Denmark’s Unique Futurity Program and the Key to Happiness

Denmark’s Unique Futurity Program and the Key to Happiness

Known for ranking high on the happiness scale, Denmark is also home to an international AQHA affiliate and a unique futurity program that can’t be found anywhere else on the globe. Read how Danish AQHA members enjoy their American Quarter Horses.

Grey horse conducting an in-hand trail pattern with exhibitor.

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By Ashley Baller, AQHA International 

Are you on the search for happiness? If so, finding the key to happiness may be as simple as taking a trip to Denmark, where Danes embrace “hygge.” Pronounced “hoo-gah,” hygge is the Danish way of celebrating life with family and friends by creating an inviting, comfortable atmosphere. It’s no wonder Denmark is named as one of the happiest countries in the world! As fellow horse lovers, we understand well how quickly a few moments with an American Quarter Horse can lift one’s spirits. With more than 1,300 registered American Quarter Horses in Denmark, we can only imagine how lifted your spirits might be if you practice hygge with an American Quarter Horse there. 

sorrel horse in hunter under saddle

Danish Quarter Horse Association President Sofie Lindholm filled us in on how AQHA’s Danish affiliate drives happiness and excitement among their American Quarter Horse enthusiasts. At 23, Sofie, an AQHA international director, is the youngest international affiliate president. She is happy to be in a position where she can increase awareness of the American Quarter Horse and the western disciplines throughout Denmark by promoting their friendly affiliate. 

“Our affiliate is one big family. Everyone knows and supports one another, and we love sharing the love of the horse together,” said Sofie. “People here are so friendly – they’ll show you around and even lend you a horse to borrow.” 

To compliment a delightful, friendly atmosphere, the Danish Quarter Horse Association offers a unique futurity program where American Quarter Horse foals bred in Denmark can be enrolled to participate annually in halter, in-hand and performance futurity classes as a weanling and through the age of 5. This is a very popular program, with 13 to 20 horses enrolled each year. To be eligible, the mares must be registered in Denmark, while the owner is required to be a Danish citizen. This helps promote the breeding of Danish-bred American Quarter Horses with the goal being to diversify and improve their equine genetic base. Weanlings are eligible to compete in the halter classes. As they age, they become eligible to compete in a wider range of classes, such as in-hand trail, longeline classes, reining, western pleasure, hunter under saddle, ranch riding and trail. Once the horse reaches the age of 4, it is eligible to compete in the riding classes, as to give the horses a slow start and time to grow. “It’s fascinating to watch the futurity horses grow and progress from their first weanling halter class to their performance classes as a 5-year-old. This program is well supported by our membership and is growing each year,” says Sofie.  bay horse with exhibitor in english attire and blue ribbon

 

These futurity horses are showcased at the Danish Championships where they compete for a piece of the US$30,000 jackpot. The owner of the horse that earns the most money in all futurity classes is awarded the leading breeder title. 

There are three things make this futurity program so unique – the first one being that foal’s eligibility is based off the dam. With traditional futurities, offspring are eligible through the stallion. In Denmark, however, emphasis is placed on the dam to hallmark the Danish origins of the mare’s progeny. Additionally, members from all walks of life are invited to enter. Non-pros, pros, novice, regardless of where exhibitors land on the experience scale, are encouraged to show off their homegrown horses and participate in the futurity classes. Lastly, all participants through eighth place get a piece of the prize money – we like the sound of that! 

Sofie recalled when she participated in the futurity program with a mare that was bred by some of her close friends and second “horse family.” “I always loved that mare. I was there when she was born and had the honor to compete with her in the futurity when she was 2 and 4. I was so proud of her.”

With an emphasis on hygge and the opportunity to participate in a unique futurity program, it’s easy to see why AQHA members in Denmark may be some of the happiest members in the world. While on your search for happiness, try taking a trip to Denmark and be sure to stop by the Danish Championships September 10-12, 2021, where you can catch a glimpse of these futurity horses as they compete. 

 

About AQHA International

The AQHA International Department functions to serve and support international members and affiliate organizations through the implementation of innovative programs and services which accommodate a diverse set of needs in order to enhance the value of maintaining AQHA membership globally. To learn more, visit www.aqha.com/international.