Emma Fehlen was a competitor in the 2019 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program.
The results didn’t go her way as the horse was involved in a trailer accident and had to be put down.
So when this year’s program was ongoing, Fehlen kept her expectations low.
“Knowing how hard it was, I came into 2020 knowing it wasn’t guaranteed,” she explained. She called placing in the top 10 “a slight chance”.
So, when she found out she placed fourth out of 44 throughout the nation, she was shocked.
“That was the biggest surprise for me,” she said. Her award: A $1,000 scholarship and $100 Wrangler gift certificate.
According to the AQHA website, members 13 years and older receive a hands-on horse training opportunity focusing on the fundamentals of horsemanship.
“The program gives youth a mentor to learn from and showcase their hard work and dedication to their project,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines, in a news release announcing the winners. “This will, in turn, give participants a skill set that will set them apart when applying for scholarships, college and jobs.”
Fehlen, now a junior at Osceola High School, has been riding horses for the last 12 years. AQHA breeders donated the horses and Fehlen was given Chata, a three-month-old at the time from Gettysburg, South Dakota.
As part of the program, participants document their monthly progress; participate in webinars; complete monthly management assignments; track goals; engage in monitoring sessions with local AQHA professional horsemen; and compile videos of themselves with their horses completing assignments including trailering, and more.
“It was a lot more extensive than just being in a ring,” Fehlen said.
Before all that, Fehlen had to gain Chata’s trust at first.
“It was either fight or flight,” she remembers. “I had to get her not to be afraid of me.”
Time and practice was the key until Chata walked up to her and started sniffing Fehlen’s hand, which showed her the trust was building.
“We now have a really good relationship,” she said.
Fehlen also talked about why she loves quarter horses.
“They are really versatile,” she explained. “They are so well-minded and have a good disposition.