By Laura Latzko
Horses have changed Scottsdale native Molly Schwanz’s life.
The ASU student finds solace in riding, which has led to four Arabian Youth Nationals wins in the Arabian hunter pleasure category.
At this year’s Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, she will be joined by her older sister, Madison, who will compete with her half-Arabian horse in hunter pleasure.
The 67th annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is Thursday, February 17, through Sunday, February 27, at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
The event highlights Arabians and half-Arabians in events that focus on their breeding, movements, attitude, ability to perform certain tasks and skill in following handler or rider commands.
This year, more than 2,000 horses will compete for $3 million in prize money. The event will have hands-on opportunities to ride, touch and learn more about Arabian horses through the HoofbeatZ USA program, as well as a shopping expo with art, clothing and jewelry vendors.
Taking it seriously
Molly and Madison grew up showing horses, which created a deeper sisterly bond.
“We can support each other and help each other get ready. It’s been a very fun experience having your sister by your side, growing up with horses, learning about it together and helping each other,” says Schwanz, 20.
On Saturdays, they continue the tradition of traveling to the barn as a family to spend time with their horses and train. Still, Molly goes multiple times a week.
“I think every time that we left the barn, we were so excited for the next time we could go back there,” Molly says.
“Growing up, we used to stay at the barn all day on Saturdays. My mom would drop us off. We would help to feed the horses, just do anything we could to help out. We would travel to horse shows with our trainers to help set up. We fell in love with it instantly.”
Their mother turned them onto horses. Molly, who started competing in Arabian horse events at age 9, says it can take years to connect with horses, but this is an essential part of competing.
“The most important thing when it comes to riding horses is making sure the horse that you are showing or riding knows you,” Molly says.
“When you are showing them, having a relationship with them and knowing they can trust you is super important.”
She has two horses: Montie, whom she describes as “a very sweet boy” and Chuck, who is energetic. Montie, 4, will attend the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show with her.
Throughout the years, Molly has competed in showmanship, reign, hunter, English, halter and hunter pleasure events.
This year, Montie will take part in hunter pleasure class, and he may also compete in the halter class.
In the hunter pleasure class, judges look at a horse’s manners, ability to perform different gaits and suitability as a hunter.
The halter class focuses on a horse’s conformation to breed-specific standards and movement.
Working with horses has changed Molly’s life.
She learned important life lessons and values, and gained skills that she can use in other aspects of her life, such as school, charity work and pageantry.
“I think just growing up and having a bond with such a big animal teaches you about love, patience and what you can do if you are so passionate about something and love something so much,” Molly says.
“Horses also give you skills. Not always when you get on a horse is it the best ride, but you’ve just got to know that the bad rides don’t take away from the good ones.”
Molly began competing in pageants in 2016 and won Miss Teen Arizona USA in 2020. At the national Miss Teen USA Pageant, she placed in the top 16.
This led to modeling opportunities in New York, Arizona and Paris.
The college experience
A graduate of the private Jones-Gordon School in Paradise Valley, Molly is studying business communication at ASU. She’s a member of the Phi Beta Phi Fraternity.
She says her strong work ethic as a student developed from caring for and training horses.
“Sometimes, when you are doing homework, it can be a lot, but you’ve just got to keep working hard and working through it, and it’s all worth it in the end,” Molly says.
She’s still deciding on her post-college career, but she knows that Arabian horses will be part of her life.
“No matter where I go in life and wherever it takes me, I will always be involved with horses no matter what,” Molly says.
Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show
WHEN: Various times Thursday, February 17, to Sunday, February 27
WHERE: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
COST: General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, free for children 12 and under; $75 for 11-day general admission ticket; admission is free on Tuesday, February 22, for military members and their families, and on Friday, February 25, after 6:30 p.m. during family night