Young Horse Development Scholarship Winners

Young Horse Development Scholarship Winners

Four AQHYA members earned a total of $5,000 in scholarships through the 2023 AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program.

YHD 2023 winner

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Since January, American Quarter Horse Youth Association members have recorded their progress training a yearling bred by an American Quarter Horse Association Ranching Heritage Breeder. Recently, four AQHYA members were named scholarship winners for the 2023 AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program.

In first place, earning a $2,000 scholarship and custom belt buckle is Mateah D’Souza of Auberry, California. D’Souza’s Ranching Heritage-bred horse is RO Stevie Smooth, a 2022 palomino filly by RO Smart N Smooth out of RO Memphis Playgun by TRR Janies Playgun. The filly was bred by the 2022 AQHA Best Remuda-winning ranch O RO Ranch in Prescott, Arizona.

Second place goes to Joscelyn Thompson of Wichita, Kansas. She receives a $1,500 scholarship and a Justin Boots gift certificate. Thompson worked with Miss Freeman 2219, a 2022 gray filly by Little Chrome Cat and out of Miss Freeman 019 by PG Shogun. Miss Freeman 2219 was bred by Mark Freeman of Freeman Family Ranch LTD in Texhoma, Oklahoma.

Denny Turner of Texico, New Mexico, was third with his filly, Teqita Bueno Kitty. The 2022 gray filly is by Spanky D Cat and out of Teqita Bueno Cairiss by Bueno Snax. The filly was bred by James and Lynda Ray of Tequesquite Ranch in Albert, New Mexico. Turner receives a $1,000 scholarship and a $100 Wrangler product gift certificate.

Fourth place goes to Julius Nicodemus-Culwell of Louisville, Mississippi. He receives a $500 scholarship and a $100 Wrangler product gift certificate. Nicodemus-Culwell worked with Nu Metallic 24, a 2022 bay filly by Nu Metallic and out of Senorita Double Zero by Poco Tuck Zero. The filly was donated by Sam Daube of The Daube Company of Ardmore, Oklahoma.

The Young Horse Development Program was created to give AQHYA members an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of horsemanship. Since the program’s inception in 2011, more than 420 horses have been donated, with an estimated value of $1.6 million. The horses used in the program are bred by AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders, which are ranches whose remudas must consist of American Quarter Horses used primarily to work cattle. The ranch must own at least five American Quarter Horse mares that are used to produce the remuda, and the ranch must have received at least an AQHA 10-year breeder award. The participating Ranching Heritage Breeders donate weanlings for the program participants to evaluate, raise and train. Young Horse Development Program participants get to keep their horses.

“The Young Horse Development Program was designed to allow youth participants an opportunity to get hands-on horse experience,” said AQHA Senior Director of Member Programs Karen McCuistion. “The program is an excellent opportunity to connect these young adults with the equine industry and provides a solid foundation for their education and future career path. In turn, their experience in the program turns into a valuable set of skills that will carry them forward as members of our industry.”

The Young Horse Development Program participants raise their weanlings-turned-yearlings and document their monthly progress; participate in webinars; complete monthly management assignments; track goals; engage in mentoring sessions with local AQHA Professional Horsemen; and compile videos of themselves with their horse completing assignments including trailering, an in-hand trail pattern and more. Following project completion, a select number of scholarships and prizes are awarded. 

To learn more about the program and sign up for a notification of the 2025 application release, visit

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