Youth are the future of the world; youth are the future of horse shows.
That future is most optimistic considering participation and abilities in the Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association (EKHA).
Verification came adamantly when awards were presented at the recent EKHA Yearend Awards Banquet in Salina.
It was all banquet hall smiles as little riders beamed the biggest grins collecting hardware significant of abilities on horseback throughout this year’s show season circuit.
Tava Gustafson of the Junction City Saddle Club had to be the perfect representation as she topped all riders to collect a couple handfuls of yearend tokens.
Most inspirationally, Gustafson and her horse Silver Hawk won the junior highpoint horse and rider unit award.
Culmination of that achievement, Silver Hawk was recognized at the Highpoint Horse of the Year for the pair showing and ranking high in nearly every division available for the young rider.
Likely highly significant for the little cowgirl herself, Tava Gustafson was also named the yearend highpoint rider in the seven-to-nine rider division.
Following those youthful accomplishments, perhaps just as heartwarming, based on most pleased little facial expressions, was the six-and-under division. Not very tall in the saddle yet, but most enthusiastic and ample in abilities, Rowley Keesecker was honored as highpoint rider, and Witt Keesecker took home the very-big-for-him runner-up buckle.
Yearend plaques collected by Sidney Snider and Elsa Snider generated bubbly, toothy laughs from those six-and-under sibling riders, too.
Yet, the little ones did not override the more mature, so to speak, as Miss Rodeo K-State Brooke Wallace representing the Mitchell County Riders rode Blondie to win the most prestigious Super Horse Award.
Keeping recognition in the family, older sister Sierra Wallace rode Peppy to receive the award for senior highpoint horse and rider unit.
Additionally, Sierra Wallace was the highpoint 19-to-40 division rider for the year, while Brooke Wallace was the reserve buckle recipient.
Keeping yearend titles in the family, dad Mark Wallace was the highpoint 41-to-60 division rider.
Noalee McDonald-Augustine was the runner-up for highpoint honors in the 41-to-60 category, while her son Tacoma Augustine collected the highpoint youth 10-to-13 award, and daughter Shea Augustine was the seven-to-nine runner-up honoree.
Never outdone by daughter and grandkids, Ron McDonald was a many time repeat winner as the highpoint 61-and-over rider, collecting an armful of yearend class awards.
Nicole Patry representing the Sand Springs Saddle Club was highpoint rider in the youth 14-to-18 division, while younger sister Heather Patry was reserve. Ellie Wiles and Morgan Poole ranked next in order in yearend division tabulations.
Joy Clemence, Sand Springs Saddle Club, was runner-up highpoint 10-to-13 yearend honoree, followed respectively by sister-brother Michelle and Jayden Patry.
Mitchell County Riders was the highpoint club this year, trailed closely in order by Sand Springs Saddle Club, Salina Silver Spurs and Junction City Saddle Club.
Nearly three dozen traveling memorial trophies were presented, perhaps most significant being those given in memory of longtime EKHA rider and leader Rosie Clymer.
Nicole Emerson received the Rosier Clymer Most Improved Girl Rider Award, while Witt Keesecker was honored with the Rose Clymer Most Improved Boy Rider Award.
The Rosie Clymer Sportsmanship Girl Award went to Ellie Wiles, while Gabe Davidson received the Rosie Clymer Sportsmanship Boy Award.
A special at EKHA shows throughout the year is the Rosie Clymer Memorial Ranch Horse Pleasure class. Kevin Smith of Sand Springs Saddle Club was yearend highpoint rider and received a trophy buckle, given by the Santa Fe Saddle Club.