The Future of our Association

We need to cultivate the generation that will one day be AQHA.

Editor’s Note: Peter originally wrote this piece in 2011, during his term as AQHA president. The plans that were hatched then to develop youth outreach programs are now coming to fruition. In 2014, you can expect to see fun, exciting programs rolled out to target both younger kids (ages 5-9) and older youth. We’ll offer updates as they become available, but for now, enjoy Peter’s thoughts on why it’s so important to bring young people into the American Quarter Horse world.

American Quarter Horses have been in my family since I was born. My father actually got us started with American Quarter Horses, and they’re something we’ve continued to enjoy long after his untimely death.

American Quarter Horses are what led me to leadership. In 1990, I was president of the American Quarter Horse Youth Association. Back then, it was called the American Junior Quarter Horse Association. I remember talking about how I wanted to be president of both AQHYA and AQHA; however, when my father passed away and I became an AQHA director, that thought really started emerging. It became a reality in 2011.

As a father of three, a former youth president and one of the younger people to ascend to this office, I can tell you it’s somewhat disheartening to look around and not see very many people my age or younger coming up through AQHA.

Are you buying for a horse-lover this Christmas? An AQHYA membership is the perfect gift for youth. This gives them access information about scholarships, show schedules for the upcoming season and other fun, educational experiences.

What we’re finding is that for a child to be involved in this industry, it appears that more than likely, his or her family would have had to have been involved. So really, we’re getting the same families.

The problem is, we’re having a hard time attracting kids from outside of the industry. In this day and age, there’s so much to offer children, so many activities, so many sports programs; schools offer so much more.

I think that we’re a rung on the ladder that the kids aren’t getting to. That may not appear to be a problem right now, but down the road 10, 20, 30 and 40 years from now, these kids are the future of our industry… the future breeders, buyers, riders, exhibitors, owners and, yes, leaders of AQHA.

We have to ask the questions, “Where are they, and how do we engage them?”

We’ve got to do whatever we can to create more programs, better programs that attract youth to our business. I think every single one of us involved in this industry now has to get involved in this initiative, to act as recruiters, ambassadors and salespeople. It’s our duty. As much enjoyment and as much pleasure that people like me have gotten out of this industry and this horse and this Association, we’ve got to do whatever we can so that this Association remains viable for future generations.

It is time for us to really focus, not through words but through actions, on those programs targeted to tomorrow’s generations.

The youth committee is developing a new youth initiative to significantly grow youth membership and participation.

The AQHA youth program needs a bigger umbrella. We’ve always thought of the American Quarter Horse Youth Association as the umbrella for all of AQHA’s youth programs. However, we need something a little bigger, broader … a program that will welcome kids of all ages. It will include AQHYA, and it will offer online entertainment and education, reaching kids where they live – the Internet, TV and smartphones – and introduce the youth to the world of horses and provide endless hours of opportunities to be involved with horses.

AQHYA members can earn scholarships, attend educational events, advocate for the friends that they love and make lifelong friends. Give the gift of horses to your horse-loving youth this Christmas!

This new organization – or reorganization – needs to encompass more than kids who show American Quarter Horses. Using our AQHA Professional Horsemen and connections we have with the Certified Horsemanship Association, we can offer educational and hands-on opportunities to horseless youth and horse-related summer camps at dude ranches. As these youth grow in knowledge and ability, there’s sure to be a percentage who will want to move on to competition, and our Professional Horsemen can be there to coach them.

All of this requires more time, more staff and more money, of course. But because it is an educational and developmental effort, we hope that some of the money could come from the American Quarter Horse Foundation, which provides funding for both.

We are serious about this, and I know there are thousands of AQHA members who feel the same way I do. That’s why we are looking at ways for the Foundation to be involved as a funding catalyst to help move this initiative along at a faster pace. Stay tuned for more information.

AQHA Member Benefit Spotlight

AQHA members can enroll in the Horseback Riding Program to earn rewards for hours spent in the saddle! If you've been keeping track of your hours all year, now is the time to get those logs in, turn them in by December 31st to claim great prizes from AQHA or start logging hours for next year.

AQHA Video - Watch it Now

Watch an interview from an 2013 AQHA Youth World AQHYA Director