I decided, with one week’s notice, to enter the 2023 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) UK Championship Show. I had been considering entering due to it being in Cambridgeshire, and I have something called Futurity membership, which is for a horse from weanling to three years old, so this was my last year to be able to enter this category. But, equally, I had been so focused on backing him this year that I had gotten him out to a lot fewer shows and not really kept up with my in hand work – the Western discipline has a much tougher in hand element to showing than English.
I had a “why not?” moment and spontaneously entered the L1 Amateur Showmanship and the 3-Year-Old Futurity Gelding classes.
Showmanship is like in hand dressage: you have to learn a pattern consisting of halt, walk, trot, circles, rein back and turn on the haunches without touching the horse at any point, which, considering I had not practised all year, was a big ask, and the boy really stepped up, doing just 10-15 minutes an evening over the week.
Django was super well behaved at the busy environment of the national championships. He tried his heart out in the Showmanship, coming fourth, only one and a half points behind third, and three points behind second, so very competitive all things considered. It almost left me a little frustrated I hadn’t entered earlier and put in some more practice.
In the halter class he stood like a pro, looked like a pro, and for the first time ever at a Western show, I felt like we knew what we were doing and fired in. Unbelievably, we walked away from the show The AQHA UK Futurity Champion and I won my first ever plaque!