A Castlegar resident recently returned from the American Quarter Horse Association Level 1 Championship West in Las Vegas.
Allison Ritson attended the championship from Sept. 30 to Oct. 5 and rode her six-year-old gelding Hotrod Star, also known as Jellybean, in two events, Rookie Amateur Trail and Rookie Amateur Horsemanship.
“It was his first big show, and yeah it was really good,” said Ritson.
The show took place at South Point Hotel Casino and Spa south of the Las Vegas strip.
“South Point Casino is suited for horses, so there’s stalls down in the basement, there’s all the arenas downstairs,” said Ritson.
There were 54 to 73 riders competing against Ritson at the rookie level, and she managed to place in the top 20 for the Rookie Amateur Trail class, meeting her goal for the competition.
The trail event involves the rider guiding her horse through a series of obstacles—gates, bridges, poles.
“It’s rated on how well you go over those obstacles. If your horse hits an obstacle it’s a default, or you know if he’s disobedient, or you don’t do the course correctly you’re disqualified,”explained Ritson.
Horsemanship has the rider take her horse through a set pattern.
“It’s based on how well you control your horse, your position, and how well the horse executes the maneuvers with little direction from you,” said Ritson.
Jellybean did well considering he’s a Western pleasure horse, and only started competing in the Trail event last May where the polls were a problem for him.
“He hit every poll. Every poll. His feet were like yellow and red from the poll marks, from the paint coming off. So to go to this big of a class and do really well is a huge achievement for him,” said Ritson.
This is the first year Ritson has competed at the Level 1 Championship, but she’s been down to watch the show the first three years of the four year event.
“I’ve been going down every year to watch it, so I had an idea of the competition, which is amazing,” she said.
Ritson didn’t have much time to watch other events at the show, since she was busy taking care of Jellybean, but she did have a chance to check out the strip once the show was over.
As a rookie, Ritson didn’t need to qualify for the event, but amateur-level and pro-riders do, and only amateurs and pros can enter into the AQHA World Championship Show taking place in November.
Ritson would like to move into the amateur level and start earnings points to qualify for the World Championship.
“But they’re hard to get,” Ritson said of the points. “Especially around here, I mean you might get a half a point per class if you won.”
In areas where more people compete first place can earn a rider 3 points, but competition is hard and there’s also the cost of getting to those events.
For now Ritson will continue working with Jellybean to improve, going down to Omak, Wash. where she trains with Melissa Sexton.
“There’s no trainers around here that could do what we’re doing, so I go down to Omak to Mellisa’s to train,” said Ritson. “She’s awesome. She’s a trainer, she’s a world class judge, a world class competitor.”