Straight Talk With Pete Kyle

AQHA Executive Director of Shows and Judges Pete Kyle talks about the future of the AQHA show industry.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

If someone told me in 2004 that in 2014 I’d be trading in my AQHA judges and AQHA Professional Horseman cards for business cards and the title of executive director of shows and judges at AQHA, I would have climbed back on my horse and headed for the warm-up pen.

Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to work for AQHA. It’s just that 10 years ago, I had other goals for my horse-breeding program, as well as my training and show career.

Since then, I’ve achieved a lot of those goals, and today, I also see the industry differently. What I see comes from being involved in the show industry as an owner, 20-year breeder, exhibitor, Professional Horseman, judge and a member of the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission.

Earlier this year, a task force appointed by the AQHA Executive Committee and including some members of the AQHA Show Council started taking a deeper look at the industry, as well as AQHA’s show department.

What the members of that task force saw was that there were several factors driving up showing expenses, resulting in a decline in horses and exhibitors, a disappointment in the world shows and, of course, a decline in the AQHA Incentive Fund. The task force members believed it was time for some changes in how the AQHA show department was structured, as well as how the industry itself works.

Before implementing any recommendations, the task force thought someone needed to be brought into AQHA from the show industry who had a good feel and a vision for what the industry and exhibitors needed. Someone who could drive those changes.

In early June, the full task force members met with the entire show council for the formal “handoff” of recommendations, as well as to plan what needs to be done and how we are going to do it. Also at this June meeting, it was decided that if we were going to address staffing issues, we also needed to change how the Show Council operates.

As someone who has been deeply involved in the industry, my counterparts in the industry and I could see where AQHA was running into some complicated and multilayered issues that have been affecting the Association’s ability to make productive changes and get some things accomplished.

My name was tossed around, and I was offered the job.

I’m excited about this opportunity. I believe that working with AQHA staff and the Show Council, we can make the changes necessary to move the Quarter Horse show industry forward.

Show Mission Statement
Our vision for AQHA shows on a worldwide basis is to:

  • Offer a roster of classes that are judged consistently and by a set of rules that exhibitors understand
  • Be a place where the accomplishments of horses and riders are enthusiastically celebrated and where advancement is nurtured
  • Constantly emphasize the benefits of and ways to ensure the welfare of all animals used in competition
  • Have the most innovative show organizers who guarantee the integrity of competition and safeguard the AQHA point structure
  • Develop shows that have value and invite member participation at all levels
  • Make all American Quarter Horses owners proud of the horses they own

The Show Council
As I mentioned earlier, the Show Council is also getting a make-over, moving from a rule-streamlining role to that of a group of members who are more active in guiding the American Quarter Horse show industry, more focused on the future of the industry, not just the here and now.

“The council will take a more active ‘ownership’ role in guiding the AQHA show industry and determining the initiatives that need to be driven forward and how that is done,” as AQHA Show Council Chairwoman and AQHA Professional Horsewoman Stephanie Lynn of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, put it. “There are some very real issues facing all horse shows, and AQHA being the largest certainly has its fair share. It’s now the Show Council’s job, working with and through the various AQHA show-related committees, staff and the Executive Committee, to re-instill trust in the show model and give exhibitors the value they’re looking for when they compete with their American Quarter Horses.”

AQHA President Johnny Trotter agrees.

“We have deep expertise on the Show Council,” he adds. “Using their industry involvement in a new and different way – much like we now do with the AQHA Racing Council – will certainly help the staff, the committees and the Executive Committee keep AQHA shows the model for the industry.”

The ideas and recommendations discussed at the June meeting will go to the Executive Committee for final action. Among the items exhibitors and members can reasonably expect to see as we move forward are:

  • A complete review of how shows are allocated
  • A determination of what the Association needs to regulate regarding shows
  • An aggressive campaign that addresses the pipeline through which AQHA attracts new exhibitors
  • An objective review process for all AQHA shows so that all exhibitors know what to expect when they attend an AQHA show
  • Improved hospitality at the AQHA World Championship Show, exploring ancillary events to improve the World Show experience and developing different avenues through which people and horses might qualify
  • Options for either improving and managing the point values for the current Incentive Fund or developing a new fund to meet today’s specialty crowd
  • Enhanced marketing to reach groups of exhibitors and provide educational products to those who compete at AQHA shows, and improved communication to industry stakeholders
  • Greater accountability when it comes to judging AQHA shows

AQHA gets criticized for a lack of transparency and the lack of communication. I’m going to be on the ground at shows, available to answer questions and address concerns from exhibitors, owners, trainers and show management. The Show Council members are also going to be visible – my eyes and ears – at AQHA shows, making sure that concerns are relayed to me to be addressed as quickly as possible. We’re going to fix the perceived transparency and communication issue.

I’m here at AQHA to move the American Quarter Horse show industry forward. If you have ideas, questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at or talk to me at a show.

The AQHA Show Council
Stephanie Lynn, chairwoman
John Pipkin
Charlie Cole
Michelle Forness
Jennifer Lynn Thompson
Rebecca Halvorson
Ken Banks
Suzy Jeane
Kevin T. Dukes
Dan TreinLaurel Wachtel
Anne Prince
Dianne Eppers
AQHA First Vice President George Phillips