Continuing to Drive Change

Continuing to Drive Change

AQHA Interim Executive Vice President Chad Pierce reflects on 2021 and thanks AQHA members around the world for their contributions to the Association’s successes and effort to continue to drive change.

A group of horses in a snow covered pasture.

text size

As an association of horsemen and -women, your contributions matter to the American Quarter Horse Association. We are a member-driven organization and because of you, we’ve had a successful year in 2021.

Your excitement and passion for the American Quarter Horse is unmatched, and your contributions to AQHA continue to inspire us. You are the driving force in making changes for our Association and industry. The industry often doesn’t see the countless hours and passion that drives AQHA staff, the AQHA Executive Committee, past presidents, committee and council members, and the countless AQHA members who volunteer their time to drive change within our Association through AQHA programs and initiatives.

I’d like to reflect on a few highlights from this past year that are a result of the time and effort put in to continuously improving AQHA for horse lovers around the world.

Leadership Changes
I took the role of interim executive vice president in April when Craig Huffhines announced his resignation. Craig was an influential leader and, over the years, assembled a strong team of staff with talents and professionalism. As a result, AQHA staff has continued to move forward in a time that could have resulted in uncertainty for a business with leadership changes.

Prior to Craig’s departure, AQHA restructured the Association’s leadership team to support the effort for technology improvements and maintain strong service-staff teams. In January, Aaron Bovos transitioned to the roles of chief strategy officer, chief financial officer and treasurer; and Paula Newman was named chief operating officer. In September, another key transition was made when Tammy Canida was named the registrar and Chelcei Butler became the director of Member Experience. Our efforts as an Association are focused on continuing to enhance services for our customers through operational improvements and innovative initiatives, including making transactions easier for our members. These individuals and their teams are dedicated to progressing this effort to provide benefits for our members to enhance and encourage American Quarter Horse ownership and participation.

AQHA Remains in Amarillo
In May, AQHA announced that the AQHA International Headquarters and American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum would remain in Amarillo. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation approved a $3 million incentive over a 10-year period, and members of the local community also provided a donation package that made this a public/private partnership retaining AQHA for the future. We thank Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, President and CEO of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation Kevin Carter, the Amarillo EDC Board of Directors, Amarillo City Council and the countless individuals who were involved in this effort.

Continued Membership Growth
I’m proud to report that our AQHA family has continued to grow this year. The average new members and renewing members per month have both increased in 2021. AQHA has also seen growth across adult membership types. The Association is poised to end 2021 with significant year-over-year growth in overall memberships, with our AQHA family totaling nearly 230,000 memberships.

Improvement in AQHA Stats
As of December 17, the AQHA Member Experience Team has handled more than 307,500 calls with an average hold time of 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Transfers of ownership are up approximately 11% through December 17, which is a positive trend two years in a row after a 16-year trend of declines. Each week, AQHA publishes a weekly service report to update AQHA members on statistics regarding the amount and type of work completed at AQHA Headquarters. View the most-up-to date AQHA Weekly Service Report.

Fiscal Responsibility
AQHA staff and the Executive Committee are dedicated to continuing to remain fiscally responsible with every decision made, as leadership moves the Association forward. This effort includes making contributions to the Association’s long-term reserves based on the goal of having one year of operating revenue held in the portfolio and continuing to align the operating budget with the Association’s strategic plan, including providing funding for technology innovation and development. In our on-going efforts to continue to improve AQHA’s financial position, staff and the AQHA Executive Committee have been working diligently together to complete a line-item review by cost center and department for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Aaron will be sharing an in-depth report on the financials at the 2022 AQHA Convention, so I encourage members to attend to hear more about the Association’s financials.

Technology Upgrades and Enhancements
Improvements are being made daily to AQHA’s technology infrastructure to make upgrades and enhancements to the current system, as well as re-envisioning the Association’s online services and building innovative functionality for a more streamlined member experience.    

As part of these enhancements, AQHA announced an upgraded and visually enhanced version of the Association’s QStallions.com digital stallion marketing service. Developed to help owners promote their stallions with complete, continually updated information while offering mare owners detailed and continually current stallion data, QStallions is the only service of its kind in the world.

AQHA also debuted QData, formerly known as Robin Glenn Pedigrees, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in April, marking four decades as the industry standard-setting source for American Quarter Horse pedigrees, sale catalogs and information. QData’s online services offer detailed money-earning activity for all performance horse factions in a variety of informational formats. Plans are in place to offer even more distinctive member services in the future. QData is very proud to have produced the 2021 Western Bloodstock NCHA Futurity Sale catalog. During that sale, the stallion Woody Be Tuff was sold for $1.3 million. Robin recently participated in a podcast that is posted on the Reiner Stop Facebook page. Tune in to watch these informative interviews!

Historical Championship Shows and Industry Partnerships
AQHA exhibitors and their American Quarter Horses competed at record-breaking AQHA world championship shows this year. Read more about each show by clicking on the links below.

In November, AQHA and the OKC Fairgrounds announced an extended partnership to host premier world championship events for the equine industry in Oklahoma City for the next 10 years. We are all looking forward to the facility improvements, including a new coliseum, which will enhance the experience AQHA provides to its members during these world-class events.

Earlier this year, a group of leading barrel racing event producers and organizations joined forces with AQHA to form the Barrel Racing Industry Alliance. BRIA creates a unified presence for the sport on a national level, and the alliance is creating a series of initiatives to better serve the industry.

An additional industry initiative is the Commission on AQHA Competitive Events. AQHA’s competitive events directly and indirectly impact more than 137,000 AQHA members worldwide. This is an ambitious and comprehensive analysis, review, dialogue, development and enactment of policies, procedures and actions necessary and appropriate to ensure the continuous improvement of AQHA’s competitive events across all disciplines.

The Association also formed the AQHA Cattle Advisory Committee. This group of industry leaders has been charged with formulating ideas to spur participation in cattle classes across AQHA events, as well as shaping and guiding the cattle-related policies for AQHA’s championship shows.

Tradition of Ranching
In March, the Executive Committee approved the formation of the AQHA Ranching Heritage Council. The purpose of the council is to evaluate strategies that create recognition to AQHA Ranching Heritage programs by developing ideas that will add value to those programs and Ranching Heritage-bred horses. 

Racing Sees Increases
With two major weeks of racing left to go in the year, race numbers and purses are already on par or above the complete 2020 numbers, with a 9% gain in race numbers already.

It was a solid year for racing yearling sales, as all the major sales saw double-digit gains in gross sales and average sale prices, ranging from 20 to 60% gains in year-over-year comparisons for each sale.

A new record was set for a race-bred yearling sold at public auction, with First Texas Flash being sold for $800,000 at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale.

The Bank of America Racing Challenge surpassed a historic milestone this year, with the program paying out more than $100 million in purses to enrolled racing American Quarter Horses.

For nearly 30 years, the Bank of America Racing Challenge has provided significant racing opportunities to horsemen and horses of all ages and abilities around the world. We thank everyone for their support and look forward to the Challenge’s continued success.

American Quarter Horse Foundation
In 2020, Chris Sitz was named chief Foundation officer, and since then, her team, in concert with the Foundation Council and Board of Trustees, has made significant improvements for the American Quarter Horse Foundation. In August, the Foundation successfully hosted the first American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame Induction and Reunion Celebration, where we honored industry legends. The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum reopened, featuring the newly renovated Hegel Education Gallery and updated interactive exhibits, as well as the return of the America’s Horse in Art Show & Sale. The Museum boasts current temporary exhibits of the Bloodlines of the Breed, Advancing our Bloodline: The U.S. Remount Service and One-Artist Show: Jack Sorenson. We are proud to announce the Foundation exceeded the fundraising goal of $550,000 for the Hall of Fame Renewal Campaign with a total of $560,775 total funds raised including cash and in-kind contributions. Thank you to our donors for helping us surpass our goal!

To honor the important role AQHA Professional Horsemen play in the equine industry, the AQHA Professional Horsemen’s Council made the strategic decision to create a permanent endowment to support professionals in crisis and provide educational opportunities to advance the careers of these valued members. Donations to date exceed $734,000, bringing us very close to the $750,000 fundraising goal, which will help ensure their professional and personal advancement in perpetuity. If you’d like to help us meet our goal, donate today.

Increased Youth Participation
Participation in many AQHYA programs increased throughout 2021, with emphasis on leadership and competition.

  • Last summer, AQHYA celebrated the successful return of the in-person Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar in Amarillo, including the election of the 2021-2022 AQHYA board of directors.

  • At the record-breaking Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, contests and events all grew with many contests at their highest participation levels in recent years.

  • The Youth Racing Experience returned to give AQHYA members a behind-the-scenes look at racing during the Bank of America Challenge Championships. View the winners here.

  • The annual Farnam World Show Collegiate Horse Judging Contest featured 16 collegiate teams and 110 students vying for the coveted championship title.  New opportunities this year also included a horse judging clinic and a youth audit option.

  • The 2021 AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program included 40 participants in a very competitive horsemanship program. Winners and program results can be viewed here

  • AQHLearn continues to have strong participation from young horse enthusiasts around the globe at www.aqhlearn.com.

  • As AQHA continues to develop opportunities for young adults, the inaugural class of AQHLead traveled to the 2021 AQHA Convention to facilitate discussions surrounding the future of youth membership. The 2022 class is currently underway with a new group of leaders.

As we all know, the youth are our future, so we are excited to focus our efforts on AQHYA membership growth and youth participation in 2022.

Serving Members Around the World

Over the past year, the International Department remained busy providing unwavering support to AQHA members around the globe. Below are some of the accomplishments the AQHA International Department is proud to share.

  • Received Quality Samples Program funding to support activities in Slovenia, Denmark and Uruguay. This is the highest amount of QSP funding the department has received at one time.

  • Hosted technical educational clinics on equine reproduction in Copenhagen, Denmark and Ljubljana, Slovenia.

  • Translated the Buyer’s Guide to the American Quarter Horse into AQHA’s five core languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and German).

  • Developed, translated and incorporated multilingual voiceover for how-to videos for the registration application, stallion breeding report, transfer report and genetic test into the five core languages. These are also now available English.

  • Translated the amateur and youth showing lease form, Level 1 application, international best remuda application, AQHA Professional Horseman renewal form and waiver form into the five core languages.

  • Translated the navigation of the international section on AQHA.com.

  • Hosted International Membership Summits virtually in the Australasia-Africa and Latin American membership regions. These summits saw the highest number of attendance figures to date.

  • Awarded the 2021 AQHA International Best Remuda Award to Estancia San Rafael in Puan, Argentina.

  • Hosted virtual International On-Site Member Service events in Mexico and Panama.

  • Hosted in-person International On-Site Member Service events in Kreuth, Germany, at the European Championship of American Quarter Horses, and in Verona, Italy, at the Fieracavalli.

  • Hosted 14 virtual International Educational Marketplace clinics, touching all four international membership regions: Canada, Europe, Latin America and Australasia-Africa.

  • To increase international participation at AQHA world championship shows, developed the AQHA World Show Adviser Program to support international members along their journey to compete at an AQHA world championship show.

  • Created and implemented the Brazilian Foal Registration Permit.

  • Realigned with the Deutsche Quarter Horse Association.

As the end of the year approaches, we know there are still challenges ahead and improvements to be made, but we are looking forward to focusing on these enhancements, as well as the services and programs we will be able to provide for our members. Help us continue to drive change by submitting your rule-change proposal forms by December 31.

Our offices will be closed December 23 and 24, as well as December 31 to allow employees to spend time with their families during the holidays.

I look forward to what the new year will bring for our great Association and the equine industry!