Blog Members Post Youth Post

Canadian Hannah Buijs Shines as an Athlete and Scholar at California State University, Fresno

By Hannah Buijs as told to Lynn Riley

Being an NCAA Division 1 student-athlete comes with a lot of time commitment and responsibility, but is an unforgettable journey. Personally, I feel as though I experienced the most out of being a student-athlete. Not only did I enter my collegiate career as a Biochemistry major, but I was also a competing member of the Fresno State Equestrian Team, traveling to every away meet we participated in.

Additionally, I was a team captain and a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Therefore, I had a very demanding schedule. Despite this, it taught me a variety of life skills, such as time management and encouraged me to engage in a more active and healthy lifestyle.
A typical day for me, as an undergraduate, consisted of arriving at the barn at 7:00 a.m. for barn chores, followed by a one-hour riding practice. Then I would go to class for most of the day (as a science major meant lectures and 3-4 hour labs a couple times a week). My day would conclude with a one-hour fitness workout (twice a week) and catching up on homework and studying. In addition, I was spending time working as part of a research group in the chemistry department.

One of the many perks to Fresno State is that the equestrian facility is on campus, allowing me to go to the barn in between classes and cutting down a lot of travel time. I also liked in particular that we were assigned chore horses each year that we had to care for throughout the semester, so it was like having your own horse with you! Even though the team and school kept me busy, I argued that I wasn’t busy enough and still had extra time. Therefore, I decided to rescue a dog and retire a team horse in my spare time.

Living in Fresno, California also enabled me to travel and explore places where I’d never been. Throughout my time here, I have spent a lot of days in the mountains (where I was able to get my snow fix), as well as the beaches, oceans and lakes. One of the greatest advantages in my experience being a student-athlete aside from the obvious horse part, is the community you become a part of. Being a part of a team meant that you had family right from the start, which is important when you move across the continent to a different country! Older teammates are able to tell you which professors are more suitable for you and can lend you used books for classes you may have had in common. We have a great academic-athletic advisor that helped me with picking classes and ensuring I was staying on track with graduation. The team also has access to free tutors, a nutritionist, a private workout facility and a sports medicine facility. Our coaching staff created a welcoming environment and pushed me to be my best with every practice. Additionally, I was able to partake in other disciplines such as the jumping seat events and reining. This only improved my appreciation of these wonderful animals and the sport they allow us to do.

Some of my highlights over my five years on the team include becoming All-American Second Team in the Horsemanship and the All Big 12 Conference Horsemanship Team, and being named to the All-Academic First Team and All Big 12 Conference Academic First Team every year. I was also awarded with the Fresno State Horsemanship Rider of the Year for two years and received the Workhorse Award and the Award of Excellence. I am eternally grateful for all of the amazing horses I had the opportunity to meet and ride.

I highly recommend exploring the opportunity to become a member of a NCAA Equestrian Team. It is an experience like no other that enables you to do what you love while achieving a degree and opens so many doors for your future. The community you become a part of provides you with a home away from home and a variety of connections through various workshops put on by the athletics department. WHAT could be better than creating lifelong friendships with people who share the same passion as you, and spending time riding and caring for horses while achieving a university degree?

For other Canadians interested in recruitment for an equestrian team, recommend creating an academic and athletic resume, as well as putting together some videos of yourself riding multiple
horses, then contacting coaches from the schools you are interested in and sending this information to them. A variety of schools also put on equestrian camps, which are a great way for coaches to see your skills/work ethic, and for you to get an idea of the NCEA format, as it is different than what we know
from the CQHA/AQHA world. In addition, I recommend showing at some shows in the USA, especially the bigger ones such as the All American Quarter Horse Congress and AQHYA World Show where many coaches often go to recruit. Don’t be afraid to send a follow up email to the coaches of schools you are interested in, letting them know where you will be showing so they can keep an eye out for you!

If anyone has any questions or wants to learn more about the student-athlete experience, please feel free to send me an email:

You just never know what the future holds – follow your dreams!!!!!

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Ontario Amateur is Accepted in to the AQHLead Class of 2023 Program

Photo Credit: Nika Parsoni

Mallory McKewen of Burford, Ontario says that growing up with horses shaped her as a person, and that continuing to have them in her life gives her purpose. So, when the opportunity came to apply for the American Quarter Horse Association’s “AQHLead” program late last year, it was an opportunity that she eagerly capitalized on. 


The American Quarter Horse Association developed the AQHLead program back in 2008 in order to develop the future leaders of the Quarter Horse Industry. CQHA’s current first vice president Laurie Haughton in an alumnus of the program and was excited to learn that McKewen had been accepted to the program. “I’ve known Malory since she was a youth competitor and have watched her in recent years assume more responsibilities with the Ontario Quarter Horse Association, such as spearheading the association’s virtual horse shows held during covid and taking on the role as the province’s youth advisor, so I personally know that she is exactly the type of member that AQHA hopes to attach with the AQHLead program. She’s dedicated, motivated and has skills that our industry needs as we step into the future,” said Haughton.


AQHLead is designed for young adults, ages 19-34, to help support their development as young leaders in the equine industry. During the program, participants attend leadership-focused webinars to provide additional insights into AQHA and the industry. They have the opportunity to partner with a mentor from the American Quarter Horse industry to learn about their mentor’s leadership activities in service to AQHA and the equine industry, and benefit from gaining more insight into their roles in impacting the industry. 


When asked to tell us why this specific program appealed to her, she told us “It’s in the barn while mindlessly cleaning stalls and reflecting where I come up with my most innovative ideas and solutions to problems which are key both in my career and as a community servant. And it’s in the saddle where I become grounded again, and suddenly my anxieties escape me.


For the past few years, I’ve said and deeply felt that “I hope to learn enough in the first half of
my life, to spend the second half teaching and giving back.” I’m still in the first half of my life and have a ton to learn (I believe we all keep learning and changing until the day we die), but I’m starting to give back as a volunteer in areas where I’ve gained enough experience to be valuable.”


The CQHA welcomed McKewen as a new member of two of its committees in January, the youth committee and the officials and professional development committee, her professional skills , experience as a provincial youth advisor and the knowledge she has gained as a ring steward/scribe at AQHA shows in the past years will be of great value to both these committees,


On behalf of the Canadian Quarter Horse Community, we would like to wish Mallory much success as she begins her AQHLead journey, and we strongly encourage other young Canadians with a passion for our horses to learn more about the program by visiting


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Meet the Canadian Horse Journal’s 2021 Quarter Horse division Photo Contest Winner

CQHA was pleased to sponsor a Quarter Horse division of the Canadian Horse Journal’s 2021 annual photo contest. Out of over One Hundred entries, the contest judges chose “Two More Heels” submitted by Mandy Panas of Elk Point, Alberta as the inaugural award winner.

The CQHA Media Team contacted Mandy and asked her to tell the Canadian Quarter Horse community about the photo, and her relationship with the horse featured in the photo. The following editorial was submitted:

Lenas Blue Bur aka "Rusty" a Horse With Many Friends and a Million Stories

The first time I saw Rusty I didn’t think much of him. He was unloaded off the trailer at a ranch I worked for as a un-halter broke coming two year old stud colt. I was 17 years old at the time, and preferred coloured flashy looking horses; a plain old chestnut with a star and a bad attitude did not catch my eye!

He did catch my friend Wayne’s eye a couple weeks later at the sale held by the ranch. The sale was held after, hours were spent trying to rope Rusty and get a halter on him. The hardest part of halter breaking Rusty occurred once they finally roped him, he was so big the pony horse they snubbed him too had trouble teaching him manners. My good friends Wayne and Karen took him home and turned him into a horse, a horse that I spent many many hours riding over the next decade.

The first time I rode Rusty was on a camping trip in Saskatchewan at Manitou Outfitters. I took my coloured flashy buckskin, but two days into the trip he needed a rest after prancing his way through the 35°C sun on our long rides. Wayne loaned me Rusty who had only been started under saddle the previous year and I actually enjoyed riding the big chestnut on our evening ride. I was glad I was not riding him when he laid down in the lake, which was the start of his nickname “The Duck Horse” –  Most horses will stop, put their head down, paw a little bit and start to lay down when they get in the water. Rusty walked right in, got knee deep and dropped to the ground with no warning. It was like his legs collapsed and disappeared, he went straight to his belly in that water. To get around the cattle guard we had to go through the water, which was not that deep and that bugger was not going through there without a swim. I took his lead rope and pulled him through the water on my buckskin much to his disgust. The next trip through a much longer stretch of deeper water produced the same effect out of Rusty so once again my buckskin encouraged him through the water. For years to come Rusty would lay down, or try to, whenever his hooves touched water. From a puddle on a gravel road to a creek or a lake. Sometimes he was sweated up and you hit a patch of deep sand on the trail he would drop there too. He would rarely ever warn you, you would feel him slow down and then the ground would be rushing up towards you. Rivers seemed to be the exception, I don’t remember him ever trying to lay down in the current of a river.

I rode Rusty as often as I needed, when my horse was injured, or when I couldn’t haul or just anytime I wanted to ride him. I cattle penned and sorted on him, I rode at poker rallies and trail rides, chased cows at our friends pasture, caught calves to tag them, took him up to the mountains or anywhere else we went camping. After a couple of years under saddle Karen started riding him more than Wayne but she still shared him with me.

Titled "Two More Heels" Mandy Panas of Elk Point, Alberta was the winner of the inaugural "Registered Quarter Horse Division" of the of Canadian Horse Journal Magazine's 30th annual For the Love of Horses Photo Contest. Pictured is, Lenas Blue Bur aka "Rusty" and Jeremy Heraid bring another calf to the branding fire. Rusty is an Alberta bred 2004 chestnut gelding sired by Lenas Azure San, out of Shabbys Blue Bur by Leo Blue Bug.


People we knew asked occasionally if he was for sale and Karen always used to say you have to ask Mandy. One year I was in Ponoka when my cousins called me to ask if I could ride in a ranch rodeo with them on their Ag society team. I told them if I could find a horse I could rope off to borrow I would. Of course Rusty was my first choice, so off we went on a two hour road trip to ride with my two teenage cousins and their mom on the team they had entered. Most of the events were your typical ranch rodeo events but the one event that concerned us was where we had to catch a yearling and tie it down. When our team rode in we had a game plan, throw loops in the dirt until we reached our rope limit. I wasn’t a very good roper to begin with so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Rusty was fast enough I could usually run the young calves down and fishing a loop over their heads when we would tag them. My cousin went first and missed the calf our team was called. I rode into the herd and moved two calves down the fence, threw my loop and by some miracle caught the right calf. I don’t know who was more surprised, me, my teammates or Rusty that I had caught the yearling. Thankfully the other members of the AG society jumped the fence and came to help my team lay the yearling down and tie her up.

Over the years Karen and Wayne would pack Rusty to pennings, and the mountains and trail rides for me. As their grandsons got older I shared Rusty with him as well when I was between horses or just wanted a nice easy ride. But riding Rusty was not always nice and easy. When they decided to sell him Rusty was offered to me first. At the time I couldn’t afford him, it was pretty sad to think that someone else might buy him and I wouldn’t get to ride him anymore. A couple
months later my husband Jeremy and I  sold one of our ranch horses and needed another broke horse that could be saddled up and go to work, I convinced Jeremy to try him out. We drove two hours and picked up Rusty to add to the herd of geldings at Rafter HJ Ranch.

Eleven years after I watched that half wild Chestnut run around the pen and duck his head every time a loop flew his way he was mine- even if I was supposed to share him with my other half he is mostly my horse. Rusty always was a family mount and still is. When we head out with a trailer load it would be rare for Rusty not to be on it. As much as he is “my” horse I will share him when I need to.

Rusty’s biggest quirk besides being the “Duck Horse” is his spring time bucking! Every year when the green grass comes out he turns into a bit of a handful, sometimes he gets pretty serious about it – to this day he has never managed to buck me off; but he has tried a good number of times! It usually happens chasing a cow or calf across the pasture, but a couple of times its been at pennings; the most memorable was after we bought him, while I was helping to chase bucking horses out of the arena, while the rodeo club we help with was dummy bucking. I hadn’t ridden Rusty much that spring, and I knew there was a good chance he would try it that day. I warmed him up good but it did not surprise me when I asked him to step up after a bronc that he ducked his head and tried to unload me. I pulled him up, let him stand a few seconds and went back to the task at hand. The next horse out, Rusty tried it again; s soon as I asked him to run! I pulled him up and then off we went again across the arena. The third time Rusty ducked his head and started bucking I pulled him up, made him spin a couple circles and yelled at him to knock it off before going back to catch up with the others . . . he was good until the next spring!

When we first bought Rusty, I had acquired another gelding a couple months before, that had, had a rough hand dealt to him in his past. We were unsure of the gelding’s whole story as every previous owner I talked to told me something different about where he had come from that contradicted the last. His fear of people was his biggest problem, however Rusty was instrumental in helping him get over that! Rusty can be hard to catch on a good day, always has been but he isn’t scared of people in the least and a pocket of cookies is tough to turn down. I took the two geldings everywhere together, if the grey went Rusty went too. I spent countless hours ponying the gelding with Rusty to rehab him; circles, over trot poles, down the trails when we got into summer and then in the mountains and out to the pasture where Jeremy was working. I had planned on taking Rusty to the mountains and decided the week before I was taking the grey too. I was called crazy considering I had never rode him yet, but I made up my mind, the farrier put shoes on him (which was no easy task) and I packed them down to Ya Ha Tinda to meet with Rusty’s previous owners for a week of camping. Rusty ponied that grey horse up and down the mountains, through the rivers, around the camps for two days before an evening ride to Eagle Lake made me decide to ride the gelding back. I gave Wayne Rusty’s lead rope and stepped onto the grey horse for the first time in the nine months I had owned him. After that whenever I would take the grey horse it became a habit to saddle up both of them and ride out on Rusty first then switch part way and pony Rusty back. I never worried about ponying Rusty off a green horse because I knew he wouldn’t do anything if I ever had to let go of him and he wouldn’t do anything to get me into trouble either. I could turn him loose to cross rivers and catch him again on the other side. I could let go of him to get gates and he would follow me through and wait eating on the other side. I took the two of them into the mountains together the next year as well and the year after that I left the grey at home and took the two year old pups instead. Leading pups through a campground out to the trail is a
little more challenging than ponying another horse but he got that job done like any others I asked him to do.

This summer before we started out on a family trail ride one of the other horses our ten year old was supposed to ride started acting up. I shortened the stirrups on my saddle and he could just reach them when he climbed up on Rusty. He rode him around a little bit and then I climbed into the kids saddle, with stirrups that wouldn’t have gone long enough if I tried, to ride the other horse. Rusty was as solid as I knew he would be and after being ponied for the first bit we turned him loose to ride on his own.

I have done a little bit of everything on Rusty over the years, a Pony Express Relay Race at a local stampede where our team won, carrying a flag during O ‘Canada at another local rodeo, numerous mountain trips, penning, sorting, I even tried jumping him a couple times. This year we got to try something completely new to us. While we had done some obstacles like bridges, the horse ball and pool noodles at home we had never done many man made obstacles or cowboy challenges before. Some friends of ours not too far from home started the “Moose Hills Cowboy Challenges” and we had a lot of fun attending them.  Rusty learned that stepping in a box of water was very different from crossing natural water! We jumped on and off big tires as well as walked across them, rang a bell, went through the noodle curtain and attempted the very narrow teeter bridge. In September, the second time we had attended the challenge, they added a Toonie jackpot class with new obstacles and I entered it. I think there were only six of us entered in the jackpot. The new obstacles had us hanging clothes on a clothesline, popping balloons with a nail on a stick, putting a football in a tipped over muck tub with a broom, roping a dummy being pulled by a quad, going up and down stairs and through a trench. Rusty was great and never blinked at a thing through the whole course. We ended up winning the Toonie jackpot but most of all we had fun with our friends and family!

Rusty has made me a lot of memories over the years, not just with him but with the family that owned him. I will be forever thankful to the plain chestnut gelding with a star, for making Wayne and Karen a bigger part of my life; and to them for allowing Rusty to be such a big part of my life!

Mandy & Rusty, August 2021 competing at the Moose Hills Cowboy Challenges
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In Memorial – Roy & Joan Ionson

In Memorial
The Canadian Quarter Horse Industry lost one of its most influential pioneering couples this year, Roy & Joan Ionson of Georgetown, Ontario.
To those who knew Roy & Joan, and were fortunate enough to call them friends and family, there is no shortage of tales that can be told of horses, horse shows, and horse people.
The founding president of both the Ontario Quarter Horse Association and the Ontario Rodeo Association, Roy was a member of the Canadian Quarter Horse Association’s board of directors back in the early 1960’s.
The couple were well known throughout Canada and internationally, with several ties to other Quarter Horse breeding and sales operations.
They raised their children in the industry, operated a impressive tack store and in their later years gladly cheered on their grandchildren in their equestrian endeavors.
On behalf of the Canadian Quarter Horse community, CQHA would like to send our condolences to the family, and thank Roy and Joan posthumously for their years of hard work and dedication in support of the breed and industry that we all love.
Roy Ionson October 29, 1931 – March 21, 2021
Joan Ionson (nee Worthington) July 24, 1937 – October 6, 2021 – They would have celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary together this year.
Photos – Ionson Family Archives
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Belly Up to the Bar with JXL Major DC aka “SETH”

“SETH” aka JXL Major CD, is the kind of horse everyone wants to “belly up to the bar” with – and if given the chance he is game to just that!

Thanks to Brittney Chomistek, Canadian fashion and western lifestyle influencer at Canadian Cowgirl Closet and former Miss Rodeo Canada 2018, for introducing the CQHA community to this great horse through her awesome “Bar Room” photo shoot with Kaylee Mohl Photography early this year!

Read SETH’s story of community service, teaching young riders, barrel racing , and “modeling” below.

The 2005 Canadian Bred palomino gelding is owned Linda Kraft of Irvine, Alberta.

Copyright © 2021 Kaylee Mohl Photography

SETH’s Story
(Yes he likes to have his name spelt in all capital letters).

SETH was born April 30, 2005 at JXL Ranch in Lampman Saskatchewan. He was then sold as a weanling to Faron and Leana Forsyth in October the same year. Faron then sold JXL MAJOR CD to Don Kraft who ran the local community pasture just outside of Medicine Hat in early 2009. A few months later Don traded his son Dalton a saddle for the yellow horse he had bought just a few months earlier. Dalton then surprised his wife Linda (who had fallen in love with the little yellow horse at her father in laws) that he was now hers.

It was the first horse Linda had since her beloved horse passed away when she was 16 years old. Linda loved (and spoiled) her new horse that she named SETH. He was the perfect confidence builder for Linda after not being in the saddle for 15+ years in addition to becoming a mother.

Despite SETH’s lack of athletic ability, he tried his heart out in barrel racing and within a couple years was winning in the 2D.

SETH has taught and raised both Addison who is now 12 and competitively barrel races and Tytan who is 8 and aspires to be a roper like his dad, uncles Justin and Tyler and Grandpa Don.

SETH has always been special and unique, but after Don passed away from cancer in 2015, the story about how ‘your dad traded your Grandpa Don a saddle for SETH’ always makes us giggle and gives him extra sentimental value.

The funny stories- oh gosh, the best one would have to have been January 2013 when the Kraft family was getting ready to embark on a trip down south to Arizona. The vet came out to Justin’s (Don’s oldest son / Dalton’s brother) to get blood work done so the horses could go across the border. Justin caught the horses one by one but when it came to SETH, he was not having it. Justin finally got on the phone and called his brother Dalton and told him ‘I can’t catch your wife’s horse here and if he doesn’t smarten up he won’t be going to Arizona’.

In the meantime while the vet was in the barn, SETH took it upon himself to walk in through a small side door to the barn and get his blood work done on his own. Needless to say, Justin was less than impressed but Dalton was glad that he didn’t have to tell his wife that her horse wasn’t going to be going to Arizona with them (or that he would have had to have gone out and helped catch him).
SETH has been ridden by countless kids and is always a favourite at the kids’ rodeos as many ask to use him for goat untying because of his laid back and safe nature. They could ride up to the goats as close as they wanted to then hang off the side of him while they jumped off and he just patiently waited for them. He is also popular at a local retirement home where he’s visited with the senior residences who fondly reminisced about their days of growing up with their own horses.
SETH is also a favourite at Avalon Equine’s interaction program where participants use horse interactions to help facilitate team building and girls self esteem groups for a couple of examples.

SETH, doesn’t have many boundaries and even likes to come in the house. One day a gate was left open and all the horses were out in the main yard. In an attempt to catch them, Linda went out with some grain. After the horses got back in, she came inside the house and left the grain in the front entrance which got spilled and the kids were told to clean it up. Instead of getting a broom and a dust pan or vacuuming it up, Addison and Tytan went out to the horse pen to get SETH to help them out. When Linda seen she asked what the heck were they doing and why was SETH in the house? The kids said they were just getting him to help them clean up and ‘vacuum’ the grain.

SETH truly is such a unique and once in a lifetime kind of horse. He will always be a special part of the Kraft family in addition to the many lives of others that he’s touched.