Journal on the Road

First Visit to the Ford Youth World

August 7, 2011

Disappointment was the first part of the journey, but it's getting better now.

By Justine Moore

Contests to decorate boots and jeans are part of the Ford Youth World experience. (Journal photo). To see more photos from the Ford Youth World, scroll to the slide show below.

Like many youth showing on the AQHA circuit, my dream is to compete at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show. This year, I qualified in horsemanship, showmanship, and hunt seat equitation with my gelding, Causin the Commotion.

Though I had qualified before, I had never felt ready to compete at such a high level. Thanks to the invaluable advice of my trainer Kristy McCann, I was finally prepared, but my horse was not – several weeks before the show started, I received the devastating news that he was injured and would have to have several months of stall rest.

My worst nightmare came true, and the only silver lining to this situation is the fact that I will hopefully return next year with my horse for my world show debut. This year, though, I decided to come to spectate and support my teammates who are competing for Oregon.

As someone who has never been to a show of this size before, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of everything – from the size of the venue to the stall decorations (many of which look like they could have been crafted by professional architects) to the number of exhibitors competing in each class.

The huge class sizes and high quality of exhibitors make for fierce competition, but upon arriving at the fairgrounds, I was surprised by the sense of team spirit and the supportive atmosphere. It is not uncommon to see competitors sitting in the stands to cheer for their teammates or taking a break from showing to participate in a fun activity such as the scrapbook competition or Justin Boot decorating contest.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of the week in Oklahoma City and continuing to watch the amazing Ford Youth World competition. Yesterday, I was able to watch the horsemanship preliminaries, which lasted almost the entire day with 169 exhibitors in the class.

Even as a spectator, I experienced the range of emotions that usually accompany a horse show, such as the nerve-wracking feeling when a friend is about to compete and the shocking disappointment when an exhibitor is laying out a perfect pattern and forgets one element.

Though there were several heart-breaking moments when exhibitors clearly let their nerves get to them, I was extremely impressed by the well-tuned horse and rider teams that made it to the finals after multiple increasingly competitive cuts.

Ford Youth World veterans and new teams alike, they were able to get their nerves under control and battle the excruciating heat to focus on their ultimate goal – being named an AQHYA world champion. They successfully completed challenging maneuvers such as two full consecutive haunch turns in opposite directions, a large extended lope circle with a comeback and a lead change, and working without stirrups on the rail.

I am excited to see these exhibitors continue to show off the results of their hard work and practice in the finals Tuesday morning, but until then I will enjoy watching numerous other events such as trail, reining, showmanship, and western pleasure.

My friends at the Journal took the photos in the slide show below. Click on each one to read the captions.

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