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Breaking into APHA: From start to show for one Amateur exhibitor

APHA Amateur exhibitor Brynn Hower of Kenmore, Washington, knows that breaking into APHA competition can seem sort of intimidating when you’re looking at it from the outside, making it easy to doubt oneself. Despite her nerves, Brynn saddled up her Paint mare anyway and experienced the ride of her life as part of the APHA family. She learned some valuable lessons along the way, namely that you can achieve your dreams with a hefty dose of hard work and dedication.

“I recently began reflecting on my 2014 show year—my first full year showing at Paint shows—and decided to put it to paper,” Brynn wrote us. “It turned into a story of breaking down barriers of doubt and is something that I feel could inspire potential exhibitors to take the leap and show.”

The Paint Horse Journal staff was blown away by Brynn’s story, and it was one we want EVERY Paint Horse enthusiasts to see. Dream big, just like Brynn did, and you’ll achieve great things with your Paint Horse.

One Amateur’s Journey
By Brynn Hower
Three years ago, I bought my 2007 red roan overo mare BDB Silent Essence as a green 4-year-old. “Betsy” is primarily halter-bred, with champion lines such as Silent Print and Prairie Gold. When I was looking for a new horse, I wanted a low-maintenance horse who was mentally and physically sound, one I could take camping and trail riding one weekend and to a local show the next. And, of course, I wanted it to be pretty!

The moment I saw Betsy, I was in love. She was not born naturally athletic, but she tries to the best of her physical capability to execute whatever I ask of her—though she sometimes tests me to see if she really does need to exert herself. She proved to be a decent trail horse, and I’ve been able to take her on a weekend camping trip. We dabbled in a few local open shows; eventually, however, I wanted to take showing to the next level. Naturally, my subconscious questioned whether or not we had what it takes.

I had always been intrigued by and followed the Paint shows, but I hadn’t yet been a part of them.  Frankly, I was intimidated. I thought your success solely depended on how much money you had to spend on a fancy horse with celebrity bloodlines. While that might certainly help, I found there are other ways you can be successful. I have always had to work hard for what I wanted, and this was no exception. It took an agonizingly long time to save money to buy a horse and all of the equipment that goes with one. The intention was always there, though, and I truly believe in the saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

I began training with the talented all-around trainer Kim Gately in 2013; she helped me establish my goals and form a plan. I decided to get my feet wet showing in APHA’s Amateur Walk-Trot division. I cannot express how scary it was to pull up to my first Paint show in Monroe, Washington. The pens were full of flawless horses, sparkling show gear and, gosh, so many judges just waiting to scrutinize our every move. I’m happy to say we managed to get through the weekend with our pride still intact and more motivated than ever.

We showed in hunter under saddle, hunt-seat equitation, Western pleasure, horsemanship, showmanship and halter through 2014, learning a lot and gaining a great deal of confidence along the way. We ended the year winning multiple Northwest Coordinating Committee (Zone 1) champion awards, APHA Honor Roll champion title in Amateur Walk-Trot Hunt-Seat Equitation and a Zone 1 Top Five Novice Amateur title.

I felt inclined to share this story because I want to prove a point that I feel is so important: you are the only one that can set limitations on yourself or your horse. Due to my horse’s build, we had to put more effort into developing her coordination and balance, strength over her topline, and teach her how to use her body and legs correctly in order to bring out her best, but to me as an Amateur, that is part of the journey that makes the reward so sweet. As long as you have faith in your horse’s capabilities and the desire to develop these strengths with your horse as a team, you are limitless.

Contrary to my early assumption, the Paint industry as a whole is not limited, either. It is not only about a particular class of horses and riders, so don’t be discouraged to take that next step and explore the different Amateur classes offered. I especially love the pattern classes because the results cannot be skewed by personal preference or other factors. The expectations are black and white: you hit your mark or you miss it, completed the maneuver as required or you didn’t. It’s about pluses and minuses, and you have control over the outcome. This takes dedication and practice, not a certain amount of money. It takes a willing partner, not specific breeding. You know that you and your Paint have something special together, so go show it.


To learn more about APHA programs—from the Amateur Walk-Trot division to Ride America and everything in between—check out apha.com/programs. Get the most out of your Paint Horse experience by subscribing to the Paint Horse Journal, the official publication of Paint Horse lovers everywhere: phj.apha.com/subscription.


 [Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]


About APHA
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.