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13-Year-Old Gianni West tried his hand at this year’s AQHYA World Show without his horse


By Delores Kuhlwein & Gianni West

13-year-old Gianni West and his horse, Lazz, weren’t quite ready for this year’s 2023 AQHYA World Championship Show. So what did he do?

He came to watch the show with his family, where he met EC Director of Sales Gordon Downey, but even more importantly, he pushed himself to participate in the Prepared Speech and Impromptu Speaking competitions.  “I think public speaking is beneficial because it is a life skill that lots of people are afraid of. I also think I can better myself by eliminating such a weird fear,” says Gianni.

So even though his dream is to win a World title with his horse, he came home from the show with a Reserve World Championship in both his competitions.  Gianni says those competitions made him more passionate about competing and attending AQHA and AQHYA events, and he encourages others to follow suit in these competitions because “they make new friends, create new experiences, and they are a lot of fun.”

He explains, “I was also able to test my abilities and now I can work on and refine my public speaking skills. This was a very fun way to be involved and compete in the Youth World Show even though my horse wasn’t ready.”


Gordon Downey met Gianni and his family in the stands at the 2023 AQHYA World Championship Show

Read on as Gianni answers some FAQs about his experience:

  1.  What inspired you to compete in the Prepared Speech and Impromptu Speaking competitions? Have you done anything like that before?

I was inspired to compete in those competitions by my drive to get better. I wanted to work on my public speaking skills. Yes, before I had even considered doing those competitions, I was competing in school versus school competitions in a yearly event called UIL. I had competed in that event twice. On my first year I had gotten myself a silver medal in the Impromptu Speaking event. The next year, I had gotten better at speaking and got first place.


2.  Would you be willing to share a small excerpt of your prepared speech?

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and fellow members of the American Quarter Horse Youth Association.

My name is Gianni West, I’m thirteen, and I’m from a small town called Paris, Texas. I came here with my mom and my younger brother, Anthony. I got into horses, and the AQHA, when I was 8 years old, and my mom had finally gotten back her dream horse, Hobbes. She involved me in riding him, and from then on, I was hooked. About a year and a half later, my mom had purchased a broodmare that we named Lou. Funny thing is, that brood mare was in foal with my best friend and partner in crime, Lazz.

I got to see him walk, get groomed, and lick and sniff my hand for the first time, and that is where my bond with my horse started. The most special part is that I got to learn how to be a horseman while my boy learned how to be a horse. As much as I have trained him, there are plenty of moments where he has trained me to be a better horseman, and to be calm in a frantic situation.

An example of this is when he was a couple of months old, and he decided he wanted to turn into a jumping horse and ran as fast as he could and jumped the fence. As we stood there in an old-fashioned Mexican standoff, I had to learn to be calm and not freak out; end of story, he got back in the corral.

Today, I stand before you to address the immense potential we possess as young individuals within the realm of the American Quarter Horse Youth Association. Our time is now. It is a time of boundless opportunities, transformative experiences, and the chance to make a lasting impact.”


3.  What advice would you give to others who haven’t tried these competitions at the AQHYA World Show?

Some advice I would give is to not stress about it. People stress out a lot about public speaking and it’s not that hard. You’ve just got to take a deep breath and pretend you’re speaking in front of your mom and dad. People aren’t going to look down on you just because you’re not the best speaker. Like Teddy Roosevelt said,  ‘It is easier to be the critic in the stands watching, than it is to be the person in the arena actually doing the work.’ Another piece of advice I would give is not to read like I-Robot. I made that mistake a little bit when I was at the podium.


4.  Congrats on your Reserve title!! We think that shows a lot of sense and maturity to realize your horse wasn’t ready yet. What plans or dreams do you have for the future?

My dreams are just to live my life to the fullest. I would also like to win more shows and get better with my horse. I want to be a great team with my boy and make my mom proud. Winning world champion next year in those speaking competitions is definitely one of my big goals. I want to better myself every day.


Good luck, Gianni! We’ll be watching for you and we already can tell you will achieve great things!

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