2006 AQHA Regional Experience Region 5

Region 5 winner Alek Tomazin and newcomer Michelle Smith talk about their horses, trainers and the Region 5 challenge.
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Region 5 winner Alek Tomazin and newcomer Michelle Smith talk about their horses, trainers and the Region 5 challenge.

Region 5 Winner Alek Tomazin
Alek Tomazin of Hummelstown, Pa., is a 15-year-old sophomore at Lower Dauphin High School this year, and an accomplished hunt seat rider. She shows her Quarter Horse mare mainly in Pennsylvania, but has recently ventured to shows out of state, including the AQHA Regional Experience in Augusta, N.J.

Alek Tomazin | Photo courtesy of AQHA

Alek Tomazin | Photo courtesy of AQHA

Tell us about your horse.

Mystical Influence is a 7-year-old bay mare. "Misty" stands 16 hands and is built like an English horse. She can be a little bit temperamental, but she's really in tune with me. She depends on me and mirrors my emotions, maybe because she was an orphan foal. I've had her about five years, but at first we just leased her. Then my family gave her to me as a surprise Christmas present. We show mostly in the English classes like hunter under saddle, hunter hack and hunt seat equitation, but we also compete in showmanship, and we're slowly working into trail and horsemanship.

What has been your most memorable moment in the saddle?

My first AQHA show, the Keystone Spring Classic in Pennsylvania. I was showing in the small fry division for kids age 12 and under and competed in showmanship, hunter under saddle, and hunt seat equitation. I ended up champion that weekend and won a big trophy and had a professional photo taken. It was my first championship experience and a big thrill.

Do you ride with a trainer?

I board Misty at Winsome Farm in Grantville, Pa., with Sue Yohn, who helps me on a voluntary basis. Sue's not a trainer, but has been very helpful. She helped me get started jumping, and though we don't have a full course of jumps at our barn, we make it work. Also, I took a few lessons with Jan Reimer at the Regional Experience.

Tell us about your Regional Experience win.

I was the Reserve Champion in the Novice Youth division. Misty and I showed in the working hunter and equitation over fences classes, both of which are full courses of jumps, as well as the hunter hack, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, and showmanship classes. It was my first time jumping full courses at an AQHA show, and I was a little nervous, but we placed fourth in working hunters and sixth in equitation over fences. One of our best results was earning sixth of 33 in showmanship.

Would you recommend the Regional Experience to other show riders? To newcomers? Will you be back next year?

Yes! The atmosphere was great, and staff members were friendly and always willing to help. They helped give me such a positive attitude going into the ring. The awards were wonderful, too, and real incentive to go in and do your best. I won five bags of Nutrena feed for my reserve championship. Activities like an ice cream social for kids, and wine and cheese for the adults, were a great chance to get to know other exhibitors. Newcomers will love it, too, and could learn a lot from the clinics available. It's a great chance to take pointers from professionals about what judges are looking for and improving your show performance.

Region 5 Newcomer Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith, 36, of Annville, Pa., is a production manager for EQUUS and Horse & Rider magazines and enjoys a close relationship with her Quarter Horse mare. Michelle rode in her first horse show at age 3 1/2, and now competes in 25 to 30 shows per year. She competed in the 2006 AQHA Regional Experience in Augusta, N.J.

Michelle Smith | Photo courtesy of Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith | Photo courtesy of Michelle Smith

Tell us about your horse.

Tees Brazen Lady, or "Tia," is a 9-year-old, 15.3-hand bay mare. I fell in love with her when she was foaled and bought her when she was only six months old. She's such a good girl, and takes showing very seriously. She's pretty good at western pleasure, but she really seems to enjoy pattern classes, such as showmanship, horsemanship and trail, and excels in them. She's good on trail rides, too. All in all, she's a really big part of my life, and even took part in my wedding!

What rider/clinician do you most admire and why?

I don't use a trainer full time, but I take lessons periodically from Twyla and Teresa Pellman of Four Seasons Equestrian Center in McClure, Pennsylvania. I also leave Tia with them for occasional training tune-ups. They take their time with horses, and though they don't baby them, they don't push them. If you fight with Tia, she'll fight back, and they know how to get the best out of her without pushing her too far.

Why do you ride Quarter Horses and what are your favorite characteristics of the breed?

My mare is pretty laid back, and I appreciate that attitude. Quarter Horses seem to be able to cope with things better than other breeds. Also, they're so versatile--they can be ridden down the trail, and can show successfully in just about any discipline. Plus, they're backed by the AQHA, which offers so many great programs and opportunities to members.

What was your most memorable Regional Experience moment?

I've attended the first and second annual Regional Experiences so far, and this year showed in novice amateur showmanship, trail, horsemanship and western pleasure. The trail class was most memorable--the first class of the show for me, and a tough pattern with a right-lead lope-over spoke, Tia's least favorite obstacle. We were first to go, and I was so nervous I almost scratched the class, but Tia took care of me and handled it so well. We got third place, a huge success for us. Overall, I was the Novice Amateur Reserve Champion

Do you want to show more, and will you be back at the Regional Experience?

The Regional Experience is a great way to compete in a championship-format show against exhibitors from other states, and for some us who don't have the means or the time to devote to qualifying for the AQHA World Show, it's a great alternative. I'll definitely show in the future, but Tia's in foal to Virtual Zippo right now, with a foal due in April 2007. When the baby's weaned, I'll show them both!