Youth in Action: Laying a Foundation

AQHYA Secretary Lizzy Koons transformed from an AQHYA conference attendee to the director responsible for bringing the youth horse community together.

By Lizzy Koons, AQHYA secretary and Region 5 director
The American Quarter Horse Journal
April 28, 2014

AQHYA Region 5 Director Lizzy Koons

AQHYA Secretary Lizzy Koons says that thanks to the friendships and connections she made her first time at the AQHYA Region 5 Youth Leadership Conference three years ago, AQHYA now serves an important role in my life.

In 2011, I attended my first ever AQHYA Region 5 Youth Leadership Conference. At the time, I was very new to the Quarter Horse community. But now, because of the friendships and connections I made at that conference, AQHYA serves an important role in my life. 

This year, I had the opportunity to single-handedly plan the 2014 Region 5 Conference, which was an amazing experience. Youth from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Virginia came together in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for a fun-filled weekend. We started the weekend with a group movie and pizza night at the local movie theater, generously sponsored by AQHA and AQHYA Past President Peter J. Cofrencesco III

On Saturday, attendees listened to three guest speakers: AQHA Professional Horseman Steve Meadows; Tammy Braham, Intercollegiate Horse Show Association judge and coach; Sue Wentzel, Interscholastic Equestrian Association national steward. We spent the rest of the day partaking in numerous team-building activities. Later that evening, we enjoyed a nice dinner at Gettysburg Eddies, ice cream and an authentic Gettysburg ghost tour of the historic Jenny Wade House.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend at the conference, and it was my honor as AQHYA Region 5 director and AQHYA national secretary to plan it.

AQHYA members Aubrey Braham, Trae Buckwalter and Mary Kate Smith also wrote a little bit about their experience at the 2014 Region 5 Leadership Conference:

“On a typical Friday evening, I could sit at home and watch TV, catch up on the sleep I was deprived of during the school week, or spend time with non-horse-related friends that don’t understand this crazy lifestyle I lead.

“Instead, I spent my Friday surrounded by 33 horse-crazy friends at a huge movie theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade that weekend for anything. At the conference, we made friends, memories and had more fun than I could’ve ever imagined. Between listening to different speakers, going on a ghost tour at a real haunted house, eating ice cream outside in freezing cold temperatures, and even playing embarrassing games that Lizzy designed for us, it was 40 hours of non-stop fun. Now, there are only two thoughts going through my mind: ‘When can I see these kids again?’ and ‘How many days until YES?’ ” 
- Aubrey Braham, AQHYA member 

“The Region 5 Conference was filled with exciting activities, which included a movie night, inspiring guest speakers, a dinner and ghost tour, and snow tubing – all great memories. Meeting and bonding with new people was an unforgettable experience. Without our AQHYA Region 5 Directors, none of this would have happened. I cannot thank them enough for planning this wonderful event. Now, we’re all constantly texting each other about our anticipation of YES in July.” 
- Trae Buckwalter, AQHYA member

“The Region 5 Conference this year was absolutely amazing! We got to hear from three different speakers that all talked about something different. Steve Meadows gave us insight into judging.  He told us how AQHA had been a huge part of his life and the opportunities AQHA opened up for him. He also answered all of the questions we had about what judges want to see in a class.  

“I personally loved the question-and-answer session. Tammy Braham told us about the world of IHSA riding in college. I never thought about riding in college, and now, thanks to Tammy, I am considering it. I also got to spend time with old friends and make a lot of new ones! I can’t wait to see them all at the shows this year and hopefully in Texas for the YES conference.”
- Mary Kate Smith, AQHYA member

Because opportunities abound for horse-interested kids, the new AQHYA blog, Youth in Action, captures those adventures. Learn more about the endless prospects for young horsemen through AQHYA at www.aqha.com/youth-in-action.