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Big A Circuit Big Bucks

The Georgia Quarter Horse Association Big A Circuit Trail Derby raises big bucks for the American Quarter Horse Foundation.

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal
July 12, 2013

Big A Circuit 2013

This year might go down as the wettest and coolest Big A Circuit yet, but the show’s atmosphere has remained upbeat despite the weather. (Journal photo)

“We will be sending (the American Quarter Horse Foundation) a check for more than $7,400,” Georgia Quarter Horse Association President Robin Barrow told The American Quarter Horse Journal.

The icing on the cake is how much fun the exhibitors had raising the money through a $5,000-added Trail Derby July 8 at the GQHA Stars and Stripes & Big A Circuit. The nine-show circuit runs July 5-14 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia.

In the Derby, 11 open riders and 16 non-pros rode an especially-designed Tim Kimura pattern set up as a “gambler’s choice” – obstacles set up with easier and more difficult options. Riders could earn up to 3.5 bonus points by choosing, and completing, the harder option. The open riders were auctioned off for a Calcutta raising funds for the Foundation.

“We had a huge crowd attendance,” Robin said. “Sea Ridge Farms (Patty Vatterott and Angela Wade of Wellington, Florida) did a pre-Trail Derby party for us and sponsored food and drinks, and got everyone warmed up for the Calcutta.

“We did the open rides first, and everyone whooped and hollered like it was a reining. It was huge fun.”
AQHA Professional Horseman Whitney Lagace of Higganum, Connecticut, won the open with AQHA Professional Horseman Bruce Vickery of Sanger, Texas, coming in second – it came down to a ride-off between the two for the win. Whitney Walquist-Vicars of Cleburne, Texas, won the non-pro.

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Robin said that the GQHA Stars and Stripes & Big A Circuit show committee (including AQHA Professional Horseman Rob MeNeely of Conyers and AQHA Professional Horseman Michael Colvin of Snellville, Georgia,) came up with the Trail Derby idea after the show agreed to host a Huntfield AQHA Derby event for the hunter riders.

“The numbers here are so huge in the trail – we spend a whole day of the show in trail,” she said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s do something fun with it. We’ll do the same purse (as the Huntfield Derby) and split it into a pro and non-pro.’ ”

The Trail Derby was just one of several fun events planned for this year’s show, including a mid-circuit exhibitor’s party with a mechanical bull, slip-n-slides for the youth, an ice cream social and a painted pony stick-horse race.

“Our numbers are down a shade from last year as far as total stall numbers (currently approximately 650),” Robin said. “But our show entries aren’t down as much.”

Some of the show’s challenges she lists include the mandatory calendar shift forward that happened this year, required by AQHA to maintain show dates, as well as the “record heat” that hit the show in 2012. In response to last year’s heat wave, GQHA contributed $25,000 toward the installation of Big Ass fans in the covered arena.

Ironically, 2013 might go down as the wettest and coolest Big A Circuit yet, with afternoon rain hitting the show daily. But the show’s atmosphere has remained upbeat despite the weather.

“At this facility, the footing in the arenas is so amazing that we can have the amount of rain that we’ve had and we can continue to horse show,” Robin says. “We’ve been lucky that the rain has caught us at the right moments in the day when we’ve been able to move a set of classes inside or make other adjustments to continue.”

The show has been managed by Mark Harrell Horse Shows.

Like others on the GQHA show committee, showing is personal for Robin, an equine veterinarian from Social Circle, Georgia. She shows in western all-around classes and her daughter, Emma, competes in leadline. Robin showed as a teen, then in college at Western Kentucky University through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association; she took a break through vet school and then to establish her practice. She returned to showing about four years ago.

“We were talking earlier that this has been kind of the year for the natural-disaster horse show,” Robin said, mentioning the Oklahoma tornados that disrupted the Oklahoma Redbud Spectacular and the St. Louis snow at the March to the Arch, among others. “A lot of big horse shows this year have gotten drubbed. But I think this weather will end up beneficial for us.

“We’ve had a lot of fun.”

The American Quarter Horse Foundation, the related philanthropic organization of AQHA, seeks to advance the American Quarter Horse and the partnership it shares with man primarily through the development of funds and programs. Learn more about the Foundation's impact on equine research, equine-assisted activities and therapies grants, plus scholarships at www.aqha.com/foundation.