Golden Memories: The 2022 PCQHYA Youth World Team

Imagine a giant action-packed retro-themed fiftieth birthday party. Now imagine that this party lasts eleven days and is attended by hundreds of people from across the globe. The exclusive epic celebration is full of activities and the invitees get to bring their horses! This dream birthday party describes the celebration of the 50th annual AQHYA World Championship Show in Oklahoma City in August. The normal spectacular production of the Youth World was elevated for the show’s fiftieth birthday. Exhibitors from all over the world came to compete for a gold trophy during the show’s golden birthday. This year brought 4,400 entries from United States, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and Sweden. One hundred and fifty-seven of those exhibitors were attending the Youth World for the first time.

Since its inception in 1972, the AQHYA World Championship show has undergone many changes. The first Quarter Horse World Show for eighteen and under exhibitors was hosted in Amarillo, Texas as the American Junior Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show. Ironically, this was the first World Show hosted by the American Quarter Horse Association as it preceded the Open and Amateur World Show by two years. Before coming to the show’s current location at the Oklahoma State Fair Park in 2008, the Youth World Show was hosted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Fort Worth, Texas. Changes in the AQHA industry as a whole brought new classes to the AQHYA World Show. Additionally, AQHA added more opportunities for exhibitors to compete for World Championship titles in different divisions. These divisions include the addition of the Level 2 Championships in 2017 and the Level 3 13 and Under World Championships in 2018. In honor of the show’s many historic changes during the past fifty years, several additions were made to the 2022 event.

This year, the show offered a Level 2 13 and Under division in core events. Perhaps this year’s most notable addition was the awarding of the first AQHYA World Show All Around Champions. All Around Titles were offered in both the 14-18 and 13 and Under Divisions. Congratulations to Brooke Jolstad with Betta Believe It and Emma Gore with KM Genuinely Best for making history as the first All Around Award recipients. A Champion of Champions competition was also offered for Level 1 riders. Exhibitors who placed in the Top 15 at the AQHA Level 1 Championships East or West were invited to battle it out in the World Show arena to crown an overall national Level 1 Champion of Champions.

Team California’s strong performance at the Level 1 Championships West gave them an impressive presence at the new Champion of Champions event. California exhibitors accounted for one-third of entries in 14-18 Showmanship, one-fourth of exhibitors in 14-18 Hunter Under Saddle, one-fourth of exhibitors in 14-18 equitation, one-fourth of exhibitors in 14-18 Horsemanship, and one-third of exhibitors in 14-18 Trail. Several California exhibitors earned trophy placings in these inaugural classes as well. Callie Hogg and RL Touch Of Sudden Followed up on a Reserve Championship at the Level 1 Championships by being named Champion of Champions and NSBA Champions in the 14-18 Showmanship. This talented showmanship pair were also NSBA Champions in the Level 2 Showmanship. Callie comments, “The Champions of Champions class at the Youth World Show was a great class of talented exhibitors and horses. When the patterns came out and we saw the champions of champions showmanship pattern, I was super excited because it was a pattern that showed off a lot of great maneuvers me and my horse Rufus excel at. Then to come and compete at the World Show in it was really rewarding because I knew me and my horse worked really hard to even make it to the world show and to hear our name called as the champions made it so much more special and I was super grateful to have such a talented horse with me through the whole thing.” Cassandre Ehrle and Daddy Doesnt Know were awarded Reserve Champion of Champions and NSBA Champion in the 14-18 Horsemanship. After winning the 13 & Under Horsemanship at the Level 1 Championships, Megan Renfro rode Du The Step to a Reserve Champion of Champions in 13 & Under Horsemanship. Later in the week, Meghan was also named Bronze Champion in the Level 3 13& Under Horsemanship.

Aside from the trophies and ribbons, Team California also experienced many other triumphs during the show. Several of the team members accomplished huge milestones including competing in new events, experiencing at their first World Show, competing at their first 14-18 World Show, and showing with new horses. Although these competitors may not be going home with the biggest accolades or the greatest acknowledgment, their hard work is a huge achievement that deserves recognition. To these exhibitors, your dedication does not go unnoticed and your commitment will pay off! First time Youth World exhibitor Alice Kang comments, “My first time at the Youth World was memorable and it was super exciting to celebrate our achievements as riders with other girls! I learned a lot and can’t wait to go back next year.” The diversity of the 2022 California team created a special environment of success, mentorship, and teamwork. From first time world show participants to seasoned Youth World veterans, the members of the PCQHYA team worked together throughout the week on many exciting events and competitions.

For the first time, the PCQHYA leadership team nominated an Activities Director to coordinate games and challenges for the PCQHYA team during the week and on the Team Night. Melissa Zannetti did an incredible job with this position by developing creative activities to engage the team while promoting cohesiveness and camaraderie for our California youth. During the whole length of the show, Melissa organized an elaborate scavenger hunt in which team members were assigned to small groups to find more than forty unusual items around the show and surrounding city. This competitive activity united team members from across the state, fostered new friendships, and strengthened old bonds. In addition to the excitement of the scavenger hunt, the PCQHYA team had an opportunity to create lifetime memories on Team Night.

The 2022 Team Night brought the return of the annual California pizza party, game night, AQHA Parade of Teams, and AQHA dance. After playing several incredibly fun games organized by Melissa Zannetti, the California team migrated to the Jim Norick arena for the Parade of Teams and recognition ceremony. At the event, two California Youth Members were awarded Youth Educational Scholarships for their participation in the AQHA industry. As the son of Professional Horsewoman Kellie Hinely, Trent Hinely received a Professional Horseman’s Youth Scholarship. Additionally, PCQHYA President Cassandre Ehrle was honored with the AQHA Foundation Youth Activities Scholarship. The culminating excitement of the parade and ceremony led many of the youth exhibitors to the AQHA afterparty dance. At this event, youth members demonstrated their best dancing skills, enjoyed refreshments, and spent valuable time with friends. Once again, the AQHA dance provided a pleasant escape from the intense show environment while still being steps away from the barns.

The PCQHA Youth Board’s efforts throughout the year also climaxed at the Youth World Show. For the past several months, the PCQHYA Board of Directors have been diligently fundraising and planning in order to create a memorable experience for the California Team. The board, led by President Cassandre Ehrle and Vice President Madison Renfro, designed stall decorations that reflected the AQHA theme of “Build For The Future”. Youth President Cassandre Ehrle says, “This year’s theme truly impacted me. My goal this year as President was to promote involvement of Youth members and to highlight the journey of Building for the Future. Our stall fronts incorporated a fun building theme while symbolically displaying the work of the California youth to build the future as well as recognizing those who have supported our team this year. It took a wonderful team to bring that to life this year, and I am humbled for the opportunity to lead such an amazing group of people in my final youth year.

Thank you to the youth team, youth board, my parents, other parents, our youth advisor, professionals, and sponsors for making it a great year! I am eager to watch the next generation of Youth as they Build For The Future!” The future looked bright as the California team collaborated to decorate the stalls and put the finishing touches on the preparations. At the end of the week, Team California was named the Division Champions for the Stall Decorating Contest for the second time in five years.

In summary of the week, Youth Advisor Kellie Hinely says, “The youth world games and decorations were on point this year! Melissa Zanetti had all of the girls gathered for fun games accompanied with pizza on the parade of teams evening. It was so nice to have groups of kids from California in the stands cheering for their CA friends. Cassie had the stall decorations organized and ready for all of the kids to help put together. She and her family put a lot of work into the decorations and everyone was impressed!”

The week was full of activities and competition, yet, the most special part of the show was the incredible friendships and teamwork that were displayed by Team California. Watching teammates work hard, cheer others on, and help each other demonstrates the most amazing qualities of the industry. The bonds built between teammates, horses, and friends is truly unreplaceable. Throughout the week, there was plenty of laughing, crying, joy, disappointment, celebrating, and couch sleeping by the whole team and all of it culminated to make 2022 an unforgettable year. Team California brought their best in and out of the show arena for the celebration of the 50th annual AQHYA World Championship Show.

Congratulations to the 2022 Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association Youth World Team on all of your success and thank you to each person who made this year such an amazing success!

By Cassandre Ehrle