Local Teen Takes on the AQHA Youth World Championships

“My goal was to make the finals, then beat my mother’s placing,” expressed Mead Gerfen a 14 year old  AQHA Youth World Championships competitor.

Mead rode his mother’s horse, “Little Flo Lena” a 13 year old Quarter Horse mare. She is known simply as “Flo” to her family whom she has served very well.

Journey to this Year’s AQHA Youth World Championships

Mead riding Little Flo Lena

Mead competed and qualified in 2016 for the American Quarter Horse Association Youth World Championships on his older gelding, Dino, yet had to retire his mount before the World Championships last summer. His mom’s horse was for sale and Mead came to her and said, “Don’t sell Flo, I want to ride and show her.” Mead had to focus hard and learn to ride Flo and get qualified in just about one year’s time.

“Flo is a lot more horse, so he’s had to work really hard to learn how to ride and show her,” explained Mead’s mother, Karen Gerfen. Flo’s forte is working cows yet Mead began showing her in Ranch Riding as well as Cow Horse Boxing. “She is a reined cow horse,” explained Karen who competed Flo at the AQHA World Championship in year’s prior. “She was trained to work cows, lope fast circles, make run downs with big sliding stops and spin fast.   Ranch Riding requires transitions through more gaits without the big maneuvers.”

“The Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show is the pinnacle event for American Quarter Horse exhibitors ages 18 and under around the world, who must qualify for the event by earning a predetermined number of points to compete in each of the classes representing halter, English and western disciplines. More than 3,340 entries from the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Luxembourg are competing for 35 world championships and 33 Adequan® Level 2 championship titles at this year’s event, August 4-12 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.” – excerpt from the AQHYA fact sheet.
Qualifying for the AQHA Youth World Championships is a journey of showing in several circuit shows and gathering enough qualifying points in each category. Mead and Flo gathered enough points to qualify in Ranch Riding and Cow Horse Boxing.

Ranch Riding and Cow Horse Boxing

Ranch Riding is a newer category which is designed to showcase how suitable a horse is for ranch work. The focus is on transitions between the gaits, turns and maneuverability. A horse and rider ride a pattern that may include changing directions at all gaits including the lope with a lead change, working within the gait – jog to extended trot – going over trot poles and going through a gate. Cows are not worked in Ranch Riding but a horse and rider pair may have to ride through a pen of cows.

Cow Horse Boxing requires a horse and rider to work one cow on the short end of the arena, “boxing” it from end to end. The other component is a reined cow horse pattern ridden without a cow. The pattern asks for fast and slow circles, lead changes, spins, sliding stops, and the backup.

Trainers Who Helped Mead and Flo Take on the World Championships

Cynthia and Mead celebrating his personal best ride.

Mead had several mentors who pushed and guided him in his journey to competing in this year’s AQHA Youth World Championship. His primary coach is Cynthia Cantelberry, of Paso Robles, who is legendary in the Quarter Horse world. Mead also worked with Tommy Thompson in Shafter, but as summer temperatures rose they asked Tina Robinson, a reined cow horse trainer just moving into San Luis Obispo to polish them off in the last six weeks before the World Championship Show.

Tina and her husband Tucker were in the middle of moving their training barn from Lompoc to San Luis Obispo. “We are very grateful to Tina for taking on an unfamiliar horse and rider pair and getting them ready to compete at the AQHA Youth World Championships,” said a very appreciative Karen.

Highs and Lows on the Road – A Championship and a Stolen Saddle

With their sights set on Oklahoma City the Gerfen family and Cynthia loaded up the truck and trailer and ventured East stopping at overnight stables along the way.  Cynthia arranged for Mead to get coaching from Todd Crawford of Oklahoma at the Youth World Championship Show. As they were approaching Texas,Todd called and suggested they compete at the Boom Circuit show in Amarillo . “We were a few hours outside of Amarillo when we decided to go!” exclaimed Karen.

Mead and Flo did well in Amarillo and were the Youth Boxing circuit champions!

However not all was awards and roses in Amarillo as Mead’s saddle was stolen right out of Todd’s tackroom at the horse show. His saddle happened to be one of easiest to pick off and a guy cut a chain to get into the showgrounds and made off with the saddle. So Mead had to compete at Amarillo and at the World Championship with a borrowed saddle.

A Personal Best at the AQHA Youth World Championship

With a year of training and a recent championship under their belt, Mead and Flo tackled the AQHA Youth World Championship in Cow Horse Boxing and Ranch Riding.  85 competitors from all over the United States qualified for the Preliminary round of Cow Horse Boxing – Mead competed against all 85, not just the U13 riders. Mead and Flo ended up posting their personal best score and placed 8th which secured them a spot in the finals.

The final “Boxing” round didn’t go as hoped and their score placed them finishing 23rd. “My Preliminary round felt really great,” said Mead who added, “Flo’s favorite thing is working the cow, my biggest worry is to not go off course!”

Mead getting his finalist award. His name and photo are also on the Jumbotron.

115 horse and rider pairs competed in the Preliminary round for Ranch Riding. “Flo can be a bit quirky,” stated Karen. “Flo spooked at hay bales in the arena. She is a great horse to ride outside and nothing bothers her there, nor is she bothered by all of the activity, tents and decorations on the show grounds, but she decided the hay bales were in a strange place, so she spooked.” Unfortunately, that event knocked the pair out of a spot in the finals in Ranch Riding.

Mead Will Keep Going

Local Teen Takes on the AQHA Youth World Championships | SLO Horse News

Mead in white shirt and Little Flo Lena in the Boxing Finalists line-up.

This experience has simply whetted the competitive appetite for Mead. As his mom, Karen says. “Mead is going to keep working.”

Looking to the Future

Entering his Freshman year at Atascadero High School Mead has his sights on getting involved in High School Rodeo. Currently he and a friend are learning how to rope. “Most of my friends ride but they don’t show,” says Mead.

Right now Mead’s days are full with school, riding, feeding horses and cleaning out stalls and homework. As far as the future goes he says, “I have no idea what to do in the future, but horses will be in it.”

So did Mead accomplish his goal of beating his mom’s placing? Well the jury is still out on that, he didn’t beat his mom’s placing in the finals but, “His personal best score in the Preliminary round beat me big time!” admits Karen.

Photos: Karen Gerfen

Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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