Peter J. Cofrancesco III

AQHA and the equine industry mourn the loss of AQHA Past President Peter J. Cofrancesco III.

The American Quarter Horse Association

Funeral services are pending for AQHA Past President Peter J. Cofrancesco III, who died August 1.

The funeral mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. on August 8 for AQHA Past President Peter J. Cofrancesco III, who passed away August 1. A viewing is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. on August 7. Both services will be held at the Our Lady of the Lake Parish at 294 S. Sparta Avenue, Sparta Township, New Jersey.

Peter, 45, was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in March. A case displaying his memorabilia was unveiled July 26 at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo.

Peter said his emergence as a leading force in American Quarter Horse history came easily enough, as he was constantly surrounded by a home that told the story of his parents’ dedication to the breed and passed on to their children a passionate heart for the beauty of the Quarter Horse.

A sense of giving back took Peter to the role of American Junior Quarter Horse Association president – now called AQHYA – and a young Peter set his sights on becoming AQHA president, knowing that the path to leadership was through service.

“Peter was basically the captain of ship in a perfect storm of growth in the AQHA youth program,” said Julie Bryant, who was youth director for AQHA during Peter’s term, and was tasked with reaching out to 4-H, FFA and high school rodeo competitors. “Peter was the perfect ambassador.

“Peter just had this ability to draw people in,” she continued. “Always smiling, always hugging, always talking up the thing he was so passionate about – the American Quarter Horse. Not any other breed. Not by a long shot. Just the Quarter Horse. No matter where we went, Peter ended up becoming best buddies with high school rodeo kids, FFA officers, 4-H kids. And, because of him, a lot of those kids joined the youth program and worked to become state qualifiers for the Youth World Show. But it didn’t matter if it was a teenager or an adult, Peter had the same effect on everybody.”

Atypical of the oft-assumed urban New Jersey persona, Peter and his family competed in 4-H with horses and purebred Hereford cattle, but switched their focus almost exclusively to horses as the children grew and honed their interests. Moving into amateur competition, Peter excelled at showing halter horses, often home-bred, competing at every major circuit across the United States and reveling in his new friends while building his own family, meeting his wife, Carmen, at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

Peter and Carmen married in 1999 and have three children: Ireland, Peter IV and Emma. On the day each was born, Peter called AQHA from the hospital to purchase the new baby’s lifetime membership.

When Peter’s father died in 2001, Peter and his siblings assumed leadership of The Grinnell Group of Companies, the family’s aggregate manufacturing, waste and recycling company. Peter’s parents had always bred Quarter Horses, and Peter stepped up to help his mother continue the family legacy while continuing to show horses. That same year, Peter was elected an AQHA director and served on committees where he could positively contribute and influence the industry.

Peter was elected to the AQHA Executive Committee in 2008 and served as president in 2011-12, focusing on youth expansion and development.

“From the first meeting (of the Executive Committee), you begin to realize how big AQHA is and how much it encompasses: youth, racing, ranching, affiliates, alliance associations,” Peter said. “You get a real grasp for the scope of what we do and how much the Association influences the horse industry.”

Learning that range convinced Peter that AQHA needed to take a leadership role in the overall horse industry, something he took on personally, taking his father’s place on the New Jersey Horse Racing Commission and, with his mother, developing a popular horse charity in Sussex County.

“I think AQHA needs to continue working to be the umbrella organization: That’s how we’re going to be the horse resource for the world,” he said. “We shouldn’t worry about competing with other breeds and horse organizations; we need to work together as a horse industry to increase interest in horses and make sure that horses are viable as a recreational outlet throughout the next century.”

Peter was influential in forming the World Conformation Horse Association, an AQHA alliance partner that has given halter enthusiasts a more significant voice in the industry while promoting correct conformation and halter competition at all levels. The group has an annual futurity as well as classes at major shows, including the AQHA World Championship Show.

After leaving office, Peter remained committed to showing.

In 2012, just months after leaving the AQHA presidency, Peter returned to the World Show ring, earning world champion amateur 3-year-old mare and amateur 3-year-old stallion with homebreds Virtues and Inspirado, two of 18 world champions and 14 reserve world champions shown by Peter since 1991.

Peter saw the challenges ahead and remained committed to doing his part to help the horse industry grow, continuing in his goal to ensure, that like the halter horse, all parts create a better whole and working to drive an expanding focus on youth.

“We have to do something to reinvigorate our youth programs,” Peter said. “I’m a prime example of someone who can be born in a city in New Jersey, go through the 4-H program and become involved in AQHA. We have to make horses accessible to kids from all areas of the country and all environments if we’re going to continue to grow.”

Peter was preceded in death by his father, Peter Jr.

Survivors include his wife, Carmen; their three children, Ireland, Peter IV and Emma, all of the home; his mother, Peggy Cofrancesco; two brothers, Jason and Jarrod; a sister, Daria; and many friends and family.