Photo Essay: the All American Quarter Horse Congress

I’ve been meaning to share a few photos I took while I was covering events at the All American Quarter Horse Congress for the American Quarter Horse Journal. I picked a fun day to go, as it definitely showed the versatility of the Quarter Horse–from hunter under saddle, to pole bending, Western pleasure, and barrel racing.








Training Horses: Borrowing from One Discipline to Improve Another


Growing up riding horses, I never really put myself in the category of one type of rider versus another. I always would say that I was like a Quarter Horse–versatile and open to trying new things. I showed halter/showmanship, Western pleasure, trail, hunt seat, barrel racing, goat tying, roping, even started jumping in college. I knew that trying new things would be good for my horses, too, because it gave our riding sessions a fresh perspective when we’d work on one thing one day and something different the next.

Much like how I’d use extended trotting, leg yielding, side passing, etc., to warm up my horses, many trainers borrow movements that might not be the norm for their discipline to help improve their horses’ overall movement. The most popular is dressage…which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, since dressage is simply the art of riding your horse.

It is with this in mind that I wrote “A Little of This, A Little of That” for the Equine Chronicle earlier this summer. Download the PDF and read the article in its entirety: A Little of This, A Little of That
A Little of This_Page_1

How do you use movements from a different discipline to help with your discipline?

Before They Were Legends–The Industry’s Top Horses

When you’re watching greatness like Peyton Manning last night (yes, I am a Colts fan, but also a Manning fan), or even some of the top horses competing at the All American Quarter Horse Congress this month, it’s hard to imagine that at one point, everyone had to start somewhere. Peyton had to start in the pee-wee football leagues. Harley D Zip had to start out with a trainer to figure out the right buttons.

Here are a few quotes and tidbits about some of the horse industry’s top performers and how they were before they were legends:

  • Harley D Zip “I hobbled him; I rode him in orchards and in cow pens, and I treated him like a horse and wore him down,” trainer Doug Pratt remembers. “Jason Martin still had his hands full when he got him, but as he got to be seven, eight, and nine, he got better. But even when he was six or seven, if you didn’t longe him just right, he’d have a hump in his back and you’d have to grit through it.”
  • RL Best Of Sudden “When we first saw him we knew he was special, truly, he just had such a presence he looked like a special one,” says Candy Parrish. “Then, when we saw him lope around under saddle with just a handful of rides, we had no doubt he was a great one. Bo was exceptionally easy to train. He was so naturally gifted that Bret just had to show him what to do and it was easy for him.”
  • Allocate Your Assets When Brian Isbell and partner Kevin Garcia first saw Allocate Your Assets as a long yearling in 2001, it was all they could do to keep calm—they knew he was going to be something. “I knew right then and there, he was going to be my once-in-a-lifetime horse,” recalls multiple World Champion trainer, Isbell.
  • RPL My Te Cheerful RPL My Te Cheerful’s first show wasn’t until late into his two year-old year with Monte Horn. His breeder, Bobbie and Henry Atkinson, felt that the late-blooming son of My Te Telusive needed some time to just grow and be a horse, so he spent many days out to pasture, with some light work here and there with the Atkinson’s farm manager, Michael Ochetto.
  • John Simon “There was never a question the second I saw him move that he would turn into something special,” says Tim Gillespie, who said he was the best minded stallion he has ever trained. “He was very easy to finish out and was a true gentleman. He never had any quirks or gave us any trouble.”
Harley D Zip, ridden by then-owner Brian Ale, and trainer Doug Pratt at the 1998 Tom Powers. Photo courtesy Doug Pratt

Harley D Zip, ridden by then-owner Brian Ale, and trainer Doug Pratt at the 1998 Tom Powers. Photo courtesy Doug Pratt


Read more about these legends and their younger years on Before They Were Legends: A Look Back at their Younger Years

Too Much Bling? Dos & Don’ts of Western Show Clothes

The Western world is notorious for bling–watch any Western pleasure class and you’ll see silver-encrusted saddles and crystal-laden shirts and jackets. Some think they have to spend more money on show clothes than some do for school wardrobes. But is that always the case? had me talk to some AQHA/APHA judges to get their opinion on how they feel about Western show clothes and how you can dress for success in the show pen.


Here are some quick tips:

  • Invest in a well-shaped, quality hat.
  • Choose an outfit that best compliments your horse and your body type–don’t just follow fads and trends.
  • Make sure you have your showmanship pants hemmed while wearing your show boots so they don’t end up too short in the show ring.
  • You don’t have to get a super fancy outfit for showmanship–women can rock a well-tailored business suit found in a department store.
  • More outfits is not always better–invest in one quality outfit if that’s all your budget allows.
  • Moving parts of your outfit is not always best when it comes to classes like horsemanship and showmanship, so stay away from fringe, chains, etc. Save that for Western pleasure, riding, or trail.

Want more? Check out the article on Judges Discuss the Dos and Don’ts of Western Fashion.

Teaching a Soft Touch to Your Horse

I’ve been lucky to be able to talk with some great trainers and learned a lot about how they work with their horses. In this article for the Paint Horse Journal, I learned from Heather Thompson how to teach “guide” to your horse for silent communication.

A Soft Touch

You’ve seen it in the show ring: a horse-and-rider team moving flawlessly through the motions, making square corners and round circles, changing direction with what looks to be no real effort at all. You can barely see the guidance the rider gives the horse through her hands, and yet he responds effortlessly.

That silent communication is the basis of what American Paint Horse Association Professional Horseman Heather Thompson calls “guide,” and it’s something she teaches all of her horses and clients.

“When I work with my horses, I don’t like to pull them. I like to push them,” she explained. “If I’m going left, I put that right rein into the horse’s neck and they know that means to ten left. I’m using rein pressure first.”




“Guide” refers to a horse’s willingness to respond to slight pressure fro his rider. The better your horse guides, the easier he’ll be to ride.




Download the entire article here: A Soft Touch