Good luck, Youth World exhibitors. Smile hard, ride confidently. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

The Youth World Letter I Wish Someone had Written to Me

Editor’s Note: GoHorseShow writer and Michigan Quarter Horse Queen, Morgan McCarthy-Warda shares what she wished she would have known before she stepped into the arena at the Youth World Show. Read her letter below.

Dear Youth World Exhibitor,

You made it to the biggest event of your youth career. You worked hard, probably cried a little and sweated a lot. It was worth it – you are here. I have been there, too. I have stood in the Gateway of Champions and felt my breath shake, and the noise sound muffled because my heartbeat was louder than the voices around you. There’s nothing quite like that walk down that chute.

You’re going to have to give your parents a hug, and your trainer a smile because in a minute you are going to have to watch them through the glass as you make your entrance. This time alone is when you get a moment to yourself. Use it wisely. Think about your pattern or ride, maneuver your way through it in your mind. Think slowly – you know what you’re doing – you are here.

The arena is going to seem much bigger than during all of your practice rides. Think of it this way; the world is in front of you. Everyone that walks through those gates has an opportunity to hold the coveted globe. That speaks for itself. There are so many that would love to be in your boots, just remember that. Win or lose; you are in a place that not every youth gets to be…ever. I hope you are humbled knowing that you have been so gifted. You’ve earned your place here.

It doesn’t matter how young you are, how old your horse is, or how much they are worth – you are here. You have equally qualified through your state or nationally just like everyone else. I have seen the best fall and the weakest rise. But who is actually who? You are all horseman. You are all equestrians. You are all here for the same reason – you love the sport and the journey. Remember that during your time at the world show.

One of my best coaches had nothing to do with horses, but he told me something that altered my perspective. “Play every game like it could be your last.” We don’t ever know what is further down our path, even when we have our minds set on a dream. The truth is, you might never step foot in that arena again.

I made the finals one year out of five. Out of 200 showmanship exhibitors, I made the top 15, placing 11th. I will never forget the disbelief, relief and pure joy I felt hearing my number announced for the callbacks. It was the moment I thought I might never experience, and I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. Before I entered the arena for the finals, my mom just told me to have fun and enjoy the experience, because she knew I might not ever make it there again. She was right.

The finals was a humbling experience. It wasn’t perfect, so it wasn’t enough. I knew that as I walked out, but I am so glad the experience had a chance to resonate with me. I was there, and I gave it my entire heart and soul. It’s tough to be so close to a top 10, but it proved to me that it was within reach. It was possible. I learned another thing that day; I wasn’t showing for myself anymore. I was showing as a representation of my mom, who is also my trainer. I think at the moment I remembered what it meant to show, to be a part of something much bigger than myself.

My point is this: You have all worked hard for this moment. There is no lack of effort or talent that is keeping you from being successful at the world show. Odds are not in anyone’s favor. You have to be pretty close to flawless to hear your number called. I have sat in those stands and watched kids drop their heads and let tears roll down their face as the announcer passes their number. I’ve done it myself. I know the feeling of having a year’s worth of work feel like a heavy weight on your shoulders. I only ask that you do one thing – push up with all your might. These are the moments that make the rider and the sportsman. Your disappointment will be real, and it will ache, but it WILL make you better if you let it.

Watch the finals of every class that you can. Don’t be bitter, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Just absorb the magnitude of skill each finalist brings. I remember sitting in the stands and admitting for the first time that someone rode so much better than me. It was then that I decided that was okay and I only had one choice – get better. I left that year and the years after that with a to-do list. I wanted a chance to prove to myself that I had what it takes. By doing that, I did.

Above all else, time is precious. You should make new friends, thank your parents, trust your trainers/coaches, and love your horse. This is only a stop along the way. You will remember your world show experience forever. I wish someone would have told me how much I would miss walking out with my state’s team, decorating our stalls, or the intense practices in the show arena. Every minute in the red dirt counts.

I want you to remember what it’s like to walk into the arena and see the world at your fingertips.

“To the ones who still believe in dreams: Chase them. Chase them until you’re out of breath. Then, keep running.”

Good luck, Youth World exhibitors. Smile hard, ride confidently.

You are here.

About the Author: GoHorseShow writer and MQHA Queen, Morgan McCarthy Warda, is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in Wildlife Biology and Writing. Morgan grew up actively competing on the AQHA circuit. She balances her time between her job as an Agriculture Environment Assurance Program Technician, showing, writing, being an MQHA board member, and working as a student research assistant at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. In the future, Morgan plans to obtain a Master’s degree in Wildlife Management and continue to be an active member of AQHA.
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