Glitz. Glamor. World Show.

Fancy clothes, prestigious awards, and the industry’s best gathered in one place. Interviews given, pictures taken, and an expectant crowd awaiting the announcement of each award. Is this a nationally televised awards show? Maybe the Oscars or the Country Music Awards? No, this is the infamous American Quarter Horse Association’s World Championship Show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Much like an awards show, the AQHA World Show brings thousands of people from around the world to crown winners in each division. Each exhibitor has the opportunity to walk down the figurative red carpet of the iconic Gateway Of Champions before entering the figurative performance stages of the Jim Norick and Performance Arenas. For many, this “red carpet walk” down the Gateway Of Champions represents the transition to the achievement of their dreams. Win or lose, each performance results from the culmination of years of dedication and effort from exhibitors, trainers, horses, and breeders. Throughout the history of the World Show, California exhibitors and trainers have reaped the benefits of this determination and have found themselves in the spotlight accepting awards at the AQHA World Show. Unsurprisingly, this year’s show was certainly no exception for California residents.

California exhibitors started the show strong on day two of competition when Dustin Turk and Wright On Holly Time clenched the Bronze Championship in Level 2 Senior Working Cow Horse. In the Level 3 Division of the Senior Working Cow Horse, Roy Rich was named the World Champion with Half Past Boon. Both horses are owned by Rocking J Ranch, Inc.

In the hunter arena, California exhibitors also had a great show. After an impressive third place finish at the Quarter Horse Congress, Miss American Pi was named World Champion in the Level 3 Senior Working Hunter with Ryan Painter. This talented mare also earned Bronze Champion in the Open Working Hunter Under Saddle with Stacy Huls, and Bronze Champion in the Amateur Working Hunter Under Saddle with her owner Daisy Mendez-Pompei. Regarding the win, Daisy says “This horse is so special to Azelea [Daisy’s daughter] and I, as well as to all the incredible people that have been a part of her journey. This is the second time I feel like time stops watching her ride. Her NSBA win was the first. I can’t even try and describe the feeling”. Obviously, the judges are just as captivated with watching “Pi” as her team is!

Two other California exhibitors also took home top spots in the hunter events. Hana Thomas’ horse My Next Edition was Bronze Champion in the Senior Working Hunter with Ryan Painter. Additionally, Hana and “Tim” were Reserve World Champion in Level 3 Amateur Hunter Hack. When asked about her wins, Hana says “I’ve always dreamed about getting a globe, and it’s a blessing to be able to do it at our first world show together. I’m forever grateful to my trainers Ryan Painter, Morgan Eickenhorst, and Lance Bryson for all they do and their support, along with everyone in my corner. It is a dream come true to be able to show and ride a horse as talented as Tim!” Hana and Tim certainly had a stellar experience at their first World Show together! Well-known California exhibitor JoAnn Niffenegger also had an impressive show on two of her talented horses. JoAnn and Real Good Reason were World Champions in Select Hunt Seat Equitation. In the hunter ring, JoAnn and Thrift Shop earned the World Championship in Amateur Select Working Hunter and Reserve World Champion in Amateur Select Equitation Over Fences.

Another well-known California resident, Paris Rice, had a standout show with her talented horse Its Southern Blues a.k.a. Nelson. She followed up on her previous 2022 win in the Level 2 Equitation with a World Championship in Amateur Level 3 Hunt Seat Equitation. Throughout the show, she was also named World Champion in Level 2 Amateur Horsemanship, and Reserve World Champion in Level 2 Amateur Showmanship. Regarding her wins this year, Parris says “This was my first World Championship in 11 years and my first as an amateur! I’m so lucky to have such a great partner in Nelson, he truly loves his job and always gives me his best effort; that coupled with the best coaches and trainers out there, I’m just living my best life.” Parris and Nelson’s bond and passion are certainly displayed in the show arena and have translated to remarkable success!

Slicker Than Nic was Reserve World Champion in Level 3 Senior Dally Team Roping-Heading with Correa Paoliello for owner Sandy Western. Gary Roberts and Light Up your Six were Bronze Champions in Level 3 Junior Reining for owner Anne Marie Brumleu. Jamie Walters and Sail On Vintage were Champions in the Level 1 Amateur Select Ranch Riding.

In the Trail pen, California exhibitors swept many of the top spots including taking home Bronze Championships in Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Amateur Trail! Charlotte Green and her homebred mare Mechanic Parkin Only were awarded a well-deserved Bronze Championship in Level 3 Amateur Trail. Cristin Coombs and Doctor Phil Good were Bronze Champions in the Level 2 Amateur Trail, while Stacy Potter and In the Dark Secrets were Bronze Champions in the Level 1 Amateur Trail. California resident Christine Harrison was also Champion in the Level 1 Amateur Select Trail! Congratulations to California exhibitors on their strong showing in the trail classes!

No stranger to the trophy placings, Bonnie Sheren left the World Show with multiple trophies. Hez Blazin Trouble, also known to many as Perfect Parker, was World Champion in Open Performance Halter Geldings with Ross Roark and World Champion with Bonnie in the Amateur Select Performance Halter Geldings. Western Riding legend Heza Radical Zip displayed his perpetual consistency in the Western Riding by following up last year’s win with a Reserve World Championship in Level 3 Senior Western Riding with Charlie Cole. Bonnie says “This year’s World Show was very special to me! It was the second time I was named World Champion in Select Performance Halter Geldings with Hez Blazin Trouble. He was also World Champion in Open Performance Halter Geldings and 5th in Sr Western Riding. I actually sold Parker the day after the show to Susan Wilson, who will remain at Highpoint so it was a bittersweet show for me. My other horse Heza Radical Zip, at the age of 18, was Reserve World Champion in Sr Western Riding with Charlie Cole. This makes it 4 World Championships and 2 Reserves in this class for Troy!” It has been an incredible year for Bonnie and her talented horses!

Lauren Crivelli showed One Hot Chilly Willy to a Champion placing in the Level 1 Horse NonPro Horsemanship. California owner Kathryn DeVries had trophy success in the halter with two of her horses. Ladiez Mann was Reserve World Champion in Level 2 Yearling Stallions while Naughty Intentions was Reserve World Champion in the Level 2 Two Year Old Stallions. Both of Kathryn’s horses were led by Todd Grant. Also in the halter pen, Chris Riedle led Causin Heartz Break to a Reserve World Championship in the Level 2 Yearling Mares for Janel Trammell. In the Level 1 Hunter Under Saddle, Alyse Roberts was Reserve Champion with Kruzn South for Matt and Kayla Budine. This talented young gelding is under the guidance of California trainer Stacy Huls. Last but certainly not least, Kim Portney piloted Whiskey In The Dark to a Bronze Championship in the Level 3 Amateur Select Western Riding.

Aside from the trophy placings that we have mentioned, California exhibitors and trainers accumulated numerous Top 10 and Finalist placings. A special congratulations to all these California exhibitors who earned these awards, as well as those who made strides towards their goals, had personal improvements, or fulfilled their dreams at this year’s event. Although listing the achievements of each California exhibitor who made such achievements would be much too lengthy to include here, we recognize your dedication and cheer each one of you on your success at the 2023 AQHA World Show.

Californians celebrated huge success at the 2023 AQHA World Championship Show. Among the thousands of entries that walked down the figurative red carpet of the Gateway Of Champions, many California exhibitors and trainers walked back up with a trophy in hand! In total, California won about thirty trophy placings including thirteen Level 2 and 3 World Championships. A total of twenty-two horses with California owners/riders accumulated these impressive awards. Much like a prestigious award show, the attendees of the 2023 AQHA World Championship Show enjoyed the suspense, glamor, fashion, awards, media, and interviews that these events have in common. Furthermore, like an awards show, those who earn awards have dedicated countless hours, endless dedication, and hard work to even make it to an event at this level. However, the AQHA World Show has a distinct element that can never be replicated by any film or music award show. The AQHA World Show provides its exhibitors with the unique challenge and reward of earning these achievements with an American Quarter Horse counterpart! In addition to all of the exhibitors, trainers, and staff that worked tirelessly to make the show a success, the horses demonstrated the highest level of athleticism and training to earn these awards.

As the curtain closes on the 2023 American Quarter Horse Association World Show, the memories and unforgettable moments remain impressed on the world stage for Quarter Horse exhibitors. The show may be over but the records set, memories made, and awards won are all things that will never dim for those who witnessed them. Congratulations to all 2023 World Show Exhibitors, especially those who are from California!

By Cassandre Ehrle