2016 AQHA President Sandy Arledge's Convention Speech

2016 AQHA President Sandy Arledge outlined the areas on which she wants to focus her presidency.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

2016 AQHA President Sandy Arledge (Journal Photo)

Wow! What a rush this is! To be elected as your 2016 AQHA president is an honor that supersedes all others!

In the years leading up to this occasion, I have learned so much from all of you, and from my fellow Executive Committee members. One member who taught me so much should be at this podium, rather than me. Please close your eyes and let’s share a moment of silence to remember our good friend, George Phillips. Thank you.

You can rest assured that the team that is your EC is dedicated to making the best decisions possible on behalf of our members and our American Quarter Horse.

I feel excited and humbled at the opportunity to bring my years of knowledge, experience and passion for the horse, this Association and for you, our members, during this year as your president.

The opportunity to make a difference at this level has been on my mind for the past few years, and I’ve given a lot of thought to things on which I want to focus during this year.

First, it is of utmost importance to continue the momentum we’ve gained during my tenure on the EC, and carry on with Dr. Blodgett’s efforts on behalf of animal welfare. As the largest equine breed association in the world, we must assume a leadership role in protecting our horse. We will continue to research acceptable training techniques and equipment while ramping up efforts to educate our members and hold them accountable for their actions.

A successful AQHA stewards program is critical, and I look forward to evaluating the recent changes in the program in order to assess the best road forward for our Association.

In addition, we will continue to assess the value of AQHA programs, such as the ranching program and the Multiple Medication Violation System to insure that AQHA resources are devoted in the most effective way to achieve the goals of each program. We must guarantee the sustainability of these and other programs to insure that they keep the health of the American Quarter Horse Association at the forefront.

That being said, I’d like to lay out the things on which I’d like to focus during this year.

  1. Communication – the hardest thing we do. We must be able to effectively communicate with our breeders, exhibitors, racing enthusiasts, recreational riders and the membership at large. We must be nimble in response to queries and issues that our membership faces on a daily basis. Our members must be able to contact the “right person” to assist them with their specific needs. Our website and blogs must continue to be updated routinely, and our phones should be answered in a timely manner.
  2. In keeping with the foregoing, the next item on which I want to focus is education. The issues of the day must be kept in front of our members in an easily accessible and understandable format. We must continue to push to educate our members who breed, whether it’s one mare or many mares, on the perils of genetic diseases and how to protect their herds from them. Hopefully, our breeders will listen to the statistics, realize how breeding the greatest majority of mares to a few stallions will continue to narrow the gene pool to the detriment of the breed going forward.
  3. Refining perception – Through my travels and in conversations over the past few years, it appears that some of our membership has lost confidence and trust in AQHA. This troubles and saddens me tremendously. Our organization is a great one, staffed by dedicated and loyal employees who want to do the best possible job for you. We are blessed with passionate members who believe in this association and volunteer countless hours of their time. While there have been some challenges, namely the economic downturn and the failure of a computer system, perception is reality. It is critical that we, the leaders of this Association, take the time to listen to your concerns and update you on that which is in the forefront at AQHA. It is our responsibility to do all we can to enhance the relationship between our members and the AQHA office. I am heartened by the feedback I’m getting at this convention, where the positive and upbeat atmosphere is evident.
  4. In addition, I am committed to reinvigorating the affiliate and international programs. For a variety of reasons, those areas have languished in the last few years, but remain of critical importance to the American Quarter Horse Association. We must be able to reach our grassroots members around the world, and the affiliate program was instituted to achieve that goal. Reinvigorating the affiliate program, listening to the needs of the states, provinces and international affiliates will help us achieve the goals of effective communication by reaching out to those who may not have a daily, weekly or even yearly reason to contact AQHA.
  5. The international program can be made more nimble by seeing that more forms and information are available in the language of the countries we serve. We can make huge strides in assisting our international members by making registrations and transfers easier for our foreign affiliates. Perhaps, with the help of our foreign affiliates,  the AQHA Professional Horsemen’s Association can be enhanced as a world-wide organization, increasing the number of AQHA Professional Horsemen around the globe.

While these goals may sound ambitious, I am dedicated to achieving as much as I possibly can in the coming year!

As you are aware, we are in the midst of a more than $6 million new computer system design and construction phase. The existing AQHA system is more tha 25 years old, and runs on hardware and software language that is obsolete. By investing in future tools, life will be easier for our members, creating long-term savings for the Association and streamlining processes. Our entire business world is driven off data, and we must come to the table with up-to-date equipment to best serve our members. While this transition has not been easy, it will make life easier for us all once it is completed.

As Dr. Blodgett said in his address on Saturday, we must join together for a common goal – the American Quarter Horse. It is our duty to do what is best for the future of the breed, and we must work together to move the Association forward.

Thank you again for your confidence in bestowing this terrific honor on me; I will do everything in my power to work toward what is best for the horse, for you and for the Association. It’s going to be an amazing year!