By Delores Kuhlwein
Most people probably don’t plan on showing at their first AQHA World Championship Show at age 75, but that’s exactly what Stuart Thompson of Pinedale, Wyoming did.
After supporting his kids through 4H, and later his daughter in the AQHA All-Around and his son in Cowhorse and Reining, Stuart decided to start showing after his daughter went off to college. Even though she’d competed at the World Show, he had not.
We caught up with Stuart in Oklahoma City in November after learning that throughout the 2022 AQHA World Show, he’d developed quite a fan club, and every time he showed, he was met with applause and cheers.
“I’m not sure who it is cheering for this roan horse and this crazy old cowboy – I didn’t bring anybody with me,” he laughs. He drove to Oklahoma by himself, he says, and his wife, Mary, was home feeding the horses.
So show he did, with Custom Melody Jac, a son of Custom Chrome, and with A Glow In The Pines, a Zippo Pine Bar grandson, much to the delight of everyone watching. He showed in Reining, Horsemanship, Western Riding, and Western Pleasure, and when the show was done, he was the recipient of a Super Select Reining Championship, a Super Select Reserve Championship in Horsemanship and Western Riding, and he was a Finalist in the Western Pleasure.
Stuart explains that he’s been showing with Trainer Marty Simper in Hurricane, Utah. “I’m getting old,” he jokes, when asked why he came. “Marty said I ought to see if I could qualify for the World Show, so between the Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah shows, I got enough shows and points to qualify.”
When he arrived, he reveals, his horses happened to be stalled in Barn 1, which he said was a game changer. It was there in the barn he met Ken and Kelly Adkins and Dan Fox, and he also had the help of Marty Simper. “It has been a fantastic experience because of this whole crew. The people I know from AQHA have been helpful – one of the ladies in the show office is the secretary for the show in Rock Springs that I produce – and everyone has been so nice. The show is so complex to me, I don’t know if I would have figured out where to be if I didn’t have all of them,” he says.
Though he is humble, he has deep roots in the horse community, as the sponsor of an open show with the Wind River Riders 4H Club for over 20 years, and as a sponsor of the Wyoming Quarter Horse Association’s Cowboy Summer Classic in Douglas, Wyoming, and the Sweetwater Classic in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Stuart says his company of 51 years, Log Crafters, has enabled him to support the events.
He also serves on AQHA’s Show Committee, and he’s on a subcommittee to determine why small shows are disappearing among other issues such as the decline of youth horsemanship in the industry. “It’s complex,” Stuart says. “It has to do with our culture of instant gratification, and horses are not instant gratification; a horse is a project from the time you’re eight years old to the time you graduate from high school. It’s a commitment of time that I think is not overly familiar to people; we want things in a hurry. There are so many other things young people have to do today, so how do we make our organization attractive? That’s why I spend so much time with 4H kids as a Master Leader.”
Stuart says he doesn’t have all the answers, but he does his best to pass along to young people what he knows horses teach about life, “because of the benefit my kids got from AQHA, from the Wyoming Youth Association, and because of all the 4H kids have that have come through my program for 20 years. Some of those kids have gone on to ride for colleges, rodeo sports, and some have come to the AQHA World Show. Horses are a wonderful thing.”
He explains his biggest wish is for someone reading this article who is not a horse person to say, “Hey – maybe I can do that. Here’s an AQHA guy who is telling me it’s possible. When you come to this show, it’s like going to the Olympics; it’s the top of the top, but you can go to affiliate shows, and to open shows, and AQHA is a resource and not the elite organization people have the perception of.”
“There’s a perception I keep demonstrating is not true – that AQHA is above everyone else’s ability and it’s elitist,” Stuart explains. “The people made a huge difference; I had a wonderful time and I’d love to come back and have another wonderful time. Being here with Ken, Kelly, Dan and Marty and being a part of their family made the whole experience. I guess I was also able to rise to the occasion and I managed to stay out of the way of my horses, and I didn’t forget to change leads even though I ride like an old cowboy,” he says. “I love horses.”
Stuart Thompson turned 76 right after the last day of the 2022 AQHA World Championship Show on November 20th. We wish you a happy birthday and we can’t wait to see you show again!