Experiences and Insight from a Globe-Trotting AQHA Industry Professional

Experiences and Insight from a Globe-Trotting AQHA Industry Professional

Accomplished horsewoman, judge and volunteer Marilyn Randall reflects on her years of traveling abroad on behalf of AQHA, some of her favorite experiences along the way and why she’s passionate about growing AQHA internationally.

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By Ashley Baller, AQHA International 

Jet setting around the globe to promote and share the passion of American Quarter Horses seems like a dream come true, doesn’t it? AQHA Professional Horsewoman and judge Marilyn Randall couldn’t agree more. She shared with us how this dream of hers became a reality and weighed in on the importance of cultivating international markets. 

woman with suitcases

The Bridger, Montana, horsewoman and AQHA volunteer has been an AQHA Professional Horsewoman since 2002. Since then, she has earned the awards of 2011 AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year and 2019 Most Valuable Professional. As an accomplished horsewoman, she is also an AQHA steward and judge, volunteers her time as an AQHA director, is a member of the AQHA International Committee and served as a college equine professor for nearly 30 years. When judging internationally, Marilyn also conducts educational marketplace clinics  to help exhibitors learn how they can better enjoy and show their American Quarter Horse.

Marilyn’s first international judging experience occurred 22 years ago, when she was a judge for the National Reining Horse Association. She was always interested in travel and when NRHA asked her to go abroad, she jumped at the opportunity. Since then, she has been to 25 countries teaching and sharing her love of the horse. 

“It’s a lucky life I live, a dream come true. I’m always well cared for abroad and it’s enjoyable to see how much people give back to their communities,” says Marilyn.

Not to mention, travelling is always fun! In her words, “I’ll never forget dancing with Jose Ignacio (“Nacho”) De Mendiguren, president of the AQHA international affiliate Criadores Argentinos de Caballos Quarto de Milla in Argentina; or flying over the Iguazu Falls in Paraguay, which trump New York’s Niagara Falls.”

With years of international experience, we had to ask, what do you enjoy most about AQHA culture abroad? Marilyn says, “It’s the people. The horse brings us all together. The people are thirsty for knowledge and they want to know what they can do to get better.” group of people at dinner


In her opinion, the true versatility of the American Quarter Horse is also best showcased internationally. 

“It’s considerably more expensive to keep a horse abroad, so many riders share horses, and they participate in every event,” says Marilyn. “They love the western clothes and the lifestyle. They just want to do what they can to enjoy their horses.”

She explained that each trip has been adorned with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and touched on her first time in Mexico, which was rather amusing and a bit nerve racking. Upon arrival, she found that there was no one there to pick her up. While searching for a ride, a gentleman approached her – his English wasn’t great, and neither was her Spanish. Surprised, he asked, “Are you Randall? You are a woman.” 

At the time, it was unusual to have a female as a judge, but Marilyn knew it wouldn’t be long before her skills would speak for themselves. At the show, she admired the charros roping and couldn’t help but notice the announcer with a margarita in hand and decorated in traditional charro attire. At the end of a successful day of judging conformation, the announcer declared that Marilyn had more than earned her keep, requested her return and presented her a gift – but not before it was accidentally covered in the announcer’s spilled margarita. Even after being baptized by a margarita, it’s still one of Marilyn’s most treasured gifts to date.  

Over the years, she has made countless connections that have blossomed into friendships. “I’ve gained a broad education through AQHA and have met some of the best horses and people, some of which I still stay in contact with and will travel to see on my own time,” says Marilyn. woman on camel

Marilyn believes it’s important that AQHA continue to support international members. “There’s only so much expansion available in the United States. If this growth didn’t occur outside our borders, it could be a disaster for AQHA. Through international engagement, we’ve created a great ambassadorship and a marketplace for education, merchandise and horse registrations. I’m happy about what we’re doing. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

She also expressed that the promotion and tailoring of education and programs to each individual market’s needs and desires, such as the Quality Samples Program  and educational marketplace clinics, is essential to international growth. 

“One size doesn’t fit all. Through the development and investment in international markets, improved bloodlines and genetics have lent themselves to support a more competitive environment. American Quarter Horse enthusiasts have more horses to choose from, and riders are getting better and better,” says Marilyn. 

As evidenced by her years of experience and time well spent with international AQHA membership, it’s clear that Marilyn Randall has greatly influenced the growth of AQHA abroad. More than ever, we’re inspired to get back out on the international trail, whether it be digitally, or in person. 

Learn more about AQHA’s international program, which accommodates a diverse set of needs in order to enhance the value of maintaining AQHA membership globally at www.aqha.com/international.