The Texas A&M University horse judging team captured the 2023 national championship at the American Quarter Horse Association, AQHA, World Championship Show Collegiate Horse Judging Contest in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The horse judging team is a competitive team in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science. In addition to the overall title, the team swept the contest in all three divisions of halter, performance and reasons. Five students also placed in the top 10 individually in each division.
Individual placings from the contest are:
- Madison Rosenbaum ’24, Clayton, North Carolina, reserve high overall, third halter, reserve champion performance, fifth reasons.
- Brooke Kiefer ’24, West Bend, Wisconsin, third overall, reserve champion halter, ninth performance, third reasons.
- Greyson Philippovic ’24, Pearland, fourth overall, ninth halter, third performance, eighth reasons.
- Angie Newbold ’24, Alvord, fifth overall, fifth halter, sixth performance, reserve champion reasons.
- Grace Parks ’24, Essex, Vermont, sixth overall, eighth halter, fourth performance, fourth reasons.
- Reagan Hoelscher ’24, Robstown, 15th overall.
Other team members include Alivia Farrell ’24, Wolfe City; Megan Gajdica ’24, Emory; and Donie Hillje ’25, Kellar.
Work ethic and determination lead to the ultimate goal
Sarah Schobert, equine lecturer and horse judging team coach, Bryan-College Station, said she was proud of the team’s consistency and motivation leading up to the pinnacle contest.
“This team is incredibly talented, and I have appreciated their consistency in goals, staying tough when we got tired, and their determination to level up,” Schobert said.
The team also finished the judging season as the winningest program of the 2023 competitive year among universities with a horse judging team, with three champion titles and one reserve champion title leading up to the world show.
This success came after practicing 12-16 hours per week, which Schobert acknowledges is a large time commitment for students but makes a significant difference in their level of knowledge and ability to evaluate horses.
During the world show competition, the final contest in the students’ judging careers, the team evaluated 12 classes of horses and delivered six sets of reasons in the senior college division.
“The AQHA world show is a huge endurance test for competitors,” Schobert said. “By the end of the season, the students excel in giving reasons. It makes me proud to reflect on where they started and how far they’ve come. I am ready to develop a new group at that same high level.”
Competitive judging teams provide a unique learning environment for team members, said Clay Mathis, Ph.D., head of the Department of Animal Science, Bryan-College Station. Students grow their technical knowledge while also building equally important skills in decision-making, communication and time management in ways that serve them throughout their professional careers and in life. Judging team participants also regularly develop a network of lifelong friends they will enjoy well beyond their judging careers.
“The department is proud of the horse judging team members for their success at the highest level of competition,” Mathis said. “This title is a testament to their hard work, and we thank them for positively representing the department, College and university.”
Student coaches thankful for the experience
Hannah McLochlin, an animal science graduate student from Plymouth, Indiana, serves as one of the assistant coaches for the team. While winning competitions is the ultimate goal, McLochlin said the best part of coaching was making personal connections with the students and watching their skills grow.
“This team is filled with motivators, high achievers and competitive students,” McLochlin said. “Those characteristics are part of their Aggie spirit, and I am proud of how hard they worked to improve and level up.”
Witnessing the personal growth of the team members was the most valuable part of the experience for assistant coach Megan Miller ’23, animal science major, Boerne. Miller said team members faced individual challenges throughout the judging season but their desire to be the best never faltered.
“This team sought to improve their game at every single practice, whether through marking cards, building upon their mental strength, making the smallest changes in their reasons content and/or presentation, or finding a way to be a better teammate,” Miller said. “These students continuously went for more, and I strongly believe this team morale explains how they could reach the success they found.”
The next journey
This chapter of competitive horse judging ends for the nine team members but Schobert looks forward to what the future holds for them. As members in the highest division of horse judging, the senior college division, the world show marked their final contest as competitors.
“We have talked as a team that even though they will no longer compete in contests, they can still be involved,” Schobert said. “Some of them might help the next collegiate team, others might start coaching their own youth team, coordinate clinics or judge shows. This is not anywhere close to the end for this team. It’s just the beginning.”