Age is Just a Number: Select Amateurs Share their Love of Showing Horses
Having the ability to do what you love, no matter what your age, is a rare thing in this world. Luckily for all of us in the equine industry, this is a common occurrence. We have the opportunity to show horses starting as a young child and continue as long as our heart desires and hips don’t give out.
We recently spoke with six select amateur riders competing at the 2017 Adequan Select AQHA World Championship Show in Amarillo, Texas. These riders gave us insight into how the industry has changed over the years, their devotion to keeping their competitive energy flowing, and advice for fellow exhibitors.
Many of the select amateur exhibitors have been in the show pen for thirty plus years. When asked what keeps the fire going after all these years, select amateur exhibitor, Dan Yeager, said, it is simply his passion.
“Horses have always been my passion for as long as I remember,” Yeager said. “The passion runs deep. I feel fortunate that I get to ride and show, so I never take it for granted.”
These four-legged, 1,200 pound animals can bring joy to pretty much anyone. Select amateur exhibitors, Carrie Geldner and Anne Wilson, love all the time they get to spend with their horses during show season.
“I love horses. I have always loved horses and I would not want to do life without them,” Geldner said. “I am also very competitive. Every time I go in the show pen I still get nervous and always try to do the best I can. I get mad at myself when I don’t give it my all or make mistakes. It is just a part of me; it’s a great feeling to be on and with a horse.”
“I have loved horses ever since I got on a plastic rocking horse when I was three,” Wilson said. “Not only do I love leaving the city and going to the barn several times a week, but I think showing horses challenges me mentally and physically.”
Nothing stops these riders from competing at the top level. They may be older than the youth generation, but they are in it to win it. Showing is a physically demanding sport and Wilson knows it takes hard physical work to be competitive.
“As a select exhibitor, I find that I need to work a little harder each year to maintain the fitness level required to compete,” Wilson said. “Also, simple things like unlocking the tack stall can be a challenge with old eyes.”
The Changes Over the Years
Similar to any other industry, the horse showing world has changed over the years. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Change can happen for the better. The specialization in every discipline is one thing select amateur exhibitor Cathy Corrigan-Frank mentioned about the change she has seen.
“Back in the day, youth kids had one horse that did five events instead of five horses that do one event,” Cathy said. “Every event now is much more specialized with very few horses showing in both the western and the English events equally well.”
The AQHA recently revamped the novice division. It is now part of the level one system. This has been beneficial in multiple aspects. Exhibitors Debbie Daugherty and Anne Wilson agree that having the select amateur division and level one opportunity has been a bonus.
“When I used to show, we had one amateur class, no novice, select or leveling,” Daugherty said. “Now to watch a horse in any class, it’s like poetry in motion. The people and horses are so much more talented.”
“I love the changes to the novice program and the addition of the select division,” Wilson said.
The select amateur exhibitors have grown up in the industry together and have a sense of camaraderie at this point in their lives. Carrie Geldner (pictured left) loves simply being with her fellow competitors and spending time together showing their horses.
“The industry changed, but it also has stayed the same,” Geldner said. “The best thing about the industry, other than the love of a horse, is the people. Everyone is so nice and positive, and we are all working for the same things. It is really amazing and makes me so grateful to be a part of it all.”
Advice from the Veterans
These exhibitors have all faced their ups and downs while showing over the years. They all strongly encourage others their age to start showing if they don’t already. Mimsi Coon suggests beginning with showing in the halter classes to get a feel for being around horses.
“Try halter as an entry-level class to learn the ins and outs of showing,” Coon said. “As you improve, upgrade your horse(s) and have fun meeting new people with like interests. My advice would also be to stay healthy, practice, practice, practice and have fun.”
Dan Yeager highly recommends showing to everyone. He recognizes that this sport takes work and lots of dedicated hours, but it is worth it in the end. “I would recommend horses to all my non-horse friends,” Yeager said. “The problem is that if you get into horses as a hobby, you must have the passion and the drive.
It isn’t a hobby you can do half way. I think you must be ‘all in.’ Have fun. If you are competing, work hard. Practice does make perfect.”
“I recommend it, but this is something you have to put your heart and soul into,” Daugherty said (pictured left). “It’s not for everybody, and it’s not cheap. Don’t give up on your dreams. Find the best trainer and buy the best horse you can afford. Keep trying until you succeed.”
These six exhibitors demonstrate how dedication and love runs deep in the equine industry. Being involved as long as they all have is impressive, and we are grateful for their generation. Next time you are at a show, reach out to a select amateur rider and see what you can learn.
About the Author: GoHorseShow writer, Courtney Hall is a graduate student at Missouri State University. She is obtaining a Master’s Degree in Agriculture with research in Agricultural Communications. She started showing the APHA& AQHA all around circuit as a youth and continues today as an amateur.
Photos © The Journal, KC Montgomery