The pleasure portion of the 2023 All American Quarter Horse Congress came to a close on Saturday, October 21, with several new and repeat champions being crowned.

Dillon Vaughn and J Loww Close Out The NSBA Classes With A Win

Dillon Vaughn ended the NSBA portion of the 2023 Congress by earning a Congress championship in the Three Year Old Limited Open Western Pleasure with J Loww. He was showing for Superior Care Management LLC, who purchased her earlier in the show. Ella Kate Herman showed ‘Kelce’ to a Congress win in Youth Western Pleasure just one day after purchasing her.

“I’ve got to work with J Loww for almost a year now,” Dillon said. “She just has so much presence. She’s really pretty, really correct, slow, level headed and she just wants to be good.

“This was the best ride I’ve ever had on her. She was there every step and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Dillon, who has worked for Gil and Becky Galyean for almost a year, is soaking up the moment. “It’s been amazing,” he said.

Susan Phillips and Ma Donna were the top exhibitors in the Two Year Old Limited Non-Pro Hunter Under Saddle Stakes. “We picked her out as a yearling for my 50th birthday back in December. We bought her from Amy Hassinger,” Susan said.

“I have just high hopes for her ever since. She’s just a dream to ride. She’s just easy. She floats across the ground so effortlessly and she’s equal both ways. It’s my first time ever showing a two year old, so it was a bit nerve wracking. But she has nerves of steel and says ‘we’ve got this.’

“I’ve been showing horses since I was 12 years old and this is just a dream. It’s been a long road to get here but it is very exciting. We have plans to show in the Three Year Old classes next year and then raise some babies with her.”

Ma Donna is by Allocate Your Assets and out of Truly Graceful, who goes back to Truly Priceless.

Elizabeth Baker showed a horse that she and her husband Cole own to win the Maturity Limited Open Hunter Under Saddle Stakes. “Rocco is a horse we had in the barn that we traded one of our customers for another horse,” noted Cole Baker.

“Elizabeth showed him and won at the Premier and Back To Berrien last year and then he fell going down a hill at The Premier. We had to lay him up for about 14 months and rehab him. Elizabeth didn’t get to show him here at the Congress his three year old year, and really wanted to bring him here for this class.

“This is just his second show back after taking almost a year off,” added Elizabeth. “His first was at the NSBA World Show and he won there. He just puts up his ears and shows. He’s very correct – he has a great top line and canters the same both ways and trots great.”

Rocco is by Good Better Best and out of an Allocate Your Assets mare.

A Trail Of Champions

The morning schedule in the Celeste Center was once again filled with dualing Trail patterns as Amateur and Amateur Select exhibitors took on the course at one end of the arena while Level 3 Senior Trail exhibitors guided their way through the second course in the pen.

Nancy Chapman and Acrobatt picked up their second 2023 Congress championship in the Four and Five Year Old Non-Pro Trail Stakes on Saturday. “I bought Acrobatt in March a year ago, so I’ve had him not quite two years,” Nancy said. “I call him Battman.

“I spotted him in a paddock at Sea Ridge Farm, where I was at the time. He belonged to a good friend of mine, Debra Craig, and I asked her what she was going to do with him and she wasn’t sure. I told her if she was considering selling him that I wanted him. A couple of months later she called to ask me if I was serious, and I told her I was. I just knew that he was the one.

“I think the horse show gods saved the best for last. He’s five years old and next year we will see if he wants to do other events. But for me, Trail is absolutely my obsession and my passion. I went over my first Trail pole in 2000 and that was it. I had a bad accident riding over fences and I was transitionally paralyzed. I knew I couldn’t ride over fences, but a friend of mine told me to watch what she did, and she did Trail, and I said I can do that. To me it is like an Equitation Over Fences class. Everything happens for a reason.

Today I went first and I wasn’t expecting that, so I was a little bit raggedy in the beginning. But he is such an honest horse that if I just stay in the middle and stay out of his way, usually he helps me along. He’s a very rhythmic horse. As long as I don’t do something off the reservation, he takes me along. I have been doing diagonal lope overs for year so those didn’t bother me. I have some issues with my gate and slow work and I’m obsessive about working on it. I also have some physical limitations that make the trot very miserable, but I’ve learned to just let it go. Acrobatt is a savant. He loves the Trail.

“Nick (Mayabb) got me at the right time in my life, because I spent most of my life I think being a brick and not a sponge. I really wanted to learn how they are riding horses in the Trail today. Riding off your leg with lift, and allowing flow. We have a lot going on in the Trail today. I told Nick that if I had known it was going to be this hard to coordinate my hands and my legs, I would have quit, but he didn’t fire me.

“Trail is rhythm, it’s track, it’s lift. It’s no different than galloping to a 3’6” oxer. I’ve always had more guts than brains, so this is much safer! I can count. The math and the geometry of Trail, it has come easy for me. I look at my friends who don’t get the math part and realize I’m very lucky.

“I won the Trail in Novice Amateur my rookie year in 2001 here and was reserve in the Western Riding. But even more importantly, I was also fourth in the Amateur Trail that same year. I feel like I have these bookends of my career from when I was just starting and now. No one knows in this life how much further we have to go, so I’m enjoying it.”

In Level 3 Senior Trail Ryan Cottingim took Hand Made Machine through the course and took the top spot in the class with a score of 253. It was a far different class in 2023 than it was in 2022, when the Senior Level 2 and 3 horses were combined in one class that took two days for the judges to judge.

“I think it was more organized and allowed everyone to prepare their horses separately for the Level 2 and Level 3,” Ryan said. “I felt very honored to be able to participate in the class.

“This is one of the few times I’ve had a later draw on Carl, and I just wanted to represent what we came here to do. And Carl came to play, as he does. We were super pleased.

“I think that whole pattern was tricky today. The horsepower is so good and so competitive today, so the patterns continue to challenge us as horse trainers and for our horses. Top to bottom, it was a challenging course, and just a phenomenal class.”

In the Three Year Old and Older $2,500 Novice Horse Open Trail Stakes, Jason Gilliam and Willys Goodride earned the Congress and NSBA bronze with a score of 240. “I like this class because horses cannot have earned 25 points,” Jason said. “Nearly all of these horses are first year Trail horses.

“Sara Lebsock owns John B, and he was really well started in the pleasure. I think he placed high or was a champion at the Congress in Western Pleasure. She started the All Around with him, and I started riding him this spring. We just made it a goal to go slow and peak here at the Congress. We kind of put our eggs all in one basket here.

“He’s had a great horse show here. He was seventh in the Green Trail, sixteenth in the Junior Trail and sixteenth in the Amateur Trail and placed tenth in the Western Riding. He’s a very happy, easy horse to have and loves to do his job. He’s just five years old and has a lot on his plate, so we didn’t push things. I coach her in the All Around and show him in the Trail. I have a lot of fun coaching.

“In the course today, the diagonal lope was a tricky obstacle for any horse but for a green horse it’s kind of an optical illusion, so that was a do or die moment. The poles for the serpentine were also at a unique angle, and the horses were a little lost as to where they were going and you had to steer them through it. The rest of it was very smooth and it was fun to show off a good horse on it.”

This photo of Scott Reinartz might reflect how many exhibitors feel about finishing their last class at the 2023 All American Quarter Horse Congress. Scott's hard work with his horse Only One Request paid off however, as he earned the High Point All Around Amateur Select at this year's Congress.

The Congress concludes on Sunday, October 22 with Mounted Shooting classes

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