Rain, Shine or Global Pandemic, the Youth World Cup Must Go On

Rain, Shine or Global Pandemic, the Youth World Cup Must Go On

Since 1978, the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup has been uniting nations through healthy equine competition and camaraderie, even in a virtual environment.

Group of people smiling

text size

By Ashley Baller, AQHA International 

The American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup is where lifelong, global connections are made, and proves that common language is not a requirement to build friendships. All you need is an open mind and love for the horse. The YWC is an educational, leadership and competition-based event for AQHYA members from around the world. This international event is hosted every two years by participating countries where teams from each of several countries compete for the “gold” in nine different events.

In light of the first year of a virtual YWC due to COVID-19, we spoke with longtime YWC organizer and volunteer Dawn Forest. Dawn has been the YWC organizer since 2014 and was the Team USA manager for 12 years prior to her current role. Dawn’s passion and commitment to the YWC make her the perfect spokesperson to highlight what makes this event so special. Dawn says, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it when you see the young boy from Ireland taking it all in – bright-eyed and soaking every bit of being in Texas. And after a buckle is won? The tears flow. It’s so powerful.” 

Teams from nearly 20 countries compete at the YWC, uniting languages and cultures from around the world. For some kids, this is their first international travel experience. Watching the initial interaction between all the teams is what Dawn looks forward to the most each year. “Within an hour, they all blend as one big family,” says Dawn. 

One is left to wonder: How do the youth manage communication with such a wide spectrum of languages? Dawn says, “It’s miraculous! I don’t know how they do it. One night at the hotel, we heard a ruckus. We discovered some kids from Team Japan, Australia and USA laughing and cutting up. They were playing a card game and expressing themselves without language. They make it work.” 

To foster this wholesome experience, YWC preparation goes far beyond horsemanship. Dawn prepares her team by encouraging them to learn the language, lingo and lifestyle of the host country. Upon arrival, the teams embark on an immersive experience at the local supermarket. At local restaurants, youth are challenged to order food in the native language. “The experience is 40 percent competition and 60 percent international exchange,” says Dawn, “food and culture are huge.”

As for the YWC philosophy, it is important that youth of good moral character are selected. They are ambassadors for their country, representing themselves among some of the top youth riders in the world.

“You’re judged in and out of the arena,” Dawn says.  

Because the core of Dawn’s YWC passion lies in youth development, she recommended we also speak with YWC alumni to gain past exhibitors’ perspectives. We spoke with Federico Torlotting, an AQHYA member and 2018 YWC exhibitor from Team Paraguay, as well as American Quarter Horse trainer Matthew Freiberg, a 2018 YWC exhibitor from Australia. 

AQHA International: What tips do you have for future YWC Teams? boy rides American Quarter Horse

Torlotting: Enjoy every moment. It’s an amazing experience that will change your life. You’ll make many professional contacts and friends. 


AQHA International: What is your favorite memory from the YWC? 

Torlotting: My favorite memory is from my win. It was a great feeling. It was the first medal won for my country. It was a great honor. I almost cried with my family. Everything was so great. People treated one another very well. I was appreciative of the kindness and support.

Frieberg: My favorite part of the experience was riding different horses and connecting with my team. Our team got so close, and by the end of it, we felt like a family. Teamwork really matters.

AQHA International: What was it like competing in the United States for the first time?

Torlotting: It was quite the experience. I’ve never seen such a big event in my life before. The horses, the people, even the road was bigger!

AQHA International: What did you enjoy about meeting other teams? 

Freiberg: We all had different accents, which was really fun. We found out about the different lifestyles, and how things are back home. I still keep up with my friends that I met during the YWC. boy tips his hat while wearing a fifth place medallion and riding a palomino American Quarter Horse


AQHA International: How has the YWC impacted where you are now? 

Freiberg: I’ve recently started my own business, training and coaching in Australia. From working with the professional trainers and learning about the level of competition in the U.S., it helped to kickstart my own training operation.

The YWC has promoted international involvement and friendly competition among youth across the globe for more than 50 years, thanks to the commitment of volunteers like Dawn. Although the YWC will be held virtually this year, we are confident that it will deliver a similar experience for exhibitors to connect, learn and grow. Learn more about the virtual YWC here