The AQHA World Championship Show is always one of the most anticipated events of the year. This year was certainly no exception. More than ever, a myriad of emotions was present at this year’s event. As dozens of exhibitors achieved lifelong goals and were awarded iconic World Show globes, a sense of joy and accomplished surrounded the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds. Each day, the top exhibitors felt the glory that the World Show offers to the highest placing exhibitors. However, some surprise and frustration were expressed during this year’s event.
Discouragement was felt by exhibitors at the show and by those who chose not to attend this year’s event. The 2022 AQHA World Show was significantly smaller than previous year’s show as many exhibitors were unable or decided to skip the World Show. The normally busy aisles and bustling barns were unusually quiet. Despite the continued combination of the Select World, Open and Amateur World, and the addition of the Level 1 Champions of Champions, the overall entry numbers were down significantly from previous World Shows. The proposed reasons for the decrease in participation were as diverse as the AQHA constituents themselves. Many exhibitors illuminated the rising cost in qualifying shows, the high expense of attending the World Show, the decreasing number of regional qualifying shows, the increasing competitiveness of the World Show, and other showing-related factors. In response to the significant concerns of many participants, AQHA World Show officials organized a Town Hall meeting at the World Show to offer a platform for members to express their opinions and suggest possible solutions for their concerns. The event drew a full meeting of individuals eager to participate in the discussion. With a room full of fresh ideas and conversation between industry leaders and exhibitors, there is no doubt that this discussion will be perpetuated long after this year’s World Show.
These factors did change the atmosphere of the show this year; however, it did not diminish the accomplishments of the nation’s top horse and rider teams. Multiple California exhibitors earned well-deserved and prestigious awards throughout the show. Each of these owners and exhibitors perpetuated a history of excellence to achieve top spots at this year’s AQHA World Show. California exhibitors amassed more than three dozen trophies, specialty awards, and even set records.
At the beginning of the week, California ranch riders and Cutting exhibitors showed definitive success in the arena. Kristin Futran-James rode Fire By Pepto to a Bronze Championship in the Level 3 Amateur Cutting and a Bronze Championship in the Level 2 Amateur Cutting. Emilie Christiansen rode Here For The Prizes to a Reserve Championship in Level 2 Junior Ranch riding for Thalia Postins. Also, Brent Boevers showed LCR CRAZYXGIRLFRIEND to a Reserve Championship in Level 2 Junior Working Cowhorse for Jodell B Johnston of Chico, California.
In the Level 1 Champion of Champions classes, California had a strong representation. California exhibitors took the Reserve and Bronze Champion positions in the Level 1 Amateur Showmanship. Elise Guerra showed Ima Good Bar Deluxe to a Reserve Championship while Karissa Kean and Huntin a Sweet Dream were awarded the bronze championship.
Charlotte Green followed up on her 2021 win in L1 Amateur Showmanship with a World Championship in L2 Amateur Showmanship with her homebred mare Mechanic Parkin Only. Charlotte and “Nicky” have had a great fall season by collecting a World Championship and Congress Championship in less than a month! Parris Rice also had an impressive show with Its Southern Blues! Parris followed up on her 2021 World Championship in L2 Equitation with a Reserve World Champion in Level 3 Amateur Equitation and Bronze Champion in Level 2 Amateur Horsemanship. Her mother and California trainer, Carolyn Rice, also earned a Bronze Championship in Level 2 Senior Western Riding aboard I Know Whats Best for Elizabeth Tauber.
Select Amateur exhibitor Valerie Nalbatian showed Best Tale Yet to a Bronze Championship in Level 2 Select Trail. In the Select Amateur Halter division, Melinda Minnis led Hesa Classic Secrete to a Reserve World Championship in Select 3 Year Old Stallions.
California resident and exhibitor Dan Fox continued to dominate at this year’s World Show. Like last year, Dan was once again awarded the Leading Exhibitor Award in recognition of the incredible accomplishments that he and his horses achieved at the show. Dan showed his horses in the Select Amateur division while his daughter, Katie, showed them in the Amateur division. CR Peacemaker made history as the most winning Halter Stallion with a total of nine World Championships. At this year’s show he earned World Championships in Amateur, Select, and Open Aged Stallions. Solair added World Championship titles in Amateur and Select Aged Geldings, bringing his lifetime total to twelve World Championships. Wyatt Earp followed his 2021 World Championship in Select Yearling Colts with a Reserve World Champion in Select Two Year Old Stallions. Prominence was named World Champion in Amateur Select Yearling Colts and Open Yearling Stallions and Reserve World Champion in Amateur Yearling Stallions. Magnificense earned Bronze Champion in Level 3 Aged Mares. FR Veni Vidi Vici won the Level 2 Two Year Old Geldings. FR Final Edition was Bronze Champion in Open Performance Halter Stallions. In the performance portion, Katie Fox rode Seismic Reaction to a win in the Amateur Ranch Trail for the second consecutive year and Double Tapn won the Level 1 Ranch Riding Stakes with Bud Lyon.
Another well-known and successful California exhibitor, Bonnie Sheren, is also leaving the World Show with new World Championship Titles. After winning multiple Congress titles last month, Hez Blazin Trouble continued his winning streak in multiple events. At this year’s World Show, “Parker” won the World Championship in Level 2 and Level 3 Amateur Select Performance Halter Geldings with Bonnie. He was also World Champion in Open Performance Halter Geldings with Ross Roark and Bronze Champion in Senior Trail with Jason Martin. After a 2021 Reserve World Championship in Western Riding, he also returned for a World Championship in Senior Wester Riding. This is the fifth World Championship that Bonnie’s horses have won in Senior Western Riding! Parker’s great success culminated on the final day of the World Show to earn him the coveted AQHA Superhorse title! Bonnie says, “This year’s World Show was truly special for me. My horse Parker (Hez Blazin Trouble) won 3 World Championships including my first one in Select Am. Performance Halter Geldings. The win in Sr WR was the 18th consecutive win for Jason and Charlie. To top it off, Parker was awarded the 2021 Year End Highpoint All Around and he was the 2022 Superhorse! We all thought Parker was befitting of that title even before the show!” Congratulations Bonnie and Parker!
Jo Ann Niffenegger also kept her momentum from an incredible Congress to achieve impressive placings at the World Show. Jo Ann and Real Good Reason captured the World Championship in Amateur Select Equitation Over Fences, Reserve World Champion Amateur Select Working Hunter, and Reserve World Champion Amateur Select Hunt Seat Equitation. “Reggie” was also Reserve World Champion in the Senior Working Hunter with Ryan Painter.
Another California resident coming off big wins at Congress was Erin Shapiro Boatwright. She claimed the World Championship in Amateur Hunter Under Saddle with Im Willy Good Today. Im Willy Good Today also completed the final victory lap of the 2022 AQHA World Show with a World Championship in Senior Hunter Under Saddle. Her other horse, All The Good Things, received the Bronze Championship in Junior Hunter Under Saddle with Keith Miller. For the third year in a row, Matt and Kayla Budine will be taking home the top prize in the Level 2 Junior Hunter Under Saddle. This year, Iron Lion Zion claimed the title with Carly Parks.
California exhibitors once again proved their hard work and talent at the 2022 AQHA World Championship Show. As the lights go out on the 2022 World Show and the exhibitors travel home, new memories are left over the infamous Norick Arena and with each attendee. Although this year’s event may have looked different from the typical AQHA World Show, many of the nation’s finest riders were able to achieve their goals and display their careful preparation. For those who raised concern about the future of this show or the decreasing participation, the start of a conversation and potential change has developed. Hopefully, transparent communication and insightful discussion can continue as the industry develops and evolves. The support of dedicated members and candid conversations about continually improving the industry insure the perpetuation and progress of the sport. For those who won prestigious awards or realized their dreams at this year’s event, congratulations on your success! The 2022 AQHA World Championship Show might now be in the history books, but the experiences, memories, and lessons obtained from the show will long remain vivid.
Congratulations to all qualifiers and exhibitors of the 2022 AQHA World Championship Show!
By Cassandre Ehrle