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The Next Generation: Walk-Trot to the Top with Emme Graves

Filed under: Blog Post,Featured |     

By: EC Intern Cheyenne Bristol

Described as kind, caring, and one of the most ambitious twelve-year-olds in the industry today is how people refer to Emme Graves.

Her show career began in Illinois. With a new horse and a Leadline class to conquer, nothing ever seemed to stand in her way, even at a young age. However, growing up with horses means growing up quick. Before Graves knew it, she was in the walk-trot division and headed to local shows.

Events held at the Heart of Illinois Arena and Galesburg Boots and Saddle Club aided in her journey to become a better rider, and she thanks them. As she improved, Graves started her search for tougher competition with larger rewards. Now, with multiple World Championship titles within APHA and PtHA to her credit, she enjoys looking back on some of her favorite moments growing up.

Explore More Day is a day filled with fun and adventure at Dunlap Grade School. For Graves this meant, “Bring Your Horse to School Day!” She remembers bringing her horse, Zippy, to the school to meet all her friends. Even her principal wanted a pony ride!

Sometimes, moving up in the horse business means buying a new horse. This was true for Graves, and it was a necessity in order to move up in the breed show circuit. In 2018, her family purchased her current horse, Over In Fleeted, aka “Larry.”

“Our favorite class is Trail. Not only does Larry like it, but I like it as well. He also enjoys pattern classes and anything off the rail. A funny quirk he has is that he hates hugs. If you give him a hug, he gets all cranky. However, as soon as you scratch him, he melts. During my first year showing him, one of my favorite things that we did was win at the Paint Congress in Western Pleasure.”

One of Graves’ favorite parts of growing up in the industry is making new friends. Journey Frericks is another walk-trot exhibitor that Graves grew up with. This past year, they both competed together in the youth team tournament and were gifted the chance to ride victory laps together at the 2021 APHA World Show. Tears of joy were shed because of “the two best friends who love and support each other.”

Having a great relationship with a horse is everything when someone shows at the top level of competition. To continue building a relationship with her horse, Graves recently moved to Texas. Not only are most of the APHA shows in that area, but her trainers, Arturo Maestas and Jesse Jones, live there. She was originally directed by Julie Tenhouse and Dakota Smith in Illinois. When she moved, Tenhouse and Smith, as great mentors, set her up with her new trainers. Graves thanks both of her previous trainers for everything they did for her. She’s truly grateful to have them be a part of her life. Graves says she has a wonderful relationship with her trainers. In fact, Arturo Maestas and Jesse Jones have even inspired her to want to become a trainer someday.

“When I grow up, I really like the idea of becoming a trainer, or just someone who teaches other people how to show. I think that it is a cool way to look at the horse business!” she says.

Next year, Graves will be in the 13 & under division. For many young riders, it’s a tricky transition, and adding an entirely new gait can be challenging. At this point, youth truly learn what adaptation really is. Graves, along with many other young exhibitors, are excited and hesitant. She explains her concerns and goals for her first show of 2022.

“My first show next year as a 13 and under kid will be in Scottsdale Arizona. My goal is to try to place in the top five in all my classes. I’m a little nervous about Trail. I’m worried about loping over all the poles and not hitting them. I understand the idea of counting strides, but it’s a little scary.”

Graves has already set the world on fire with her many accomplishments in horse industry. Being a World Champion in Trail and a Reserve World Champion in Horsemanship for 2021 is not an easy feat. With this, Grave’s aspiration to be the best will hopefully carry her to the top once more. A youth with a dream should never be underestimated, let alone a girl with a passion for horse showing.

About the Author

Hi there, my name is Cheyanne Bristol. I’m 19 years old, and I’m attending Illinois Central College to become an Equine Journalist and Photographer. I’ve shown with the International Buckskin Horse Association and the Appaloosa Horse Club all my life. I’ve also shown in All-Around events at the National and World level. 

If you’d like to write a blog for The Equine Chronicle, email

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