AQHYA World Championship Show 2014
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August 1-9, 2014
Oklahoma City

2011 Youth World

Hunt Seat Equitation

Gillian Grace Chant and Zippo Romeo win hunt seat equitation at the 2011 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.

Gillian Grace Chant and Zippo Romeo win hunt seat equitation at the 2011 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show. (Journal photo)

A journey with friends

Eighteen-year-old Gillian Chant found herself standing in the center of the arena at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show on August 11 with her four-legged best friend, Zippo Romeo, and her two-legged best friend, Kaitlyn Bello. The riders held hands as they waited to hear which one of them would win the world championship in hunt seat equitation, and Gillian said it didn’t even matter to her which way it went.

Both girls seemed ecstatic when Kaitlyn and Ask Me For Details were named reserve champions, and Gillian and “Romeo” took the win.

“That wasn’t phony at all,” Gillian told the Journal. “We were just so happy for each other. I would have been happy if I was second and she was first, either way. We really support each other that way. It was great being out there with someone you’re so close with, in and out of the show pen.”

The equitation class was a tough test for the finalists, with a pattern that required a flying lead change and two simple lead changes, one through the walk and one through the trot. At the trot, exhibitors were asked to make changes of diagonal twice on a circle from a rising posting position.  And a portion of the rail work was done without irons.

Gillian, who lives in Abilene, Texas, had prepared for her Ford Youth World performance “just doing basics at home. You really have to work on your fundamentals and the foundation of your riding, and dropping your irons and riding a lot like that is really the best thing you could do.”

Gillian said her trainers, AQHA Professional Horseman Michael Colvin and Clint Ainsworth, had also coached her through lots of diagonal changes, so she felt secure in that, as well. The lead change was what she’d been nervous about, but that went smoothly.

On August 10, Gillian and Romeo earned a world championship in trail. Gillian revealed the secret to getting such good performances out of the 14-year-old gelding.

“We give him a lot of treats … he’s very chunky,” she said. “His old trainer, Liz Flohr, she’s a big supporter of mine, and she told me that I had to tell him ‘pork chop power’ before I went in, and then he’d do well, so that’s our little code thing that I tell him.”

These championship performances are something Gillian will treasure as she goes off to college at the University of Georgia (located a convenient 45 minutes from the Colvin training barn), because she knows her time in the show ring is limited. She will compete on the university’s equestrian team, and she will be close enough to get more riding time with Romeo, but her priorities will soon have to change.

“I’m pre-med,” she said. “I want to do Doctors Without Borders, medical missionaries. I would love to do that, and I know I can’t ride and do that, so I’m trying to enjoy my youth career because I know I probably won’t be able to show as an amateur. I’m going to work toward being a doctor.”

The day after her equitation win, Gillian was to get on a plane to head to Georgia, and Romeo will be soon behind her. He’s up for a good rest, more treats and some water bottles he can chew on. 

“That’s his favorite,” Gillian said. “He likes the noise.”