After her recent success with her Half-Arabian reining horse competing against other breeds, longtime Arabian lover Michelle Paulsen caught up with Arabian Horse Life to share more about her journey to the Derby and her big win.
(Emma) Tell us a little about yourself and your life with Arabian horses?
(Michelle) I have been showing Arabian horses for 34 years. I think I’ve shown almost every seat except for Working Cow, Cutting, etc. I was fortunate early in my youth career to win several large scholarships at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Association, which paid for my first two years of college. I have been showing most of my life without ever taking a break. Several years ago I started to get more involved in the industry and began to volunteer and give back to the community. I’m currently on my second term as Region 5 Director, and I also I manage the Region 5 Championship Show and my local club shows. Outside of the Arabian horses, I enjoy going to sporting events, concerts and going to shows in Las Vegas.
(Emma) Tell us more about SS A Noble Star and her journey to the Derby?
(Michelle) We purchased Sansa in Tulsa on October 17, 2017. Then 2018 was an amazing year with her. This was particularly impressive because she was only five years old. As with all of my horses, Sansa got to learn Horsemanship and Showmanship... never in my wildest dreams did I think we would win so many national titles our first year out. Winning the Amateur Reining at US was definitely an item checked off of my bucket list. Earlier this year I started thinking about other things I wanted to do with her... I wanted to show where we would have a chance to win some money so we decided to take her to one of the local NRHA shows and enter the non-pro Derby and Rookie Classic. I knew she was talented, but never did I imagine we would be able to hold our own against Quarter Horses. For me the show was a huge growing experience as it pushed me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to ride up to another level. Also having the ability to sit and watch so many talented horses and riders was inspirational and really motivating.
(Emma) How was she received by others at the competition and how was your run?
(Michelle) So my first big class on her was the non-pro Derby. I knew I had to ride hard and keep my hand quiet. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever run her so fast and been so quiet with my hand. Even though it was a good run and we finished in the top 10 in the money I definitely knew where I could've done better and still had some areas for improvement. Luckily I was able to regroup and then the next day, in the Rookie Challenge, I was able to go back in and make some of those corrections. Those little adjustments paid off, and we ended up Reserve Champion in the Rookie one challenge - just a half point behind Champion.
One of the things that stood out during my derby run was the amazing support of the audience. I have never had a reining run where the cheering and support was so great it actually energized me throughout my pattern. I found myself in my large base circles trying to run even faster as audience members were cheering "come on, go get it girl!"
Sansa was well received by all. It was funny; people would come up to me or LaRae and make a comment about that HORSE has Arabian in him?! Actually, one trainer came up to Skylar and asked him who that pretty Quarter Horse stud was that he was on, and Skyler replied you mean my Half-Arabian mare. It was funny. Sad to say I think there is a stereotype of what our Arabians are like, but what’s great is when we take our horses to the shows and they see what they can really do people are blown away.
(Emma) Why are Arabian horses perfect for this kind of event? What would you say to someone else considering an Arabian as their Working Western partner?
(Michelle) What amazes me with our breed is the diversity. The breeding over the years of the Half-Arabian Reiners has really been refined, and we are producing some amazing, talented animals. If anybody within the Arabian breed really wants an all-around horse then getting a Working Western horse is a must. What is so great is our breed has so much to offer. You could do Reining, Showmanship, Horsemanship, Ranch Riding, Trail, Cutting, etc. and almost any of these horses can cross into these variety of classes.
Do you have an amazing Reining or working western Arabian or Half-Arabian? Leave a picture in the comments, we’d love to see them.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Knight Photography.