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We Ask The Industry: Where and When Did You Win Your First Trophy Showing Horses?

Some memories are always etched in your minds, no matter how old you get. Maybe your first horse, first time on a plane, first touchdown, goal, 16th birthday. Your first trophy that you won showing horses is probably one of those nostalgic times you won’t ever forget.

It may be at an open show when you were seven and placed second, even though you were galloping at top speed on the wrong lead. You ended up with one of those plastic gold horse trophies that fell apart a few days later. But you still remember it, because it was a milestone in your horse show career.

GoHorseShow asked several exhibitors and trainers about their first trophy and when it happened. We received some great photos from competitors freezing that moment in time, so we have the amazing opportunity to reminisce about it years later.

Where did you win your first trophy? Let us know in the comments.

Kathy Tobin – It was my first youth all around, which was hard for me because I always showed 2 horses, one in the pleasure and one in the reining and the trail and horsemanship. There were no English classes back in my youth day. Western riding came later, most showed their horses in barrels and poles, but I didn’t want my reining horse learning to run poles or barrels. So back before the world shows, an all-around trophy had a horse on it cast from a George Phippen. George Phippen was a renowned Western cowboy artist so, I really wanted one badly. And winning one was my biggest thrill. I had it made Into a lamp and kept it on my bedside table. I’m including a picture of my reining, lol…my have times changed. Thank heavens!

Blake Carney – There are many of us from the Greater Atlanta, Georgia area that can probably say that they started their show career as kids on the open show circuit known as the Rolling Hills Saddle Club. I can think of specific people who are now horse trainers or World Champion riders. Anyway, I had no idea what showing horses was about when the stable I rode at took me to my first show. I was fortunate to be on a Quarter Horse that was Impressive bred and the “Open Ring” at RHSC was meant for stock horses. There wasn’t anywhere to ride western at that time competitively where I lived, but here I am in English clothes that I had never worn until that day – garter straps and all as required by my coach. I won two trophies at my first-ever horse show. Funny enough, I know the date, even now, as October 10th, 1998.

Vanessa Froman – The first trophy I really remember winning was at our Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs, MI. I was 10 years old, and it was in Pony Showmanship. My Grandpa Kliemchen, who started this horse craziness for our family,  had just passed away right before fair. However, he loved our fair and always supported his grandkids. I remember crying out in the pen thinking of him, and everyone kept telling me he would have been so proud.

Bella D’Onofrio – The first-ever AQHA trophy I won was the Level 1 Showmanship with my horse Just Good Enough in 2015. I was 10 years old, and I loved that trophy so much I put an American Girl horse blanket on it and slept with it. I returned the next year to win the Championship and the gold trophy! These wins were so special to me because I love showmanship. My horse, Roanie had so much talent in showmanship, so it was so enjoyable to show. Every trophy is so special to me because each one of them has a special story behind them and memories that last a lifetime!

Violet Shetler – The first trophy I won showing horses was when I was three for lead line. The first memorable trophy I won was the novice youth thirteen and under Congress trophy. I won it with my late mare Flaunting Her Assets when I was eight. A lot of the reason it was so important was that my mom and I did all the work with her in showmanship. To get to see her whole journey made it even more special to me. When they got down to the top three, I couldn’t believe that I had actually placed that high. You could actually see me in the video looking over Sassy’s head as they called second because I thought they forgot to call me a finalist. After that, all I can remember is everybody in my barn going crazy in the stands and my mom running in, crying to hug me. It was a huge moment in my career, and I was lucky enough to celebrate it with a lot of my family.

Emma Garcia – I won my first trophy when I was 14 or 15 at Gordyville. I showed my first show horse JS Good Bar Gold, aka Atlas, which I still own today. We won the novice youth 14-18 all around, but what made the win more shocking was that I missed my novice youth showmanship class. I got to the pen too late, and without showing showmanship, I thought there was no way I could win the all-around. But, with nothing to lose and faith in my horse, we still ended up the winners, and I finally got my first trophy.

Beth Case – English High point – I was 12, and the horse was named Country Hot Rod. I think it was at El Rodeo in Carbon Canyon in California. I had to do English pleasure, English equitation, and English country pleasure.



Claire McDowall – My first ever trophy that I won (that I remember) was at the Congress in 2014. I won the L1 13&U Trail with my old boy Hewey (The Ultimate Zip). I was 12 at the time, and Hewey was 23, and that old boy really pulled it out that day! I was second to last to go, and I still remember my dad’s face when he saw my score. I walked in there with Hewey to get my ribbon and trophy, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a horse than I was at that moment! My old guy went in there and knocked it out of the park against all those younger, fancier horses! I will remember that day for the rest of my life, and to this day, I still remember that winning back number and our winning score of 229.

Morgan Jennings – The first trophy I ever won was the year-end lead line championship with the Michigan Quarter Horse Association. I showed Mea Major Mito (Wilson), who was 6 years old in 1998, and I was 5. Wilson went on to carry me through my entire youth career and into my amateur years. We earned our first world championship trophy and Congress medals together. He showed until he was 24. This trophy was small, but marked the beginning of some of the best years of my life. It’s still in my home today. It represents the foundation of who I am and where my mom and I started – just us and the best partner we could have asked for.

Carey Nowacek – I am pretty sure the first trophy I ever won was really a silver serving platter. I had to have been about 7 or 8 years old, and it was at a little schooling show in San Antonio. Our barn was so close to the horse show that we actually rode our horses to and from the show. I had a great pony, very naughty, but great to show. I won the cross rails and a couple of other classes. I actually won two silver platters, but my mom encouraged me to give one of them to my cousin (Amanda Brightwell), who also had a great horse show. I remember her being so grateful, and we were so proud of those silver platters that we ate our dinner on them, haha!

Bailey Anderson – This brought back some fun memories! The first trophies I won were back in my open show days. I was probably around 7 or 8 years old and was showing Mystical Illusion, aka Mickey, at a series of open shows in Corsicana, TX. My mom and I would haul Mickey there the morning of the show and show all day! It is where I won my first saddle and belt buckle too! But also included in the prizes for the first place, and I was so excited and obsessed with them. So much so that, I would sleep with them (hence why some of them are broken)! My mom would get so mad every morning when she would find them in my bed. However, my first “big” trophy was from showing Too Sexy For My Spot, aka Babs, at the Paint World Show in the Walk-Trot division. I love having this Marrita McMillian bronze! Babs was such a cool mare to get to show and allowed me to compete on the big stage for my first time!

Lauren Stanley – My first trophy riding horses was with my first horse, Mr Whisper Wizard. There was a local show that gave a buckle to the series champion in each event. We worked hard all year teaching Whisper showmanship with this goal in mind. Whisper was a 4 year old we found off a paper ad hanging at the local feed store, and I was an 8-year-old, horse-crazy kid. My parents encouraged us to work hard with the horses every day, and it created a habit that has stuck to this day! That local show was such a great opportunity for kids to get involved with horses and have something to work towards.

Olivia Tordoff – My first major win was at the All American Quarter Horse Congress in 2012. I won the novice youth 13 and under horsemanship with Sterling Version. It was my first time showing horsemanship, and I remember being extremely nervous. Sterling was prancing in the tent, so I had to be led into the show pen! Thankfully, Sterling took care of me the minute we got to the start cone. I remember being so overwhelmed with happiness. It was certainly not a win we had expected!

Emma Brown
– The first-ever trophy I won showing horses is special because it was in the lead line with my dad leading me. He is the person who sparked my passion for horses! It was at an All Ohio show at the Muskingum County Fairgrounds, and I was 5 years old.



Ashley Hadlock – I first started showing in 2000 when I was 12 years old in local 4-H. It was that November I attend my first AQHA show-The North American in Louisville, KY. I was showing my mom’s old mare, Peppy’s Spitfire (Peppy), who was 26 years old at the time. I remember it was the biggest show I had ever been to and was more than I had ever imagined. With the help of Julie McGuffie, I won the Novice Showmanship under one of the judges to earn my first belt buckle.

Margaux Tucker – My first trophy was with my beloved pony, Ringo Starr. It was at the St Joseph County Fairgrounds in pee-wee walk-trot classes. The year was 1994. We did everything from showmanship to pole bending. I was about six years old. Starr was the best pony ever. He taught me so much about loving to train and show horses.


Do you remember your first trophy showing horses? Let us know in the comments.