By Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse JournalMarch 26, 2013
I snapped a few shots of this little girl lovingly hugging the regal American Quarter Horse statue – the Dogwood Horse – that welcomes you in the museum’s foyer. This perfectly set the tone for my day. (Journal photo) Scroll to the slideshow below for more photos. BELOW: Watch AQHA Video's coverage from Celebrate the Horse.
Youth are on the forefront of every horseman’s mind these days. And they rightfully should be. Who else is going to be at the shank of the American Quarter Horse in 20 years? The youth you’re looking at horseback right now are tomorrow’s trainers and future advocates of the horse.
This subject is close to the heart of newly inducted AQHA President Johne Dobbs of Champaign, Illinois, who recalls sitting at her father’s bedside in the days prior to his death. To the people who came to visit, she heard him talk about two things he was proud of: his children and raising “some good horses.” With that in mind, Johne’s cavalry charge in her presidency this year is kids and horses, and that’s why she’s giving the theme of “new horizons” to 2013.
While encouraging current youth horsemen is always a goal, AQHA leaders and staff members have been developing a new equine youth initiative for the past few years. This initiative was created to address the younger youth that are currently underserved by AQHYA and to create new pathways to horseback opportunities that positively impact the lives of these young horse-interested people.
Just this past Saturday (March 23), I volunteered to photograph the opening of the newest exhibit at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo (scroll down to see my slideshow from the event). The exhibit pays tribute to the late artist Orren Mixer, renowned for his paintings of horses for several equine breed associations.
On the dance card for Saturday’s “Celebrate the Horse” was a full slate of kid-oriented activities, all rooted in art and American Quarter Horses. Honestly, I thought I knew what to expect of the opening when I saw the day’s agenda. Local Western artist Jack Sorenson, as well as artist Edgar Sotelo, who is a past headlining artist for the American Quarter Horse Foundation’s America’s Horse in Art show and whose paintings have graced the covers of The American Quarter Horse Journal, gave artistic technique demonstrations. Kids were taught how to sculpt horses from clay, make equine puppets and paint a life-sized American Quarter Horse statue. There were to be English- and western-style riding demonstrations, as well as roping. Unfortunately, the weathermen called for a major windstorm in the Texas Panhandle on Saturday, which put a damper on any outdoor riding demos.
When I arrived mid-morning, I snapped a few shots of a little girl lovingly hugging the regal American Quarter Horse statue – the Dogwood Horse – that welcomes you in the museum’s foyer. That perfectly set the tone for my day.
Admission was free to Celebrate the Horse. While there are many horsemen in Amarillo, I think the number of attendees who don’t own a Quarter Horse outnumbered those who do. In total, more than 500 adults and kids showed up on Saturday.
While kids were lined up to have their hands on all sorts of artistic media – clay, markers, crayons, fiberglass, paper – what held their attention most were the demonstrations; those same demonstrations that were moved indoors minus the living, breathing models.
Enjoy more horse-showing quips, quotes and anecdotes from AQHA Internet Editor Tara Christiansen by visiting The Rundown archives at www.aqha.com/therundown.
AQHA Executive Director of Shows Patti Carter-Pratt and her husband, AQHA Professional Horseman Doug Pratt, suited up for their demo: Patti sported breeches, or what she refers to as “breeks” (we decided it’s Canadian regional diction), a hunt cap and tall boots. Doug, on the other hand, was in western attire with boots, spurs, cowboy hat and Wrangler shirt.
"The Stables," or the Joni Hegel Education Gallery, where the Pratts held court in was packed. Kids took up floor space. Adults, some of whom came out just to see what Celebrate the Horse was all about, ringed the back of the room and any available seating. Patti and Doug dialed up class videos and explained the finer points of hunt seat vs. western training. They showed the progression each horse makes through AQHA classes, starting on the flat with hunter under saddle and western pleasure, then moving on to more advanced events like working hunter and trail or western riding.
To change the pace, Doug pulled up a reining video with top trainer Shawn Flarida in the saddle. “Wows” rippled quietly throughout the crowd as Patti pointed out the degree of difficulty in each ride. The growing admiration for the American Quarter Horse and its versatility was visible in the faces of children and adults alike. The crowd was interactive, firing off questions for Patti to answer. Attendees wanted to know where they could see American Quarter Horses perform at the top level, and relished knowing that the Adequan Select World Championship Show would return to the Amarillo’s Tri-State Fairgrounds in late August.
Following a short break, folks regrouped upstairs for AQHA Manager of Youth Robin Alden’s demo on roping and remudas. Having grown up on a working ranch, Robin enlightened the crowd on the rigors and joys of ranch work. Next, she transitioned into the tale of her own path with the American Quarter Horse, which wound through a wide variety of horseback events and competition in the National High School Rodeo Association. The Quarter Horse has opened door after door of leadership opportunities for Robin, her newborn career at AQHA just being one of the latest.
What Robin was quick to point out was that you don’t have to own an American Quarter Horse to enjoy an American Quarter Horse. And you don’t have to own a horse to realize the benefits of the Association or its youth association. Robin fired off the activities AQHYA offers non-horse owners – contests like horse judging, speech, team speech, Wrangler jean decorating and scrapbooking – and folks really started to take note. She promoted our leadership activities, like the upcoming Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar this June in Amarillo.
One mother leaned to another: “Did you know they offered all of that?”
Right there in front of me, I was convinced Robin had won over those mothers. Robin is proof of the places an American Quarter Horse can take you. I am proof of where an American Quarter Horse can take you. You, my friend, are proof of where an American Quarter Horse can take you.
It seems a shame that we only took a day to Celebrate the Horse. Here’s to a lifetime of celebrating the horse.
The Orren Mixer: Artist of the American Quarter Horse exhibit is open to the public through July 27, 2013. Scroll through the slideshow below to view photos from the opening event, Celebrate the Horse.
View larger slideshow with photo captions
See more AQHA Partner benefits
Please use our contact form.
Call Customer Service
American Quarter Horse Association
1600 Quarter Horse Drive
Amarillo, TX 79104