SUBLETTE COUNTY – Horse trainer, 4-H leader and horse show organizer Stuart Thompson decided more than a year ago to test his western riding knowledge and experience and see if he could qualify for the really big time.
To his surprise and pleasure, Thompson and his two main horses competed – and brought home high honors – in reining, western riding and western horsemanship at the American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) World Championship Show that spanned from October into mid-November.
Thompson is thrilled that he and A Glow in the Pines collected Super Select Reserve Championships in both western riding and western horsemanship as well as a Level Two finalist in western pleasure.
To top it off, he and Custom Melody Jac swept the Super Select Championship in reining.
“I rode well,” he said, back in Pinedale. “I was happy with how well I rode – I didn’t make any mistakes. It was successful even if I hadn’t won anything.”
Thompson said he was one of few owners riding their own horses.
Thompson has worked with the Wind River Riders 4-H Club for more than 20 years and organized its once-annual open show, which will return in 2023. At different shows, he and his wife Mary met and became friends with Jody and frequent visiting judge and clinician Marty Simper from Elwood, Utah.
Marty advised him, “You’re good enough – you better try and qualify.”
Approaching 76, Thompson said as a member of the AQHA national board of directors, he’d long thought about making his way to this huge show but never really had time – until he made it.
“It was a lot of time and effort,” he said. “But it was a wonderful experience.”
The reason it took them longer than a year? Because riders and horses have to qualify by earning points in AQHA-sanctioned competitions between July 31, 2021, and July 30, 2022. To accomplish that, Thompson said he and his horses practiced indoors and out, every day, and traveled through Wyoming, Colorado and Utah to compete in at least six AQHA-affiliate shows during that year.
The Simpers, professional horsemen and owners of Simper Performance Horses, also competed at the World Championship Show and encouraged him. He also thanked Dan Fox of Fox Creek Ranches of Chino, Calif., John Sheppard, professional horseman from Delaware and Ken and Kelly Adkins of K&A Quarter Horses of Scarbro, W.V., “for their support and help.”
Now that he’s done the hard work and seen it pay off, is Thompson going out for the 2023 AQHA World Championship Show?
“Probably not,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience but the show took up a lot of days. I’ll keep going to shows here and there.”