The Rundown: The Bright Side

In a world of doom and gloom, our industry’s young competitors provide a good deal of bright.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Young Horse Development scholarship winner Kaitlyn Glass and Big Madam Playgun

There’s a lot to take in these days, and not all of it is good. Unemployment rates, national debt, oil prices – I could go on, but I’d rather not. And the horse industry is plagued with its own problems, too. But at least on the horse front, it looks like our industry should end up in able hands.  

Horse-show kids are a different breed from your average teenager. The work ethic required to competitively show American Quarter Horses is unparalleled, and the determination and grit needed to grab an AQHA world championship trophy is hard to come by.

Maybe for some, showing becomes an act of going through the motions. But that’s not so for the typical AQHYA member. If you’ve lost your showing spark, or you love remembering why it’s your passion, here’s a great quote from AQHYA Region Five Director Lizzy Koons of Fairfield, Pennsylvania. 

“The first day I got to the Ford Youth World grounds, I walked by the trophy display located near the show office. When I stopped and looked at the trophies for a second, it all became real. It is here that youth from around the world participate in hopes of one day taking one of those trophies home.”

Lizzy is blogging for The American Quarter Horse Journal at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, happening now through August 11 in Oklahoma City. But blogging isn’t the only thing she’s doing; she’ll be running around State Fair Park, from the Jim Norick Arena to the Performance Arena, up and down the Super Barn and back out to Barn Six. AQHYA regional directors put a lot of miles on their Justin boots at the Ford Youth World. She doesn’t see it as a requirement though; Lizzy sees everything as an opportunity. 

“We are offered the opportunity to be here, at the Ford Youth World, to help in the different events and hand out the awards,” she reports. “We also get the opportunity to speak to different organizations, such as 4-H, about AQHA and what it has to offer. Though I have only been a director for a little over a month now, I can confidently say that being an AQHYA director is an amazing experience, and I encourage all to pursue it.”

Maybe what I love most about Lizzy’s can-do attitude is that she understands the weight of her role: “As a director, I am responsible for representing my region to the national organization.”

Participating as an AQHYA officer or director has played a defining role in many competitors’ lives. Peter J. Cofrancesco III set a precedent by becoming the first AQHYA president to then serve as AQHA president, and hopefully that’s a trend that will continue on.

But showing at the Ford Youth World or running for office isn’t the only defining role that AQHYA plays in children’s lives. AQHA recognizes the importance of engaging youth within the equine industry, and the Association values the responsibility and education that a young horseman gains through raising a horse. Keeping that in mind, the AQHA Ranching Council and AQHYA teamed up to create the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Project.

The Young Horse Development Project offers AQHYA members the chance to earn scholarships, plus further their education of horse training, care and health. For the project, accepted AQHYA members purchase a nominated weanling from an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder. From the weanling to yearling years, the AQHYA members work with and train their foals, then exhibit the foals at an AQHA show. Ultimately, the project participants have the chance to win back their investment in their foals through scholarships. Youth applicants must be AQHYA members, and applications to receive a foal for this year’s selection are due September 14, 2012.

Gold Medal or Gold Trophy

If you’re like me, you’ve been glued to the Olympic Games for the past week. (Has it already been a week?!?) While I certainly couldn’t do a cartwheel – much less a double-layout-full-out – like newly crowned Olympic women’s all-around gymnast Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, I do feel like I can relate to her in some ways. I’m not saying that winning an AQHA world championship is akin to winning an Olympic gold medal, but in the Quarter Horse world, that golden globe means just as much to us as a gold medal means to Michael Phelps.

Where hoards of 8-year-olds set their sights on taking on the balance beam like Gabby or knocking down laps like Missy Franklin, I know there’s a herd of younger AQHYA members making heroes out of their older peers. And they rightfully should – they’ve got great footsteps in which to follow. 

We have a lot to look forward to if these youngsters really take hold and stick with our industry. And since these are kids who have been taught that the sky is the limit, maybe we should start looking that way, too.