2023 California Championship L1 Amateur All Around: Elise Guerra/ Im A Good Bar Deluxe

Winning a California Championship All-Around Champion award shows your strong desire to show. Which is your favorite class for you and your horse and why is it your favorite?

The pattern classes have always been my favorite. They also happen to be the ones that my horse likes the best. It is really hard to pick just one favorite, because Jake makes all of them exciting. He constantly gives me his all and makes everything we do fun. That being said, my all-time favorite class has to be the trail. I love riding the patterns just as much as I like watching other riders navigate the course. It is such a technical class, but you can also add some style to it when you know yours and your horse’s strengths. Every class requires an immense level of trust between the horse and the rider, but I feel like this is even more true for a trail pattern. I think it is really special to be able to watch that connection while they do some pretty challenging things. I’m pretty sure this is Jake’s favorite class too because he looks his happiest after a good trail go! He also always feels so smooth and light footed when going over poles. I like to joke and say that Jake has “happy feet” in trail.

What challenges did you face in winning a CA Championship All-Around Champion award with your horse – or was it easy to win? What advice could you give to other exhibitors hoping to win this prestigious award?

Winning the CA Championship All-Around Champion award was a really fulfilling experience because it showed me just how far Jake and I have come as a team over the past few years. This year’s CA Championship show was a big lesson in just going with the flow. I was not expecting to be able to show at all this year because I figured that I would be too busy with graduate school. Suddenly, my schedule opened up and I was fortunate enough to be able to make it to the CA Championship! A small part of me wanted to be nervous because we were going into a show with no prep. But that didn’t happen. I just had to keep reminding myself that I know my horse and he knows me. I knew that we were there to just enjoy the rides that we were able to have. Once I cleared my head, I was able to really ride every step of the pattern and be a good partner for Jake. He shows up for me every time, so I owe it to him to do the same. Really, I think the mental aspect of showing is always the biggest challenge. As riders, we can always figure out how to navigate a tricky trail obstacle or make a transition smoother. But, none of that matters if we’re caught up worrying about what placing we’re going to end up with. Working yourself and your horse up before a class does absolutely no good for anyone. My biggest piece of advice that I could give to other riders is to trust the work that you and your horse have done at home. Then, apply that when you’re at the show. Once you realize that you’ve done all the work you can do to get yourself to that show, you’ll be able to have some confidence in yourself. The rides become a lot smoother and more enjoyable when you aren’t in your own head.

How did you practice and prepare to show in the CA Championship? How often and what did you do (ie: patterns, lots of ride time, go out on the trail – or have more lessons with the trainer?)

The preparation I do with Jake before a show is not really all that different from his every day rides. We start with a warm-up and then, depending on what I felt during the beginning of the ride, I’ll usually pick a drill or two to work on. That can vary from working on our transitions to practicing lead changes. Jake knows his job so I have never seen a need to run through a pattern 20 times until it’s perfect. We work on components of a pattern, but very rarely go through the entire thing. My main goal when preparing Jake for a show is to keep both of us happy and light. I never want to have a burnt out horse going into a show because Jake does so much better when he’s not overworked. Of course, we always end our rides with either a trail ride or him getting turned out so he can roll. This helps keep both of us happy and relaxed!

What is a special memory you have from the California Championship show? Tell us why this is special and what you’d like to see added for next year.

Every one of my favorite memories revolves around getting to chat with my “horse show family”. Talking to Judy, Cece, Deb, and everyone else around the showgrounds is always so special. I love talking to other amateurs because getting to know the people you wait around with all day makes the show so much more fun. I love that we have the opportunity to share stories with people we probably would never have met if it were not for this sport. Sure, the ribbons and trophies are nice, but what’s really special is getting the chance to connect with the people around us. At the end of the day, that’s what these shows are really all about! I know those relationships are something the CA Championship show will continue to foster for years to come!

How long have you been showing and what is your next goal?

I have been showing horses since I was a little lead liner! My mom and I always joke that I was riding horses before I could walk! So, it has always been something super close to my heart. I have been super lucky to continue to be able to show while I’ve been in college. I just started a master’s program in speech-language pathology at Fresno State. Right now, my most immediate goal is to focus on graduate school and enjoying every ride I can have on Jake without adding any unnecessary pressure. A long-term goal of mine is to make it back to the AQHA World show with him in 2024!