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AQHA Youth Brianna Merklin & Chips Machine – Upping Their Game Just in Time for Youth World

The next couple of months for Brianna Merklin will be exciting and full of changes as she participates in her last AQHA Youth World and heads to Southern Methodist University (SMU) for her freshman year of college. The 18-year-old hails from Columbus, Ohio, and shows Chips Machine under the guidance of Vickery Performance Horses.

Merklin recently graduated from Olentangy Orange High School, where she kept busy with school sports when she wasn’t at a horse show. Not only is Brianna accomplished in the show arena, but on the school track team as well. Brianna has run track since seventh grade and placed at several invitationals when running the 100, 200, 4 by 1, and 4 by 2 relays. Although Brianna ran track in high school, horses are taking her to the next level in college and she will be riding on the SMU NCEA Equestrian Team.

When Merklin was little, her mom decided to sign her up for a horse camp, where Brianna quickly fell in love with horses. Soon after, Brianna was taking riding lessons and received her first horse. Merklin says, “After that, things just took off.” 

Merklin credits Bruce Vickery, Anthony Montes, and everyone at Vickery Performance Horses for pushing her to constantly be the best she can be. Brianna explains, “I love how in the barn, Bruce and Anthony are always able to adapt to the many horses that they have. If one of them isn’t able to figure something out, then the other always can.” 

Brianna’s current horse, Chips Machine, also known as “Shaggy,” is “extremely sweet, and would do nothing to hurt you or mess you up in the show pen. He is a horse that you have to build trust with for him to let you in.”

In February 2020, Bruce asked Brianna to ride a horse at the Vegas horse show. “Bruce liked Shaggy, but wanted to see how Brianna did with him. Shaggy was green in everything and needed all of the finishing touches put on him. It was a tall task to take a green horse and put him against 14-18 Level 3 competition,” Brianna’s mother, Jenn told us. “Bruce said Shaggy had the talent, but just needed the work and time put into him, but Bruce said he could do it. The Vegas show ended, and we were all traveling to the Sun Circuit show in March. By the time we arrived in Arizona, we had all the paperwork done, and Shaggy was a part of the Vickery Team.”

One of Brianna’s favorite accomplishments was atop Shaggy when she won the 2020 NSBA World Championship in 14-18 Horsemanship.

We asked Brianna’s mother what she thought about her win. “Sitting in the stands watching all of the placings being called down, I felt heartbroken thinking Brianna didn’t place,” Jenn recalls. “Brianna hadn’t won anything this large competing against the best kids in the world. When they called her name, it was a sheer shock. I was in tears of happiness for Brianna. I was so grateful to Bruce Vickery and his team. Bruce had confidence in Brianna and Shaggy. It was amazing to watch it come together in a short amount of time.”

Merklin will show Shaggy in the Level 3 Horsemanship and Level 1, 2, and 3 Western Riding at the AQHA Youth World Show. Her goals are to have solid patterns in each class so that the rest will be in the judges’ hands. 

After the Youth World, Brianna will be headed off for her freshman year at Southern Methodist University. Brianna will pursue a major in Computer Science and be a part of the equestrian team.

“I am most excited about meeting the rest of my teammates and building a relationship with them,” Merklin said. Other SMU NCEA Equestrian team members include top equestrian riders Mallory Vroegh and Nya Kearns.

Brianna’s mother is excited about her daughter going to SMU as well. “I think Dallas, TX, and SMU are an ideal fit for Brianna. Since Brianna was in eighth grade, she knew she wanted to attend college in Texas. Dallas feels like a second home to Brianna with her current travel schedule. I think Brianna will thrive in the SMU setting at college.”

Jenn adds, “When Brianna won the NSBA Horsemanship, the award was presented by Nya Kerns, who also attends SMU. It was super exciting for Brianna to receive the award from her future teammate. Pony Up!”

Although Brianna will be busy with schoolwork and the team, she plans to show at the Congress, since it’s her last year of youth. Other than the Congress, she explained, “I will only be showing when I’m home from college, but I don’t plan on missing any school to go to a horse show.”

Merklin is a bright girl that will surely continue to thrive in and out of the show arena. With her team from Vickery Performance Horses, her family, and soon to be team at SMU, she can do anything she sets her mind to. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Click here to view Brianna’s latest ad in the July AQHYA World Show issue of GoMag

About the Author- Kaylee Mellott has been showing Quarter Horses in the All-Around events for over ten years under the guidance of her father, Jeff Mellott, and Highpoint Performance Horses. She is a graduate of Baylor University, where she was a member of the Equestrian Team. When Kaylee isn’t riding, she is a Second Grade teacher for Brook Avenue Elementary, where she loves helping her students thrive in the classroom.