Arizona Fall Championship Draws Increasing Numbers

Arizona Quarter Horse Association strives to give exhibitors what they want in all the shows that they produce. Delivering on that goal has been a big component of the upward trajectory of entires at the Arizona Fall Championship. The 2018 show held September 19-23 saw 7,603 AQHA class entries which represents 17% growth over the previous year. Exhibitors from across the country flock to Scottsdale for the event that has established a reputation as the  “Show For Everyone” with its quality competition and awesome awards. “We saw increases in class entries across the board,” says Doug Huls, Show Director and CEO of Arizona Quarter Horse Association. He continues, ”I think a big draw for us is that we have great awards in all the levels.” Circuit Champions in Levels 1, 2 and 3 received bronze trophies, individualized to each discipline. The 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the circuit standings received embroidered denim jackets. Additionally, five Scottsdale Performance High Point trophy saddles where awarded. 

Best Of Show Awards meant even more exhibitors went home with great prizes and a variety of fun Giveaways meant anyone could be a winner.

The show offered leveled classes across a full schedule of Rail, Trail, Halter, Showmanship, Ranch Horse, Reining, Cattle and Roping. While Scottsdale can be a little toasty in September, exhibitors enjoyed the cool comfort of three indoor, air-conditioned arenas and warm-up areas. A few of the ranch horse classes were held outside in a covered arena. Leveling has always been a hallmark of this show. The ability to compete against peers is a big incentive for everyone, as seasoned veterans can match skills in L3, yet those relatively new to showing are confident they have a fair shot in their own classes. Huls notes that the Level 1 Select Amateur classes saw significant increases this year. This highly inclusive show really reaches out beyond the standard rail and performance classes. A Versatility Ranch Horse competition was offered and AzQHA also hosted a Trail Challenge using the natural desert area of the expansive West World grounds.

Despite the explosive growth, classes were completed in a timely fashion each day. Schedules that allow for early completion times and professional staff are important to AzQHA when planning a show. The biggest addition this year was the use of a new computer system that increased efficiency. Class scribes used wi-fi enabled tablets to record judges’ scoring. At the end of each class, the placings were instantly transmitted to the announcer. The system cuts countless hours of hand scoring from each day allowing classes to move fluidly from one to the next. Tablets also facilitated check in at each arena so that the next class was always ready to go. A mobile app system, Horse Show Tracker, was utilized for the first time to allow anyone on the grounds or back home quick access to results as well as draws and leaders in timed events. The combination of innovations proved a big hit with both exhibitors and staff. Huls and the show office staff have already identified opportunities where they can improve on the system to supply even more information in the future. He says, “AzQHA is committed to using the technology and advancing it so we can always deliver the best experience for exhibitors at this show and for Sun Circuit in March.” 

When the dust settled an all the points were tallied the High Point Awards saddles were awarded. The Level 1 Non Pro was Too Early For Sleep with Clare E Swanson.

Sissie Shank  was the Level 2 Non Pro winner riding Oughta Be Western.

Hanna Iselin Olaussen rode her horse, Wearin Only Moonlite, to rack up the points for Level 3 Non Pro award.

The Ranch High Point awards combined points from VRH Trail, Ranch Riding and Ranch on the Rail with halter. The Open Ranch champion was Light N Lucky with Nancy Gillett at the reins. Brook Hokana rode Reminic N Poco to win the Amateur ranch award.


The show also held several NSBA Futurities. Tom Forehand showed off Cuz Im Sleepy with impressive style and movement earning top marks from the judges to the win the 3 Year Old Open Western Pleasure. Then owner Julie Beard showed that her horse had the consistency to repeat the win in the 3 Year Old Non Pro. Marvin Kapushion and Uptown Blazer were the champions in the Two Year Old Open Pleasure. On the English side, Sandra Morgan impressed the judges and won the championship in the 2 Year Old Open Hunter Under Saddle on her marvelously fluid Only Inthe Mechanics. Sandra was center arena at the conclusion of the NSBA 3 Year Old Non Pro Hunter Under Saddle. She claimed a second champion trophy riding her handsome home bred gray gelding, Willy In The Sky. Moving on to the 3 Year Old Open NSBA Hunter Under Saddle, it was Deana Searles who rocked it on The Best Jazz Album Yet to take top honors. A solid field of 18 turned out for the NSBA 3 & 4 year Old Trail Futurity. It was an impressive class of junior horses, but in the end, it was Sugaray who was piloted beautifully though the poles by Chad Evans who won the trophy for owner Ashley Wilson.

Best of Show awards were presented in both the All Around Division and Ranch/Reining and Cattle divisions for Open Amateur and Youth. Open Champions received Professionals Choice gift certificate for the Bob Avila Collection, Cinch Jean and Shirt Certificate, and $100 Smart Pak Gift Certificate and Reserve Champs took home Professionals Choice gift certificates. Amateur, Select, L1 Amateur and Youth and L1 Youth Best of Show awards included Rod Patrick Ostrich Boots, Cinch Jean and Shirt Certificate for the champions and Professionals Choice gift certificate for Reserve.

Best of Show winners include:

Open Whose Your Bay Bae and Kelly Birkentholtz

Open Level 1 Handsome I Will Beand Sue Gsell-Wade

Open Ranch/Reining/Cattle, Sippin Boons Farm, Eric & Wendy Dunn

Amateur Ranch/Reining/Cattle, Boomin Miss Skeets and Christine Brannen

Youth Ranch/Reining/Cattle, Jackies Buck Fever and Gavin Hershberger

Level 1 Amateur, Irwins Lil Bit Purdy and Ciera Bennett

Amateur, Hez Kool and Carly L Estreich Lueck

Select Amateur, Lopin Down The Lane and Kim Portney

Level 1 Youth, Pawn Star and Sydney Ann Swallom

Youth, Wearin Only Moonlite and Hanna Iselin Olaussen

Amateur exhibitors who showed in both Cutting and Cow Horse had their pick to enter the $1,000 added Amateur Boxing Spectacular or the $1,000 added  Amateur Spectacular where their cutting and reined cow horse scores were combined. Champions received a handsome trophy buckle along with the cash award. Christina Hampton and Smart Time Tucker won the Amateur Spectacular, while Janye Vatcher and Tommy Olena picked up the Boxing Spectacular win.

The ever popular Prize Patrol routinely surprised exhibitors with fun challenges, Word-Of-The-Day gifts, Wine Races and trivia games as part of the give-aways proving that anybody can be a winner at this show. Tom Forehand joined the Patrol this year and injected a good deal of joviality into each of his tricky games. Roughly $8,000 worth of give-aways came in the form of 50” TVs, vendor gift certificates, jewelry, custom hats and electronics. This great assortment was  sponsored by Arizona Quarter Horse Association, Sami’s Fine Jewelry, Barbara’s Custom Hats, SmartPak, Standlee Feeds, Talon Air, Watson Hats, Show Me Again and Professionals Choice Avila Collection.  

Zoey Silver was burning it up on the challenges by being in the right place at the right time and having some mad skills. She won the Ride-A-Buck Equitation Challenge where riders were required to trot and canter without stirrups while keeping a dollar between their legs and the saddle. Those Eq ladies were a tough bunch and it took quite a while before Zoey was the last rider in the ring. She won a beautiful necklace from Sami Fine Jewelry for her efforts. She was also the winner of the Chap Race in L1 Am Horsemanship and received a Show Me Again gift certificate. The Gum Ball Guess Challenge was new addition to the games. Nobody is quite sure how Forehand stuffed so many gum balls into the jar, but that’s what added to the challenge. Joy Cardelli went shopping with a $500 Show Me Again gift certificate for correctly guessing the number of gum balls while the jar sat in the Trail pen. During the line-up of 19 Green Western Pleasure horses, Mike Hawkins guessed the exact number of gum balls in the jar and was awarded with a stunning $2,500 horse shoe ring from Sami Fine Jewelry.

The Ranch on the Rail Wine Race was such a hit, it ran in both amateur and open classes. Riders walked, jogged, and galloped while trying not to spill a drop from their wine glasses. Janye Vatcher had a steady hand even when she cowgirled-up and flew around the ring. She won a $500 gift certificate to Barbara’s Custom Hats. Laurel Walker Denton had a smooth horse and a solid seat to emerge virtually spill-less and was presented with another $500 gift certificate towards a Barbara’s Hat. The bouncy horses came in off their summer range for appearances in youth, cattle, english and western venues. The fame of these races has spread far and wide, so riders routinely line up a half hour before the race to “pick their mount”…and get in a little practice. A couple of 50” TVs courtesy of Talon Air were awarded. While all the races are racked with hilarity and fight-to-the-finish determination, it was Connor Cooper’s slow-mo worthy face plant over the finish line in the Youth race that got the most notice. Probably because Connor enjoyed showing EVERYONE his dirt-encrusted tongue for a good 10 minutes after the race. He won a $500 gift certificate to Barbara’s Hat’s.

On Sunday afternoon, the Fall Championship hosted an Interscholastic Scholarship Competition for Western discipline riders. Four Arizona IEA teams competed in Horsemanship and Reining classes. IEA  is a national organization that is open to public school, private school and barn teams for grades 6-12. Participants do not have to own a horse and horses used at the shows are provided free of charge by enthusiastic supporters of the program. Each of the 10 classes awarded scholarship money for eligible youth. First place earned $500, while 2nd received $300 and 3rd place earned $200. The second annual Arizona Quarter Horse Association Scholarship Award interviews were also held on Sunday. All AZQHYA members were eligible to apply. Applicants had to answer a series of questions about their involvement in AQHA and other equine activities in front of an interview panel. Seven $1,000 scholarships were awarded to very accomplished young people.

Arizona Quarter Horse packs a tremendous amount into this 5 day extravaganza. It continues to tick all the boxes on exhibitor wish lists. The fun everyone has is evident in the smiles seen across the show grounds. You can be sure that 2019 will see even more horses at this show. But don’t worry, they are already working to expand the offerings without expanding the length of the show days.