August 9, 2013
By Alicia HarrisThe American Quarter Horse Journal
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Abbey Rawlings of Australia
Part of the experience of a world championship horse show is knowing that the show is exactly that – a world show. People from around the globe are able to showcase their talents with the best of the best.
For 11-year-old Abbey Rawlings of Australia, the 2013 Built Ford Tough Youth World Championship Show was a first-time experience that she was quite proud of. Abbey showed her parents’ 3-year-old mare, IZA Classy Chassy, in western pleasure. She and “Freckles” made it to the semi-finals, but didn't make the finals.
“I was very proud because there were (nearly) 100 people in my class and I made it into the top 40,” Abbey said. “Especially for my first year at (Ford) Youth World, it has been very good.”
Abbey’s parents, Gavin and Rebecca Rawlings, bought the horse for Abbey in 2012, but kept it a secret until early in 2013.
“My mom and dad came to America last year and they bought Freckles, and I only knew about it this year. I was really surprised,” Abbey said. “All my other horses are retired, so they got me a new horse. I found out that Youth World was over here, and I read up on it on the Internet and I thought I would tell Mom and Dad that I wanted come to Youth World.”
AQHA Professional Horsewoman Kristy Starnes and her husband, Jay, worked with Abbey quite a bit over the summer to help her reach that goal. Abbey had been in the states for seven weeks and had only shown Freckles at three other horse shows before she came to Oklahoma City.
“Jay and Kristy helped me through it all and got me into the (Ford) Youth World,” Abbey said. “I was very happy about it. I was very excited about coming to the Youth World and it’s pretty tough. But I’ve had a good experience so far here.”
While 2013 the Ford Youth World was Abbey’s first world show experience, Leonie Fischer from Germany has had quite a bit of international showing experience. This was her fourth year competing at the Ford Youth World. She showed Naturally Graceful in the hunter under saddle finals, and out of 114 entries, she and “Gracie” made it into the top 15.
“I’m glad to be here,” Leonie said through her mother, Britta Fischer, who was translating for her. “I love this feeling. I was so excited to ride. It’s really awesome.”
Leonie was focused on doing her best at the Ford Youth World, but was also thinking about her next big adventure: the FEQHA European Championships of American Quarter Horses in Rieden-Kreuth, Germany.
“In Germany, I am showing quite a lot. From here, I will fly to the European Championships,” Leonie said.
For both girls, they keep their “American” show horses in the U.S. for training, and they use other horses to ride and show while they are home.
Britta thinks the whole experience has been great for her daughter, and she remains hopeful that more youth will get involved.
“I hope more German youth or more European youth would come over to show here,” Britta said. “We are the only ones (here) from Germany, and it is really a pity because we love to be a team as much as anybody else.”
Abbey was also the only Australian exhibitor, but she didn’t let that stop her as she went out into the parade of teams by herself. One of the first teams to parade through Jim Norick arena, she waved her country’s flag proudly before hundreds of parents and thousands of viewers online.
“I was actually very excited (about the parade of teams),” Abbey said. “I was kind of glad that I was all by myself. It was pretty fun.”
Both Abbey and Leonie said that the experience of showing at the Ford Youth World has been different than showing at home, but they feel that it has been a positive experience overall.
“I have achieved a lot of things since I have been over here, especially since it’s America,” Abbey said, referring to the level of competition at horse shows in the states. “It is very different to me. Ours isn’t all that much competition. Yours is more competition. Ours is very … it’s just different. It’s different for the horses as well.”
“It is different because the classes there are so much smaller, Leonie said. “There are not as many horses as (there are) here. In Germany, we feel more at home because we know all the people at the horse shows. It’s kind of a horse show family. And here, we are on our own. It’s a huge experience to show here because it is so different … We love it just to be here.”
Along with the 46 states representing the U.S., other countries participating in the 2013 Ford Youth World included Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Venezuela.