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Past Exhibitors Share Lessons Learned from the Level 1 Championships

Life’s experiences have given us most of the lessons that we have learned in life. These things shape us, make us who we are, and typically, define us.

Sometimes, lessons learned and experiences showing horses have taught us more than we could ever learn in a classroom. Lessons can always be either good or bad, but there is still something to take away from each experience. We also make memories in these moments that we get to share for many years to come.

With the rescheduled Level 1 West Championship Show right around the corner, we asked past exhibitors about the experiences they have had showing at this show.  Although the overall consensus is to just have fun, several other tips mentioned are sure to help first-time exhibitors take the big stage.

Leah Burgess (pictured above) –The most important lesson, in my opinion, would be to make sure you don’t over practice. Another valuable lesson I learned is to not take these experiences with your horse for granted. While competing at the Big A in Conyers, Georgia, my beloved Simon (Good Weekend) got sick unexpectedly. Simon proved himself to be a tough horse with a huge heart, and he improved for three months. Suddenly, his health declined, which led us to end his treatment and put an end to his pain and suffering. Looking back at the three years I had on his back, I would give anything to go back and relive the amazing moments we shared.

Colton Shelton – The biggest lesson I have learned by attending the Level 1 Championships is the level of preparation. Although it is a show offered to only Level 1 and Rookie competitors, you must still prepare as if it were your Congress or World show. Take advantage of the pattern book being posted a few weeks early and pay attention to every element of each pattern. Take the time to attend each of the Ride the Pattern clinics that are offered, but most of all, have fun and enjoy the experience.

Christina Sakalas
– Never give up. Hard work pays off. Don’t let the fact that you’re at the Level 1 Championships get to your head; it’s just another horse show. Never forget to be thankful and appreciative for all the people who have helped you get there because without them, you wouldn’t have been able to do it. Of course, win or lose, don’t forget to give your horse cookies. They’re the ones who help make your dreams come true.

Diana Ginitz
– When the opportunity to attend the 2017 Level 1 Championships came up, as a Select rider, I was hesitant. I had only been showing AQHA again for about three years after an almost 30-year hiatus. Don’t put off opportunities when you have them. Plan your time for the show carefully. Allow yourself and your horse enough time to settle in, get the layout of the show grounds, and of course, get enough rest. Attend the Ride the Pattern sessions, and most of all, stay focused on your goals and allow any negativity around you to roll-off.

Jason Weber – Remember that someone is looking up to you. It is the Level 1 show, and a lot of exhibitors are still learning, so keep in mind that someone is probably watching you. Things will go wrong. That’s the nature of any show, but it seems magnified at shows like this. Have a big goal, but also have some small ones along the way. I had a goal to make the finals, but then I was the only guy in both the showmanship and horsemanship finals, so that was a goal I didn’t even know I had. Go to the Ride the Patterns, get free food, and anything else that’s going on. Lastly, have fun.

Heidi Kling-Padelsky – Try your best, and if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Try your best and enjoy the show. Don’t let your mistakes define you; learn from them and grow from them. Most importantly, have fun.

Faith Candelora
– I learned how to control my nerves and emotions more in the show ring. I listen to the music that is playing in the arena to calm myself down. Don’t focus on what other people are doing; focus on what you need to do. I also learned that no matter how hard I try, nothing I do will ever turn out perfectly.

Jan Chase
– Embrace the positivity. The competitors and show staff are very friendly and helpful. You’re in a potentially new environment, so try and enjoy that experience. Be appreciative of the awesome prizes and gifts. Also, make sure to attend the Ride the Pattern clinics, even if it’s for a class you’re not showing. You can learn a lot.



About the author: Sutherlyn Hollabaugh is currently a junior at Clarion University of Pennsylvania where she is majoring in Speech Pathology and minoring in Special Education. Sutherlyn has been showing most of her life, with most of her career being spent showing AQHA.