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Youth in Action: Join the Club

Need a reason to join AQHYA? Look no further than these eight programs that make your $15 membership pay off in spades.

By Tara Matsler
The American Quarter Horse Journal
January 27, 2014

2010 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup

Every other year, AQHYA members from around the world gather for an educational-, leadership- and competition-based event: the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup. (Journal photo) BELOW: Renee Pope shows off the training progress she has made with her Young Horse Development Program filly, "Kit."

I won’t divulge any numbers, but my own AQHYA days are long since passed. But lucky for me, AQHA’s youth association has left a lasting impact on my life.

Where do I start? I guess when I was 10 years old – that’s when I joined AQHYA – my path through youth was down the horse-show trail, where I picked up self-confidence, a sense of responsibility and leadership skills. Best of all, I gained an overwhelming appreciation for the American Quarter Horse and its Association.

I always like to brag that the American Quarter Horse paid my way through college. It’s true! Between scholarships from the American Quarter Horse Foundation, my AQHA state affiliate, plus the National Collegiate Equestrian Association team I competed for, I was able to graduate from college debt-free.

When you look at it that way, $15 for a one-year AQHYA membership is minuscule. For most of the things AQHYA members gain from their $15 membership, you really can’t put a price on those experiences. What makes AQHYA membership all the more appealing is that for a lot of the programs, horse ownership is not required.

To list all the awesome opportunities AQHYA offers would be quite an undertaking, so here are eight reasons why an AQHYA membership truly pays for itself.

  1. Heroes for Horses – AQHYA members have a chance to embark on a nationally promoted community service project through Heroes for Horses. AQHYA members are the heroes in this program, fundraising to support the important research studies that take place at veterinary schools across the country. Aside from the chance to impact horses worldwide, participants can also log community service hours and cash awards are offered to AQHYA members at state, regional and national levels .
  2. Youth Excellence Seminar – What college admissions office or potential employer doesn’t smile happily when they see “leadership skills” listed on an application?  The Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar is three fun-packed days for AQHYA members ages 10 to 18, featuring leadership activities and inspiring speakers. This is also the event where AQHYA holds its annual campaigning and voting for national officers and regional directors.
  3. Youth World Cup – Every other year, AQHYA members from around the world gather for an educational-, leadership- and competition-based event: the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup. For 2014, the Youth World Cup is July 3-13 in Bryan/College Station, Texas, and will be held in conjunction with the Youth Excellence Seminar. Teams from around the world are composed of both competing members, as well as leadership members. Everyone has the chance to learn from the instructional clinics and leadership training, but what’s more important, they are able to network with AQHA youth members from around the globe. 
  4. National Youth Racing Experience – AQHYA members 16 years and older not only have the chance to take a behind-the-scenes look at the Quarter Horse racing industry, but also a shot at $6,000 worth of scholarships. Participants are chosen from both regional and national applications. Because the selection process is, well, select, being chosen as a national qualifier is an honor in and of itself. 
  5. Young Horse Development Program – Hands-on horse training and learning the fundamentals of horsemanship are the main functions of the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program. To participate in the program, AQHYA members ages 13 to 18 must enroll a weanling bred by an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder. Members can also apply to receive a free weanling, as a select amount of weanlings are donated by generous Ranching Heritage Breeders. Through the weanling to yearling years, the participants track their progress with their foals, seeking mentorship from the rancher who bred the foal, as well as AQHA Professional Horsemen. The AQHYA members are judged on their submitted project books, plus evaluations from Professional Horsemen, and the top five participants are awarded with scholarships and prizes.
  6. Ford Youth World – Not all titles won at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show are won horseback. Aside from the 34 world championships AQHYA members qualify to vie for with their American Quarter Horses, youth also compete in Oklahoma City for coveted speech, horse judging and horse bowl titles. 
  7. Junior Master Horseman – Youth have a chance to prepare for college, or even a career with horses, thanks to the Junior Master Horseman curriculum. Because Junior Master Horseman is divided into three levels, the program is beneficial for grades 3 to 12. Through the program, students are encouraged to shadow different horse careers, preparing youth for a life with horses.  Along the way, participants get an insider’s look at a horse business and barn management, as well as horse health, training and nutrition. 
  8. Foundation Scholarships – Since 1976, the American Quarter Horse Foundation has awarded more than $4.7 million in scholarship assistance to AQHYA members. More than 850 students have benefited from the successes of a higher education! Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, financial need and American Quarter Horse involvement, as well as the applicant's outstanding leadership and communication skills. Scholarships are available for students seeking general or specialized degree programs such as education, nursing, journalism, veterinary medicine and racing.

Since my internship for AQHA Publications in 2010, then when I started as AQHA’s Internet editor in 2011, I’ve seen story after story about instances where an AQHYA membership paid off. Even if you only try one of these programs, trust me – you won’t regret it.

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.