Riding horses has been a way of life for Teri Dawn Haws for as long as she can remember — and, in fact, even before that.
“I think they set me on a horse from the day I was brought home as a newborn baby,” she said. “I’m usually up by about 5, riding in the morning until about 10 before it gets too hot. My horses probably prefer it too, honestly. I start riding again about 7 or 8 p.m. and ride until it gets dark. It’s a lot of work.”
Last month’s American Quarter Horse Association Youth World Cup in College Station, Texas, represented the culmination of years of hard work for the 19-year-old Erda resident. As only the second American to represent her country twice in the event, and the only Utahan ever to make the U.S. team, Haws brought home gold medals in the ranch riding and reining events and helped her team capture the coveted World Cup.
Haws’ victory in ranch riding marked the first time an American has won that event, and her win in reining was the first U.S. win in more than a decade, according to an AQHA press release. She also competed in cutting.
Cutting involves separating one calf from a herd of approximately 30 cattle and keeping it away from the rest of the herd, with the rider and horse looking to mirror the calf. Reining shows the connection between the rider and horse as they complete a sequence that includes loping circles, a lead change, a sliding stop and spins, and ranch riding puts an emphasis on how well the horse moves, Haws said.
“I prefer the ranch riding,” Haws said. “It’s my favorite class to show in all the time. It was a lot of fun getting to go and show in my favorite class.”
Haws’ biggest thrill came during the Olympic-style medal ceremonies. When the top three finishers in each event were revealed, so too were their national flags. They then stood behind their flags as the winner’s national anthem was played.
“I have chills just even thinking about it,” she said. “They try to tell you how it feels and how you’re going to feel, but there are really no words.”
None of the competitors were able to use their own horses, as the horses for the World Cup were provided for them. That meant Haws and her fellow competitors had a limited time to get used to new mounts.
“The one that I got to show in the ranch riding, I got to ride for about a week before I competed,” she said. “The horses that I rode in the cutting and reining, I only got to ride for about 20 minutes. I just had to trust that I knew what I was doing because there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to change the horse at that point. I got lucky and drew some really nice horses out there.”
Haws was in her second Youth World Cup, having traveled to Australia in 2016 as a leadership member. That meant that while she wasn’t competing, she was able to provide guidance to the other riders on her team and also served as a spokesperson for Team USA while interacting with the teams from other countries. This time, she was able to compete against athletes from 19 other nations as one of 10 members of the U.S. contingent — a unique opportunity when it comes to showing quarter horses.
“Showing horses — you’re never really on a team,” she said. “It’s a team between you and your horse, but you’re never in a group of 10 competing against other countries and stuff. It was a lot of fun getting to do that, and getting to be a part of that team twice is pretty crazy. It’s almost unheard of.
“It’s pretty unique for someone to make the team twice, and I honestly didn’t believe I was going to make it the first time,” she added. “There are hundreds of kids who apply from Team USA every year and with it only happening every two years, everybody wants to be on the team.”
Haws is currently competing at the AQHA Youth World Championships in Oklahoma City, the final competition of her youth career. She will return to Southern Utah University in Cedar City later this month to continue her studies toward a degree in business management.