In the Spotlight

Select exhibitor Claudia Brown keeps a healthy dose of competitive drive and humor handy when she’s hitting the AQHA show trail.

By Alicia Harris, AQHA online communications and publications intern
The American Quarter Horse Journal
July 23, 2013

Claudia Brown and Genuine Bo Pine

Claudia Brown, from Liberty, Ohio, shows in the Select classes with her mare Genuine Bo Pine, lovingly known as “Cupcake.” (Photo courtesy of Theresa Cunningham Mitchell)

In the competitive atmosphere of a horse show, there is a time to have your game face on and there is a time to have a sense of humor. Select amateur exhibitor Claudia Brown has learned to have both at the same time.

“With what these shows throw at you, you have to keep a positive attitude, that’s for sure,” Claudia says with a laugh.

Claudia, from Liberty, Ohio, shows in the Select classes with her mare Genuine Bo Pine, lovingly known as “Cupcake” or “Cuppy” around the barn. She and Cupcake have been together since 2009, and they have come a long way together in a short amount of time.

“I was a walk-trotter (with Cupcake) for a year,” Claudia says. “I got re-started in riding at 35, so I am truly a Rookie-Novice. I was scared to lope. (My trainer) had been watching for a year, and he said, ‘If any horse can get you comfortably loping, it’s going to be this mare.’ And he was right.”

She started riding as a young girl by taking riding lessons at the local YWCA over two summers. She went to college, got married and never thought of horses again until her life took another turn when she was 35 years old. 
“My daughter, who was about 10 years old, said, ‘Mom, can we get a horse?’ ” Claudia remembers. “I had just been divorced, so I was kind of in this mode where I was like, ‘Why not? I can take on the world. Let’s get a horse.’ So what do we do? What do I do? I go out and think, ‘I’m going to do the right thing. I’m going to get an off-the-track Thoroughbred.’ Well, let me tell you: That was an adventure. I quickly learned that I didn’t know anything about horses.”

Time, lessons and a fair share of determination helped Claudia and her daughter make it through the next few years. Her daughter went on to high school, then college, but Claudia kept up with the horses. Eventually, as if by grand design, Cupcake came along.

“That’s when we hit the ground running,” Claudia says.

While showmanship was not Claudia’s first love, it was an event that Cupcake excelled in. Showmanship is now something Claudia is truly passionate about. The pair pointed out of Novice in 2012, and they quickly moved over to the Select division when Claudia turned 50 in the fall.

“It is kind of nice being the baby of the gang at my age,” Claudia laughs. “Just imagine being 49 and running around with a bunch of 21-year-olds in the showmanship pen. It’s brutal. (They) are merciless. At least with the Selects, we are all getting old and creaky, and might need an Aleve to make it through the day. But oh, my gosh, it is brutal showing with the kids. So I especially enjoy being the baby of the gang at 50.”

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Darlene Trein of Seville, Ohio, has been working with Claudia and Cupcake since January.

“She is so hungry for advancement and information,” Darlene says of Claudia. “It’s fun, because when she comes in, she has five or six great questions. She will tell me things that have happened off at the horse shows and things that need to be solved; very great technical questions. It’s amazing for me when I see someone from that age group that hungry and that willing to work.”

Kelly Sheehan, Claudia’s friend, says that Claudia is a very positive and goal-oriented person who is constantly striving for bigger and better things.

“I think she's a positive model for people who may feel that ‘big time’ shows are out of their budget or that they aren't competitive outside of the local arena,” Kelly says. “She and her mare have done a great job of venturing out of their comfort zone and finding success while still keeping the 'amateur budget' so many of us have right now.”

Claudia has even gone as far as building a small arena on her property to keep her two horses muscled up and in shape when they are not with a trainer. Although this was a large expense, Claudia says there is no need to spend great amounts of money to be successful in the horse show world.

“I know it is a very expensive hobby,” Claudia says. “It can be. But my suggestion is: don’t throw great gobs of money at it. Do it modestly, and stick in it for the long haul because that’s where it is the most rewarding. As long as you are still enjoying it, of course. If you aren’t enjoying it, get out. … Follow your heart and stick with it. It does not take a major fortune to do it. It just takes a minor fortune,” she adds with a laugh.

Because she is self-employed, Claudia sometimes finds it difficult to get to the horse shows. But for this year, Claudia has one main goal in mind: to keep moving forward.

“My goal is to end the season as an independent (exhibitor), and then say, ‘Where do we stand?’ ” Claudia says. “I know we need to be more consistent in the showmanship in order to compete at this level with the Select.”

Claudia hopes to help 17-year-old Cupcake earn her AQHA Register of Merit before she is retired from the show ring. She also adds that getting an invitation to the Adequan Select World Championship Show is another one of her immediate goals.

“I would say that she is extremely demure about herself and her accomplishments,” Darlene says, “but Claudia’s work ethic is going to bring her to the goal that she has. I absolutely feel that.”

The photo is courtesy of Theresa Cunningham Mitchell, a freelance photographer who may be reached at (724) 986-2802 or greyt2dogz@comcast.net.

The American Quarter Horse Journal loves to feature the hard-working AQHA exhibitor, and In the Spotlight is the Journal’s fun new way to do so. Do you know a hard-working AQHA competitor who deserves some time in the limelight? Email AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler at tmatsler@aqha.org to submit story ideas, then visit www.aqha.com/inthespotlight to view more In the Spotlight stories.