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Youth in Action: Heroes for Horses

This AQHYA member from Virginia explains why Heroes for Horses is an amazing way to give back to the horse we love.

By Austin Ralls
The American Quarter Horse Journal
March 24, 2014

Austin Ralls

Austin Ralls is a hard-working XX-year-old from Catlett, Virginia. (Courtesy Austin Ralls)

Heroes for Horses has become a big part of my life. Having shown a horse with polysaccharide storage myopathy, and owning another with numerous health issues has been an education. So when AQHYA came out with Heroes for Horses, I was excited to see that changes can really start with me.

Heroes for Horses is a nationally promoted community service and fundraising project that supports the important equine research studies that take place at veterinary schools across the country. The program has been implemented by AQHYA members working in conjunction with the American Quarter Horse Foundation.

In June 2013, my mom and I came home to Catlett, Virginia, from the Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar and we started looking into ways to promote this great program. I have organized tack swaps, sold items and set up donation change jars in local tack stores. 

In September, I attended the Virginia Equine Extravaganza in Doswell, Virginia. Due to school, I could only attend one day, but I was able to bring awareness to many people about the importance of Heroes for Horses. I received many donations and was asked to attend a 4-H meeting to discuss this with other youth.

Then in January, my father and I attended the Virginia Horse Council State Legislation Reception in Richmond, Virginia. This is held every year with great success. Many different associations state-wide attend this reception to bring awareness of equine issues to state legislators. Due to my dad’s previous experience with the different aspects of the industry, I was able to see people who I, too, have known for many years. It was really great to be able to share what AQHYA and Heroes for Horses are doing to help our horses’ health. 

The reception in Richmond provided me with opportunities to be asked to attend different association meetings and hold more fundraisers. My biggest fundraiser this year is planning a food booth at a new up-and-coming working ranch horse show series. With this, I am holding a tack swap and selling produce my family grows on our farm. Last year, we did something similar for my dad’s multiple sclerosis walk team and raised $5,000. I hope we are as successful for Heroes for Horses.

Money raised by Heroes for Horses will go toward American Quarter Horse Foundation-funded equine research projects that cover a diverse range of research related to the health, welfare and utility of the horse, such as controlling and treating laminitis, the study of immunizations and vaccinations for infectious diseases, as well as genetic and musculoskeletal injury treatment.

I am also working with my farrier, Matt Gonzales, to learn more about laminitis and hoof care. Our veterinarian, Todd Burdick, has been helping with our mare’s care and soundness due to several health issues. Because of this, I have really seen how important Heroes for Horses is to our industry. 

AQHYA has been a huge part of my life. I have worked auctions, including the All American Quarter Horse Congress Super Sale; shown at AQHA shows; attended the Youth Excellence Seminar and have represented my state in riding competitions. Heroes for Horses is another amazing way to give back to the horse and an Association that truly cares for the horses we love.

Because opportunities abound for horse-interested kids, the new AQHYA blog, Youth in Action, captures those adventures. Learn more about the endless prospects for young horsemen through AQHYA at www.aqha.com/youth-in-action.