Laying the groundwork: Pointer and Zoey in AQHA program |

Laying the groundwork: Pointer and Zoey in AQHA program

Paige Pointer and Zoey are participating in the AQHA's Young Horse Development Program.
Courtesy photo

Paige Pointer and Play N Dynamite (Bigtime Shiner x To Stylish To Play), or Zoey, are turning into quite a team. Pointer is participating in the American Quarter Horse Association’s Young Horse Development Program with her filly from Davis Quarter Horses’ September 2019 production sale.

Ground control, sensitizing and desensitizing to objects like tarps and blankets, lunge line skills with voice commands, trailering and showmanship skills are all skills Pointer is polishing, all while documenting the pair’s progress on video.

Pointer, 14, will be a sophomore at Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colo., in the fall. She competes in the versatility ranch horse class aboard Possum, a 4-year old mare she started herself. She also shows a gelding, Cowboy, in the halter and showmanship classes and ropes with her dad.

She originally heard about the Young Horse Development Program in an article featuring each of the winners a couple of years ago. Seeing what each of the participants gleaned from the program and how they grew as horsemen, spurred her to want to participate and do the same. Her goal, she said, is to take Zoey from start to finish, knowing she made a broke, solid reined cowhorse.

Ranching heritage breeders who participate in the Young Horse Development Program donate a weanling for a youth participant to raise and train themselves. Through the program, youth members aged 12 to 18 years receive a hands-on horse training opportunity focusing on the fundamentals of horsemanship. The program was founded in 2010 by Jim and Jodi Hunt to help young members overcome the challenges of purchasing young, ranch-bred horses. According to the AQHA, today, there are over 100 ranching heritage breeders nationwide.

The participating breeders select the young person to donate a weanling to and Pointer said she is grateful to Dan and Marcy Davis, Montana Quarter Horse breeders. The top 10 applicants to the program — Paige was in the top eight — are encouraged to attend the breeders’ production sales to learn about the operation, the industry, and to meet other horsemen and women. While at the sale, Pointer was introduced and interviewed briefly by the sale announcer, a way she was able to put her communication and speaking skills into practice. Pointer said she sends photos and videos to Marcy Davis, who always comments and encourages her. She is hoping to return in September for the Powder River Quarter Horse Breeders Association show.

Pointer said one of the challenges with Zoey is her laid-back personality. While the little filly isn’t rowdy, she is alert and responsive. Pointer has begun introducing her to cow work and said she pins her ears back and is cowy, a development Pointer said she is thrilled to see.

Each month, Pointer completes a horsemanship report, takes photos and measurements of Zoey’s growth, documents information for quarterly reports. Most recently, her task was to make a short video about a quarantine horse hack explaining a trick she’s learned recently though she has also made a trail video and a video of safely loading and unloading Zoey. She has also presented her experience in the program to other young people and met with a professional trainer to learn about the trainer and the industry. Each task is awarded points that determine the winners at the end of the program.

Until she’s ready to be started under saddle, Pointer said she will continue to work on the fundamentals with Zoey, documenting the process in hopes that her efforts will earn program awards this fall. Scholarship money, spurs, and other awards are all up for grabs, but Pointer said Zoey is truly the prize. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at or (970) 768-0024.​