Ribbons for a Reason

Ribbons for a Reason

An exhibitor at the 2020 Farnam AQHA and Adequan Select World Championship Show competes in honor of a friend fighting cancer.

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The American Quarter Hors Journal logo

By Holly Clanahan

The Journal staff knew a good story was in the making when Zac Wiges rode up to collect his finalist ribbon in Select heeling at the 2020 Farnam AQHA and Adequan Select World Championship Shows and announced that he was retiring his homebred 25-year-old mare, Miss Ang Olena, who’d also placed sixth in Select heading.

After all, we all love to hear about beloved equine elders who’ve had a long stretch of success. But within moments of snagging Zac for an interview, it became clear there was much more to this story.

"Angie," a tough-as-nails former AQHA reserve world champion, had been pulled out of a 10-year retirement in a bid to earn as many World Show prizes as possible–all to inspire and encourage a Wiges family friend who was battling Stage 4 cancer.

"We dedicated the whole thing to Kevin (Bjerke),” Zac says. Zac and his wife, Jenny, have worked with Kevin for a decade through Ameriprise Financial. “He’s a good friend, and I can’t do anything to help him but make him laugh a little about some horse stuff.”

There was also some explaining to do, as Kevin isn’t a horse person. “We told him AQHA is the biggest breed association in the world, and we were going to go to their World Show and try and bring him home something,” says Zac, of Hamlin, Iowa. 

Zac earned Kevin two ribbons on Angie, plus a 10th-place ribbon in Select heeling on the stallion Mr Quixotes Song. Daughter Paige also competed in amateur barrels and missed the finals by just a hair’s breadth.

What makes this story even better is how convincingly Angie stepped up to the task. Zac only started legging her up about a month before the show, and he only started roping steers on her two days before her class.

“She’s just like she was 10 years ago. Everything is still there,” Zac says. “The first day I rode her, I rode her 10 feet, spun her in a circle each way, and my daughter said, ‘Dad, are you ever going to quit grinning?’ Horses do that to you.”