As the 67th annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show at WestWorld of Scottsdale (scottsdaleshow.com) trots back Feb. 17 through 27, we check in with Scottsdale’s own 40-time national champion Sarah Esqueda—who has been showing and competing here since 2006—for some insight on what it’s like to be a young equestrian.
PHOTO BY LAURELLE PHOTOGRAPHY.
What inspired you to become an equestrian? My family. When I was 4 years old, my grandparents bought me and my cousin a Shelton pony named Kokomo. We started taking lessons on him and eventually showed him at a local horse show, Highland Riders, where we won most of our classes with him. My parents saw my love for horses and knew it was time to get more involved in the horse industry. When I was the age of 6, my mom bought me my first Arabian horse, ETC Cracklin’ Rosy, and my passion for competing took off from there.
Who has been your biggest inspiration? My biggest inspiration in the Arabian horse industry would be my two trainers, Cynthia Burkman and Sandro Pinha. When I started riding Arabian horses, my first trainer was Cynthia. I’ve been in her barn since I was 6 years old. She knows exactly how to run a successful business and is an incredible horsewoman. Besides helping me with my riding, Cynthia has also been helping me with my breeding program. My family and I have bred horses in the past, however, now I’m ready to be a horse breeder myself.
I joined Pinha’s barn in 2015 when I bought an outstanding 2-year-old halter horse from his farm, Versailles PCF. I’ve always wanted to show halter since I was a little girl. Sandro is a tough and determined trainer, but he only wants me to succeed. I feel very lucky to have the two trainers that I do in this industry.
This year at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, Sarah Esqueda will be competing in half Arabian country 19-39 with Nirvanas Afire CRF, Halt Arabian hunter 19-39 and AHPA amateur owner hunter pleasures jackpot with Slim Shady WA. She will also be showing two Arabian geldings in halter for one of her trainers, Cynthia Burkman. PHOTO BY JASON MOLBACK.
“AT AGE 24 I FEEL VERY BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO SAY I’M A 40-TIME NATIONAL CHAMPION. IT’S BEEN A TEAM EFFORT.”
How do you choose your horse? Now that I’m an adult amateur rider, I prefer to show younger horses that I can grow with over the years. It challenges me as a rider as younger horses aren’t the easiest since their training is very limited. However, I’m always up for a good challenge.
How do you create a connection with your horse? I look for that feeling in my gut that lets me know that we can reach that special bond and grow from there. If you have a good bond with your horse while not riding them, your bond will only get stronger when you do ride.
How do you prepare for a show? The way I prepare is by going up to the barn as much as I can to practice. My trainer will coach me and tell me what I need to do differently to make the ride look more smooth and easy. I’ll practice a couple more times until we get it perfect and end the ride on a good note. Before a show starts, I make sure all of my outfits are cleaned and organized. I’ll shine my boots before the show starts and get my hats reshaped and cleaned.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2022 show season? Seeing my baby horses show for the first time. I have three horses this year that will be showing under saddle. My trainer Cynthia will show them this year at the Arabian Horse Association’s United States Arabian and Half-Arabian National Championship Horse Show (U.S. Nationals). Two of them will be hunter and the other one Western. It’s going to be fun watching them grow up and learn how to properly carry their rider.
What’s the best memory you have of the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona’s Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show? There’s a lot of activities that go on during the show. My favorite activity for the kids is painting a pony [portrait]. I still have all of mine from when I was little. There is a meet-an-Arabian horse, where spectators can go and pet an Arabian horse and learn about them. You can also join a barn tour that shows you how each barn gets ready for the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. [Featuring the world’s best Arabians and exciting competitions, attendees also have the opportunity to see exhibits of fine art, crafts, clothing and jewelry in the Shopping Expo adjacent to the main arena.]
What are your future plans? To become a successful Arabian horse breeder. I want to own my own farm one day and breed eight to 10 horses a year and sell them. I would like people to want to buy horses from me after what they have seen my breeding program produce. I’m very excited to see the horses I have bred hit the show arena. As I’m breeding, I will continue to show as an adult amateur, hopefully on the horses that I have bred.