The Rundown: On the Bright Side

Things are looking up in the AQHA show industry.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

“The day was so beautiful and everyone wanted to get out – the numbers were up and it was very successful,” says Gale Little, vice president of shows for the North Carolina Quarter Horse Association. This year, AQHA introduced the pilot rookie program, a trial run of rookie classes created by the AQHA Blue-Ribbon Task Force. On April 2, the NCQHA hosted its first pilot rookie show. The affiliate will host another rookie show on July 16, another August 12 and its fourth on November 5.

“For the one in November, we’re joining an open show, which is what we had really wanted to do for quite some time,” Gale says. “We’re very excited about that outreach to a new group of people. We think that that no-bling show, with the novice classes and the rookie classes, will really appeal to those folks. We hope that our AQHA exhibitors will cross over, which will hopefully make both shows better.”

It’s enthusiasm like this that helped the AQHA pilot rookie program at NCQHA get off to great start, but has also created a great legacy with the NCQHA Tar Heel Triple Classic June 9-18 in Raleigh, North Carolina. For the 2011 Tar Heel Triple Classic, Gale says that they had all 776 stalls rented out by May 15 – that’s 130 more stalls than in 2010.

“Seeing the growth in this show is very encouraging to me with the way the economy is,” she says. “With this show, there are 10 judges, so we feel that a lot of these people want to come because they don’t have to pay haul-in charges twice and they come to one facility and stay, so we think that those are a few reasons why this show is going to be so successful.”

Debbi Johnson, show secretary for the Oregon Quarter Horse Association Summer Circuit, June 20-26 in Central Point, Oregon, seconds Gale’s theory on making a good impression. 

“Our motto is that you’re going to come into our office and you’re going to get greeted with a smile and ‘How can we help you?’ ” Debbi says of herself and her fellow show secretary, Keri Croft. “We’re always laughing in there and just being ridiculously silly.

“That’s my whole thing: If we can’t make it fun, why do they want to come to us?” she adds. “They’ve only got so much money in their pot to spend on horse shows.”

Considering many factors, Debbi says that they’re encouraged by the 520 stalls that have been rented for the Summer Circuit – they had rented 532 stalls in 2010. She attributes their strong numbers to a variety of factors.

“We offer great awards, so that’s really attractive for people doing the all-around, plus we have eight judges this time. We set that up to do two judges in the arena for the first set of shows and then three and three.”

In the past, the OQHA Summer Circuit had boasted six judges. 

But the Summer Circuit is about more than just points and great prizes. 

“We just really promote fun in the whole show,” Debbi says. “We have a social on Sunday night – just a ‘thanks for coming.’ They call it the Wine and Cheese and it’s just a social for everybody before the show even starts. On Thursday night, we have a catered barbecue for everybody; we have fun events that mix in with our futurities on Thursday night. 

The circuit also features a bridleless pleasure class that acts as a fundraiser for the youth organization, as well as a freestyle reining or western riding class.

“We have a day off on Friday and we have rafting trips that people can do, there’s golfing around that we’ve organized and there’s a jet boat trip,” Debbi says. “It’s such a beautiful area – I tell people that when they’re calling and asking. You can get to Crater Lake in an hour and half. Then there’s the wine country and lots of historic stuff going on.” 

And the AQHA show industry is booming in other parts of the country, too.

Mid-show entry numbers say the 2011 Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association Redbud Spectacular is holding steady in comparison to 2010. 

"We added two shows this year," says Jackie Krshka, Redbud show director. "But I ran numbers from just six shows to compare to last year, and entries are steady with 2010 - some classes up, some down. You throw in the two new shows and of course our numbers are up."

The Redbud runs June 6-11 in Oklahoma City. 

Across the Mississippi River, the Indy Circuit in New Castle, Indiana, is off to a great start.

“We’re up 200 entries over last year, per judge. We’ve got the Redbud to contend with, so we’re doing great,” says Mark Harrell, show manager of the Indy Circuit, which runs June 4-7.

“Our pleasure classes are probably the best we’ve seen this summer, across the board,” says Mark. “Our hunt seat numbers are good and our pleasure numbers are phenomenal; showmanship was really good. We’ve only got 250 stalls here and we’re sold out. We’re real excited.”

Mark is also optimistic about his numbers for the Big A, which is July 1-10 in Conyers, Georgia. As a show manager, he tries to put on the best show possible.

 “I really think that we’re making an impact on customer service,” he says. “We try to make it fun – it’s got to be fun. It costs a lot, so we try to put that fun factor in there and give away nice prizes and lots of stuff. I think people know we’re going to do that.”