Never before has the AQHA Level 1 (novice) exhibitor had more of a stage to compete than in 2016. With the addition of the new Central Championship that just wrapped up in Oklahoma City, AQHA is also hosting the West Championships in Las Vegas which run April 20-24, and the East Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 4-8.
Level 1 competitor, Leona Parr Ransdell of Blacksburg, Virginia wrote a letter to GoHorseShow and wanted to share her thoughts and strong opinions with our readers. She is a 4-H Youth Extension Equine Associate with Virginia Tech and shows in the novice and rookie events on the AQHA show circuit. Her heartfelt letter is posted below.
Dear Novice Exhibitors,
You probably have no idea who I am.
I consider myself a true novice. I don’t keep my horse with a trainer and I haul myself to shows. I compete at local and national AQHA shows, and yet, I don’t feel intimidated.
Like many, I enjoy reading stories on GoHorseShow about show ring fashion, makeup for the arena and other articles on how to give you a leg up in the judge’s eye. You can agree or disagree, but when I see comments stating, “This is why I don’t show AQHA anymore–it’s too much about who you are and what you’re wearing and not enough about the horse and rider.”—- I get angry. These are the people who I am speaking to.
So, to the “true novice,” this is for you.
I have some of the best friends at these shows and each one is from a different walk of life–I absolutely love them. I love showing, and I have never felt inadequate, out of place, or that I am being judged for showing in a no-name saddle, my $2,500 trailer and my $50 show shirt.
And yet, I am winning.
Would you like to know my secret?
I have dedicated myself to this life, to showing my horse and to winning. I haul to get lessons when I can afford it. I have made sacrifices like not having cable or internet for a year in order to board my horse. I work at the barn a couple of days every week to pay off my board. My Christmas gift to myself was a weekend spent training with an AQHA Professional Horseman.
I am doing everything in my power to succeed and it is paying off. I don’t feel sorry for those who don’t come to shows and sit on the sidelines and whine about the industry being for the rich and that it is only about who you know and what you wear.
Because it’s not.
You are the reason you are not winning; you are the reason the judge does not look at you. You are the reason you cannot go show. Not AQHA, not the judges, not the horses, not the outfits, not the saddles, not the costs–you are.
You are the one that has to get out there and ride the horse. You are the one who balances your checkbook and makes the decisions on where to spend your money. You are the one who makes the decisions about whether you really want this or not.
I don’t have a trainer; I don’t keep my horse in a fancy barn, and I haven’t spent thousands on my tack and attire, yet somehow I am winning.
I spend time with my horse at the barn. I read articles about fashion tips for the exhibitor–how to do your makeup and judges’ pet peeves because whatever is going to give me an edge over someone else can only help me, not hurt me.
I work for it. I dedicate myself to it, and I win. I can do it, so can you.
So please stop complaining that the judges don’t look at you because you don’t have an $2,500 outfit. Neither do I, and I am an AQHA Rookie Champion in my $45 pants and shirt that I made myself.
Please stop complaining that you can’t win because you don’t ride with a big name trainer, because neither do I. I trailer my own horse to my shows; I stall by myself; I warm my horse up by myself, and I seem to be doing just fine and no one looks down on me or my horse.
I love showing and I love the work I have put behind it.
Get out in the ring and work for it.
Just Go Horse Show.
AQHA Rookie and Novice Champion