourself up is going to fix that. It will only make it worse for your performance.

2. Enjoy and appreciate what you have now. This goes back to the first point a little but do not let your thoughts interrupt you from fully enjoying the fruits of your and your horse’s labor. Particularly at the World Show, you should take in every moment and don’t forget that each moment with your quarter horse is truly a blessing. So many people do not get to live out their dreams the way we can.

3. Trust your training. It’s so easy to get nervous at these World Shows but fear not, it’s just a horse show. It really is! Trust all the training and time you have put in and allow your horse to do his job and trust yourself. Don’t be pressured by frivolous things.

4. Always take the time to say thank you to the people who help make it happen. The World Show, and horse shows in general, are not a one-person gig. There is a huge team behind you making it happen. Always have a good attitude and remember to thank your trainer, horse, parents, and friends for making it possible to do what you love at such a high level.

Carli Pitts – Don’t watch the other competitors in the warm up pen. I always watch others at shows to improve my skills, and my horse’s skills because I always want to learn more. But, at the Youth World, there is not much that can change once you get there. You’ve spent all year preparing for that one show, don’t let your thoughts get in the way. Go out there, and leave it all in the arena. Another thing I wish I knew my first year, always bring extra fans, it gets hot in Oklahoma in August.



Elizabeth Forney – I was told before my first World Show that everyone is so intense you can actually feel the pressure to succeed in the air. I heard so many stories and opinions that by the time I actually got to Oklahoma City, I was incredibly nervous. What I soon realized is that it’s just another show, it’s not supposed to be scary. The Youth World is an opportunity to compete against a lot of new faces and show what you and your horse can do. It’s important to feel confident as a team but not put too much emphasis on the rewards. It’s that old saying, “the horse you take home from the horse show is the same one you brought.” Having faith in your horse will allow you to feel more comfortable and get your best ride rather than feel nervous and have a rigid seat. Gaining a confident and relaxed mindset comes with time, but it’s one of the most important aspects. Now, as I prepare for my fifth and final World Show, I feel nothing but excitement.

Do you have any advice you would give competitors showing at the Youth World Shows? Let us know.

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