Sun Circuit Something for Everyone

Top competition and clinics make the 2013 AzQHA Sun Country Circuit fun for exhibitors and spectators.

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal
January 29, 2013

American Quarter Horse Art Xzibit and Toni Miller wait for their trail go at the 2013 AZQHA Sun Country Circuit in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Art Xzibit and Toni Miller wait for their trail at the 2013 AZQHA Sun Country Circuit in Scottsdale. (Journal photo)

The sunshine has returned to the 2013 Arizona Quarter Horse Association Sun Country Circuit! After a rainy start, the show has blue skies today.

Improvements to the WestWorld Equidome – including the new expanded and enclosed warm-up arena – allowed the show to continue despite the rainy weather the show’s first weekend. Several classes were rescheduled for the show’s mid-week break day, January 30.

Every year, free clinics with leading AQHA Professional Horsemen are some of the weekend highlights of the Sun Circuit’s weekend offerings. If you’re nearby, stop in for the free clinics February 4 and 5, held in the new enclosed vendor hall on the Equidome’s south side.

On January 27, AQHA Professional Horseman and judge Bob Kail of Scottsdale – with the help of his trainer son, Ryan – held a western pleasure clinic. They showed what Bob wouldn’t want to see in a western pleasure go, and also discussed what the AQHA judges seminar in December covered regarding western pleasure and lengthened strides.

Here’s a little of Bob’s western pleasure advice, and answers to audience questions:

  • On poor backing: “The worst mistake people make in backing is to back too much: You teach a horse to back well, just one step at a time.” A quality back is quick, straight, with no gapping at the mouth; in a poor back, reins are typically too lose and/or a horse will “lock up,” throwing his head up.
  • On reversing direction: “It’s better to walk a circle to change direction than to break gait by stopping and doing a pivot turn on the rail,” unless the rider is trying to avoid a situation with other horses.
  • When people don’t understand why they didn’t do well in a class, Bob says it often has to do with “walking too slowly” and “breaking gait in the reverse.” He added, “They are not huge things,” but doing poorly in those two things “can separate you from someone else.”
  • And passing is OK! “We talked a lot about that at the last judges’ seminar. We want a horse to show the ability to go forward.” And whether passing is appropriate or not depends on the horse and the situation.

AQHA Professional Horseman and multiple trail world champion Bruce Vickery went over spoke and straight-line lopeovers in his trail clinic, January 27. Bruce also offered trail advice and answered questions:

  • “When you don’t hit your spot, most often it’s because you’re not looking up at your next color on the next pole,” Bruce said. “You can’t quit riding on an obstacle like this one because it comes at you pretty fast.
  • One of hardest things to teach a horse is how to find his spot straight on a single pole – Bruce takes green horses over a single pole first at an angle to help them learn a sense of distance; it’s easier for the horse to see the spot at an angle.
  • You can’t count on a lopeover to be set so that the distances are correct at the 3rd stripe from the end – it’s often closer in. “That’s why it’s so important to do a thorough walk-through of the course.”
  • “Whenever you have trouble at the lope, go back to the jog to work on it,” Bruce said. “You are teaching your horse confidence to go over them. If you or your horse are too scared to go to the poles, you are going to hit.”

The Sun Circuit runs January 26 through February 5, and includes top AQHA competition in every discipline. Leveling is making a first appearance at the show this year, as is ranch pleasure. Go to www.suncircuit.com for information.