Senior Saddles Up for International Competition


At 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 8, senior Austria Arnold pulled into her driveway, parked and pulled out her phone. She had seven missed incoming calls from the same number. Intrigued, she called the number back. And it was a good thing she did.

To her surprise, the call was coming from the Team USA coach for an international equestrian competition. She had been selected to represent Team USA at the 2016 American Quarter Horse Association Youth World Cup this summer.

“I am so honored that they picked me,” Arnold said. “There were so many qualified applicants that they could have made four or five world-caliber teams.”

When Arnold received the call, the information was still confidential. She was notified a week before team selections were formally announced to the public.

“I had to keep it a secret for a week, which was really hard,” Arnold said. “If I told anybody other than my parents, I could lose my spot on the team.”

Arnold began the lengthy application process to be selected for Team USA during the summer of 2015. She submitted letters of recommendation and a riding resume highlighting her accomplishments throughout her 10-year nationally competitive riding career, which included winning the 2014 Senior Youth World Championship hosted by the National Cutting Horse Association. She also prepared videos of her riding and as well as video clips where she talked about her riding philosophy.

“You spend your whole youth career trying to get your name out in the industry,” Arnold said. “Being selected for Team U.S.A. was the affirmation that all the hours spent in the arena really had paid off.”

This prestigious, international riding competition will take place from June 23 to July 3 in Tamworth, New South Wales in Australia. Arnold is one of the 10 members selected by the Team USA Selection Committee; five leadership members will act as ambassadors for the United States, and five riders, including Arnold, will compete in their own respective event.

Arnold’s event is cutting, an event in which rider and horse work together to prevent a cow from returning to the herd during a 2.5 minute run.

According to Carroll Brown Arnold, Austria Arnold’s mother and manager, cutting is such a demanding event because one must be an excellent horseman and must be able to understand cattle.

“Austria has a special knack for details and this has served her so well in her recognizing and labeling cattle before she shows,” Mrs. Arnold said. “Understanding and reading cattle is what allows you to pick the best three cows for your horse to utilize the 2:30 minute competition to her benefit.”

However, one unique element about the AQHA Youth World Cup is that each team will draw for five horses provided by the host country, so the riders may not be familiar with them. The riders will have five days to work with their given horses to prepare to show them in their events. Arnold believes that this will test the riders’ versatility and adaptability.

“It really depends on how you react to high-pressure situations,” Austria Arnold said.

Dawn Forest, a member of the Board of Directors for the Texas Quarter Horse Association and the Team USA manager for 12 years, agrees that this aspect of the competition makes it particularly challenging.

“It tests our kids’ riding ability, patience and training,” Forest said. “Some of the horses will be resistant to their demands and the riders have to accept that.”

In the meantime, Arnold has been preparing for the Cup by watching videos of her old runs and reviewing her old judge critique sheets from previous competitions. She has also been continuing with her normal rigorous training schedule, riding four to five times a week and competing weekly. On the days she does not ride, Arnold works out in order to stay as fit as possible.

“She is very systematic about preparation,” Mrs. Arnold said. “As far as special preparation for this it was a really a journey of years of creating the right reputation and honing her skills to be a top competitor.”

But preparing for the actual competition is not the only thing that Arnold is doing to get ready for the trip; she has been connecting with her fellow Team USA members as well. Forest has encouraged interaction between the team members before this two-week competition; because team members are from all across the United States, it is difficult for the members to meet in person.

“Some of the team members already know each other; however, a couple of our members have not had the opportunity to know too many of their teammates,” Forest said. “Therefore, I work hard to encourage interaction through Facebook and conference calls. I have to collect information from the kids, so I get to know who is prompt, who needs prodding, who has a sense of humour, etc.”

The competition will begin with an opening ceremony and team dinners. Team USA members will parade in carrying the American flag, donning Western boots, blue jeans and patriotic jackets.

“I’m so excited to meet and learn from all the high-class coaches as well as my teammates and those competing against me,” Austria Arnold said. “It’s really special for me to get this opportunity – this [competition] is something that I’ve heard a lot about growing up, and I’ve heard nothing but incredible things.”

– Elizabeth Guo –