B.F. Yeates

AQHYA wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of this horse-loving man.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Try thinking about a world where horse shows have no amateurs or youth. Can you even picture that scenario? B.F. Yeates couldn’t.

Instead, back in the days when youth and amateurs weren’t part of the horse show world, he envisioned an AQHA that included participants of all ages and abilities. That innovative spirit led him to help organize the group known then as the American Junior Quarter Horse Association and now as the American Quarter Horse Youth Association.

In the 1950s, there were no youth horse shows of any kind. Horse shows generally lasted about half a day, including a full round of halter classes and two performance classes.

When B.F. and other like-minded AQHA pioneers decided to include youth classes, they added three new classes: showmanship, equitation and horsemanship. B.F. was in on the writing of the very first rules for those classes at the AQHA convention in Las Vegas in 1966.

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“There were simple things like rules for showmanship class,” B.F. says. “How do you run this thing? How do you judge it? We wrote the rules to get it running that you make one run with your horse and get a score. Now, people take it for granted, but at the time, no one knew.”

That committee also made the recommendation to form a junior association of AQHA. B.F. helped recruit youth members from each state to affirm a constitution and elect officers, then served as adviser. His work for 13 years on the committee shaped the organization into the AQHYA that exists today. Dr. John Pipkin, professor of animal science and director of equine studies at West Texas A&M University, said many of his peers think of B.F. as the “father of horse youth programs.”

Later, B.F. helped organize the Texas Junior Quarter Horse Association and the Texas Amateur Quarter Horse Association, all the while breeding, training and showing his own horses and influencing the careers of future horse professionals.

Long before videotapes were common, B.F. helped pioneer clinics and short courses.

“People weren’t sure you could come to a clinic and learn anything,” B.F. says, but he decided clinics and seminars would be the best way to spread information about nutrition, horse care and horsemanship, and he put the information into teachable lesson plans. “Probably the most successful were the mare-foal clinics and our youth and adult horsemanship clinics.”

B.F. also nurtured the horse judging program.

“We pulled the (horses) out of (livestock judging contests) and made a contest of nothing but horses,” he remembers. “Both the 4-H youth program and the AQHA youth program were just getting started, and effort in one field supported the other.”

B.F., who had competed for his Texas Tech University livestock team, understood judging contests. He sat down and figured out the cuts and classes. Then he began educating youth and adults on how to judge horses and how to give reasons and grade cards. Horse judging began to spread from youth to college teams and from there to high school FFA chapters and judging certifications in breed and event associations.

“Horse judging got so popular that we would contact a TV station, and they would run one class a week for eight weeks,” B.F. says. “People would view the class and mail in their cards to the local station. As many as 800 people would participate in these classes.”

In 1966, B.F. became the second horse Extension service specialist at Texas A&M University, where he was in on the creation of summer horsemanship schools. He taught or reinforced college students’ basic horsemanship skills and taught them how to teach others. He scheduled the students to travel to counties throughout Texas in the summer months to teach two- and three-day horsemanship schools to youth. Through those schools for the last 38 years, 1,302 college students have taught clinics to more than 45,000 4-H students.

B.F. says he is lucky to have come along at the right time.

“We didn’t think we were pioneers or innovators at the time,” he says. “It was a situation that had been handed to us, and this is what we needed to do.”

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B.F. grew up in Dickens County, Texas, on a half section with big ranches surrounding his family’s stock farm. While teaching school in Guthrie, Texas, he worked weekends as a cowboy for the Four Sixes Ranch, which sparked his interest in the ranch horse. He later worked for the Four Sixes in a management role. He developed a 20-point checklist for ranch horses, a forerunner of the different classes that ranch horse versatility contestants prove themselves in today.

In the late 1970s, B.F. pioneered ranch horse schools for ranchers and working cowboys, an educational effort that in the 1990s led to B.F.’s role on the AQHA ranch horse versatility advisory committee. He judged the first AQHA ranch horse versatility contest in Denver at the National Western Stock Show.

He became an AQHA judge in 1957, serving for 43 years. He still judges AQHA ranch horse versatility classes, as well as breed and event shows.

B.F. was instrumental in developing the Stock Horse of Texas Association, a group that educates and helps owners promote their versatile western stock horses. B.F. couldn’t have foreseen that future when he graduated from high school in 1947. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned to Texas Tech University in 1953, majoring in animal science and graduating in 1955. While at school, he rode for the 1955 men’s national champion collegiate rodeo team.

B.F. worked as an Extension agent in Dallam and Hale counties before becoming the Extension horse specialist. While at Texas A&M, he furthered his education and paved the way for others to do so as well. His pioneering work in horse behavior research led to writing more than 30 chapters of books and technical and refereed publications.

It’s hard to sum up almost 60 years of innovative service to the horse industry. Perhaps Doug Householder, Texas Cooperative Extension professor emeritus, said it best: “B.F. Yeates is a legend in Texas and the United States as an educator, judge, horseman and builder of large programs for youth and adult horsemen.”