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We Ask the Industry: Who Inspires You to Reach for Horse Show Greatness?

Throughout our lives in the horse industry, we often find individuals we can look up to and learn from. These people exemplify the qualities we admire and practice them day in and day out. Something about their personality draws you to them, whether it is their work ethic, positive attitude, or drive to be a better horse person. It may be a single person, or it may be many, but one thing is for sure, these people help make us the horsemen and horsewomen that we are today.

GoHorseshow asked top exhibitors and trainers, who in the horse industry inspires them to try to make it to the top and why.

Melissa Jones – Honestly, my family and friends back home in Australia inspire me the most. Knowing that I left everything behind to pursue a horse career is pretty motivating. I am also inspired every time I go to a show; everyone works so hard and puts their heart and soul into these horses. You don’t have to look hard to be inspired by this industry.




Jay Starnes – First, my dad would have to be one of the most influential people who inspires me. He gave me a passion for this industry and has always pushed me to be the best and see the best in every horse, no matter how much talent they had. Second, the other person who inspires me is my wife, Kristy. She takes on so many jobs at the farm, from horse trainer to mother to bookkeeper and finally, a judge. That onto itself is enough to inspire someone to get to the top.



Natalia DeVencenty – A rider who inspires me daily is Kelly McDowall. No matter what kind of horse he’s working with, he always finds what makes each one tick. Instead of trying to make them conform to him, he works on their strengths. He still shows integrity and perseverance in all situations, whether it’s inside or outside the arena. I admire that.


Brad Jewett – For me, it’s never been about just one person. I have always had clients who believe in me and that alone has continually inspired me. I was taught to do a job worthy of what you’re able to accomplish and what people are paying you to do. I am a man of faith and believe God gave me the ability to communicate with both people and horses. How well I do directly coincides with how well I do those two things at the highest level. It inspires me to have a rider at any level in my program who tries very hard. I’m driven most by the purity of our sport, by those who genuinely are vested in more than just the win, but the entire experience.

Sarah Lebsock – Being one of the younger amateurs, there are so many people I look up to. However, the two people I always find myself in awe of are Michelle Forness and Sunni Duke. When you watch them ride, they’re still working to be better, even though they are, in my opinion, the best at the horsemanship and equitation respectively. Whether you’re watching the show or watching them practice, you’ll understand why they win at major shows. But beyond that, they are always trying to improve and are two of the most helpful people on the show grounds. I look at those two women, as well as so many others in the amateur show pen and think, “That’s what it takes, that’s what it’s about.” If you want to be the best, you have to earn it.

Sidney Dunham – The person who inspires me most is Jennifer Paul because she loves and appreciates showing Trail just as much as I do. She knows exactly how to explain everything to me and makes it very easy to understand. In the year and a half that she has coached me, she’s taught me how to make my Trail patterns have a rhythm that I’ve never had previously.





Kaylee Mellott – This is a hard question because I’ve been so lucky to grow up watching and competing against so many greats. First off, I grew up learning from my dad, Jeff Mellott, who in my opinion, is the best of the best. He has pushed and encouraged me since the beginning and without him, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish everything that I have. Carey Nowacek, Johnna Letchworth, Whitney Walquist Vicars, Gillian Chant, and Peyton Bivins are just a few of the amazing show women I’ve looked up to and watched in the show pen. They all have impressive and unique qualities in life and as horsewomen. However, the one rider who I would say has inspired me to reach the top would be Mary Brown. I was fortunate enough to have her as my big sister on the equestrian team at Baylor University my freshman year. Believe me when I say, this girl can ride absolutely anything with such confidence and grace, as if she’s owned the horse her whole life. Not only was she an incredible showman, she was also an incredible teammate. She helped and encouraged me even after she graduated. Having a whole year of competing by her side was something I’ll forever be thankful for. I not only learned from one of the best, but I’ve also gained a friend for life.

Becky George – I have so many people who I look up to in the industry as a whole, but in Trail, which is my main event, it would be Jason Gilliam. He is truly a master of our class. The intensity he has when he is prepping his horses is like none other. Watching him ride makes me want to dig deeper and keep striving for perfection.




Cathrin Gutmann – I would say there are a few people who have qualities that I admire: Nancy Sue Ryan, Allison Clark, Michael Colvin, Amanda Ringer, Rusty and Katie Green, and Jay and Kristy Starnes. Nancy Sue Ryan has knowledge unlike anyone else when it comes to breeding the best quality horses. Allison Clark McDonald has taught me so much about really feeling a horse and getting to know them. Michael Colvin has been an incredible teacher to me and is one of the people who has allowed me to learn and grow as a rider. Amanda Ringer always does an incredible job with my horses and is truly one of the best people I know. Both Rusty and Katie Green, as well as Jay and Kristy Starnes, have taught me an immense amount when it comes to Western Pleasure. Currently, I’m very excited to begin working with Beth Case who is an incredible rider that I have respected for a long time.

Courtney Archer – When I ask myself that question, countless amazing people in the horse industry come to my mind for multiple reasons. But, the two people who stand out the most to me are Charlie Cole and Jason Martin. I’ve been riding with them since I was 14 years old and they took a crazy horse kid and turned her into a real competitor, inside and out of the show arena. From day one, I’ve watched and admired Charlie and Jason work hard every day to make Highpoint Performance Horses what it is now. Along my horse journey, they have taught me patience, determination, and most importantly, to believe in myself.

Megan Hawkins – I have had many great people inspire me through the years, so I’m not sure I will ever be able to pick one single person. However, I have to say that all of the trainers in the industry who work hard every day, making it about the horse and rider, are people I genuinely respect. The Amateur and Youth exhibitors who are giving it their all, whether they are losing or winning at that moment, because one day they will be. The real hard work and sportsmanship it takes to be in this sport, those are the types of qualities in people that inspire me to be better every day.

Bailey Anderson – First and foremost, the rider who inspires me the most is my trainer, Terry Cross. I have ridden with him for 16 years now, and he has never given up on me. He has always pushed me to work hard and taught me how to train my horses. I much admire his patience and horse training skills. The second rider who inspires me would have to be Angela Fox. I have known her my entire life and have always loved her passion. She does so much of the work herself and will always have horses in her life, and I plan to do the same.

About the Author – Sabrina Janis is a devoted Amateur competitor from Groton, Massachusetts, and has been showing Quarter Horses for over ten years. Under the guidance of Jennifer and Judd Paul of IronGate Quarter Horses, she shows her four geldings: Cruize, Ever So Sudden, Blazin OnThe Horizon, and Ima Money Magnet in the Western All-Around Events. Currently, she is a Sophomore at the University of Tennessee at Martin, majoring in Veterinary Technology. In addition to showing horses, she is an active member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and helps to volunteer her time on campus.