On the International Trail, The AQHA Intern Experience

Promoting the American Quarter Horse Around the World: An Experience of a Lifetime

June 21, 2016

Mississippi State University instructors reflect on their experience with the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps after three weeks in four European countries.


The AQHA International Horsemanship Camp in Kreuth, Germany (Credit: Daniela Bauderer)

By Kelsey Stangebye, 2016 AQHA international intern 


The MSU instructors and AQHA international intern Kelsey Stangebye enjoy a tourist day in Venice, Italy between horsemanship camps.

It has been an incredible start to the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps, in which Mississippi State University has just completed the first series of horsemanship camps in Europe. Dr. Clay Cavinder, Ashley Shiffler and MSU undergraduate students reflect on how the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps provide a life-changing opportunity for college students to travel the world to promote the American Quarter Horse.

Dr. Clay Cavinder shares his favorite aspect of the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps

Extension horse specialist for Mississippi State University; professional judge for: American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, Appaloosa Horse Club, National Snaffle Bit Association, National Reining Horse Association.

“My favorite part of the clinics are seeing the participants and the clinicians get in sync with each other. They develop a rhythm in the learning experience that is really fun to watch. It’s so different than teaching in the U.S. where we all speak the same language. These clinics require that the teachers adapt to a translator and lots of sign language. My students really grasp the [horsemanship] concepts even better once they figured out a different way of relating the material.”


Dr. Cavinder teaches at the horsemanship camp in Slovenia.


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From the left: Dr. Cavinder, Ashley Shiffler, Hannah Miller, Samantha Miller and Ashley Palmer in Venice, Italy.

Ashley Shiffler shares her experience from the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps

Head coach of the MSU Equestrian Team and manager of the equine unit at MSU; two-time national champion in National Collegiate Equestrian Association competition 

“Having the opportunity to participate in the European horsemanship camps was such a blessing to the MSU students and myself. It gave me a platform to share the knowledge I’ve gained from participating in AQHA events and working within the equine industry. It was so fulfilling to see the participants progress throughout the camp and develop stronger communication with their horses. The most rewarding part for myself was the incredible relationships I was able to form with the camp participants, clinic hosts, and the AQHA representative.”

AQHA Offers Collegiate Opportunities for Students to Pursue Their Equine Interests


Awards ceremony at the AQHA International Horsemanship Camp in Slovenia.

Mississippi State University students Hannah Miller, Samantha Miller and Ashley Palmer further discussed how AQHA has provided an opportunity for them to develop their equine knowledge on an international scale by offering the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps. The students discussed how this programs allows young horsemen and horsewomen to pursue their equine interests while completing their college education. Additionally, the MSU students emphasized that AQHA’s affiliation and support of the NCEA collegiate equestrian teams, Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and collegiate horse judging teams supports students to complete their education while providing an opportunity for students to attain experience relevant to their equine motivated goals. The MSU students also shared how their experience on Mississippi State University’s Horse Judging Team provided an opportunity to compete at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, the AQHA World Championship Show, and ultimately prepared them to travel around Europe to teach horsemanship for the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps.

Samantha Miller

2010 Midstate Horseman’s Association over all grand champion, 2012 East Alabama Horseman’s Association Winter Circuit adult timed champion

“The International Horsemanship Camps gave me the opportunity to apply what I know to help riders improve their own riding and strengthen their horses’ training. My experience on the MSU Judging Team allows me to help riders who show or hope to show in the future by explaining penalties, what the judge sees, and what the judge is looking for while providing training techniques to help achieve a more ideal performance. I want to say a huge thank you to the clinic participants whose desires to learn and positive attitudes were truly priceless. Thank you to AQHA and Dr. Clay Cavinder for the opportunity of a lifetime.”


MSU instructors in front of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

Hannah Miller

First individual performance at the 2015 AQHA World Show Judging Contest for the  MSU Horse Judging Team, fifth individual overall at the 2015 AQHA World Judging Show for the MSU Horse Judging Team

“Because of the opportunity provided by the AQHA collegiate judging contests, I have been able to take my love for riding and apply it to judging, and I look forward to applying for my AQHA and National Reining Horse Association judges cards. This program has led to the incredible experience of teaching horsemanship clinics in Europe, where I have connected what I’ve learned from judging and applied it to training horses and riders. This also allows me to give the clinic participants a unique perspective into how their good horsemanship and practice at home can translate to better scores in various disciplines.”

Ashley Palmer

Rider on MSU’s IHSA Equestrian Team2007 Mississippi Hunter Jumper Association Children’s Hunter of the Year.

“AQHA has given me the opportunity to learn more about the sport that I love through the collegiate judging contests that they offer. Due to being on the judging team, as well as riding under the guidance of AQHA judge Dr. Clay Cavinder, I have been able to pursue my equine interests with AQHA’s grant to teach horsemanship in Europe for the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps. This has been a wonderful experience because I have been able to utilise my previous years of riding experience to teach others and help them through their riding journey.”

Oklahoma State University teaches horsemanship camps for the next series of AQHA International Horsemanship Camps in July

I will be meeting with Oklahoma State University for the next set of horsemanship camps starting in Sweden over July 6-8! Here is the schedule below:


Oklahoma State University instructors.

2016 Clinics with Oklahoma State University:
Led by Dr. Kris Hiney
Assisted by: Natalie Baker, Sarah Schobert, Dee Church
Sweden: July 6-8
Denmark: July 11-12
Germany: July 14-16 (half day on July 14, noon to 5 p.m.)
Ireland: July 19-20
England: July 22-23


Strategies for Riding a Winning Pattern

June 17, 2016

Mississippi State University instructors teach riders to have a mental plan to perfect their riding patterns at the AQHA International Horsemanship Camp.

By Kelsey Stangebye, 2016 AQHA international intern


From the left: Hannah Miller, Ashley Palmer, Samantha Miller, AQHA international intern: Kelsey Stangebye, and Ashley Shiffler

Over the last three weeks, Mississippi State University instructors and I have had the privilege of promoting the American Quarter Horse as we have traveled through Austria, Italy, Slovenia, and now Kreuth, Germany for the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps.

The AQHA International Horsemanship Camps have been an incredible experience thus far, from which our greatest takeaway has been how the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps truly foster an environment of friendship, where riders reconvene annually to attend the horsemanship camps to develop their horsemanship skills and share their passion for their horses. This past weekend, the horsemanship camp in Germany was just as fulfilling.  We were hosted with tremendous hospitality, developed many new friendships, and had the pleasure of working with over twenty riders at the phenomenal Gut Matheshof equestrian facility in Kreuth, Germany; where the Federation of European Quarter Horse Associations’ European Championships is hosted annually.

The Mississippi State University instructors explained that practicing patterns is beneficial to both the rider and horse’s preparation because it serves as a way to “test” the horse’s training progress and allows the rider to develop their mental strategy for riding through patterns effectively. Additionally, the MSU undergraduates, Samantha Miller, Hannah Miller and Ashley Palmer shared some of their specific knowledge of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations from their experience from the Mississippi State University Horse Judging Team, in which the 2015 team was the reserve champion team at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, third high team at the AQHA World Championship Show, and fourth high team at the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity.

Review the AQHA Rulebook for Pattern Class Descriptions

First, as a foundational introduction for perfecting a riding pattern, the MSU instructors delivered a “From the Judge’s Perspective” lecture,  in which they explained the AQHA Rulebook’s scoring system for pattern classes, the ideal presentation of the horse, and the correct position for the rider. Specifically, the instructors discussed the pattern class’ scoring systems and correct maneuvers for each class, as well as what constitutes minor faults, major faults, and severe faults. Read the rest of this entry »

Training Exercises That Develop Strength, Balance and Self-Carriage

June 13, 2016

Mississippi State University teaches exercises to develop a horse’s balance at the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camp in Slovenia.

By Kelsey Stangebye, 2016 AQHA international intern 


From left: AQHA international intern Kelsey Stangebye, Hannah Miller, Samantha Miller and Dr. Clay Cavinder

We had an #AQHAProud weekend for the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camp at Castle Prestranek in Slovenia. The horsemanship camp was conducted by Mississippi State University; led by Dr. Clay Cavinder, an associate professor and Extension Horse Specialist for MSU, and assisted by MSU undergraduates Hannah Miller and Samantha Miller. We had an excellent horsemanship camp over a three-day period, in which, the instructors provided exercises that focused on gait transitions and training over ground poles. Additionally, the MSU instructors and I were so impressed with the members of the Slovenian Quarter Horse Association’s camaraderie and admiration for their Quarter Horses. We would like to thank the Slovenian Quarter Horse Association for their generous hospitality that they extended to us, and also for their awards presentation. (More to come on that below!)


Riders prepare for the horsemanship camp awards ceremony. (Credit: Sara Velenik)

Exercises to Develop a Balanced Horse

During the horsemanship camp in Slovenian, the MSU instructors explained how using ground poles and gait transitions can develop the horse’s balance, strength and self-carriage. Additionally, using ground poles and working on transitions is particularly helpful with training a horse that is heavy on the front end and/or hollow through their topline. The instructors explained that these exercises will also be beneficial for a rider to develop their rhythm and timing as they practice transitions and guiding their horse over ground poles. Ultimately, developing the horse’s balance will allow the rider to finesse their control over the horse’s body and prepare the horse for more advanced maneuvers; such as the lead change. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Riding Exercises to Develop the Correct Horsemanship Seat

June 8, 2016

 Mississippi State University teaches exercises to develop correct horsemanship position at the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camp in Italy.

By Kelsey Stangebye, 2016 AQHA international intern


From the left: Francesca Romana-Faro, Ashley Palmer and Ashley Shiffler discuss horsemanship manuevers.

Ciao from the beautiful Bosco Mignolo Farm in Nepi, Italy! Mississippi State University, led by Ashley Shiffler and assisted by MSU undergraduate Ashley Palmer, conducted the AQHA international horsemanship camp in Italy. The horsemanship camp was hosted by Bosco Mignolo Farm, which is owned by Emanuela Stefani. Emanuela Stefani and her daughter, Francesca Romana-Faro, have had immense success with showing their Quarter Horses in Italy, as well as internationally at the European Championships and Francesca’s success at the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.


Main outdoor arena at Bosco Mignolo Farm.

The Italian riders were interested in improving their horsemanship seat, so the MSU instructors discussed the fundamentals of the correct riding seat and used five riding exercises to assist the riders in improving their seat, leg position and upper body to perfect their horsemanship seat.

The Fundamentals of  Developing a Correct Horsemanship Seat

The instructors emphasized that whether the rider is interested in competitive showing or recreational riding, a correct riding seat is crucial for effective riding communication with their horse. Additionally, the MSU instructors explained that both novice and experienced riders alike should practice exercises to strengthen their seat, balance and leg position. Further explaining that these exercises will develop and maintain riding communication between rider and their horse. Read the rest of this entry »

Austria Kicks Off the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps

June 2, 2016

Mississippi State University teaches at Long View Ranch for the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps in Austria.


From the left: Hannah Miller, Ashley Palmer, Samantha Miller and Ashley Shiffler

By Kelsey Stangebye, 2016 AQHA international intern

Greetings from the gorgeous Long View Ranch in Wilhelmsburg, Austria, where Mississippi State University instructors kicked off the 2016 AQHA International Horsemanship Camps.

The horsemanship camp was led by Ashley Shiffler, the equine facility manager and head coach of the equestrian team at Mississippi State University, and assisted by MSU undergraduates Hannah Miller, Samantha Miller and Ashley Palmer.

About the Ranch

Read the rest of this entry »

Quarter Horses and Horsemanship in Costa Rica

June 1, 2016

The 2016 Verdugo International Horsemanship Camp series gets under way, starting in Costa Rica.

By Dr. Anna Morrison

Day 1

The Texas A&M Equine Initiative team landed in San Jose, Costa Rica last night and made their way through the winding mountain roads to the Rancho Ecuestre Hermanos Lopez, site of the 2016 Costa Rica seminar. Supported by the AQHA William R. Verdugo grant, the Texas A&M Equine Initiative team will be conducting Verdugo International Horsemanship Camps in Costa Rica, Uruguay and Paraguay this summer. For the Costa Rican camp, the team comprises Drs. Jim Heird and Anna Morrison of Texas A&M University, and Terry and Saralyn Riddle of the Four Sixes Ranch

After enjoying a typical Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, the team began the seminar with a colt-starting demonstration by Terry Riddle. Next, Dr. Anna Morrison talked about the reining scoring system and making smart choices as an amateur exhibitor.

After a lunch featuring the typical Costa Rican dish casado, Riddle went back to work with a reining demonstration. After a brief storm where the rainforest lived up to its name, Riddle finished the day working with two additional young horses. 

The team behind the Verdugo International Horsemanship Camps is proud to be in Costa Rica representing the American Quarter Horse Association in Costa Rica, and is looking forward to the next two days of the seminar!

Read the rest of this entry »

Traveling Around the World With AQHA

May 26, 2016

Kelsey Stangebye is about to hit the international trail this summer for twelve AQHA International Horsemanship Camps.

Photo credit: Nichole Chirico Photography

Hello everyone!

My name is Kelsey Stangebye, and I’m the AQHA international intern for the upcoming AQHA International Horsemanship Camps this summer. I’m so excited to have the privilege of representing AQHA internationally and accompanying Mississippi State University, Oklahoma State University and Sam Houston State University as we promote AQHA through Europe and China. Additionally, Texas A&M University will be representing AQHA for the Verdugo International Horsemanship Camps in Central and South America.

I’ll start with a little background information on the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps. Each summer, AQHA partners with several of the top agricultural and equine universities from the United States to conduct the AQHA International Horsemanship Camps around the world. The purpose of the horsemanship camps is to facilitate horsemanship education and to share information about the value and benefits of AQHA membership to international equine enthusiasts.

From membership statistics alone, it’s evident that as the largest breed association in the world (with more than 35,000 AQHA international members), the American Quarter Horse is the preferred breed because of its talent and versatility. In addition to this, AQHA has uniquely provided endless benefits and opportunities that are available to all AQHA members that cater to all equine interests. In doing so, AQHA has connected a diverse community of horsemen and horsewomen around the globe that share their passion for the American Quarter Horse.


Kelsey Stangebye and her former gelding, Dont Wait A Lifetime (Credit: Jeff Kirkbride Photography)

I am looking forward to sharing my passion for the American Quarter Horse and how AQHA membership opens the door to life-changing opportunities. As an AQYHA member, I competed nationally in the all-around events under the guidance of Dianne Eppers and Jennifer Burton. I participated in the Illinois Quarter Horse Youth Association as the vice president and president. My involvement with AQHYA led to invaluable life lessons and many cherished friendships and memories. Competing on the AQHA circuit gave me an opportunity to be recruited as a horsemanship rider on the University of South Carolina’s women’s equestrian team, where I received an athletic scholarship to pursue my bachelor degree in political science. I have been very fortunate that Quarter Horses have continued to be part of my daily life, even as I began law school, where I’m currently a third-year law student at Northern Illinois University College of Law. Further along the lines of amazing opportunities, AQHA has given me the opportunity to share my passion for the American Quarter Horse in eight different European countries and China with the company of three impressive universities that specialize in equine studies and knowledge of the American Quarter Horse. Read the rest of this entry »

Breeding Quality Horses in the United Kingdom

July 28, 2015

Correct conformation, overall balance and consistency are at the heart of Sovereign Quarter Horses’ breeding program.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

A few SQH 2 year olds.

The moment I walked out into the lush green broodmare pasture, I knew I had stumbled upon something special. The scenery was dotted with sorrel mares and their beautiful babies. As we walked closer, one thing became very apparent about these horses: consistency.

Sovereign Quarter Horses, owned and operated by David and Sarah Deptford, is located in March, Cambridgeshire, England. They currently stand three stallions and foal out around 10 to 12 broodmares each year. Half of those broodmares are home bred and raised. David grew up in an equine-centered family. David’s grandfather was internationally recognized for the show ponies he bred and raised, and David’s father began importing Quarter Horses in the 1970s, with David following closely in his footsteps. Needless to say, an eye for a good horse is a characteristic that has long been a trait of the Deptfords, and it carries on today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Five Exercises to Improve Your Riding Seat and Leg Position

July 20, 2015

Develop a balanced seat for horseback riding with these tips from the AQHA international horsemanship camp in Sweden.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

leg exercise heels down

For Step 4, riders are asked to bring their toes up and stretch as far as they can down through their heel. (Credit: Katy Krshka)

The first day of AQHA international horsemanship camps usually consists of observing the riders and evaluating what they need to work on. A step the clinicians usually start with is working on the riders’ seat and leg. As most of us have experienced, this is something we can never get too good at! This is a key component to building a strong foundation and applies to all riding disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

Bits and Pieces: How Your Bit Works

July 11, 2015

Reporting from Denmark, AQHA international intern Katy Krshka shares facts about horse bits and their function.

IMG_0229.JPGBy Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

While in Denmark for the AQHA international horsemanship camp, Dr. Holly Spooner, horse science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, gave a short talk about bits and their functions. A few different points were discussed, and everyone walked away with a little piece of information that could be useful to them in the future.

To preface the lecture, Dr. Spooner asked the participants two fairly simple questions. The first, “What is the purpose of a bit?” The most basic answer is communication. A bit works via pressure and is simply a means of communication between the horse and rider.

The second question was, “What is the No. 1 thing that affects how severe a bit is?” Although this might seem like a no-brainer for some individuals, people often have a misunderstanding with this concept. The answer: the person using the bit. No matter what bit you may be using with your horse, it is the rider who contributes to the severity of the bit. Of course, there are going to be bits that have a higher port, longer shank, etc., but it is the individual using it who decides how that bit is going to be used. For example, an inexperienced rider is going to have much different hands and therefore a different feel to a horse than an experienced rider with the same horse and bit.

To follow that, one must remember when selecting the correct bit for your horse, there are multiple factors that go into the process. Two of the most important elements are the horse’s level of training and the rider’s experience level. Nevertheless, knowing where a bit distributes pressure on a horse’s mouth and how it functions is essential for determining what bit is appropriate for you and your horse.

In this lecture, Dr. Spooner first differentiates bits into two main categories: snaffle bits and curbed bits. The difference in the two is the type of pressure they create: direct vs. indirect pressure. In a snaffle bit, both reins and headstall are on the same ring causing direct pressure to the horse’s mouth. With a curbed bit, the reins and headstall will be attached at two different fixed locations, creating leverage and an indirect pressure to the horse’s mouth. There are three main pressure points the snaffle bit can create, and seven different pressure points a curbed bit can create. Read the rest of this entry »

A Girl and Her Love for American Quarter Horses 

July 2, 2015

Meet Maruša Flajs, an #AQHAProud member from Slovenia.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

When I first met Maruša Flajs, she was sitting atop her beautiful 6-year-old palomino gelding, “Snapper.” She caught my attention right away. This was Maruša’s third year to attend Slovenia’s AQHA international horsemanship camp. Each day she quietly mastered the skills taught at the camp. In no time at all, I could tell this 16-year-old from Radovljica, Slovenia, was a force to be reckoned with.

Maruša has been riding horses for most all of her life and began competing when she was 9 years old. She is actively involved with the Slovenian Quarter Horse Association, and her father currently serves as the vice president of the SlQHA. Maruša has three horses she actively rides and shows, or is planning to show, and attends several AQHA-approved shows in Slovenia each year. Puro Chic Fritz, or “Fritz,” is her 12-year-old seasoned show gelding, and the team competes in reining. One of her proudest accomplishments with Fritz was marking a 73.5 in reining at a recent horse show. Her other two horses include her palomino gelding I mentioned earlier, Snapper Fly Glo, or Snapper, and a 7-year-old stallion, Jeronimo Chic, who Maruša is training to show once she turns 18. She started Snapper as a young colt and has done all the training herself. To no surprise, her favorite event is reining and says if she could wish to show anywhere, it would be at the European Reining Futurity. Read the rest of this entry »

Farm to Fork at Galloway Farms

June 21, 2015

Tour this eccentric, organic farm in the Czech Republic with AQHA international intern Katy Krshka.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

The view from the apartment overlooking part of the farm.

Centered here in the quaint town of Roupov, Czech Republic, you will find the renown Galloway Farms, owned and operated by Vaclav Vacîk. Galloway Farms was established in 1994, then passed down to Vaclav, from his father, in 2001. They currently have 240 hectares (about 595 acres) of land. They use about 445 acres as grassland for their cattle to graze and the remaining 150 acres for wheat pasture. And from June 19 to 21, Galloway Farms served as host to the AQHA international horsemanship camp taught by Louisiana State UniversityRead the rest of this entry »