The warm-up ring at a horse show is an intimidating place.
Riders pack into the small arena. Some canter around the edge, while others unpredictably cut across the ring or pull up to a halt. In the middle, riders fight for their turn to pop over a fence.
Out in the show ring, it’s another story.
“It’s just you and your horse,” rider Catie Fike said.
But the towering stands and giant arena didn’t phase Fike at the 2016 AQHA Nutrena East Level 1 Championships. She, along with other riders from Amy Hanssen Training Center in Middleport, NY, won big at the show. They traveled to North Carolina in early May and brought home multiple class championships and placings, even securing an all-around championship.
Fike brought home two of those championships on her horse Suitable Impression, beating out 16 other riders in Youth Working Hunter and Youth Equitation over Fences. But this isn’t Fike’s first rodeo — she’s been to countless big shows, namely the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show and All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
The show is reserved just for Level 1 and Rookie riders — those who haven’t won enough to point out of their division. So it was perfect for some AHTC riders, like Rose Paxon, who were making their first trip to a big show like this one. Paxon rode Prinzziples Affair, a horse who, in contrast with Paxon, has been to countless big shows. His experience made Paxon’s trip that much easier.
“He took the stress off of me because I can trust him,” Paxon said. “I could focus more on me and my equitation.”
Even with Prinzziples Affair’s experience, Paxon didn’t expect to do as well as she did. Overall, she was a finalist in every class she competed in, also placing in the top 10 for two classes and top five in another.
Other Amy Hanssen riders dominated the AQHA hunter classes as well. Mikayla Crofford rode her horse Prin Cess Leia and Brooklynn Czelusta rode Mellow Evening to top ten and placings in youth classes. Nina Nardecchia rode BD A Sign Of Money and Dr. Jeanne Best rode Country Talk to top five and top 10 placings as well. Dr. Best also brought home to High Point English Select title.
While all the riders brought home ribbons, these honors weren’t the highlight of their trip. Crofford added just how fun the whole experience was — showing hundreds of miles from home, shopping for horse tack and gear and enjoying pizza parties with fellow riders. And it didn’t hurt that one night, they could hear Beyonce performing right next door.