Ruthie Ruhl Wins 2023 USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Nationals

Findlay, Ohio—Nov. 14, 2023—Ruthie Ruhl, 20, of Ocala, Florida, persevered through hard work, returning to best her 2022 reserve placing to come out on top of this year's USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Nationals. The University of Findlay's James L. Child, Jr. English Equestrian Center in Findlay, Ohio, hosted the competition from November 10-12 alongside the MZ Farms/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session. 

"This win means a lot to me," Ruhl stated. "I have worked a very long time studying and reading the materials [provided by USHJA] each year to prepare for Nationals". 


Ruhl has attended the finals five times, the first year being in 2018 where she earned a top-four placing in the written exam. After coming in reserve in 2022, the pressure was on to improve her scores and let her years of knowledge shine through a competitive group of finalists. Her tenacity paid off as she took the top placings in two out of three testing components. 

She aspires to become a top professional groom or stable manager and attributes studying for the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge to helping her soak up knowledge that can be applied back in the barn. 

"I have been a professional groom since about January, and I've worked freelance for several barns in Ocala, Florida," she said. "I worked full time for three months for a well-known Show Jumping barn over school break, as I am a full-time college student and I would put in 12- to 14-hour days."


Going into the exams can be quite intimidating, especially for those who have not attended the Nationals. Ruhl has learned some test-taking tips to help calm her nerves along the way. 

"I [use breathwork] before I go into each session and before I take the test. When I take the test, I go through the whole test first and then I answer everything on the sheet. I go back through and fill in my true answers and double-check myself," she continued. "My favorite part of the exams is the practicum because you get to work with a live horse."

Outside of the exams, Ruhl expresses that one of the best parts of being involved in this program is the friendships she has gained and true sportsmanship with one another.   

"I love the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge because of the camaraderie. Every year, I get to see friends I only see here and it's one big family get-together. We have a lot of fun," she said. "They are all here to support you and one another. [We] just want to see each other succeed."


"This is such a strong group, and we are so excited to see so many participants return year after year," stated Terri Young, Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Committee Chair. "Ruthie's comprehensive knowledge really stood out this year among the other competitors. She seemed very well prepared and understood the information that we're testing on."

As the winner of HQC Nationals, Ruhl received a SmartPak gift card; an internship with Spy Coast Farm in Lexington, Kentucky; and a $2,000 training and education grant from the USHJA Foundation.


Alpine Griffin, 16, of Fort Collins, Colorado, moved up to take silver, returning to a top-three placing after earning bronze in 2021 and bronze in 2022. This year, she took reserve after earning the top highest Written Exam Score and second-highest Practicum A exam. She received a SmartPak gift card and a $1,500 training and education grant from the USHJA Foundation. 

Evelyn Clark, 18, of Crofton, Maryland, took home bronze after having the second-highest score for the Horsemanship/Identification exam and third-highest Practicum A exam. For her placing, she received a handwoven belt from Boy O Boy Bridleworks and a $500 training and education grant from the USHJA Foundation. Fourth-place finisher, Lily Sonneborn, 14, of Washington, D.C., was awarded a handwoven belt by Boy O Boy Bridleworks. 

Emily Bruss, 11, of Bradford, New Hampshire, was given special recognition by the HQC Committee this year for being the youngest participant. She was awarded a handwoven belt from Boy O Boy Bridleworks. McKenna Goodson, 19, of Stanford, California, earned the Sportsmanship Award, which was decided by the Nationals participants. She received a gift card from SmartPak.

Participants were able to learn and audit from special presenters Dr. Kiley Dill, an equine chiropractor; and Tonya Johnston, a mental skills coach and author who specializes in equestrian athletes. The participants were also able to audit the MZ Farms/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session, featuring clinicians Peter Wylde and Colleen Reed.


Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Nationals Results

1st: Ruthie Ruhl
2nd: Alpine Griffin
3rd: Evelyn Clark
4th: Lily Sonneborn

1st: Ruthie Ruhl
2nd: Alpine Griffin
3rd: Evelyn Clark
4th: Claire Salter

Horsemanship/Identification Exam
1st: Ruthie Ruhl
2nd: Evelyn Clark
3rd: Meredith Denton
4th: Claire Salter

1st: Alpine Griffin
2nd: Ariana Schneider
3rd: Lily Sonneborn
4th: Ruthie Ruhl

The USHJA thanks Official Sponsors CWD, Nutrena and Parlanti; Educational Partners Spy Coast Farm and SmartPak; award sponsors Essex Classics and Boy O Boy Bridleworks. The Horsemanship Quiz Challenge is supported in part by grants from US Equestrian and the USHJA.

For more information about the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge, visit

The fourth annual Adult Horsemanship Quiz Challenge will be taking place virtually again this year from November 6-19. The competition will consist of a written exam, an interview, and a final practicum that will require participants to demonstrate their mastery of horsemanship knowledge across a variety of topics. Prizes will be awarded to the highest-scoring participants in each phase, as well as to the overall top finishers.

Photos: Rachel Milewski/USHJA