Remember those back-to-school assignments that asked what you did on your summer vacation? If you wrote that you got to ride your horse every day in a casino, hung out with a few dozen of your best friends, won cash, or had a blast winning nothing other than exceeding a goal, that essay would be returned as fiction. However, if you were at The EMO Celebration at South Point in Las Vegas, all of it would be true. A unique combination of elements has made this show grow in popularity year after year. The number of horses this year was 20% higher than last summer’s show. Exhibitors came from all across the western states and from Canada. In total, there were 4,076 AQHA entries along with NSBA and NRCHA entries.
“South Point is the best place to show in the West during the summer,” contends EMO Celebration Director Doug Huls. “All indoors, all air conditioned, no flys, no dust. You can walk from your room to your stalls. It’s such a phenomenal facility and it’s pretty central for people to get to. You really can’t beat it.” People certainly love the convenience and the quality of the facilities, but on the grounds it was clear that there was another factor that makes this show hit the jackpot: everyone was having fun. Not just ordinary horse show camaraderie — rather, the belly laughing, wide grinning, group hugging, raucous cheering, high-fiving, good natured ribbing kind of fun.
This is a show that will never rest on its laurels. Innovation and growth are always at the forefront of management’s thoughts. The Western States Affiliates board worked hard in the planning stages of this year’s EMO Celebration to configure a show that would reward exhibitors with money rather than prizes. The result was the debut of significant cash circuit awards in most classes. Circuit Champions in 99 classes won $500 plus a neck ribbon, while reserve won $300 and third place received $200. In total, $99,000 was awarded. “We did something so different and so innovative and the result was off the charts this year,” comments Western States board member Cece Campbell. “The show far exceeded our expectations. We are thrilled with the result and so happy to have pleased so many exhibitors.”
Winners had the choice of receiving a check or having their winnings taken off their show bill.
Dana Yingling, AzQHA President and Western States Affiliates committee member was proudly presenting checks and neck ribbons to the ranch, reining and cattle Circuit Champions. She reflects, “The circuit winners were thrilled to receive recognition in the arena when they were awarded those big checks. It’s a very special moment and the smiles are huge.” When schedule or class conflicts precluded an arena presentation, circuit winners had their chance to pose with a check, or two or three at the awards booth. The trophy checks made it into their official show photos too. And who doesn’t want to brag they won money in Vegas? Everyone loved sharing their winnings on social media.
Money was not the only reward. There were also Best of Show awards in All Around and Ranch and Cattle divisions for Open, Amateur, L1 and Youth. Best of Show Champions took home custom spurs from Kathy’s Show Equipment and reserve won spur straps. Walk Trot circuit champions received buckles for their accomplishments.
Ranch and Cattle classes took place during the first 5 days of the schedule with halter sitting right in the middle to accommodate both the ranch and the rail, trail and pattern exhibitors looking for those all around points. Ranch Trail and Ranch Riding continued to show their popularity with large and enthusiastic class sizes. Exhibition cutting and cow horse classes were added this year, giving exhibitors a non-judged training opportunity in a show environment. Best of Show awards were announced at the mid point. In the Youth division, Quinn Girard and Whiz Be Tejon had picked up Circuit Champion awards in Reining and L1 Reining, Youth Ranch Trail and a reserve Youth Ranch Riding. They also accumulated the most points to be the Best of Show champion. Dana Avila and Magnificent Dreamer showed in 4 classes and were Circuit Champion in all four. They picked up checks for $500 each in Select Reining, Select Ranch Trail, Amateur Ranch Rail, Select Ranch Riding as well as topping the leader board for Amateur Best of Show. Jimmy Daurio rode Cowpuncher Cadillac to win the Open Best of Show.
The second half of the schedule saw the rail, trail and pattern classes. Trail classes ran continuously in the Preitert 1 Arena each day with many horses seen on the pattern. There was a noticeable increase in L1 horses and exhibitors this year. L1 Western Riding saw 47 goes, with 23 participating in the NSBA Green and there were 16 in L1 Pleasure. Signaling that the show is a big draw for newer exhibitors, L1 amateur numbers were very high in Amateur Hunter Under Saddle, Western Riding, Select Trail, Select Pleasure, Amateur and Select Horsemanship.
With big classes, competition was lively across the board. At the end of the show the points were tallied for the All Around Best of Show awards. The 11 & Under Best of Show buckle was awarded to Elizabeth Montez riding Betterlazythancrazy. Many BOS winners had already won some serious cash. Sydney Ann Swallom and Almost Invited had picked up $500 checks for the circuit in Youth Horsemanship and Showmanship and another $300 each in Youth Equitation and Youth Performance Geldings. Those wins combined with her other solid placings gave her the All Around Youth Best of Show.
Amateur Best of Show went to Mallory Vroegh who had an exceptionally good week with Cool Made Machine. The pair had already received a Circuit Champion check in Hunter Under Saddle, a reserve in Equitation and Showmanship, along with third place checks in Horsemanship and Performance Geldings. Her logo’d spurs will serve as a long time reminder of her big wins in Vegas.
Susan Wilson’s name was routinely a high call on judge’s cards with Zipping A Breeze in Select classes. She was Champion in Western Riding, L3 Select Trail, L3 Select Horsemanship and Select Equitation. Her total points won her the Best of Show award. The Open Best of Show was Hez Blazin Trouble owned by Bonnie Sheren and shown by Jason Martin and Charlie Cole. The team had won the Circuit Championship in L3 Senior Trail and Open Performance Geldings and reserve in L3 Senior Western Riding. Bonnie showed her horse in L3 Select Trail for a third place Circuit award check.
Delaney Lee and Invite the Best garnered a reserve championship in L1 Youth Hunt Seat Equitation, a third in Youth Performance Geldings and a Champion in L1 HUS that helped her to gain the most points for the L1 Youth Best of Show. In Level 1 Amateur, So Noticed and Patty Goodwin found themselves winning Best of Show along with reserve champion checks in Select Showmanship and Select Trail.
The EMO Celebration kept the fun and excitement going with a PCQH Youth fundraiser. This year’s challenge was a Pro-Am Horsemanship class in which the pro and amateur rider each rode half the pattern on the same horse. The event got started with an open bar party sponsored by South Point. A boisterous crowd gathered to watch 11 teams take on the challenge while Darren Moore provided hilarious and blistering commentary. There was plenty of ribbing when it came to the trainer’s horsemanship patterns. When the judges finally figured out how to do their own math, it was Meghan and Nancy Renfro with Du The Step who took top honors. Second went to Caroline Neilson and David Archer with Theonlykisstoenvy. The Non Pro Champion was Sydney Swallom and Almost Invited. Sydney also won Hard Luck Award with partner Mike Edwards who couldn’t count his turns. Over $31,000 was raised for the kids from generous team sponsors.
The EMO Celebration is determined to keep growing and improving. From the enthusiasm during the show to the social comments after, it is clear everyone who went to Vegas was a winner. Dana Yingling summarizes, “I think we had a great turn out this year and everyone loves the indoor arenas. I heard very positive feedback from exhibitors saying this was there favorite show.” Cece Campbell adds, “This is such a different show from anything else out there. It goes way beyond when it comes to rewarding its exhibitors, owners, trainers. All I can say is, watch out for next year!”