AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines shares a few highlights of projects that your AQHA Executive Committee and staff accomplished in 2016.
By Craig Huffhines, AQHA Executive Vice President | January 9, 2017
I hope everyone had a blessed holiday season and, like myself, I hope you had the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and reflect on 2016.
Last year, your AQHA staff made a commitment to work diligently to put you, our leadership and our AQHA members, first. With a servant heart and an old-school work ethic, our staff committed to making AQHA the association you want it to be. Aside from the amazing work our staff does every day, additional ground work was done to put a team together to hit major modernization priorities of our organization. Here are just a few highlights that your AQHA Executive Committee and staff accomplished in 2016 to go along with the vast amount of program work already in the pipeline:
- AQHA Management and Technology staff members were added to assist with the day-to-day computing operations of the organization and to help Dell Computer Services enhance the deliverables for the new state-of-the-art EQUUS 4.0 database. AQHA has embarked on the modernization of the thousands of old-format IBM database files into a robust accessible modern database that can be used for marketing research, corporate partner support, day-to-day operations and member service development. The project is approximately 65 percent complete with a heavy ramp-up in the last leg of development this spring. I am so proud of the extra hours our IT team has put into the ongoing testing of this product throughout its development. The team members have worked tirelessly with development teams in Vancouver and India to get this right.
- Hiring of an AQHA Youth Development Team was a top priority for AQHA. Katie Reynolds, formerly with the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo, along with Jacy Bradford, an ag communications major and student recruiter from Oklahoma State University, were hired to take on the challenge of reinventing youth engagement at AQHA. These two ladies have been evaluating our current youth programs and surveying our youth membership to lay the ground work for strategy that will attract young people to our horse and to our membership. This will be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming AQHA convention.
- Hiring Chief Racing Officer Janet VanBebber, a long time trainer and business owner, is paying early dividends. Janet and the AQHA Racing Department worked tirelessly to pull through this year’s Challenge Championship races at Las Alamitos under a new out-of-competition hair-testing protocol that assured that our finalist horses were clean of performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, Janet assembled the very first round-table meeting of the major Quarter Horse jurisdiction racing commission leadership to discuss AQHA’s goals for medication uniformity across the country. Perhaps for the first time, we are beginning to develop consensus among states on how to unify the industry and protect the sport and our horse from medication abuse.
- Carl Mullins, our new chief publishing officer, spent 2016 restructuring the entire magazine sales team and their approach toward rebuilding the AQHA publications business. Two new magazines were launched to rave reviews, Ranch Horse Journal and Performance Horse Journal. The strategy to customize special publications is designed to target the varied interests of our membership and customers.
- New American Quarter Horse Foundation staff were added under Chief Foundation Officer Brent Davisson: Catherine Meck, a former business school Foundation developer from West Texas A&M University in Canyon; Meghan Kellett, a former sales consultant; and Carrie McBride, formerly with the National Reined Cow Horse Association. These new staff members have added the capability to expand our donor base to a broader public and support our Foundation Ambassadors. In just the past 120 days, staff members have conducted close to a hundred face-to face meetings with potential donors.
- Anna Morrison, previously a staff leader of the Texas A&M University Equine Initiative, was hired as the chief international officer in December. Anna has conducted many international educational clinics in both Europe and Latin America, and she will begin the process this month of surveying the needs of our 40,000 international members.
- In December, we also announced that Patti Carter is succeeding Alex Ross as director of judges. Alex announced his retirement in November. First, I want to say it has been a privilege for me to work with Alex. I have been impressed in the way that he and Pete Kyle have improved our judges and stewards training, certification and monitoring programs. We are excited about Patti bringing her talents, expertise and personality to the continued improvement and understanding of our judges and stewards.
- AQHA’s marketing team has worked on the development of an AQHA Horseback Riding Program smartphone app that will be launched this year. The app will allow HBR members to automatically document and log their riding hours and send that information to AQHA electronically.
- Robin Glenn Pedigrees, AQHA’s wholly owned subsidiary, created a state-of-the-art catalog builder that will save countless hours by automating the pedigree-building process. There is nothing like this technology in the business, and we are excited at what it can do for sales management and reducing labor cost and stress in meeting catalog deadlines.
These are just a few of the things I wanted to bring to your attention while we continue to work on strategy for growing our Ranching Heritage and Versatility Ranch Horse programs under Kim Lindsey’s leadership, and while the AQHA Competition Department under Chief Show Officer Pete Kyle continues to enhance our leveling, judging and steward programs along with our world show events.
I look forward to another year of progress ahead. See you soon in San Antonio for the 2017 AQHA Convention!