Eyes on the Prize

Delaney Lee has her sights set on big goals for 2023 and beyond.

Delaney Lee had an incredible breakout year, earning many All Around awards and Circuit Championships. However, these accomplishments didn’t happen overnight, they were a result of many years of learning to be a better horsewoman that culminated into success in the show pen. Delaney isn’t slowing down, in fact, she’s just getting started; she has plans to keep pushing her horsemanship skills and enhancing her connection with her horses each ride.

Delaney was hooked on horses from the minute she was introduced to them. “When I was a little over three years old, the preschool I was at had a pony at their carnival. My parents took me over to the pony and all I wanted to do was stay by that pony all night! Apparently, I kept asking to ride. I started lessons at four years old but don’t remember much of that. I remember falling in love when while taking lessons in 2nd grade. I loved being around the horses, at the barn and riding, all of it!” Delaney recalled of her early introduction to horses. She continued to take lessons, and for her eleventh birthday, her biggest wish finally came true. Her parents gave her a pretty gymkhana mare named Molly. Molly introduced Delaney to the world of competition, where the two ran in their first race shortly thereafter. “She was an old barrel horse who loved to go fast!” Delaney recalled. “Sadly, she got injured and ended up on stall rest for 7 months. I moved to a new barn with her and was introduced to pleasure showing by my trainer Lauren Murrell. I had no idea what it was all about, but Lauren was so passionate about the sport.” Lauren played a vital role in getting Delaney into the show pen on a western all around horse. “I got my second horse Invy, who I showed for the first time in August 2020 at a local show. I won my first buckle in a series that went on for 4 months. I loved the challenge of competing for points. Then we went on to Gold N Grand and realized the competition was harder, but it was awesome!” This step into deeper waters ignited a competitive fire within Delaney that is still driving her today. She knew there was a bigger world out there for her to learn from and she couldn’t wait to discover it.

In early 2021, Delaney and her trainer Lauren set out to find Delaney a new show partner that she could show at AQHA shows. When asked what prompted the desire to show at the breed shows, Delaney answered simply, “I wanted to start competing at a higher level.” In May of 2021, her first show partner was found. A beautiful bay gelding named Invite The Best became available. Delaney named the stunning gelding Theodore, or Teddy, which means gift from God. Teddy only had experience in hunter under saddle and halter, but because of his looks and movement, they knew he would have what it takes to become a great all around partner. “Since Teddy didn’t know anything about pattern work, we really focused on that.” Delaney explained. “We spent days, weeks, and months working with him on how to pivot and transition up and down. I personally worked hard by practicing and improving my own horsemanship by working with my trainer and watching a lot of videos of older girls at world shows.” This hard work paid off when they stepped into the show pen in 2022 with amazing results.

Teddy and Delaney grew together as a team under the guidance of Tamara Coulson, starting the 2022 season off strong with a Top Ten finish in the L1 Youth All Around at the Arizona Sun Circuit. To have taken a horse that didn’t know the pattern classes and be competitive at such a high level in less than a year was exhilarating. They went on to expand their skills together throughout the year to win the L1 Youth All Around at The Celebration in Las Vegas, and even placed in the Top 25 at the AQHA Youth World Championship Show in Hunt Seat Equitation. This was not won without its share of challenges. “Oh, those flying lead changes. Teddy and I were both green at it, but we have come so far.  I even leased another horse who could help me learn what I needed to do, then I took that and worked with Teddy. We have spent so many hours training and the results are amazing!” She spoke. The desire to push through a challenge and find a way to learn from it has benefited Delaney greatly on her journey with Teddy. It has instilled a spirit of hard work and has given her the skills needed to step up for her new show partner for 2023, Betcha Want This. Lovingly known as Lewis, Betcha Want This is no newcomer to the winner’s circle. Having multiple World Championship titles under his belt, he is ready to help Delaney make her next dreams a reality.

“I can’t wait for this next year!” Delaney gushed excitedly. “With Teddy my goals are to compete at the Level 1 Championships and do well in our pattern work to compete then at the Champion of Champions at AQHYA World. We are also working hard to compete in Western Riding at the Level 1 Championship. With Lewis my sights are on the L2/L3 Horsemanship and Western Riding at AQHYA World.” But her goals don’t stop there, she has a long-term goal of riding with a Division 1 Equestrian Team. “I recently started working with Mary Meneely who is an amazing coach, and we are working hard towards my goal.” Delaney is going all in to accomplish her dreams. This year she chose to attend a charter school to allows her the flexibility to do her schoolwork either in the classroom or remotely. This will allow her the chance to train and show as much as she can to perfect her craft. Her favorite subject is science, which is a good skill to master since her dream is to become a veterinarian. Delaney takes her academics very seriously and is so thankful for the opportunity to excel in this charter program.

Delaney is grateful for her coach, trainer and family support in her riding endeavors. “Tamara is so positive all the time, even when things are challenging! She explains things in ways that make sense to me, and she always works hard to help me understand different concepts. She’s the best!” She shared. “My family is very loving and caring and I really appreciate all they do to support me. Including all my time to and from the barn, all the travel to the shows and helping me be ready at shows. I also want to mention my brother Tanner, even though he’s not a fan of horses he often travels to cheer me on!” Delaney had a few pieces of advice that she wanted to share with her fellow horse crazy youth. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. I used to be that way but realized even the top and best riders have bad days and make mistakes.” She has learned to turn those perceived mistakes into learning opportunities that will make her a better horsewoman and show woman. Another wise beyond her years piece of advice was, “Always have a goal in mind. It doesn’t have to be huge but one that you can be proud of when you reach it!” This advice was gleaned while working with a green horse. She found that setting small goals along the way to bigger goals allowed her to enjoy the journey while still reaching for more.

We are excited to cheer Delaney on this year, and for years to come. She and her partners are set to have a great year of success as they travel across the country to compete and advance their skills. Best of luck Delaney!

By Lauren Stanley