2016 American Horsemen Challenge Association (AHCA) National Finals

“We did the best we could do, and I am happy we got this far!” That is what the American Horseman’s Challenge is all about.

We arrived in Sedalia, Missouri at the most beautiful State Fair Grounds we have ever seen. While we were settling the horse in, we met some wonderful people who stopped by to introduce themselves to us and wish Avery and Raindrop luck. By the end of the first day we felt like we have known these “strangers” forever, and looked at them as our friends and family. These wonderful people and their horses met up in Missouri, a great central meeting point in the country, as they were traveling from Michigan, Texas, Arkansas, coming in from their hometowns in Missouri, Louisiana and numerous other states.

While you are “competing” against the other riders, they are the first ones to offer you words of encouragement, tips of how to navigate through the course, to help keep your nerves in check. They also tell you how amazing your horse is too. Avery competed in her first two rounds and even for as nervous as she was, she did great, the announcers and fellow riders cheered her on.  During the final round, the obstacles are different and a little more intense.  She took a deep breath and entered the arena for the final round.  She did great in the Wrangler class.  Her pony did great, she was greeted with cheering peers, and a tearful Mom, with pride bursting!  When she entered the final round for the Youth class, her pony was a little more fearful, and even though she didn’t get through all of the obstacles, she rode out of the arena with a smile on her face and exclaimed, “We did the best we could do, and I am happy we got this far!”

That is what the American Horseman’s Challenge is all about in that last sentence. It is a sense of pride in every ride, even when it doesn’t go as expected. It is a family, from far and wide, they are the dearest friends who, no matter what, lift you up and keep you going when you want to throw in the towel. While walking the fairgrounds, there was always a cheerful greeting, a smile and lots of hugs. It is a highly respectable, giving, organization that makes a difference in the lives of everyone it touches.

When Nationals came to a close, we were all sad to leave. The new season of challenges is fast approaching and we are already looking forward to seeing all of our family and friends at Nationals in 2017.

AHCA 2016 National Finals is now in the books. I think in everyone’s opinion it would be considered a great success. The competition was Fierce, Fun and Fair with Congratulations for All who did well in their division rounds; laughs about funny things they or their horses did or didn’t do, and a sense of fairness and comradery for everyone competing. It was so like a family reunion, with friends who hadn’t seen each other in 12 months embracing and laughing and revisiting events of the year.

The obstacles were challenging, the camaraderie was awesome. We had fun with the costume party. The annual awards pizza party brought everyone together to celebrate their accomplishments during the year. Our members came together and raised $3,000 for the Missouri Special Olympics. Special needs riders came and rode mounts volunteered by our competitors.

Our champions came from all different states, different walks of life and competing on various breeds of equines. The Open Division Champion was Kelsey MacLean, a young lady from the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, and her grade horse Elliott, that she trained herself. Kelsey and Elliott were also the In Hand Champion as well as earning the High Point Grade Horse Buckle. Novice Champion, Glenda Dunahee from Missouri riding a paint horse. Jim Best from Illinois was the Amateur Division and Legends Division Champion on his paint mare and quarter horse, respectively. The English Champion, as well as the recipient of the High Point Welsh Pony buckle was Dannah Westbrook from Texas and her Welsh Pony, Lazy J Star Witness. Jordyn Baxter, also from Texas and her Welsh Pony, Lazy J Starry Night were the Youth Champions. Our Wrangler Champion, Haylee Bourque and her quarter horse, Andabars Nu Dak hail from Louisiana. Cory Bourque and his Mustang, Tank, also from Louisiana were from Louisiana. Shane Irving, from Missouri, rode quarter horse, Jobes of Gold to the Championship in the Futurity Division and the

Futurity Classic. The Mustang Heritage Foundation sponsored a buckle for the High Point Mustang. The buckle was earned by DQ owned and ridden by Ken Schwab of Texas. Jordyn Baxter and her half Welsh Pony, Lazy J Bailef’s Xtreme were awarded the buckle for High Point Part-Bred Welsh Pony.

This was our 5th National Finals. I’m very excited about the continued growth of our organization. Our entries were up dramatically over last year. Many breed associations have partnered with us. The Foundation Quarter Horse Registry (FQHR) has been a partner since our inception. Horses registered with FQHR can earn Ranch Horse points when competing at AHCA challenges. The Mustang Heritage Foundation and Red River Welsh Pony Association have sponsored High Point buckles at Nationals for their respective breeds. Starting in 2017 the Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Breeders Assoc (MFTHBA) has partnered with AHCA. MFTHBA is sponsoring a buckle for the High Point Missouri Fox Trotter at our 2017 National Finals. The top 5 High Point Missouri Fox Trotters within AHCA for 2017 will also be recognized
by MFTHBA.

We look forward to continued partnership with these associations and others going forward. 2017 National Finals are scheduled for Sedalia, MO October 19 through 22, 2017.

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