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We Ask The Industry: What Has Been Your Favorite Moment in Your Youth Career?

To honor the upcoming AQHYA World Show, we asked several competitors to take us on a trip down memory lane. What have been your favorite moments in your youth career?

The AQHYA World Show is the premier show that many youth competitors strive for every year. In preparation for this year’s pinnacle event, we asked some of the industry’s top exhibitors to reflect on the highest points of their youth career and share them with our readers.

For some, the ultimate goal is to bring home the gold and it has everything to do with winning. For others, it might be a private moment that profoundly affects their lives. Or, possibly special moments with friends and family.

Can you single out one time in your youth career that represented your best moment? Let us know in the comments.


Olivia Tordoff – Two of my favorite moments at the Youth World so far would have to be winning the Horsemanship in 2017 with Sterling Version and being reserve in 2019 with Lookin Lazy. In 2016, Sterling went through colic surgery, and the last thing we expected was to show him again. However, he made it very clear to us that he wanted to go back to work. He had always been a show horse, so staying in a stall with no job was not an ideal situation for him. We let him determine if he was ready or not, and by the summer of 2017, he was as healthy as ever.

Two weeks before leaving for the 2017 Youth World, my grandmother passed away, and it was utterly earth-shattering for me. She was my best friend, and after she passed, I decided I wanted to win with Sterling for her. She loved that horse as much as I did. So we got to work. Brent Tincher, Dale Hamilton, and my whole family sacrificed so much to make sure Sterling and I were ready.

The day of the finals was such a whirlwind, with the lights in the coliseum cutting out entirely while I was in the shoot. Sterling was whinnying during my finals run, which was quite alarming to me as he had never done it before, but he still laid down a great go. We laugh about it now and say he was talking to my Grandma. She was there with us that day, no doubt about it. It was an emotional win, and I wish she could have been there more than anything, but I know she was smiling down on us.


Being reserve in 2019 was also an unbelievable memory. I remember coming out of the pen so proud of the progress we had made on Mariah (Lookin Lazy). Of course, I was immediately met with big hugs from Alexia and Jack. They’re always two of my biggest supporters, and it felt so good to make them proud.

Madison Fussell – I have been blessed with so many amazing memories throughout my youth career, but one that really stands out to me is Youth World 2020. Although we weren’t sure if the show was going to happen due to COVID-19, it did, and it was one of the best ones I’ve personally had. After losing my all-around horse, Good Ridin Machine, in December of 2019, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to find something so quick to finish my youth career on.

Soon after we lost Ike, we found RV Won Good Version, aka Vern, who quickly proved himself once again by carrying me to the Level 3 Trail finals and then winning the Level 1 Youth Trail at the NSBA World Show afterward. I also ended up making the finals in all my classes with Good At Da Bar, aka Scoot, so it was super special to have both of my horses in the finals after such a hard year. Although things don’t always go as planned, there’s always something positive to look forward to. Never give up, even if everything else fails. Also, good luck to everyone showing at the Youth World this year.

Grant Mastin – My favorite moment in my youth career is winning the Youth Western Riding at the NSBA World Show last year. This story began at the Big A when I went to my first horse show with Ryan and Mandi. Mandi had me practice a full line at my first lesson, even though I had never done it before, but I didn’t want to tell her this because it was going really well.

Eventually, after the show, I confessed how novice I truly was in the class, but she believed in me, so we worked a little harder. That led to a really good Youth World, which had me excited for more.


Unfortunately, when we got to the NSBA World, I was not supposed to be there for the western riding (due to football commitments); however, I ended up getting to stay and show my new event thanks to a missed flight. The rest is history—when I was the last one standing, I was filled with excitement. It was different than any other win. This was the most exhilarating win I have had in my horse show career thus far. And GoHorseShow was able to capture this moment perfectly.

Brianna Merklin – I can’t say I have had one favorite moment. There have been many amazing moments in and out of the show pen throughout my youth career; from standing at the barn and laughing at jokes, or the weird things our horses do, to winning at the NSBA World Show. But if I had to choose, it would be all the amazing people I have met and created lifelong friendships with. Some of my closest friends are the kids I show with, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Emma Gore –
The opportunity to show amazing horses against great competition who are also my friends. Winning the Horsemanship the last two years has been pretty incredible.

Claire McDowall – Oh my gosh, that’s so hard. I’ve had so many amazing moments throughout this long youth career. I would have to say my favorite moment would be last year’s Youth World when my very good friend, Brooke Jolstad won the L2 equitation. Her brother Jake and our old friend Shelby Robinette and I were sitting on the fence waiting for her placings. As they went down, we all started shaking and saying, “Oh my God, she did it!” When she won, we all screamed and jumped up and ran to give her the biggest hugs. Nothing like getting to watch my day 1 best friend win with Jake and Shelby. We’ve all known each other forever, and it was amazing getting to watch Brooke win with all of us together again.

Violet Shetler – The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my favorite moments of my youth career is with my old gelding, Mister Awetabulous. He followed me around in the arena while I ran around in a dress and bare feet. He would stand at one end, and I would call him from the other, and he’d trot over. I think of this moment because it represents the connection that he and I had. I am very thankful for that horse. He definitely helped shape me into the rider I am today.



Collin Froman – My favorite moments were not at a horse show, but at Jenell’s barn. One time I was trying to put Reba’s bridle on, and she got away from me. She shoved the stall door open and made a mad dash to the indoor arena. She ran and ran and wouldn’t let us catch her for like 20 minutes.  Jenell, Ryan, mom, and I were all trying to catch her, and she was not letting it happen…even with grain. I couldn’t stop laughing. She finally let us catch her when she was ready.

Then, there was the very first riding lesson I had with Reba at Jenell’s. She put me on Reba with a longe line.  Reba takes off like a bucking bronco. I had to hold on for dear life while enduring horrible pain. My mom and Hailey were there riding at the same time and freaking out. Mom got on her for five seconds and said, “Nope, she needs to be longed alone.” After that, I never again had to do a longe line lesson with her.

Brooke Jolstad – My favorite moment in my youth career is definitely a hard question. There have been so many. Of course, I could say winning the Level 2 Equitation or getting reserve in the 13 & Under Horsemanship at Youth World. But in reality, it is sitting in the stands with friends, watching our other friends in the finals of a class at Youth World, screaming as loud as we can when they come into the Jim Norick. I swear, every time I almost lose my voice. Even if we are watching the finals of a class that I didn’t make it back to, it is still definitely one of my favorite parts of my youth career. I am surrounded by some of my best friends that I know would be right in the same spot in the stands if I was in that class, and I’m going through a roller coaster of emotions for my friends competing while we watch the show and the placings.

Lauren Blumer – I have so many amazing memories from my youth career, from big wins to just spending time at the barn, but I think winning the Western Riding at the 2019 NSBA World is my favorite. My first year showing my horse, Lazy Lopin Ranger, and the Western Riding was a new event that made it even more special.

Also, getting to see my mom and my trainers Ryan and Andrea Kail when I came out of the pen was something I’ll never forget. I’m so grateful for all the hard work that Ryan and Andrea continue to put into Porky and I.


Emma Dejong – Winning the L3 13 & Under Hunt Seat Equitation at Youth World last year. It has been a dream of mine since I first started showing AQHA about four years ago. I worked very hard every chance I got to get better every time I got off my horse.



Sydney Swallom – I would say being a two-time Reserve NSBA World Champion all in one year was the most exciting part of my youth career so far. Success gave me confidence and optimism, looking forward to the rest of my youth years.

Also, making so many great friendships throughout my youth has really created such a fun and enjoyable support system that I know I will have with me through all of the success and failure of showing horses. 


Tatum Goode – I would say my favorite moments in my youth career so far have been getting to show with and getting to know people who love showing and horses as much as I do. Every show, new memories are made, and the moments outside of the show arena truly have made my youth career memorable. Laughing with all the other girls and talking in the warm-up pen are the moments I will never forget. I can’t wait to make even more favorite moments in my youth career, especially at this year’s AQHYA World Show.

What are some of your favorite moments so far in your youth career? Let us know in the comments.

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