Sometimes the smallest accomplishments feel like the biggest, and it is those moments that ignite us to keep pushing forward. Photo © Eye Of The Horse Photography

We Ask the Industry: What’s a Small Accomplishment in Your Show Career that Stands Out?

We’ve all been there…praying not to fall off, hoping we can pick up the right lead, crossing our fingers to make it through a class or wishing we make it on a card.

This feeling has plagued us all, where our goal or intention is something so small and insignificant to others but to us, it was like winning a world title.

There have been struggles and bumps along the way, but once you’ve gotten over the hill, the feeling of pride and accomplishment can be overwhelming.

We spoke to exhibitors and trainers in the industry and asked them, “What’s a small accomplishment in your show career that stands out?”

Below, you will read stories about starting over with a green horse, moving up to a new division, trying a new class, the ups and downs of being a trainer and the challenge of balancing a real life while showing.

Sometimes the smallest accomplishments feel like the biggest, and it is those moments that ignite us to keep pushing forward.

Meg DePalma-Whelan: I was fortunate or “unfortunate” enough to point out of the Novice Amateur Western Riding due to monies won at the NSBA World Show, my first time showing it. I’m now an amateur this year, but I’m a novice. I rely on Harley a lot for my timing, and I struggle and I’m sure drive Clint Ainsworth nuts, ha!

A few weeks ago at The Madness, the last day, I decided to stay and show instead of starting my eight-hour trip home. The competition was fierce, and I’d been right out of the points all week. I got my stuff together, my timing, his neckline, everything was better. I was third across the board and got my first points. I was so proud.

Heidi Padelsky: Last year I had a very successful show season with a lot of accomplishments showing my 11-year-old gelding “Icantakeagoodlook.” I started 2018 knowing that this year would be entirely different. Last August, I purchased a two-year-old gelding, Hes Willy Awesome by Winnies Willy to be my 2018 show prospect. I knew it would be difficult to start over with a baby who had no show experience, but my trainer, Leah Bryner, was persistent in telling me that he was going to be awesome and worth the wait.

I worked hard all winter trying to get to know him and learning everything all over on a new, young horse who was so much different from my fat, “been there, done that” seasoned show gelding. I had my doubts, more in myself than Willy, but we headed to our first AQHA show in April which was the Martinganza in North Carolina.

I knew this was a prominent and competitive show, so I was a bit nervous and unsure of what was going to happen. My very first class was the Novice Amateur Hunter Under Saddle, and my goal was just to get the correct leads in the show pen. I know….such small goals to start the year with. Willy went into that arena and gave it his all. He showed his little heart out and did everything I asked of him. We came out winning under one judge and earning our first four AQHA points together. I know this may seem like a small feat to some, but it was a huge and emotional moment for me. There were some difficult days, and I was having doubts about my capabilities, but we went out there, and we did it.

From that day on, I had a whole new level of trust for the “baby,” and we’ve been doing great as a team ever since. I thank Leah daily for not letting me give up, and sticking with me through this process. It’s not always about big wins, or world show moments that make this sport what it is. Sometimes, it’s about small achievements and little goals that we accomplish that show us just how special these memories are. I’ll never forget the feeling I had that day. My first win on a three-year-old who had never been shown before. I felt like a million bucks sitting on his back, exiting the pen as they called our name first.

Jenn Wheeler: Honestly, the happiest moments in my career usually are the “small” ones. I love working with young horses so, anytime I feel progress in the show pen with one I’ve been working with for a while is a huge happy moment for me. One of the most fun shows I ever had was on a horse I bred and raised. I took him to a small California futurity in the hunter under saddle, and I think I was 4th out of five, (laughs) but I had a blast. Just knowing that I was the first person he saw when he was born, the first one to crawl on his back at two years old and the first one to show him at age 3 was so cool. He was so fun to show, so that was a plus. Sometimes the smaller, personal victories mean so much more than the big ones.


Beckie Peskin: Oh heck…I mean for me, showing most days with a six-year-old in tow, it might just be making it through the day. But as for something more serious, trail. I sucked when I started with my current horse. He had just pointed out of green with my trainer (Robin Frid), and I was a legit novice in the trail. For about six months, I couldn’t maintain a lead in a pinwheel. So, just being able to consistently “not be a train wreck” was big for me.


Lauren Stanley: Walking when you’re supposed to be walking, jogging when you’re supposed to be jogging and loping when you’re supposed to loping. This has been my theme for trail 2018. I showed trail as a youth but haven’t done it in the past seven years, and let me tell you, something must have happened to my eyes during that time. I never knew making distances could be so difficult.

My first time back in the trail pen I crashed through almost every obstacle, and that’s when I realized there was a lot more to it than I remembered. I decided to break it down to the basics, focus on doing the correct gaits over the correct obstacles and not try to be “fancy.” The fancy will come if I can do the basics first.

At the Redbud Spectacular this year, I was showing two horses, Extremely Good Stuff (Rooster) and our homebred three-year-old BlessedWithTheBest (Gordon). I showed Gordon first one day, and we accomplished our goal of walking where we were supposed to be walking, jogging where we were supposed to be jogging and loping where we were supposed to be loping. It was so rewarding. It then gave me confidence when I stepped on Rooster, and we accomplished the same thing. I came out and told Bruce (Vickery) that I finally know why he likes trail so much. It was fun, and we were blessed enough to be rewarded for it by Gordon marking his first ever 70+ run and by winning the Am L2 Trail with Rooster.

Do you have any small accomplishments you’d like to share? Please post them in our comments section.

Julie Hoefling was born and raised in Akron, Michigan but now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, Jerry. She works at Central Garden & Pet (Equine Division – Farnam) as a Brand Manager over grooming, wound, and leather care. Julie shows her horse, Shady Impulse in the Level 1 Amateur Western All-Around events under the guidance of Ryan and Andrea Kail.