By Delores Kuhlwein
Everyone knows that learning to be better horsemen and riders takes an abundance of commitment. What about traveling over 7,000 miles to do so?
That’s what a youth team from China just did – they came from China all the way to Texas in January to ride with instructors like Bud Lyon, Stephen Stephens, Terry Cross, Mark Anderson, and Bobbie Walton, among others for a variety of views and experiences. Their goal: to compete in Horsemanship, Ranch Riding, and Showmanship this summer at the 2023 AQHA Youth World Cup in Bryan, Texas and at the 2024 APHA Youth World Games.
One of their most recent stops was at the B Bar R ranch of veteran trainer Roslyn Proffer of Dublin, Texas. “I had the privilege of being asked to give the youth team Horsemanship and Ranch Riding lessons,” Roslyn explains. “For two days I worked with this incredible group of teens. Their dedication to better their skills and learn more about the equine industry was amazing! With their talent, they will be tough competitors.”
Roslyn says she found the youth have great horsemanship skills, demonstrated by their ability to get on strange horses and work the rail as well as patterns. “We worked on adapting to a new horse and getting good transitions while maintaining good horsemanship. I had them doing spins, side passing logs, trotting poles, as well as walking, trotting, extending the trot, and loping. The five youth ranged in age from 13 to 18.”
They spent two afternoons working on Horsemanship and Ranch Riding, and Roslyn describes working with them as fantastic.
The unique opportunity for Roslyn to work with this group came via Dr. Jessica Leatherwood, an Associate Professor in the Animal Science Department at Tarleton State University. Dr. Leatherwood was connected to Roslyn by Bobbie Walton, who teaches who also teaches animal science courses at Tarleton State University as well as serves as the Stock Horse Team Coach.
“Dr Leatherwood has been to Beijing on numerous occasions and knew the youth team leader, so he contacted her about bringing these youth over for lessons. They wanted horsemanship lessons, and they were in our area for 10 days or so,” explains Roslyn. Dr. Leatherwood set up the opportunity for Roslyn and the teens to work together.
“I’ve traveled with AQHA as part of their International Educational Marketplace Grant Program which elicits faculty and students to conduct horsemanship clinics in international destinations, so I’ve been to Beijing on behalf of AQHA and met Antao, the youth team leader,” says Dr. Leatherwood. “Their country is just opening back up for travel after COVID, and this was their first trip to the U.S.”
She explains that the dynamic of equestrian involvement is different than in the U.S.; if you’re interested in having a horse there, you purchase a membership to an equestrian club. Antao and with U.S. resident David Snodgrass own Unbridled China, an equestrian club in China that supports western horsemanship. “Antao is really trying to promote western riding in China and he has previously imported both Paint and Quarter Horses from historic ranches, including the 6666. However, at this time, he’s unable to import horses due to trade restrictions,” Dr. Leatherwood says.
So this year, they’ll have a Youth World Cup team, and Antao is on a mission not only to provide training to his youth in western events, but to additionally develop relationships with collegiate programs that offer equine studies. He’s also interested in finding horses in the U.S. for customers in China to purchase and show in the U.S. “The world cup will be a good test to expose the parents and families as a first step,” Dr. Leatherwood says.
Dr. Leatherwood explains that as she started to develop the itinerary for the future youth team, she worked through some contacts and immediately discovered open arms. “Everyone was extremely willing to open up their barns, their customers were happy to loan their horses, and everyone wanted to get the youth the training they were seeking.”
The youth had many unique opportunities in addition to the invaluable instruction they received from trainers : shopping at Teskey’s Western Store, learning nutrition, watching a vaulting demonstration with Dr. Kimberly Wellmann, a faculty member in the Department of Animal Science at Tarleton State University, and visiting the Fort Worth Stock Show in addition to NCHA and APHA headquarters. They were also able to ride at Bennie Sargent Quarter Horses when they traveled to Kentucky.
Their visit to Texas surely left an impression on them, however, just as it did to Roslyn Proffer.
“It was an unbelievable opportunity for them as well as myself. I was able to learn things about their culture, their horses in China, and their country. They all had a big desire to learn and were like sponges absorbing everything,” Roslyn explains. “I will admit I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect. But if I ever have the chance again, I will certainly do it. I enjoy working with youth – especially ones that are so excited to learn. I want to thank Dr. Jessica Leatherwood for setting up this opportunity for these teens and myself.”
The 2023 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup will be held June 29 – July 8, 2023, in Bryan/College Station, Texas. Learn more here: https://www.aqha.com/youth-world-cup