Southern Utah University senior in marketing Teri Haws has been riding horses since before she could walk.
With numerous national and even world titles from equine competitions under her belt, Teri’s connection and abilities with horses is undeniable. The cowgirl finds it hard to pinpoint any one accomplishment that stands out in her career, noting that many horses have influenced her success.
“Horses like Journey, Uno, Cowboy, Amber, JLo, Traveler and so many others have played a major role in my accomplishments,” said Teri.
As trophy buckles fill her shelves and medals hang on her walls, the SUU senior recognizes the influence of her father and childhood as the true starting point for her horsemanship career.
“I’d spend all day in the saddle checking cows with [my dad],” Teri said. “That’s where it all started for me.”
When the cowgirl was just two years old, her mother was placed on bedrest while pregnant with her second sister. During this time Teri spent her days on the back of a horse as she followed her father, Shamas Haws, while he trained colts and took care of the family ranch.
“She’s been following me around since she was little,” Shamas said of his daughter during a presentation to SUU equine students in October.
Teri’s family owns almost 600 head of cattle and 200 head of horses on their ranch in Erda, Utah. Shamas has been training horses and breaking colts professionally for over 30 years with Teri by his side.
“I’ve been [riding horses] for so long,” Teri said. “I had to go to work with my dad who makes his living as a full-time cowboy and horseman.”
Teri said that she not only “watched and learned” from him, but also got in on the action by helping her father with the horses and the cows.
“I have no doubt that girl could make a living with horses if she wanted to,” Shamas said, applauding his daughter’s willingness to work. “She’s given herself that option because she was willing to work for it.”
Teri’s competitive career began at a young age as she got involved in state horsemanship competitions and began competing in American Quarter Horse Association shows. She credits her family’s horse, named BlueDuck, for setting an early pace for her equine career.
“[BlueDuck] is the horse that I really learned how to ride and compete on,” Teri said. “He led me to several state titles as a child and helped me get my foot in the door with the [AQHA] shows.”
The Erda cowgirl competes in a variety of equine events including cutting, reigning and ranch riding. Each of the events are considered a part of the western discipline where horse and rider perform specified patterns and cow-work to showcase a set of skills.
After competing for several years with BlueDuck, Teri began riding another family horse known as Norma Jean. The sorrel horse was the first to carry Teri to a major national championship in the ranch riding event.
In 2016, Teri’s career made its first leap into international horsemanship. As a high school junior, Teri underwent a rigorous application process to be selected as one of 10 Americans under 18 to represent the United States at the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.
“The Youth World Cup is an event that happens in different locations throughout the world every other year,” Teri explained. “The selection committee receives tons of applications for Team USA from youth all across the country.”
The young cowgirl traveled to Tamworth, Australia with the United States team to serve as a leadership member and one of five riding alternates.
Teri says that her role as a leadership member allowed her to “help the riders prepare for competition as well as interact with representatives from other countries across the globe and serve as a spokesperson for the United States.”
As a highly motivated individual already accustomed to leadership positions in her high school and community, Teri fulfilled her leadership role with ease. She helped her team prepare and had the perfect seat to watch as the United States took home the gold medal that year.
When the international competition returned in 2018, Teri was again selected to represent Team USA, but this time she would be riding.
She traveled to College Station, Texas for the world cup where she competed in the cutting, reining and ranch riding competitions.
Teri was provided with three different horses for each event from an existing “draw” pool that consisted of a preselected group of performance horses provided by various trainers. This was the first and so far only time Teri had shown a horse other than her family’s.
With just a few hours to get to know each of her mounts before competing, Teri was able to outperform all the other riders to claim gold medals in the reigning and ranch riding events as well as walk away with the overall championship.
The avid equestrian continues to compete today. She most recently claimed the seventh spot in the world at the American Quarter Horse World Championship Show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma earlier this month.
“I plan to continue showing horses whenever I can,” Teri said. “It is a true passion of mine and I certainly see that in my future.”
The SUU marketing major hopes to utilize her degree within the equine industry by promoting horse trainers and their businesses. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree this December, Teri will pursue a Master of Business Administration at SUU beginning in January.
While she notes that her original plan was to attend college out of state, the horseman is happy with her decision to attend SUU and the chance it has given her to stay close to home and all the horses she credits with her successes.
Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Photos Courtesy of Teri Haws