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Straight Talk

Get the inside scoop on AQHA shows with Straight Talk, a new blog from AQHA Executive Director of Shows Patti Carter-Pratt.

By Patti Carter-Pratt
The American Quarter Horse Journal
March 12, 2012

Patti Carter-Pratt

From an AQHA Professional Horseman, AQHA judge and AQHA director, Patti Carter-Pratt's service with AQHA has full circle as she works on staff as the AQHA executive director of shows. (Journal photo).

I have always loved training, judging, showing and coaching people on American Quarter Horses. It has been my life’s passion. If someone would have told me two years ago that I would give all of that up for an office job, I would’ve called them crazy.

The fact is, it was crazy, moving from Ontario to Amarillo to be the AQHA executive director of shows.

Would you expect a big move like that to be easy? You might be surprised how relatively easy the relocation itself has been. However, can you imagine a transition from working outside your entire life and being your own boss, to reporting to an office 8-5, Monday through Friday (not counting world shows and events, of course!)? It has been a real lifestyle change, to say the least.

Back in November 2010 at the AQHA World Championship Show, I was still living my dream as an AQHA Professional Horseman, AQHA judge and AQHA director. In fact, judging was what brought me to that fateful AQHA World Show, where I was approached by Tom Persechino, AQHA executive director of competition and breed integrity, with a job offer. I was honored to accept the position, but I was totally blown away.

Even though I have always had a love for the American Quarter Horse, honestly, the thought of working at AQHA had never crossed my mind. Looking back on it now, I shouldn’t have been so taken aback by the offer. I had served AQHA and the membership through several committees and as a Professional Horsewoman, director and judge – it was probably a natural progression that I would migrate south to AQHA headquarters. 

A Bit About Me

There are two things in life that are especially important to me: my family and my horses. And the line between the two is pretty blurry most of the time. I’ve been especially blessed that the two have always blended together.

I grew up in a horse training family. In fact, my mom, Pat, had the first AQHA trail world champion. She trained and showed several high-point trail horses in her showing career. To this day, at 80 years old, she has a long list of current teaching and training accomplishments, but I’d have to say that her greatest talent is helping me keep things in perspective.

My father, Joe Carter, is a well-known name in the AQHA show community – he has trained, shown and judged horse shows his entire life. He’s the past chairman of the AQHA Judges Committee, an AQHA director-at-large and he now helps Alex Ross, AQHA senior director of judges, monitor the judges at all AQHA world championship shows. It was his passion for judging that inspired me to seek my own judges card.

Back in the mid-1990s, my dad and I were traveling home from the AQHA convention. It was then that I said to him, “I think I’d like to apply for my judges card and maybe apply for a breed card to get some experience.” He told me, “Just go on and apply for your AQHA card.” And I did. Since then, I’ve held judges cards with AQHA, Palomino Horse Breeders of America, American Paint Horse Association, National Snaffle Bit Association, National Reining Horse Association, National Reined Cow Horse Association and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). 

There are a barnful of things that I feel quite proud of, including my 2005 AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year award, but I’ve got to say that my daughter, Paige, tops the list.

Paige has her own long list of horsey and academic accomplishments, including a riding spot on Team Canada at the 2010 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup. She still lives in St. George, Ontario, but I’ve been urging her to attend West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, right south of Amarillo – here’s to hoping!

I’ve got to say, this last year has been a sacrifice for all of us, since we are such a close family, but I count myself lucky for how supportive and proud my family has been. And I also count myself lucky that I’ve had my best friend and husband, Doug Pratt, along to help with this adventure.

The Big Move

You know, horse showing was what really made the move to Amarillo fairly easy. Because Doug and I are used to traveling so much, we have adapted very well. And we were lucky to have Alex help us find a place to live where we could keep horses. But that first month was pure torture! We went stir crazy because we had no furniture and no horses. That was tough. 

There are some great positives that have come out of my position at AQHA – from serving the membership and the horse, to doing the best job I can do for the Association. I’ve also built great friendships with the awesome people I have the privilege to work with.

However, this job certainly has had its challenges. The hardest part physically has been going from riding horses all day to being inside for most of the day. It’s a mental check to go from being self-employed your entire life to working for an association. After being used to working around the clock, which is what a horse trainer is called to do, it’s easy to fall into always feeling the need to be on the job. I’ve really had to learn – and I’m still learning –how to slow down when I’m asked to take something on. In the past, when I needed something done, I just did it. I made it happen. It has been a challenge for me to learn how to navigate the AQHA chain of command and that it takes time to get things done in an association. I’m in a position that requires me to work as part of a team, and it’s a work in progress to figure out all of the components of that team.

The long and short of it is that Doug and I have really come to love the western lifestyle of Amarillo. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that I miss about Canada, such as my family (of course), Tim Hortons coffee, the vegetable market that we always shopped at (and its fabulous tomatoes), plus green grass!

Eye on the Future

To be honest, I really miss showing horses and judging horse shows. I worked hard at it, and I took it very seriously. I really enjoyed giving back to the industry in that way. 

One of the hardest things has been trying to find my way around my position. But it has been a year, and I believe that I’ve found my niche and gotten the ball rolling on some great new shows and programs at AQHA.

There are so many things that I’m looking forward to in 2012, such as watching the leveling program come into fruition, the development and the launch of the inaugural AQHA Novice championship shows, and the connections that I’m building with show managers and their staffs, plus my co-workers at AQHA. But what’s really a gift, and something that I look forward to each day, is finding more and better ways to improve AQHA members’ experiences with their American Quarter Horses.