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Quiet Victory: Trainer Blythe Amenson Wins with Two Deaf Horses at First APHA World Show

Trainer Blythe Amenson of Howell, Michigan, decided that when it came to the 2021 APHA World Show, she would go for it. Despite never having attended the show; despite having young horses and clients who were new to showing; and despite having recently found out that both of her horses were deaf.

Amenson is a self-described lover of both underdogs and challenges, so, naturally, once she made her decision, she set to work and made a plan.

GoHorseShow spent some time chatting with Blythe to learn more about her unforgettable first trip to the APHA World Show. Learn how she approached preparing two green, deaf horses for success at an elite level. 

Meet the Horses

Johnny Vegas (also known as Vegas), is an overo gelding, Its All In My Jeans, owned by Amenson. Vegas was shown in the two-year-old hunter under saddle events and earned several top-five placings during his first trip to Fort Worth.

My Jeans Got Grace, aka Willow, is a yearling mare owned by Stacy DeFern. Willow competed in yearling halter, longe line, and in-hand trail events. Willow was a Reserve World Champion and was also named Top 10 in every class shown. With owner Stacy DeFern, she also earned an Intermediate Reserve World Champion title in halter.

Amenson shares, “Her owners didn’t know the mare was deaf. They brought her to me for a few lessons and eventually decided to send her for full-time training. Immediately, I knew after getting her that she was deaf, so I just started working with her the same way I was working Vegas.” 

Going for It

Amenson has spent the last 25 years of her career coaching and training non-pros for various circuits. She spent most of her time giving lessons and not much training or showing. But, she says, “I love training young horses, and I’m drawn to horses that are underdogs or challenges, in particular.”

In 2020, she decided that she would step back from the grueling lesson schedule to get back into the arena herself with some talented show prospects that landed in her barn. As she explains, “I had done so much coaching that I didn’t show as much myself. So, last year I decided that if I’m ever going to do this, I’m just going to do it.” 

Blythe, who drove down to Fort Worth by herself, reflects, “What a great experience; I highly recommend it.And since I’ve been back home, I’ve been telling people you can go down there to the APHA World Show and do well. You don’t have to be with a big trainer.” 

Amenson also speaks to the support she had from her local friends and family. “We had people that found out that we were going and asked what they could do to help. We had some of our kids doing bottle and can drives. The support was really huge. It was neat to see it all come together, from the extra encouragement, to people at home helping taking care of the farm.”

The Right Moves

When it comes to preparing deaf horses to show, there are definitely certain nuances and challenges. But, Amenson explains, “I work all my babies the same, generally, so for these horses, I just added in the hand signals, and I’ve gotten really conscious of the things they (deaf horses) look for.”

One thing she points out is that her deaf horses are particularly attuned to their handler’s emotions, and they’re excellent at reading facial expressions. “Their other working senses have become more sensitive to their surroundings…motion, for example. So I need to be quiet and slow. If I’m upset or worked up, they immediately pick up on it. They are constantly looking at facial expressions and watching me. I can smile at them or give a little wave with two fingers, and they know to stay on the end of the line and to relax and stand.” 

Amenson continues, “I’ve had deaf horses before that I’ve worked with. They are a little bit different, and you do have to pay attention. You have to make sure that they see you before you surprise them, or you’ll have them anxious and spooky. Generally, though, these are really quiet horses, and in some ways, it helps their focus not to have the distractions of noise.” 

In short, Amenson made the most of her horses’ talents and unique challenges to create an incredible debut experience at the APHA World Show. She crafted a training program built on hand signals and continually earned her special horses’ trust. We congratulate her and everyone who is a part of these special horses, on a job well done. 

About the Author: A lover of horses who loves to write, Rachel Kooiker competes in all-around Amateur events. Together with her husband, Drew, they operate Kooiker Show Horses, raising select APHA Halter and Performance prospects.