By Robin Alden, manager of AQHYA and youth developmentThe American Quarter Horse JournalOctober 14, 2013
Sisters Claire and Lauren Streeter of Cheyenne, Wyoming, met nearly every Ford Youth World attendee thanks to the state-pin exchange. (Journal photo)
As a parent, I know that it takes a lot to get – and keep – a kid’s attention. It also takes a lot of cooperation from parents to get kids to their activities, whether they are going to sports, 4-H, Scouts or horse shows.
My three kids have been full-fledged 4-H and AQHYA members for a number of years, showing horses in everything from rodeo to AQHA-level events. Kids and horses are my passion, which is why I applied for the job of manager of AQHYA and youth development at AQHA late last year. To my surprise and delight, I was hired and started my new job last December.
Recently, AQHA launched a new broad youth initiative to reach out to horse-crazy kids and help them become involved with horses. Our intent is to show families the value of having American Quarter Horses throughout their child’s life by developing industry-wide, affordable programs that make the horse more accessible and available in their fast-paced lives.
We’ve also been focusing on AQHYA’s activities. Meeting with the AQHA youth activities committee, I was amazed at every single member’s involvement with youth-related activities. They truly have a connection with this program and are interested in creating positive opportunities for their children.
One of our objectives was to give our youth a phenomenal experience at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show – it’s not just a show, it’s entertainment, too! We don’t want them thinking that the water and amusement parks in Oklahoma City are the only place they can have fun while at the Ford Youth World.
To start, we scheduled a pep rally, which featured tailgate food, games, a magician and an opportunity to socialize. William Rader, a magician, mesmerized the youth with his slight-of-hand and his uncanny ability to know what the kids were thinking. After the show William was asked a million times, “How did you do that?”
We also enhanced the annual Parade of Teams by adding a ceremony to recognize all of the year-end youth high-point winners and present them with their high-point trophies and belt buckles in front of their peers, trainers and families. That was followed by a huge group picture of all of the exhibitors in the arena.
One of the highlights of this year’s show was the snow cone social, which featured a pin exchange. Each state brought pins, which were designed by the affiliate, to exchange with other youth from all over the nation. Some youth collected 25 to 30 pins from different states.
The aim of the pin exchange was for the attendees to mix it up. For sisters Claire and Lauren Streeter of Cheyenne, Wyoming, they arrived knowing only one other person – each other. Being the only team members from Wyoming, they soon discovered that their state pins were kind of rare. The demand for those pins became an instant path for them to meet nearly everyone at the show. How cool is that?
The Ford Youth World is just a niche in the changing landscape of the AQHA youth scene. Back in June, we had a record number of attendees at the Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar, thanks in part to some fresh, new changes. YES is an annual leadership conference hosted in Amarillo, and it is at YES that the AQHYA national officers and regional directors are elected. We have many more twists and turns in store for the 2014 Youth Excellence Seminar, which will be held for the first time in Bryan/College Station, Texas, and in conjunction with the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup, an international competition for American Quarter Horse youth exhibitors.
So far, you’ve heard about how youth can get involved in the show pen and through AQHYA’s leadership program, but that’s just the start of it.
The AQHYA Racing Experience is right around the corner – November 6 – and the event consists of a week of racing experience to introduce youth to the sport of racing. Participants will get a behind-the-scenes look into the industry during the 2013 Bank of America Challenge Championships in Los Alamitos, California, plus the chance to meet the people who keep the race industry running every day, including owners, trainers, jockeys and their horses.
What’s even better, the top AQHYA members selected to participate will compete for $6,000 in scholarships, based on their overall scores from the pre-experience notebook, the second half of the notebook completed at the experience and the barn test.
These programs are just scratching the surface of all the opportunities for young horsemen through AQHA. For instance, youth looking to earn scholarships by raising a ranch-bred colt should look into the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program.
With so many youth programs, it’s important to keep tabs on what our new wave of horsemen is up to. Rather than rattle on myself, I’d much rather pass the mic to the AQHYA members. Stay tuned for the coming editions of Youth in Action, a new blog that chronicles AQHYA member experiences, as told by the members themselves.
The American Quarter Horse Youth Association is the perfect youth-development organization for horse-crazy, competitive kids. Get involved at www.aqha.com/aqhya.
See more AQHA Partner benefits