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We Ask The Industry – What was Your “Aha” Moment When Showing Horses?

Anyone who shows horses can agree that a competitor’s journey is filled with memorable moments, both in and out of the show pen. These “aha” moments come in various forms, but often teach us valuable lessons, keep us humble, and serve as a reminder of why all the hard work and sacrifice is worth it in the end. So what is your “aha” moment in the show pen? We’d love to know your thoughts. Let’s find out what some of the others in the industry had to say.

Keith Miller – My “aha” moment was the realization that you don’t have to be perfect to win. It would be best if you were just better than the rest of the class.




Emily Ambrose – My “aha” moment realized that showmanship is fair game for any horse, as long as the showman and horse have an authentic connection. My big, dorky hunt seater, Ralph and little ranch pony, Doc were two horses none of us expected to excel in showmanship, yet it was predominantly our strongest class together. Like Jojo Roberson and Matthew Siefker, many others have also proven that a person does not need the typical (and often costly) all-around horse that generally fits that class.

Beckie Peskin – I would say my first “aha” moment was many years ago when I showed 4-H.  I was in the equitation, and it was way before that class had a pattern required. The judges went down the line and gave verbal instructions to each rider. I could hear the instructions a couple of riders away, and I realized they were all doing it wrong. It was one of those moments where you have to decide to either follow the flock or take a chance to go the other way. I went the other way. And I was right. That was when I realized that even though I was never likely to have the best horse in any class, if I was smart and followed my instincts, I had a chance. The funniest part of the story – no one else followed me. Even those after me went the wrong way.

Ali Hubbell – My “aha” moment was honestly one of the first AQHA shows I ever competed at. I was at a show in Harlansburg, PA, and I went in the Amateur Equitation. I remember there were over 30 in the class, and we had to drop our irons. I watched about ten others go ahead of me, and my jaw dropped. Everyone else was good – like really good. It was then that I appreciated the talent and hard work that the amateurs in the AQHA circuit put into their rides/horses. I still firmly believe that we have some of the toughest competition out there.

Lindsey Stevenson – I can’t remember the year. Still, it was a pretty big “aha” moment completing my Supreme Performance Champion with He Is My Choice, aka Ebert. I had to get my superior in the hunt seat, which we thought was a huge long shot. I only had 17 points going into the start of that year, and we got our last point needed on the last day of my last show of the year. He was only the 15th horse in AQHA history to win that award at that time. This taught me the rewards of hard work and dedication.

Dorothy Bentley –I will never forget my first time doing a flying lead change in an equitation pattern. I was so pumped that I got the lead change that I looked directly for my trainer on the rail. My eyes were wide; mouth open like “I got it!” Another “aha” moment I thoroughly remember wasn’t one where I nailed anything, but it was during a novice youth showmanship class when the judge stopped right before crossing over the horse’s tail, and I jumped to the other side. He got me good, and I learned quickly to keep my heels in the dirt.

Alexis Taylor – My “aha” moment was when I realized you could excel in equitation and have your style. I walked into the pen and told myself to ride and not try so hard to be “the perfect standard” because that wasn’t my perfect. I ended up pointing out of novice in one show, and I never looked back. I believe figuring out what sets you apart from the “cookie-cutter” look, while making an impression and riding to you and your horse’s greatest potential, is the best thing you can do for your career.

Deanna Bailey – My “aha” moment was at the AQHA World Show in 2018. As I walked down the ramp into the arena and headed to the cone, I said to myself; you can do this. I said I owed it to myself not to let my nerves prevent me from doing great things. I ended up reserve champion in the Level 2 Equitation that year. I won’t ever forget how amazing it felt to know that it makes achieving it possible, when you believe you can do something.

Jason Weber – I think the “moment” for me has just sort of come about from years of showing. It is the realization that as an amateur, I’m doing this for myself. It’s about showing the classes that I enjoy and trying out new ones. I’ve learned that it’s hard to get better at a class that you don’t like showing to begin with. I’ve realized that it’s a goal to get better at the little things that add to bigger results. 

Stephanie Spaeder
My first “aha” moment was when my daughter Christina and I both won our respective western pleasure classes at the Novice Championships in Raleigh, NC, with VS Security Code, aka Frankie. He was such a good boy and our first once-in-a-lifetime horse. Another “aha” moment for me was in 2020 when Hot Southern, aka Pixie and I were reserve in the nation in L1 amateur HUS. She is my 2nd once-in-a-lifetime horse. My daughter and I have learned in these moments that hard work does pay off.

What is your “aha” moment? Let us know in the comments. 

About the Author – A native of Northwest Pennsylvania, Kelli Hardy has been a lover of horses and all things AQHA for as long as she can remember. She graduated from Edinboro University with a BA in English literature and a minor in writing and currently is a high school English teacher at Erie First Christian Academy in Erie, PA. In her spare time, she shows with the American Quarter Horse Association in amateur all-around events with her mare, The Pretty Committee.