By Delores Kuhlwein
In today’s confusing world that contains many negative influences, we as horse people regularly declare our endorsements for the good horses can do, especially for youth. We point out the attributes that horses can teach – those experts say are invaluable, like patience, character, and social skills.
But wouldn’t it be nice to see the results of how horses have affected a real-life young lady now immersed in a flourishing college career? To hear, in her words, why horses kept her on the right path? We have it in spades in the form of a success story from Emma Tarter, who minces no words in sharing how showing horses with AQHA changed her life profoundly.
A Healthy Place To Go
Even though it’s sometimes human nature to pick apart the nuances of horse shows, Emma Tarter knocks down those arguments by rising above to proclaim that horse shows are easily her favorite place to be, and with good reason – reasons that are much deeper below the surface.
“I love being able to see my friends and do what I love for multiple days in a row. Showing horses has given me a great work ethic and taught me how to communicate with people. I had to learn how to balance the demands of school, showing, practicing, association involvement, and work,” she explains.
Now attending the University of Cincinnati majoring in neuroscience, with plans to be a sports neurologist, Emma isn’t currently showing, but she also can look back and clearly see “I genuinely believe I would be a different person if I did not show horses with AQHA.”
The Big Picture
She also now understands that her achievements were representative of her growth as an exhibitor, but also that the overall picture is even bigger.
Emma is known most recently for her triumphs with Catch Twenty Two, aka “William.” Together they earned multiple circuit championships, top five, top ten, and top fifteen titles at the World Show and the Congress. “This past May, we were reserve champions in the Western Riding at the L1 AQHA Championships,” she says. “We started that class nine months earlier, so it was exciting!”
Their biggest accomplishment together was winning the L2 Trail 14-18 at the AQHYA World Show in 2022. “It was easily the best day of my life, and that victory lap will be something I will remember forever! Trail was always our favorite class, so it was special to win it,” she says.
Even at her young age, Emma realizes it wasn’t about the trophy she was holding for her victory lap, however; it was about the journey that got her there.
“When I started showing William five years ago, I had never really shown any of the classes that we showed together. There was so much I had to learn. Luckily, I had the best horse trainer, Dale Hamilton, to teach me everything I needed to know.”
Not only did the guidance she received at the hands of some of the best keep her focused, but along the way, they formed an extended family. “I would like to say thank you to Dale Hamilton and Brent Tincher for making horse showing so incredible for me and teaching me everything I know. I will never be able to express how much they mean to me and how thankful I am to be able to call them family.”
She started on her journey with horses at age six, then she started showing in 4-H at age nine and on the AQHA circuit at age ten. SpreadinSweetRumorz (Chipper) became her first heart horse when she was young. “I showed Chipper in the Hunter Under Saddle and Showmanship. Our biggest accomplishments were being third at the Congress in the HUS, seventh at the Youth World in HUS and third in the HUS and Showmanship at the Level 1 Championships.”
Throughout it all, Emma says showing horses helped her through the hardest parts of her life. “Showing horses has so many positives. There is nothing like being with your closest friends and taking on the day with your horse by your side,” she reveals. “Don’t be afraid to talk to the people you are competing against. When you are in the pen, you might worry too much about being competitive, but your new best friend might be on the rail right next to you.”
Respecting those fellow competitors and your horse is the key, she explains. “You are not always going to have your best performance. Don’t give up and keep trying! Horses quite literally saved my life and I have no idea where I would be today if I had not had horses and AQHA in my life.”