From the Office of Craig Huffhines

Celebrating a Successful Youth Excellence Seminar and Youth World Cup

AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines shares highlights from this year's Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar and American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.

The AQHA Media team has coverage of both YES and the Youth World Cup on the AQHA website. (Journal photo)

It was a thrill to host the Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar and the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup in my old stomping grounds of Bryan-College Station, Texas. YES was June 28-30 and had an outstanding crowd of 198, including youth and adult leaders. You know how we all get excited about AQHA’s annual convention? YES is our youth members’ convention, where they participate in leadership development activities, elect their national directors and the AQHYA Executive Committee, get motivated by dynamic keynote speakers, have fun at a few social activities, and make new friends from all over the world.

The outstanding AQHYA members running for director or national office participated in interviews, gave speeches and campaigned for delegate votes. It was a pleasure for AQHA President Dr. Jim Heird and me to work with the newly elected AQHYA Board of Directors on some initiatives for the year ahead. Let me assure you that our future is in great hands with these young leaders!

We are also excited to work closely with the 2018-19 AQHYA Executive Committee, President Olivia Tordoff of Powell, Ohio; First Vice President Kylie Good of East Berlin, Pennsylvania; Second Vice President Charles Lee of McAllen, Texas; Executive Member Caleb Sturgeon of Beloit, Ohio; and Executive Member Sierra Walter of Hydro, Oklahoma.

YES participants particularly enjoyed keynote speaker Clint Swindall, who inspired them to achieve through engagement and positivity. Among his many words of wisdom were calls to “surround yourself with the right people. Choose wisely, because you will become like the people you are around.” Clint also encouraged our youth to “focus on the good stuff,” actively lift up those around them by being “an encourager of other people,” and remember how blessed each of us is to live in this country, enjoy our everyday privileges, and in everything we do, “keep it all in perspective.”

We can all use great reminders like these. Watch his presentation! 

Every four years when the Youth World Cup is hosted by the United States, we combine it with YES. This year, the YES participants and the Youth World Cup attendees had several opportunities to mingle during a tour of Texas A&M’s Thomas G. Hildebrand, DVM ‘56 Equine Complex. The creative youth even engaged in a lip sync battle along the way. They also participated in horsemanship clinics, a career expo and the Youth World Cup opening ceremonies.

This is not an easy dual event to put together. I take my hat off to the organizers – volunteers, youth members, youth advisers and AQHA staff – who put on these two events. What a big job!

Two years ago, the Youth World Cup was hosted by the Australian Quarter Horse Association. This year, the unique event came back to Texas, with 19 teams participating in horsemanship clinics and two shows. Youth from 19 countries rode for gold medals in cutting, reining, horsemanship, ranch riding, trail, hunt seat equitation, hunter under saddle and showmanship. 

New in 2018, the YWC organizers presented a daily YWC Steward's Award. A yellow T-shirt and a wooden sign were awarded to a team member that exhibited good sportsmanship, teamwork or outstanding horsemanship. One YWC participant who got a yellow T-shirt was Team Paraguay’s Federico Torlotting, who – even though he had other duties – was seen holding one of his team’s horses so a visiting child could pet the horse. Federico, who has been raised on a ranch near Boqueron, Paraguay, is proof that our youth know it’s critical to take every opportunity to let kids of all ages engage with our American Quarter Horses.

(Team Paraguay’s Federico Torlotting - Journal photo)

Youth World Cup organizer Dawn Forest says Team Japan’s Ryota Ide hasn’t quit smiling since being presented the Steward’s Award by AQHA directors Richard Harris, Willard Nordick and Joe McAllister, who are serving as AQHA show stewards at the event. “Seeing those smiles makes all of the work worthwhile,” she adds.


(Team Japan's Ryota Ide - Journal photo)

I’ve also been impressed with the horses that were loaned to the Youth World Cup for the teams to use for the two shows. A huge thank you goes out to the owners who lovingly loaned their four-legged equine family members for the event. With 19 teams, there was a need for more than 60 horses, and a lot of owners in South Texas and other places stepped up to the plate.

It has been fun to see the owners watching the competition as intently as the parents of the youth. Semmie Wicker’s horse, Zippin Awesome, helped Team Italy win hunter under saddle on Thursday. Journal Senior Editor Larri Jo Starkey, who covered the event, texted the news to Semmie, who was showing at the Big A in Georgia. Almost immediately, Semmie sent this picture with this message: “What do you do while at the Big A? You watch your horse win the Youth World Cup in Texas!”

The owners are astounded at how much the youth love their horses. I’d say our youth love horses whether they own them or are simply borrowing a ride. During the trail class on Wednesday, trainers and parents were proud and touched to see Team USA’s Mallory Vroegh dismount when the horse she was showing refused an obstacle. With a world title on the line, Mallory patted the horse’s neck, talked quietly to him and then successfully led him across the obstacle. Then she mounted back up and the pair finished the pattern. Now that’s stewardship and horsemanship at its best.

In addition to the organizers, horse owners, parents and trainers, I’d like to thank the AQHA Professional Horsemen who put on clinics for the youth. There is no way to ever measure the full effects of our participation in our AQHYA members’ lives, but we’re paying it forward with the hope that these youth take our place and do the same thing.

The AQHA Media team has coverage of both YES and the Youth World Cup on the AQHA website.

Congratulations!

Congratulations to all of our Youth World Cup champions!