We Ask the Industry: What was Your First World Show Experience?
Holiday music is playing at Starbucks, it’s time to get out your favorite cozy sweaters and, as hard as it is to bid summer farewell, ushering in November means that the time has come for the AQHA World Show.
A year of goal-setting, hard work and preparation culminates in the industry’s best going head-to-head in the attempt to be crowned World Champion.
As the industry collectively waits for this year’s round of thrilling performances to start, we bring you exhibitors’ memories of their very first time showing at the AQHA World Show.
What’s clear from our exhibitors’ reflections is that competing at the World Show will be unforgettable, no matter the result.
Read on for a glimpse into the emotions and experiences that define these exhibitors’ first-ever AQHA World Show.
Julian Harris – My first World Show was in 2015 and I just showed in the Senior Hunter Under Saddle. Before that, I’d had a lot of success in preparing horses for others to compete with, but this was the first time I showed one. Of course, I was the first one to trot in and I had some nerves. The timing of it all is rapid, and if I’m not late, I’m way too early. I didn’t gauge it well, so I was walking up to the check-in area, and they’re all screaming my name at the chute. I didn’t make the finals, but later that week I ended up fourth in the Level 2 Senior Hunter Under Saddle. What I would suggest for anyone who is going to a show like the World Show for the first time is to go on a dry run. Allow yourself to watch what goes on in the warm-up pen before your class would start, see what you need to do to prepare adequately. Every year is different, but if you can do that, it helps you get the nerves out. The World Show is something that you prepare all year long for. You hope and pray that you have good rides, and it all boils down to that it is just another horse show: buckle down, make sure you’re ready and give it hell. You’ve worked hard getting qualified and you owe it to yourself and your horse to stay calm and give it your best shot.
Ashley Dunbar-Clock – My first World Show was in 2007. I was 19 and it was my last youth year. I had multiple horses qualified in the Jr and Sr Trail. It was a memorable year as I had just started in the quarter horse circuit, and my first year to the World Show, I won the Jr and the Sr Trail. It was time that I’ll never forget. After that year, I wanted to come back every year. It was a goal to try to get at least one horse to the finals every year I arrived. Of course, that wasn’t always the case, but it gave me something to work towards year-after-year. I have been back to the World Show every year since. I love the World Show as it’s what you work towards all year long. Some years it works out great and some years not so much, but there’s always another year to try again.
Alyse Roberts: My first World Show was as an open exhibitor, and that was in 2010. I had been before as an assistant but never showed, and I never went as a youth exhibitor. I had an excellent go in the prelims and then, in the finals, I remember being so fortunate and proud to be standing in that line up with all the other exhibitors I have always looked up to. I ended up eleventh on a mare that I had rehabbed back from an injury before me getting her. I was so proud of that mare. That experience also gave me the drive and determination to continue to push and work hard to come back and do better the next year and the year after. It was a memorable first World Show for me.
Meghan Tierney: My first World Show was in 2016, and I competed in the Amateur Hunter Under Saddle. My mare, Pretty Assets won the Jr Hunter Under Saddle and I was the Reserve World Champion in the Amateur Hunter Under Saddle. Of course, getting two globes in one show on a three-year-old is my obvious highlight. I never will forget Courtney Brockmueller telling me, in regards to her winning and me being a reserve; ‘It’s no coincidence you and I were the only ones riding and working on our horses at 3 am, and we’re the only two left standing in this pen now.’ I’m not sure if she even remembers telling me that, but it will be forever ingrained in my memory as one of the most significant statements ever said to me. My first World Show also taught me one great lesson: there will always be someone more talented, and there will always be horses with better qualities. The only thing you have control over is how hard you’re willing to work. It taught me to put every inch of effort I can into each time I show. That way, when I walk out of the show pen, good or bad ride, I can’t ever tell myself ‘I wish I had done this or that.’ Like Lauren Louw has told me a thousand times, ‘If you work as hard as humanly possible, there can be no regrets to be had whether you win or lose that day.’
Jenna Dempze – The first World Show that I competed in myself was in 2008. I showed Sure Am Hot in Amateur Western Pleasure. I have competed at the World Show just about every year since then. My first year competing was memorable because I finished fourth. I was very proud and excited to have done so well my first year showing there, and I was on a three-year-old. The most notable feeling was how awesome it is to trot down the chute and down the center of the pen. You don’t get that feeling anywhere else. It was an honor to be in the arena with the very best horses in the world and the show has an atmosphere unlike any other show. I think that showing there gave me a greater appreciation for the high level of competition. Winning an AQHA World Championship is not easy and after showing there, you will understand why it is still the most prestigious award and title you can earn. At some point, getting a gold globe is still on the top of my list of goals and dreams.
Betsy Juette – My first AQHA World Show was the only one I’ve ever been to. It was last year when I showed Huntified and I had a wonderful time. We were successful in our respective events, Amateur Hunter Under Saddle and Equitation, in both Level 2 and 3. World shows are very inspiring as they bring a very high level of competition into a concentrated event space. It encouraged me to work harder than I ever have previously and appreciate my trainers more than ever for all of the hard work they put in to make us successful. I left inspired and determined to work hard and I have never competed on less sleep.
Dasi Jablonowski – Three words for my first World Show: unbelievable (that I am showing there), grateful (for the opportunity), finalist (I remember I was so happy when they called my number). I have competed at two World Shows so far. I am from Europe and for me, showing at the World Show has always been a dream. I never thought it might become a reality. I’m just super thankful to everyone at Highpoint that the gave me the chance to live my dream.
Amy Groefsema – I have attended the World Show for the past three years to cheer on my friends and barn mates. This will be the first year that I will compete in classes and I couldn’t be more excited. My horse, Hank and I have had a fabulous year together. We have become a team and earned multiple all-around awards. I have enjoyed the qualifying process: traveling to new shows and meeting new people. Looking forward to this year’s World Show, I’m excited to cheer on new and old friends, my barn mates, watch some fantastic riders and do the best that Hank and I can do. As always, I’m thankful for the opportunity.
We asked exhibitors about their first AQHA World Show experiences, tell us about yours in the comments.
About the Author
A native Michigander, Rachel Kooiker is a lover of horses who loves to write. She competes in all-around Amateur events with her APHA gelding, Hoos Real. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Curriculum & Instruction. She and her husband Drew operate Kooiker Show Horses, where they stand APHA World Champion Im the Secret.