It’s incredible what can happen in one year’s time. For Loni Brewster, one year took her from being show horseless to being named NSBA World Champion. Her story is especially inspiring to those who have taken a step back from competing. The industry will be waiting for your return and welcome you with open arms. Showing as a youth instilled a work ethic within her that has pushed her in this new era to never take no for an answer and to become unstoppable. From the moment Loni became acquainted with horses, she was hooked. Her babysitter showed at local shows and invited Loni to work with her horse.
“She let me use her horse for some open schooling shows and that’s when I got hooked.” Loni recalled. “I did showmanship with her horse as well. Her mom even helped with putting our show clothes together, she was a great seamstress.” Loni knew this was the path she wanted to follow and was relentless in her pleas for a horse of her own. “My parents knew I was not going to let down. April and Casey Devitt found me a red roan gelding that was 6 years old from a local barn in the Northern California area. He only did pleasure and trail at the time but he was pretty, in our budget and close by so we bought him!” His name was Platinum Page, and the two of them went on to accomplish Loni’s dreams. “It was a great fit and that horse would do ‘almost’ anything you would ask of him, other than a flying change! Casey even roped off of him a couple times I remember.”
Loni’s family encouraged her to follow her passion and to be the best she could be. “What inspired me was the drive to do well, no one in my family was involved with horses so if I wanted to learn, I needed to work on it with Casey and April and build from the ground up.” She shared. “And work we did! In school, I never played any sports, never wanted to do anything else besides ride, ride and ride some more. I guess you could say I would eat, sleep and breathe horses. I didn’t care about anything else besides being better than the day before.” She spent her youth career under the guidance of Casey and April, spending many weekends with them perfecting her craft. “I learned to work hard for what you have, because nothing is handed to you.”
Loni and Platinum Page showed in horsemanship, showmanship, halter and trail. All the hours spent at the Devitt’s paid off as they rose through the ranks and found themselves being named Youth World Champions, Congress Champions and found themselves on the National Honor Roll list. “In 1997 we won the Youth World in trail and in 1998 we won the Congress in the NYATT showmanship and were reserve in the 15-18 trail. Also in 1998 we were top 10 in the nation in the youth all around for the year, and that was with only competing in 4 classes and mostly showing in California. But we sure made those 4 classes count!” Loni’s favorite class was showmanship.
Her bright smile would light up the class and command the judge’s attention. “April had Page so dialed in that class, I will never forget that when I went to set him up, by the time I turned around to ask him to set, he was already doing it on his own, which made for some really fast sets!” Loni shared with that signature smile.
After accomplishing the goals that Loni set in front of her, she took a step back from showing to focus on family life. She married Justin Brewster and together had two beautiful children. “I have been married to Justin for 23 years and we have 2 kids, Kaitlyn who’s 20 and Dylan who is 17. Kaitlyn just graduated esthetician school and passed her California state test and Dylan is a senior in high school playing basketball and baseball.” Loni may have been horseless for several years, but it was completely worth it. “Although it was not an easy decision, I felt like I had accomplished a lot and had so many wonderful memories as a youth that I was ok with stepping away. Also knowing that horses are something you can always get back into helped!”
In the summer of 2022, Loni knew she was ready to start looking for a show horse to get her back into the arena. She reached out to trusted friend, Charlie Cole, to let him know that she was looking for a new partner and asked for his help in finding one. “At first he didn’t really know of anything that would fit what I was looking for and as the summer went on, my husband told me to reach out to Charlie again and see if anything had come up. Well he happened to try Lauren Crivelli’s horse in Las Vegas. It was a 3 year old and Charlie said you HAVE to go ride this horse. Young, in my price range and close to my home.” Loni told her husband about him and within 2 days they flew down to look at Willy Worth It, lovingly known as Willy. “I really liked him and my first honest thought was “this horse has a really big neck.” She recalled with a laugh. “But overall he was just a huge horse, super easy to get along with and never pinned his ears, he was a really happy boy.” Loni went home, thinking she had found the one. She went and tried him one more time just to be sure, and the rest is history. “Willy came home to bond with me for 2 months while everyone was away at the Congress and World Show.” Willy may have bonded just as much with her husband, as they share a special connection now. “He and Willy have a great relationship , he always has a treat for him and Willy always buries his head into Justin’s chest when he sees him. Willy is a great boy who honestly always gives me 100% and tries for me.” She shared with a smile. When it was time to send him back to training, Charlie recommended Shannon McCulloach as the perfect teacher for both Loni and Willy. Loni’s debut was this past February at the Prairie Classic. Instantly Loni knew she had made the right decision to get back into the show pen.
Not only was she excited to show her horse, but she was instantly recognizing old friends from the past. “There are so many of the same people still showing and training. It’s a small world and I am so happy to be back in it and see so many familiar faces and reconnect with so many great people too. It really is a big family.” Not only did she have a great time seeing friends, she was able to successfully find her bearings in the show pen, earning their first class win by the end of the week. “It went well, but let me tell you the best way to describe that experience for me was humbling.” She recalled. “I had a LOT of dust to brush off! You don’t just pick up where you left off, and that is ok.”
From there the duo went to the Arizona Sun Circuit to try their hand at improving from their first show pen experience together. With no expectations, they entered into the show simply being happy to be there. They started off with a bang, winning the Level 1 Horsemanship under two of the three cards. “It just kept getting better from there. We ended up with the circuit championship in horsemanship and won a saddle. Fun fact, I showed at the 25th anniversary of Sun Circuit and won the youth horsemanship circuit, came back 25 years later to the 50th anniversary and won the Level 1 amateur horsemanship circuit.” Shannon had her sights set on the Level 1 Championships for Loni’s next show, but Loni had her doubts as to if she was good enough to compete this early in their partnership. Shannon assured her that she should compete, so they loaded up and headed to Ohio. Their first class of the show was horsemanship. They made it through the go rounds and advanced to the finals. “I had a very early draw in the hms, which is fine because I don’t like to watch my competition. I like to just focus on Willy and I and to picture the pattern how I want it to go. And I go over the pattern again and again in my head.” She shared. “We ended up 3rd in the class and I was thrilled. In the showmanship we had a really good pattern for us. That is a class that I have struggled with a little more this year but it is coming along, Willy is better than me. I am having a hard time with how different showmanship is these days.” She is determined to figure out the change and come out better.
The next major show on the docket was the NSBA World Championship Show, a show that Loni had never attended before. Her family flew all the way to Tulsa to watch Loni do what she loves. “Justin, Dylan, my mom, cousin and cousin’s wife had come to watch me. We had an early draw and I was very pleased with our pattern. We went back to the stalls and waited for callbacks and made it.” She remembered with excitement. “I thought ok, they liked the pattern that’s good. Let’s see how this ends up.” As the results were called out from bottom to top, Loni found herself still remaining in the arena. Her butterflies grew as the announcer got closer and closer to naming the World Champion. “They got down to the top 10 and I looked at Justin in the stands and was so happy. Then the top 5 came and I was still standing. He’s videoing the whole thing and the girl next to me is crying, and I’m just thinking, this is so cool, we are in the top 5. We ended up with the win and I was so surprised, what a year it has been. Doing that victory lap and receiving the beautiful buckle and all the nice awards was surreal. I think about it all the time and replay it in my head.
It’s a day I will never forget. And now Willy is a World Champion!” She said joyously. “I will tell ya, when Charlie Cole tells you to go look at a horse, you don’t ask questions, because he is a master at putting a team together and knew just what I needed.”
After taking some time to cherish their big win, Loni went back to work to keep perfecting her craft. She knew from past experiences that horse showing is constantly evolving, and that if you don’t keep practicing you get left behind. They headed to the All American Quarter Horse Congress to keep challenging themselves. “Congress is one of my absolute favorite horse shows. I haven’t shown there in 25 years and it was so exciting to be back. It was exactly how I remembered it.” She explained. “We had a great draw in Level 1 horsemanship and I felt ready. Well my nerves got the best of me and my pattern was not what we were hoping for, we got through it, and thankfully got called to the finals.” She shared. With a clean slate finals, they redeemed themselves and had a stellar ride. “We walked out 4th out of a tough class of 88. Willy was a great boy and I had relaxed.” Justin had flown in to watch and offered words of advice to get her through. “He will keep me in check and remind me that I can do this and there’s no reason to stress.” Loni and Willy continued showing the rest of the week and had incredible learning opportunities. “There’s always work to be done, especially when you are on a 4 year old with a novice guiding him! I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given this year and could not be happier.”
Loni isn’t done yet, she will take all that she’s learned throughout the year and put it to the test one more time in the AQHA Level 1 Champion of Champions class at the World Show. She is very thankful to the team that has supported her on this journey so far. “I ppreciate Charlie for hooking me up with Lauren and to her for being such a big supporter of me and Willy, she is constantly sending me encouraging words and checking on us. I also want to thank Casey and April for always being supportive and giving me a great start. And to Shannon and Erin, they have worked so hard to make Willy the horse he is. They are so patient with me, we all have a really great relationship and I know this is the perfect place for Willy and I.” Best of luck to Loni and Willy!
By Lauren Stanley
candids taken by Kirstie Marie