Congress 2018 Final Wrapup Report: Meghan Tierney of Augusta, New Jersey
Our second annual “Congress Reporter for a Day” series kicked off last week and throughout the rest of Congress, we will have multiple guest reporters providing the inside scoop for our readers until the end of the show.
For many exhibitors, the Congress is their most significant and favorite show of the year. Cold weather, hot chocolate, apple dumplings, busy warm-up pens and sleepless nights are hallmarks of the largest single-breed show in the world.
It is also a time when you can see all your friends and, of course, rivals, all in one place to compete for a coveted bronze trophy and medallions.
Our final report from the Congress is from Meghan Tierney of Augusta, New Jersey, who talked to Terry Cross about his big win at the Congress.
Final Report – Meghan Tierney
Often, Congress can be frustrating and exhausting, but the moments on top of the cards make it all worthwhile. AQHA judge and esteemed horse trainer, Terry Cross was one of the lucky ones this Congress winning the Senior Trail, the largest AQHA class offered at the show with 140 competitors. Cross rode Only When Considered, also known as ‘Promise’ who is a 13-year-old mare by Consider His Source, who Cross describes as “special with a lot of heart in everything she does.”
It was a special win because Cross had a good year on her and hoped she would do well at a major show like this. “To have it all come together is great. She tries so hard for you and when you add that to her talent, it makes her an exceptional individual.” Cross, who trains alongside business partner Stephen Stephens of Dry River Ranch, had never won a Congress Championship in the trail before and after many reserve and top five accomplishments, it makes winning that much better.
Terry Cross has been showing the trail for over 15 years and it’s safe to say he has mastered the art of poles. I chose this win and duo to highlight because I believe it exemplifies what we all work so hard for.
More often than not, your name will not be the one called, but hard work and determination can chip your way to the top. A horse show of this caliber can be tiring, but at the end of the day, you get to spend a month surrounded by the best of the best horses and your friends.
Sometimes, it works out for the best and sometimes you’ll walk away intending to try again next time. Either way, we are so blessed to be able to witness and be a part of such a prestigious event.
Congratulations to Terry Cross and all of the champions who’ve gotten the chance to experience hard work pay off here at the 2018 All American Quarter Horse Congress. Safe trip home to all!
Report #12 – Becca Walter
Katie Grossnickle was the first amateur in the trail pen today and scored a whopping 235.00. She lead a very tough amateur class out of 92 exhibitors. This is Katie’s first trail win at the Congress with Taco, her four-year-old gelding.
Interestingly enough, Katie bought Taco precisely one year ago today at the Congress. I asked Katie what her favorite thing about Taco was and she instantly said his personality. She loves how sweet and silly he can be, but he is also very friendly and fun to be around.
Katie told us that she had a great go and Taco saved her a few times in the class and stepped up in the amateur today. After waiting a grueling four hours for the trail to complete, Katie walked away with a well-deserved win. Katie told me that she has only shown Taco at three other shows before showing at the Congress.
Hil Have A Taco has really had a wonderful Congress; he is going home with a win in the Amateur Trail, Green Jr Trail and the 4 & 5-Year-Old Open Trail Stakes. I think its safe to say that Taco is a phenomenal trail horse, and we can’t wait to see what his future holds.
Katie has been training with Brent Maxwell for the last nine years and gives him the most credit, saying that he always has her horses so well prepared for her classes. We can’t forget that Katie was also 20th on her other horse, Alway’s Lopin Sober.
After reflecting on this well-deserved win for Katie Grossnickle, I am thrilled that such a fantastic person won with a very talented horse. Katie, we will be rooting for you tomorrow in the 4 & 5-Year-Old Non-Pro Trial class. The trail is special to me and my all time favorite class. I am concluding this day with a huge congratulations to Katie, Lori, Taco and everyone with Mil-Max.
Report #11- Kaitlin Riker
Congratulations to all exhibitors on a chilly, yet successful day at the Congress. I had the chance to connect with a fellow amateur exhibitor and talk about her road to her first ever Congress experience.
Converting from Arabian show horses to the Quarter Horse arena took Anjanette Nicolazzo on an adventure she never expected. Teaming up with her partner, Too Hot For Talk (Wrangler), they started with local shows in 2016 to test the waters as she began to set goals for their future together.
With early indicators of physical discomfort, she decided to take him to Cornell University for digestive testing that turned into the painful discovery that her beloved partner was diagnosed with Overriding Dorsal Spinous Processes – AKA Kissing Spine. The vets said it was the most severe case they had ever seen. Kissing Spine refers to a condition in horses in which two or more of the spinous processes (the flanges of bone sticking up from each vertebra in the spine) are positioned so that they touch or rub against each other.
With options of retirement, injections or surgery, Anjanette and her boyfriend, Daniel committed to the intensive care and recovery schedule of back surgery to give Wrangler the best possible outcome of “fair to return to work.” Anjanette poured her heart and soul into first just trying to save him. Then the dream changed into returning to the show pen. Then finally, showing at the Congress.
After ten tedious months of daily care and therapy, they were able to get Wrangler to a place they could slowly start riding. By the beginning of 2018, Anjanette and Wrangler were making steady progress, attending their first Quarter Horse show in Hamburg, New York.
In a chance encounter, she met her current coach and mentor, Ed Weber and fellow amateur competitor, Michelle Petrovsky, both of whom helped to bring her dreams of competing at the 2018 Congress to fruition.
With steady progress and dedicated hard work, the team not only attended their first Congress, but two years post back surgery, they placed Top Ten in their L1 Amateur Hunter Under Saddle class with 91 shown.
Huge Congratulations to Anjanette and her entire team for their dedication and commitment to getting Wrangler healthy and fulfilling dreams.
Good luck to exhibitors in these last few days of the 2018 Quarter Horse Congress.
Report #10 – Heather Lange
The Congress means late night rides, the Sweet Shop, a golf cart trip to McDonald’s, more rides, little sleep and lots of walking. It means making sure your horse is in tip-top shape, but what about you? Ali Hartman, PT, DPT recognized that we riders need to make sure we are in top form so that we can compete at our best and BaseCamp EQ was born.
BaseCamp EQ offers a variety of services for the equestrian athlete, from nutritional advice to group workouts, to help with physical ailments. Ali has been pretty happy with the response. She’s had about 50 participants throughout her two weeks at the Congress.
Amateur exhibitor, Jenna Dempze has been a dedicated participant. “When I’m at home, I work out five to six days a week in a very similar boot camp type style. When I go to a horse show, I try to keep things as similar as I can, whether that be doing my workouts in my trailer or taking my dog for a walk. When I found out Ali was going to bring workouts to the Congress, I was excited.”
“I enjoyed participating in the workout session which allowed me to maintain my physical and mental health,” says Kim Quinn, another amateur exhibitor. Kim also took advantage of the physical therapy services BaseCamp EQ offered. “I have an old knee injury. Ali taped it to support it and gave me some exercises to keep strengthening it. Working with her is going to have a long-term impact on my show readiness. It was refreshing to consult with Ali who is very familiar with the demands of what is required to be a successful equestrian. Far too often, we are thinking about our horse’s health and putting our own needs to the side. It is important to maintain both.”
Ali says that most of the participants have been amateur exhibitors, with a few trainers taking advantage of the rehabilitation services. She hopes that in the future, more youth exhibitors will participate. She reminds us that it is essential to focus on maintaining an overall health strategy that works for you.
“We invest so much time and so much money to get to these big competitions, and we want to do well. It’s an investment in our bodies, and we need to prepare ourselves as the professional athletes do. This community has the resources available to allow them to compete at their best,” Ali says. “My goal is to work beside this community and be helpful in whatever way I can, with my variety of skill sets, whether it be the fitness background or the physical therapy background or the health promotion background, to create whatever that individual needs to be at their best on game day.”
Lisa Mazurka believes that Ali’s services were invaluable to her Congress experience. She did the full BaseCamp EQ experience with both physical therapy treatments and workouts. “We spend so much time preparing our horses at the horse shows physically and mentally. There was nothing out there for us athletes, and then this came along. Finally, we have an opportunity to work out together and a venue for rehabilitation and preventative measures.”
Lisa is showing through an injury. She has two torn meniscus in her knee, so she came to the show pretty banged up. “I didn’t have a window of time for the surgery I need before this show and the World Show. Ali mentioned that she could help do some manipulation to my knee. We also worked on some taping which helped.”
Lisa says, “Having someone who really understood an injury and was so invested in helping with an injury that I had, she was always available to help me get where I needed to be for the competition. My biggest concern about my injury was Showmanship because you had to run in the deep dirt. So many people came up to me after the class today and said that my pattern was the best pattern they had seen me do in a long time. I know that the work I did with Ali helped make that happen.”
Here’s hoping Ali brings BaseCamp EQ to more shows! (hint hint)
Report #9 – Laurel Champlin
On day 21 of the Congress, I was startled awake by a loud bang and my living quarters shaking. After realizing that there are no earthquakes in Ohio, I looked out the door to discover the awning on my slide out had been ripped off by someone leaving with their trailer. Lucky for me, there is an onsight RV repairman at the Congress who was able to remove the broken awning. Let’s say I wasn’t in the best of moods starting my day.
In the Coliseum, Green Western Riding was taking place where top honors went to HP Prime Time and Charlie Cole owned by Kaleena Katz Weakly. Reserve was Zippin A Breeze and Troy Lehn owned by Alexandra Chavez. These two switched places from the Junior Western Riding class which took place on Oct. 16.
Next up in the Coliseum was the Amateur Horsemanship. I caught up with Angela Fox who was showing her Three Year Old Hunter Under Saddle horse, The Rusty Fox. Angela said that she and Jason Martin set a goal for Rusty and her to place 9th in the class. Quite optimistic considering Angela was doing a simple lead change in the pattern. Guess what? Goal accomplished. Angela and Rusty were 9th in tough competition earning a high five from Jason.
After the horsemanship, Angela and Rusty had to make a quick change to English attire for the Three-Year-Old Non-Pro Hunter Under Saddle Stakes class. They placed third. The team had a short break before the Three Year Old Limited Open Hunter Under Saddle where they placed fourth. Karen Graham and I Will Be Detailed owned by Ann Gibson won the class.
Immediately following that class was the SBB Two-Year-Old Maiden Open Western Pleasure Futurity Limited. Karen’s partner, Mike Hawkins placed 4th in this class with I Like The Dark. I ran into the team after the class and they were ecstatic.
As the day was coming to an end, I decided to visit the oldest bar at the Congress, the Green Wall Bar in the Gillian barn, where Beth Case and I enjoyed an adult beverage.
Next stop was Mai Lia Eatery on Junk Food Alley for delicious Chinese food. Mai Lia has been serving great food at the Congress for 26 years.
Back to Celeste where the Amateur Hunt Seat Equitation was the last class of the day and the fourth class of the day for Angela and Rusty Fox. The long day paid off for this hardworking team as they were named champions in the class.
By the way, this time Angela went for the flying lead change in the pattern and Rusty executed it perfectly.
Just another fun and hectic day at the Congress.
Report #8 – Meg DePalma-Whelan
Adult scores were coming from the 12-14 Youth Trail pen today. The winning score came from Sidney Dunham and her mount, Hez Purely Dynamic with a 241.5! Not only the highest score of the day but the highest score of the horse show thus far.
Sidney is no stranger to high scores. A few years ago, she held the top Trail score for the first half of the horse show. This is the second time she has received the highest trail score out of all three Youth Trail age divisions at Congress. To give everyone an idea, last year’s Open, Junior, and Senior Trail were won with a 237.5 and a 236.5.
“James” is owned by her brother, Trent, and has been a part of the Dunham family for the last five years. Mark Dunham, father, and trainer of Sidney and James, said that his daughter’s ability to know where the horse’s feet are is what makes them a successful team. I asked a little more about this.
Apparently, James has been rehabbing an injury for several years and needs constant care and special shoes to keep him performing at his best. Sidney’s ability to know where to place his feet in between poles, where to put him to hit spots is critical to their winning ways.
What a comeback! I asked Sid what’s special about James; she said he sleeps a lot. Which was funny, when I visited his stall to congratulate him, he was enjoying a snack laying down.
Today was the last class for Sidney and Hez Simply Dynamic. They placed in every class they showed in at this year’s Congress.
When I asked Sid what the plan was for next year, she said to continue to be a successful team and have trail runs like this.
Congratulations to Sid and James on a record-setting Congress.
Report #7 – Shelly Boyle
This year, the All American Quarter Horse Congress has drawn over 24,500 entries including first-time Congress exhibitor Judith Volkar, known to many as “Dr. Judy.”
Judy met her husband Vince more than 40 years ago, and they enjoyed 38 beautiful years of marriage including two children, Stephanie and Michael. While Vince did not have the same appreciation for horses, he supported Judy in her hobby.
During the early years of attending open horse shows, Vince would drive the truck and trailer to the grounds, park, help set up hay and water, then promptly return to the truck to await Judy’s class. Typical of many horse show husbands, Vince would dutifully walk up to the arena when it was time for his wife to show, cheer her on, then head right back to their truck to continue waiting. No matter his feelings on horses, Vince would be there to support his wife in her passion.
In November of 2016, the Volkar family learned that Vince had been diagnosed with cancer and on New Year’s Day we lost an amazing husband, father and friend. After losing Vince, one of the first ventures Judy made from her home was to visit her horse Max (Embrace This Legend) along with her trainer and friend Laurie Hoopes. She shares that the barn felt like a safe space where things didn’t hurt so much. She could rely on her friends to tell her that it was okay to cry and to give her a reassuring hug without judgment.
Support came from many, and the horse community did not let Judy down. There was, of course, her “barn family” including trainer Laurie and her husband Jeff Hoopes, but she also credits some that she was not as close with previously. Carolyn Colvin, Lori Gordon, Ellen Colhouer and Vince Utlak are just a few that were exceptionally kind and helpful when it was time to return to show season, offering not only kind words of support, but also their helping parking, unhooking and rehooking her camper. The realization that people do want to help others and spread kindness has helped in the wake of her grief.
In the months that have followed, Judy continues to learn who she is without Vince. After all, she has always been part of “something else, something special.” Before his passing, Vince told her that she had more to do, and Judy certainly has not disappointed. She has a brilliant career working as the Quality Officer for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Magee-Womens Health Hospital of UPMC, where she is a Medical Doctor and North American Menopause Society Certified Practitioner with an MBA in Healthcare Management.
She rescued a poodle named Streudel (pictured below left) in the summer of 2017, though she admits that they saved each other. In October of 2017, Judy took her first flying lesson and has since become a student pilot, accumulating over 60 hours of flight time.
Upon completing her first solo flight, she shed tears knowing how proud Vince would have been. She also attended the 2017 AQHA World Championship Show and competed in the L2 Amateur Trail, recognizing again that Vince would be proud of her for taking on a challenge that she had never imagined she would.
In 2018, Judy attended the AQHA Level 1 Championship East show, earning Top Ten honors in the L1 Trail and a finalist medallion in the L1 Horsemanship. She and Max have also received their AQHA Amateur Superior award in Trail.
This brings us to 2018 All American Quarter Horse Congress, where Judy will compete for the first time on Friday, October 26th in the Amateur Select Trail and mark another event off of her horse show bucket list.
Max has already competed in the Queens’ Horsemanship with Mariah Sherer, helping her earn a fourth-place finish in that event, and he will be competing in the Senior Trail with trainer Laurie Hoopes.
Best of luck to Judy and Embrace This Legend as they compete at the largest single breed horse show in the world. Vince is so proud of you.
Report #6 – Janae Walker
Party of One
Congress is known for its impressive stall displays by all of the major players in the industry, and a frequently asked question is “Who is your trainer?” But what if you are a small family operation, or on your own?
I talked with Sarah Rosciti from Scituate, Rhode Island, who has used the phrase “Party of One” for her 2018 Congress experience. Sarah and her husband, Henry hauled their two-year-old stallion, Easy On The Eyez (barn name, Anakin), to the Congress as their only horse to show this year. Sarah is showing him in both the Open and Non-Pro Two Year Old Hunter Under Saddle classes.
Anakin is out of This Is Why Im Hot, a 2007 mare that was the first foal that Sarah foaled on their farm in Rhode Island. He is this mare’s fourth foal – her first two foals were sold as weanlings with the understanding that the next one would be hers to keep. Unfortunately, that foal died shortly after birth. Anakin was the next foal, and she knew from the moment he was born, he was special.
I asked Sarah about her horse and what her experience has been doing this as a “DIY Amateur.”
“When you are with a big barn, and you have a stallion, you can usually maneuver horses and tack stalls. With stalls being pre-assigned at the Congress, I had to do some maneuvering to find someone with a couple of extra stalls at the end of an aisle.”
“In some ways, it has been more comfortable because I get to control my schedule,” Sarah shares. “I ride when I am ready to ride. Also, since I know my horse so well because I raised and trained him, it makes it easier to understand what he needs.”
Sarah also says she couldn’t do it without her ground crew; her husband, Henry, and friends, Jim Lamoreau and Christie Pope. “It has been a great help to have eyes on the ground, but more importantly, to provide encouragement and to tell me that I can do this on my own.”
For Sarah, the most rewarding part has been watching this colt develop from an embryo to a show horse and stallion prospect. “Since I broke him myself, I can take all responsibility for his success, but also for any failures.”
Sarah said the most challenging part is having the confidence to show in the open classes as a DIY Amateur and feeling like you belong there. “It would have been easier in many ways to send Anakin out for training, but I like the challenge of trying to develop him on my own.”
Rosciti’s advice for someone who wants to tackle the Congress on their own is first to believe that you can, and then to have a good support system to remind you that you can do it when those moments of doubt creep in.
I’m happy to report that Sarah and Anakin made it to the finals of the Limited Two-Year-Old Hunter Under Saddle which will be held on Sunday. I wish this team the best of luck!
Report #5 – Kari Craft
Exhibitors from all over the country and even the world, come to the All-American Quarter Horse Congress with one goal in mind…to take home a beautiful Congress Bronze and earn the title of Congress Champion. Exhibitors may work for their entire lives to win this prestigious title.
Today, a life-long dream was made for professional rider, Alexandria Falk, in the Junior Trail. With 105 entries in the class, Alex and Lets Ride rode a beautiful trail pattern and finished up with a huge score of a 236.5.
I was excited to talk with this newly crowned Congress Champion and learn more about Alex and her special horse known as Ali.
Q: Hi Alexandria! How does it feel to be a Congress Champion in such a prestigious class?
A: It’s incredible. I have been entirely speechless. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid.
Q: Is this your first Congress win?
A: Yes! This was my first Congress win.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
A: I’m from Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania where I have lived my entire life. I’ve been showing since I was 10-years-old. I did a lot of the all-around events as a youth. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, including support from Linda and Jim Becker and Will and Liz Knabenshue, and I’m always willing to learn more.
Q: How many times have you shown at Congress?
A: I’ve shown at Congress since I was 14 years old…the highest I’ve ever placed until today was 3rd.
Q: Tell me about your horse.
A: Lets Ride is a five-year-old gelding by Blazing Hot and out of Chip Appeal. My sister, Rickie Bryner owns Ali where he also competes in the western pleasure, western riding and performance halter. I started him in the trail at the Florida Winter Circuits as a coming 4-year-old. He learned fast and enjoys showing it.
Q: What were the best parts of your pattern?
A: I’d have to say the cadence that he carried himself through the pattern with helped, and his lope poles were soft.
Q: After you finished the pattern, before looking at the score, did you feel like it was as impressive as it was?
A: I felt like the pattern went well, but you never know what they see compared to what you feel. When I came out and saw my score, I was ecstatic and speechless.
We’d like to congratulate Alex, her sister, Rickie, and their beautiful horse, Lets Ride on a wonderful trail win. It’s fantastic to see people’s life-long dreams come true.
Report #4: Cat Guenther
Congress season is in full swing here in Columbus, Ohio. Exhibitors are working tirelessly through all hours of the night to prepare for the show pen. I had the opportunity to speak with Margaux Tucker about her youth horse, Radical McCue (Q), who is showing at this Congress in the 11 & Under All-Around events.
Margaux bought Radical McCue as a three-year-old in 2003 and had lots of success with him, such as reserve championships at the Congress and Youth World. He is still in the Top 20 all-time youth point earners for AQHA with over 2,500 points. Q led Margaux to become a successful trainer, and now, at 18 years old, he is teaching a young girl the ropes of the show pen. Watch for Karrington Hall and Radical McCue in the 11 & Under events.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your accomplishments with Radical McCue?
A: The major highlights are 2006 high point youth in the nation in the equitation and 5th in the all around. We were Top 10 in the horsemanship, trail, and showmanship that year, too. I was reserve at the Congress twice in equitation and showmanship. Then, reserve at the youth world in halter, the first year of the performance halter geldings. I put over 800 points on him over the span of three years.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about his show record?
A: Molly Jacobs won the all-around youth in the nation with Q in 2010. It was cool to have a horse that went on to do that. Three of the girls who have had him have all received college scholarships, he was all of our last youth horses.
Q: Which was your favorite class to show as a team?
A: Probably the trail. That was the first class Q got good at; it helped keep him focused. The trail was also the first class we placed in at the youth world together. He was a very tough horse to get broke, but he liked that class.
Q: How did he help shape you into the rider you are now?
A: Q pretty much did it all. He had so much quirkiness to him and so much try at the same time. But if you were not with him the whole time, you were going to be left in the dust. He taught me all the finer points of my horsemanship and how to use more tools than just your hands and your feet. I had to learn the ins and outs of every single maneuver. He made me tough, he made me smart and he made me soft.
Q: How old is Q now? How long has he been showing?
A: He’s 18 now. We started showing him when he was four. I bought him as a three-year-old in December of 2003. I was the first youth kid to show him. We made each other.
Q: What is his personality like?
A: Very quirky. But with all the quirks, if you made everything very specific, Q would understand it. You had to be very tuned in to him. You had to dedicate the time to figure him out, or else he was going to leave you.
Q: What do you think has “kept him going” in the show pen?
A: It is Q’s inner grit and inner heart that has kept him going this long. He has a huge heart and is always willing to try. I believe the family who owns him now takes excellent care of him. I am so blessed that someone has him that cares that much for him and can provide what he needs.
Q: What are his plans for this Congress?
A: This Congress he will be in the 11 & Under events with Karrington Hall. I have been helping her with the showmanship a lot, and it has been an enjoyable experience.
Q: What are your personal future goals in the equine industry?
A: Using all the stuff that Radical McCue taught me. I recently relocated to Joplin, Missouri and have had my own business, Gaux Pro Performance Horses, for the past four years. I would like to continue to make quality horses that can go on and have the longevity in the industry like Radical McCue. I would also like to coach youth and amateur exhibitors to meet their goals.
Report #3: Vanessa Froman
If you show horses at all, you have heard about the All American Quarter Horse Congress and some of the amenities that have made it into one of the greatest shows on earth. While I have been coming as a spectator and admirer since I was a little girl, this is my first year ever exhibiting here. It’s also my son, Collin’s first time attending/exhibiting. It has changed how the show looks and feels for me, so I interviewed several of my barn mates who are also making their first time Congress experience.
Our trainer, Jenell Pogue has almost every age group represented in newbies this year. Ava Hathaway and Collin Froman are making their 11 & Under debut, Cassidy Fritz in 12-14, myself in Amateur and Joan Frame in Select Amateur. I asked each of them some questions today…after we watched the Two-Year-Old Western Pleasure Stakes and the Maturity Hunter Under Saddle of course.
Ava (pictured right on the left) – 5:00 am horsemanship practice in the show arena. I was not expecting that.
Cassidy (pictured right on the right) – How nice people have been with me while steering and trying to get through all the practice traffic.
Collin – The lounge area at our stalls with a TV in it.
Joan – The amount of traffic in the practice pens.
Are you nervous or excited?
Ava – A little bit of both. I’m most looking forward to doing showmanship with my horse, Cruiser.
Cassidy – Both…I’m nervous about my left diagonal in my equitation pattern, but I’m excited about showing my hunt seat horse, Whitney.
Collin – Very excited! This is my new favorite show.
Joan – Just nervous but nothing a little bit of wine won’t help.
Ava – It is huge and fun with lots of things to do. Tons of shopping and classes to always watch.
Cassidy ~ It’s the biggest horse show of the year with the best horses, and they are the most extreme athletes.
Collin – There are golf carts everywhere.
Joan – Tiring, exciting and the Las Vegas of the horse show world.
What’s your favorite part of Congress?
Ava – Showing and just spending time with the horses.
Cassidy – My teammates in the barn. They make showing fun and I get to spend a lot of time with them.
Collin (pictured right with his mother, Vanessa) – Relaxing on the couches in the lounge area at our stalls.
Joan – I love the excitement in the air and how everything you need is all here. I can shop, eat and ride my horse all in one spot, and when my daughter saddles and longes my horse for me, our roles have flipped.
The Ohio Quarter Horse Association has thought of everything here. I know how hard it is to run a weekend show, the Congress takes an entire army to run with such precision.
As a mother of an exhibitor, the amenity I am most impressed by is that the Ohio Quarter Horse Foundation offers the “Congress Classroom” for the kids here to keep up on their school work while away. Since I came straight here from a Paint show, I love the dry cleaning service here too.
There is something for everyone here at the All American Quarter Horse Congress. Whether it’s your first time showing here or your 52nd, the Congress fills you with an excitement and energy that draws you in and makes you dream bigger.
Report #2: Whitney Vicars
The Small Fry competition is a wrap for Congress 2018, but before these cute little ones are heading back home for school, I was able to catch up with one very special Small Fry exhibitor, Trinity Bell, the 8-year-old daughter of Don and Joetta Bell from Weatherford, Texas.
While her parents are no strangers here at the Congress, holding multiple Championship titles themselves, this was Trinity’s first trip to the All American Quarter Horse Congress.
When I asked her what she thought of her first Congress, she quickly responded with a big grin on her face, “I loved it!”
Trinity was able to show her three horses: Im Invited Too, A Certain Faith and Dee Chocolate Star in the small fry all around events. With the help of her parents and coach Cindy Walquist, she was named Reserve Congress Champion in Small Fry Trail with Im Invited Too, third place Small Fry Horsemanship with A Certain Faith, seventh place Small Fry Western Pleasure with Dee Chocolate Star and two Finalists finishes in Small Fry Hunter Under Saddle and Equitation with Im Invited Too. I think we can all agree that these are quite the accomplishments for a little girl’s first trip to the Congress.
However, what most of you may not know and why I find Trinity’s story so intriguing is she can do all of this with some pretty significant health issues. On January 1, 2018, Trinity was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease, which is total gluten intolerance.
This diagnosis came as quite a shock to the Bell family and has changed the way they now live their daily lives. Joetta shared with me that once they were able to finish all testing and get Trinity started on a regular medical regimen, it became essential to find something Trinity loved doing to keep her from getting too focused on her health struggles and keep her active.
Joetta said that often children with Type 1 diabetes become depressed and sit a lot because of the limitations not feeling well brings. The Bell’s didn’t want that to happen with Trinity.
They see the opportunity with the horses as something to keep Trinity moving (since exercise is perfect for her conditions) and a chance to learn about goal setting and working for those goals.
Before this year, Trinity had never shown before, only rode some of her Dad’s older cutting horses at home for fun. While they saw some clear benefits and learning experiences possible through horses, Don said he wanted to be very careful not to push horses on their kids.
While it is a passion he and Joetta share, they wanted horses to be of Trinity’s choosing, not their own. From starting at the Dixie Nationals this year with one horse to showing three horses at the Congress with a Reserve Championship, Top 5 and Top 10 placings, I think it’s safe to say she’s hooked.
Trinity told me she likes showing because it’s so fun and helps to keep her glucose levels steady and because she loves animals. Because of her health issues, Trinity has a few more things to worry about at shows besides just showing. Joetta is always sure to have some quick snacks on hand that she knows will help if her glucose levels get off track. Those snacks include Skittles, M&Ms and Quest cookies, things she knows are gluten-free.
Joetta always brings their food to shows to ensure Trinity’s meals are gluten-free. Trinity also wears a device on her arm called a Dexcom monitor that checks her glucose levels every five minutes and then sends that data to their cell phones programmed to track the readings. The information is sent to Trinity’s phone which she has with her at all times, plus Joetta and Don’s phones so they can monitor her levels and administer insulin shots when needed.
The phones also have an alarm that goes off if her levels get too low or too high. This is very important because if Trinity experiences a low, she has a risk of losing consciousness. Joetta says she watches the Dexcom readings very closely while Trinity does showmanship or equitation since these two events are a little more physically taxing than the others.
Besides helping to take her mind off of her health problems and helping her have a sense of normalcy, the horses have proven to be quite therapeutic for Trinity as well. When she is riding and showing, her glucose levels actually stay the most normal and within range. Trinity tells me that because of this, she always feels the best when riding and showing versus sitting in school.
Don shared with me that it is a daily challenge to know how much to push and encourage her, or when to back off and let her figure it out on her own. He also adds that showing horses teaches kids responsibility and goal setting strategies and how to overcome failure and adversity.
They want her to learn to have the confidence to take control so that the diseases do not control her. I asked Joetta what advice she had for parents dealing with a sick child. Her response was, to listen to your child, they will tell you what they can and can’t handle. There will be ups and downs and if they need to rest that day or back off a little, that has to be okay too. Take it one day at a time.
Trinity is indeed a resilient young lady that has a love for this sport. Someone we can all look to for encouragement to push through on the hard days to overcome our obstacles.
I’d also like to give a birthday shout out to my Dad, Bruce Walquist. We’re very blessed to get to spend it together at a horse show doing what we love. What could be better?
View a slideshow of more pictures of Trinity’s first Congress experience. Photos © Shane Rux
Report #1: Kip Riley
While the sleek hunters were gracefully careening over fences in the Celeste arena, a competition of a much “smaller” sort was taking place in the Coliseum and Cooper arenas. Day two of the small fry competition continued on this typical, chilly, fall Ohio Sunday. Though they may be small in stature, these fierce little competitors gave it their all trying to win that coveted Congress bronze. I had the opportunity to catch up with three small fry equestrians and experience the Congress through their young eyes.
First up is feisty little Allie Rippeon from Mount Airy, Maryland. This is the second Congress for this nine-year-old fourth grader who self-proclaims she is a “character” with a lot of sass! She is a true all-arounder competing in showmanship, horsemanship, trail, equitation, hunter under saddle and pleasure. Her favorite event is equitation because she likes the “speed.”
Allie gets bright-eyed when asked about her equine partner, Impulsive Ben…aka, Ben. She fondly describes him as sweet and kind and he loves Pop Tarts and the occasional Mountain Dew.
This little show woman claims her mother, Deanna, is her biggest fan. Deanna coined the #smallfrynation last year when both of her daughters were competing in the small fry events. “It became a ‘thing’ at the shows and just stuck,” said Deanna. Allie also gives her trainer, Colton LaSusa lots of credit for her success. ”He makes it very easy to understand and always helps me strive to be better.” The Congress is her favorite show even though she had to get up at 2 am to practice. Allie had a very impressive weekend. On Saturday, she was sixth in showmanship and third in the NSBA. This morning she had two entries in trail…Ben and Sweet Talking Mo. She piloted Ben to a 15th place finish and 13th in the NSBA.
When not on horseback, Allie loves to play soccer and freestyle dance. This creative little dynamo has a flair for the arts and hopes to become a photographer.
Ten-year-old Addyson Chafin is no stranger to the show pen. You could say she was born into the business. Her parents Heather Graft and Jim Chafin own Chafin Performance Horses of Jackson Center, Pennsylvania. This is Addyson’s second Congress and she showed two horses this weekend. So Hot Im Krymsun…aka, Sara was her horsemanship entry. The pair placed 11th and 10th. Today, she had a nearly flawless 4th place finish in western pleasure with VS Security Code…aka, Frankie.
This soft-spoken young lady demands attention with her lexicon of the horse business. When asked to describe Sara, “She is quiet and laid back. She knows her job.” Frankie, on the other hand, is “quirky and likes to stick out his tongue. I have to engage my legs with him to keep a really slow pace.”
Guess what Mom and Dad, your daughter has been paying attention. When asked which horse is her favorite, “I don’t have a favorite. I like them both in different ways.” Congress is Addyson’s favorite show of the year. “I love all of the excitement and you can feel the adrenaline.”
This fourth grader’s favorite subjects in school are science and reading. She is an avid writer who keeps a journal and loves to write stories. She also plays basketball and had to miss a game on Saturday to be here at the Congress.
Elden Fredenburg is one mighty little man. This 9-year-old from Straughn, Indiana, brought the Cooper arena to uproarious applause this morning in the small fry trail pen when he scored an impressive 231 with his gray mare, MWS Flashed N Chock… aka, Sweet Pea. The score won the pair Congress and NSBA champion. What’s even more impressive, Elden had three entries in the trail. Yes, you read that correctly, three entries…a feat that not even most professionals attempt. He also piloted Ima Tuff Barpasser to a fourth-place finish and Sudenlysophisticated to clinch the top ten with a seventh place go. When asked who his favorite horse is, he affectionately said, “Sweet Pea, because I get to keep her at home. She is never grumpy.”
This all-around contender is a seasoned veteran when it comes to showing at the Congress. This is his third time. When asked what he likes most about this show, he immediately responds to the competition and “the hot walker…because I don’t have to longe.” We both got a chuckle out of that response. He is under the tutelage of Tommy Sheets, who Elden says is a really good coach.
This year’s Congress did not come without its share of hardship for Elden. The stoic fourth grader, who also loves football, had to miss his team’s first playoff game on Saturday. I never found out if they won or not, but Elden hopes they did so he could play next weekend in hopes of winning a title of different sorts. This young man likes math and hopes to become a sports doctor some day.
The saying goes that the youth of the world are our only hope for the future. Well, I can certainly tell you this…our future is just fine if the young people of the world are anything like Allie, Addyson and Elden. I had a fantastic time getting to know these impressive young people and hope to see them in the show pen for years to come.