Eagle Valley High School senior wins big at Colorado State Fair

Aubrey Winstead was named State Fair Western Horseman Grand Champion at the 2023 Fair

Eagle Valley High School senior Aubrey Winstead took home first and fifth place awards at the 2023 Colorado State Fair with her horse Parlay.
Courtesy Photo

Eagle Valley High School senior Aubrey Winstead may have been the underdog entering this year’s equestrian competition at the Colorado State Fair, but she left with a first-place win.

“Going into the experience my goal was to stay in the top 10 because I knew who I was going up against and top 10 is an accomplishment at state,” Winstead said.

“In the end, I didn’t know where I had placed overall but knew that I had done well. So when they called my name for State Fair Western Horseman Grand Champion I was shocked and so excited so go grab my newly-won belt buckle, when I got back to our spot the whole family was in tears.”

Winstead took home first place in the Western Horseman Championship in the Level 2 division, competing against 21 teens ages 16 to 18. She also placed fifth overall in the English horse show.

Winstead first began riding horses at the age of 7 as a part of 4-H. And while she’s competed in a myriad of programs — showing lambs, goats, dogs, chickens as well as sewing — horses have been her main focus throughout the past 12 years.

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“My involvement in 4-H has shaped me; 4-H has introduced me to my passions and helped me work toward my dreams. I have learned to work hard for what I want to accomplish and never give up on my goals,” Winstead said, adding that she’s learned the value of consistency, responsibility, leadership and persistence.

One of her favorite parts of being involved with the group has been helping to mentor and lead the younger kids in 4-H.

“It’s cool to be a role model; all those kids look up to you,” she said. “I like seeing what my knowledge can do for other people. Trying to help them through challenges has helped me a lot.”

Over the years, her equestrian career has included participation in the Freedom Riders and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, other competitions, and this year, serving as the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo rodeo queen.

“Through all of my experience showing I think the biggest thing I have learned is to be happy with the little wins. Which meant sometimes we wouldn’t win everything but we were able to make it through a pattern or rail class with little to no mistakes. I have learned that even the small success can eventually add up to larger accomplishments,” Winstead said.

All of this hard work and all of the successes led her to this year at the State Fair and her biggest win yet.

“Winning the Western division in the state fair is far beyond what I thought I would accomplish in my showing career. But every win creates a new goal and an even bigger dream and I am so excited to see where I go next,” she said.

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Part of what makes Winstead’s win unique is her horse, Parlay — and the fact that Winstead trained her herself.

She got Parlay three years ago during COVID-19 after she unexpectedly lost her horse Gunner to colic. Although she was devastated, she couldn’t imagine life without a horse and the family began to search for one. Eventually, Parlay popped up on her mom’s Facebook and they traveled to Elbert County to meet her. Parlay was greenbroke, meaning she had some training, but not very much.

“She was young and knew just the basics. She seemed like a good project to keep me busy,” Winstead said.

Aubrey Winstead worked hard over the past three years to train Parlay herself.
Sherri Innis Photography/Courtesy Photo

From the day she got Parlay, Winstead has spent almost every day teaching her new skills and training her for competition, which Parlay loves.

“She is the best teammate I could ask for. Most of the time she is more excited to show them than I am, even when it’s 7 in the morning and we have just arrived from a two-hour trip to get to where the show was that day,” Winstead said. “She has an incredible work ethic and always wants to learn.”

Through the process of training Parlay and competing with her, Winstead said she’s learned the importance of consistency and how to work through problems and find solutions.

“She has taught me to be stubborn and forgiving all at the same time,” she noted. “A horse does not speak English, so through a process of pressure and release she has learned to figure out what I am asking her to do.”

Putting in this work and gaining the knowledge, she believes is what made her stand out at this year’s state fair.

“In the midst of 21 competitors, some of whom showed professionally trained horses, Parlay and I stayed consistent in every class and managed to catch the judge’s eye and stand out from the rest,” Winstead said.

As Winstead looks past graduation from Eagle Valley High School, she hopes to carry her equestrian career forward, showing at the collegiate level. However, she is planning to study fashion design in school — another passion and skill set that she got and developed in 4-H.

“I owe a lot to 4-H,” Winstead said.

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