"However you look at the challenge of a long run horse show, make sure to applaud yourself for the dedication it took to even get there in the first place," says Nicole Barnes. Photo © The American Quarter Horse Journal

Maintaining Momentum: How Did You Win a Congress and World Championship in the Same Year?

People who don’t show horses think we are crazy, and during Congress and World Show time, they may not be too far off. This “grind time” doesn’t last just a weekend, it encompasses months of intense preparation and competition through the AQHYA World Show, NSBA World Show, All American Quarter Horse Congress, Adequan Select World Show, and the AQHA World Show. As exciting as this time of year is, there is a science to keeping horses and riders performing at the top of their game for so many months. The ones who do truly shine and often bring home the titles and trophies as proof.

As exciting as this time of year is, there is a science to keeping horses and riders performing at the top of their game for so many months. The ones that do truly shine. We spoke to Ted Turner who has won the most AQHA World Championships in history. We also asked youth and amateur exhibitors who won both the Congress and World Show in the same year how they were able to maintain their momentum from show to show.

Rebekah-Kazakevicius_Not-Just-Anyhoo_2015Congress©NSBARebekah Kazakevicius and Not Just Anyhoo  – In 2015,Horton” and I won the Congress and the AQHA World in the Amateur Hunter Under Saddle. This year, we just won the Congress again in the Amateur Hunter Under Saddle and we are looking to hopefully repeat in the same class at the AQHA World Show. I think we have been able to maintain our momentum, and we have done well at both shows because Beth and I ride him exactly the sameNotJustAnyhoo_Grazing_©BethCase as if he was at home, so staying consistent is key.

I would say the most important thing, is to keep your horse happy. (Horton, pictured right, turned out between the Congress and World Show this year). They are the reason we are here, so they should be your top priority. Also, don’t try anything new. Obviously, things come up that need to be addressed, so take it in stride. We do this because of our passion for horses, so remember to have fun!

DreamBigDreams2015CongressChampion_CoonMimsi Coon and Dream Big Dreams –  Last year was an example of this scenario for us. In September, I won the AQHA Select World in the Three-Year-Old Mares with Dream Big Dreams and then won the Congress Limited Three-Year-Old Mares with her a month later. My trainer, Ted Turner, pays attention to every detail. He notices if there are changes in eating, movement, hair coat and general demeanor. If anything changes, even slightly, he’s aware and takes appropriate actions. His attention to detail ensures that the horses stay consistent through these big shows.

Ted Turner, Jr. – Even though halter horses are not ridden, they still have a certain physical regimen that requires attention and careful consideration. The main thing to remember is to stay consistent. Don’t change your horse’s routine. It’s very similar to people. We also have horses as young as weanlings to prepare, travel, and show with. Age becomes an important factor as well. Don’t abuse your horse in terms of overdoing things. Keeping their schedule the same is important and you need to maintain consistency. 

2006ZipposAceofSpades_NicoleBarnes Nicole Barnes and Zippos Ace of Spades – I have done well with several horses recently but my once-in-a-lifetime horse was Zippos Ace of Spades. We won the 2005 AQHYA World and Congress in the showmanship and in 2006, we won the AQHA World and Congress in the Amateur Horsemanship.

When I look at how I have I been able to maintain my horse and myself in mental and physical shape for long periods of time to show at a high level, preparation is definitely key. The physical stamina comes through various rides, practicing patterns and challenging oneself with new or hard elements. Not only do I work on physical stamina with my horse but I also make sure to do so without him as well. Whether it be adding an extra workout throughout the week, including a few extra minutes to a run or trying new yoga moves, I am doing so with the intention of improving myself for the upcoming long run shows.

zipposaceofspaces2008worldshownicolebarnes_cropAmping up one’s mental game is equally as challenging and something that is harder to do in the short term as compared to increasing physical stamina. The confidence that one needs to exude for a top level performance can only come with a strong work ethic and the ability to make mistakes. If not for such mistakes, we will not be able to expand ourselves to grow and become comfortable with one’s horse and patterns.

However you look at the challenge of a long run horse show, make sure to applaud yourself for the dedication it took to even get there in the first place. Remember all great sports teams weren’t built overnight, but rather with putting all pieces of the puzzle together. And no matter how slowly it took to build it, the journey there makes us all stronger!

 Klay McDowall and Certainly A Blaze

mcdowall_Klay_2014In 2014, I won the AQHYA World and Congress in the horsemanship. For the youth exhibitors who attend both the youth world in August, and the Congress in October, it is a long time to keep you and your horse at the top of your game. Usually before the youth world, I ride every day, and then a few times a day once we arrive in Oklahoma.

One thing that I have found to be helpful in maintaining out health in the long stretch of showing is taking a break immediately following the world show. This is aided by the fact that I don’t usually attend the NSBA World Show, but nevertheless, I think it is very important to take a few weeks off in between summer shows and the Congress. This will give you and your horse both a mental and physical break. Once we start getting closer to the Congress, I usually cannot ride every day because I am in school.

During this time, I think it is important to trust all the work you’ve done before the world show, and your trainer to keep your horse in shape and ready to go. Most importantly, you have to not worry too much about how you will do at these big shows, especially when they are one after another. Just focus on doing your best and knowing there will be another horse show!

Sydney Scheckel and A Perfect Pleasure

Sydney Scheckel In 2015, “Pip” and I won the showmanship at the AQHYA World Show and Congress. It is certainly a challenge to win at both shows in the same year. Your horse is your partner, so you two better like each other and most importantly have respect for each other. It takes so much hard work to win. You have to be prepared, and practice like you show. Always know that it is just a horse show, win or lose, your parents will still love you.

Sydney Scheckel and A Perfect Pleasure World Champion showmanship As my teachers tell me about keeping Straight A’s, don’t strive for the A, strive for understanding. In horse showing, strive for perfection and knowing that you love your horse, and it loves you. Winning is great, but don’t make it your only objective. Live and learn while you’re showing horses.

Bottom line – always know that hard work does pay off, and that being a good person will get you far in life. The toughest part was just keeping my mind true, and not second guessing myself. It was so special to me because I love Pip so much. She is my once-in-a-lifetime horse. We worked so hard together for so long. I’ve shown her since 2010 (11 & Under years). I knew that my horse and I were totally capable of achieving these honors, and we went for them together.

Jenna Jacobs and Doodle Jump

In 2015, “Doodle” and I won the hunter under saddle at both the AQHYA World Show and the Congress. For me, it starts way before the show itself does. We only get one shot in our class, so it has to be our best shot. I mentally picture trotting in the pen, and riding my class to the best of my ability. By the time I am actually in the show pen, I’ve already mentally been there multiple times and I know exactly what I need to do.

Jenna jacobsI think good horse showing is all about balance. With that said, I ride a lot more during the Congress/World Show season, but I also spoil him a lot more, too. At the end of the day, our teammates are just horses and they need to have “down time” too. I always keep a huge bag of baby organic carrots in the fridge (Doodle won’t eat them if they’re warm), I constantly wash his legs, and even take him for a stroll around the fairgrounds. He loves the sights and sounds. I think it’s a good “refresh” button amidst all the extra practicing.

It’s also equally important for us as the riders to press refresh, too. It’s very easy to get caught up in the Congress craziness, so I’ll make it a point to get an extra hour of sleep when I can, or just take a short lunch break just to regroup. I also don’t think anyone should take a single moment for granted. Everyone at the Congress and World is so blessed to be able to compete at such prestigious shows. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed at the Congress or World Show, you should thank God, and count your blessings because you are so lucky to be able to participate in these two amazing horse shows.

Even though many of these exhibitors compete in various events, their themes are similar. It comes down to understanding the needs of your horse, their physical ability, and your own. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and during long stretches of high profile horse shows, it’s critical to know how to address each.

Take the advice of these champions; give you and your horse a breather every now and again. Stick to routine. Pay attention to what your horse is telling you. Enjoy the horse show. And, of course, appreciate the wonder of the American Quarter Horse.

Photos © Jeff Kirkbride, NSBA, Shane Rux, K.C. Montgomery