California Riding Magazine • January, 2008

Western Side Story
Goodbye 2007. Hello 2008!

by Gayle Carline

Happy New Year, everyone!

Before we go on to the exciting possibilities that await us in 2008, I’d like to congratulate all of our California riders who participated in the American Quarter Horse Association’s World Show, held Nov. 2-17 at the newly renovated State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. This 15 day show is billed as the “Super Bowl” of the AQHA industry and is limited to those amateur and professional riders who have earned enough points to be invited.

The AQHA World Shows (there are three of them) are extravaganzas that many competitors strive to attend. Some people believe that once is enough; if they can get their horse to a single World Show, that’s all they need to do.

Until they go.

I’ve heard more than one story of a rider who qualified their horse for one of the World Shows, thinking that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime event, only to come away from the show vowing to return the following year. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny.

For this year’s World Show, there were almost a thousand horses just in the semi-finals of the western events. As expected, Texas and Oklahoma had the most entries, but California came in an amazing third, and four other countries, Austria, Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom, were also represented.

Of the California entries, the most notable performances were in the trail arena. Ashley Dunbar of Moorpark won both the Junior Horse Trail on Smokin Sensational and the Senior Horse Trail on RL Tune Up. I did not have the privilege of being there, but my trainers, Tina Duree and Niki Owrey, reported that Ashley’s rides were just this side of perfect. She managed to find the right line for her horses, didn’t try to micromanage them, and pushed for the best performance she could get. The result was a smooth, evenly cadenced ride from two relaxed horses.

Congratulations, Ashley, as well as the rest of our California contingent!

Now, I’d like to share my plans for 2008. In addition to writing about the people and horses that lope, jog, slide and spin, I’m going to write about some of the events we compete in, how they got started and where they are going.

All competitions start the same way. Two or three people sharing an activity want to find out which one of them does it the best. Riders who liked speed would have friendly races. Those who worked cows tried to see whose horse was the best at cutting a steer from the herd and controlling its movements.

As these competitions became more structured, committees were formed and rules were written. But when did this happen, who were the catalysts and how has the event evolved? For example, a trail class used to include stepping a horse through a tire and opening a mailbox. Those obstacles have been removed from the AQHA trail events, and competitors are now being asked to extend gaits, over poles as well as in between them. The pleasure class has also seen changes, even though it seems like judging whether horses look pleasurable to ride would not need many adjustments.

I confess, I have a lot of research to do in order to present these columns, but I think it’s important for us to understand history if we want to change an event for the better. I plan to dig around in a lot of breed associations’ show rules and histories, to give everyone who sits in a western saddle a clear picture of their past.

Next month, I’ll start with my personal favorite: trail.

Got any news you’d like to share with the western riding community? Contact me at 714-296-6009, or e-mail me at