Convention From a Youth’s Perspective

AQHYA President Brock Murphy shares his recap of the 2017 AQHA Convention.

American Quarter Horse Youth Association

It was truly an honor to be able to present and chat with people from around the country about what the officers and directors of AQHYA have been up to this past year.

With lots of preparation and hard work put in prior to the American Quarter Horse Association convention, my dad and I began the long trip March 16 to San Antonio for the 2017 AQHA Convention. I wanted to share my view of the convention as the American Quarter Horse Youth Association president.

Thursday, March 16
The majority of the day was spent traveling to San Antonio. When my father and I arrived, we went to dinner with fellow Missourians, where we saw past presidents of the Association and other AQHA staff. Our fearless leaders (Katie Reynolds and Jacy Hammer) also arrived this night.

Friday, March 17
On the morning of March 17, Katie, Jacy and I attended a mix-and-mingle put on by AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines’ wife, Mary Jon. This was a great chance to meet different people and chat about what has been going on around the world in our fast-paced equine industry. Following the mix-and-mingle, the youth team met up with Dr. Chris Boleman, assistant director of 4-H Youth Development for Texas 4-H; Roxane Durant, founder and executive director of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association; and Austin White, the vice-president of marketing for the National High School Rodeo Association, to prepare for the town hall discussion later in the day. Our goal by having discussions with these professionals from other associations was to hear what is and isn’t working for them, in regards to growing youth membership.              

At the town hall, we began by going through the AQHYA survey results. One of the most interesting things the survey showed is 87 percent of youth respondents were female, whereas 13 percent were male. This isn’t a bad statistic for us males in the industry. All jokes aside, the survey showed us a lot about the age of our youth members, how long they have been in AQHYA, how long they’ve owned a horse, what extracurricular activities they participate in, and what programs and opportunities are most important to them as AQHYA members. 

After sharing this information, the panelists were introduced and gave a presentation on pros and cons happening in their respected corner of the industry. Following the presentations, there were audience-involved polling questions, which sparked conversation on the questions or ideas that could benefit the equine industry. After the youth-focused town hall, we attended other town halls on microchipping and the effect of legislation on the industry. We also attended the president’s reception that night, where AQHYA First Vice President McKenzie Merritt, Katie, Jacy and I continued to meet new friends and spread the news on all that’s been happening regarding the entire youth association.

Saturday, March 18
This was another busy day for everyone at the AQHA convention. The general membership meeting began early in the morning, where McKenzie and I gave an exciting presentation on youth committee updates, our “Reach Out” theme, and other exciting things taking place in our association. We also heard presentations given by American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, an American Horse Council update by Julie Broadway, AQHA Past President Sandy Arledge’s president’s address, Craig’s AQHA executive vice president report and the Association’s treasurer’s report by Trent Taylor. Following the general membership meeting, people dispersed into the different committee meetings. We attended the youth activities committee, where we had great discussion and ideas that will no doubt move this association to newer, greater heights. I also was able to give a presentation to the rest of the youth activities committee that showed the AQHYA officer and director team’s year in review.

Following the committee meeting, everyone got ready for the Awards Presentation Banquet, where we recognized the 2016 year-end high-point winners. We had the opportunity to sit and chat with some knowledgeable breeders who have truly put their “brand” on the industry.

Sunday, March 19
The morning of March 19 began with the youth activities committee resuming from the previous day. We continued to discuss important topics that could potentially be a solution to our common goal of increasing youth membership and involvement. Close to lunchtime, McKenzie and I went to the American Quarter Horse Foundation Luncheon, where they raised more than $115,000! We cannot thank attendees enough for their generosity, which allow youth to apply for AQHF scholarships. At the end of the luncheon, McKenzie headed back to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to return to her classes at Oklahoma State University. I then went back to the youth activities committee, where we finished off the rest of the meeting.              

Sunday night was such a spectacular moment to recognize the people and horses that have helped AQHA be where it is today. Hall of Fame-inducted horses included Casey’s Ladylove, Dashing Phoebe, Majestic Scotch, Strawfly Special and Zips Chocolate Chip. People inducted into the Hall of Fame included Marvin Barnes, past AQHYA and AQHA President Peter J. Cofrancesco III, Bobby D. Cox, Dick Monahan and Sandra Vaughn. Without these people and horses, who knows what our association would look like today?

The Merle Wood Humanitarian Award was also presented to Butch Hammer of Norwalk, Iowa. Mr. Hammer has continually introduced youth to different opportunities in the equine industry in many different ways. For example, he started the Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association’s Youth Days 17 years ago, which has resulted in more than $170,000 being awarded to youth in scholarships. I can honestly say that there’s no better man to be given this award. He is one of the most humble, kind-hearted, dedicated men in the entire industry. People like Mr. Hammer have helped build the youth association to where it is today.

Monday, March 20
March 20 was the final day of the 2017 AQHA Convention. The morning began with a membership business meeting, followed by the new board of directors meeting. In these meetings, attendees were updated on what the different committees had been up to the past year. The group also voted on various things that will end up having a huge, positive impact on our beloved association.

It was truly an honor to be able to present and chat with people from around the country about what the officers and directors of AQHYA have been up to this past year. Along with that, the AQHYA board is anxious to keep on pushing hard so that we can continue to take this association to new heights. This is yet another prime example of how amazing it is to get the opportunity to be in a leadership role for AQHYA. I highly recommend that everyone get involved and go all-out to make this association even better. God bless the people in AQHYA, and God bless the American Quarter Horse that brings us all together.