Journal on the Road

2013 AQHA Convention – New Horizons

March 12, 2013

AQHA still faces challenges, but the stats show strength and growth in the world’s largest equine breed association.

2013 2013 AQHA Convention Awards

The fact is, AQHA members are getting more involved with their American Quarter Horses, and that’s a great position to be in to face the future. (American Quarter Horse Journal photo)

With the standing committee recommendations made, awards picked up, hands shook and planes caught, 2013 AQHA Convention is done. It’s time to take a deep breath and plunge forward.

The year 2012 was a full one for the Association. In his address to the membership March 8, AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway listed a number of headline challenges that happened in 2012, any one of which could have sidelined a less prepared organization from its work.

But these challenges didn’t deter AQHA from stubbornly moving ahead with positive initiatives – the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission’s work, the launch of leveling, the Take Me Riding youth initiative, two highly successful Novice championship shows, growth of the Ranching Heritage Breeders program, recognition of 13 & under and Super Select world show exhibitors, new classes in ranch pleasure and boxing, the new Trail Challenge program, and the first Latin American Championships.

In addition, AQHA moved ahead with a complete revision of the AQHA Official Handbook, a massive update of the software managing the AQHA database, and the establishment of Awards Recognition Concepts (ARC) as AQHA’s awards and trophy division.

We are still in tough times, Don pointed out, and it shows in memberships and registrations. But some stats show evidence of renewed and maintained strength in both areas and more.

“(AQHA) Membership trended downward again in 2012, finishing the year at 281,563,” he said. “The good news is it appears we have stopped the major slide, as this past year’s decrease was less than 2 percent, compared to as much as 3 to 5 percent annual declines since our membership high in 2004.”

For reference, Don pointed out that AQHA’s 281,000 memberships represent 66 percent of all breed association memberships combined, of the 11 equine breed associations that are membership-based organizations.

However, he added: “For the first time since 2006, AQHA (horse ownership) transfers showed an increase from the previous year.”

And new memberships came in at 33,000, “a very impressive AQHA statistic for today’s economy.”

As for registrations, the numbers gathered from the 2012 stallion breeder’s reports suggest that 2013 registrations “will again trend downward.” The 2012 season ended with 84,000 new registrations, “nearly 50 percent off from the foal crop of 2004.”

However, Don again pointed out that “in 2012, the 14 major (equine) breeds registered a total of 155,000 new horses. AQHA’s total was 54 percent of that.”

Even more exciting are the numbers showing increased member involvement with their American Quarter Horses.

“Overall, (2012) competition numbers were promising with show entries being the highest ever, totaling 942,643 entries,” Don said. “This is more than 90,000 higher than 2011.

“And most importantly, AQHA saw the chronic issue of declining horses and exhibitors reverse, with increases in both of these important categories last year.”

Likewise, “racing purses were up 1.8 percent and average earnings per starter topped $8,000 for the first time ever.”

And, “horseback riding enrollments reached an all-time high as well, topping 17,275.”

The fact is, AQHA members are getting more involved with their American Quarter Horses, and that’s a great position to be in to face the future. I’m personally happy to be one of those new 2012 transfers and horseback riding enrollments, logging downtime hours on my little bay mare.

In her acceptance speech before the AQHA Board of Directors on March 11, incoming AQHA President Johne Dobbs of Champaign, Illinois, recalled 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.”

And that is the lead Johne aims to take with her presidency this year: kids and horses. With that in the forefront, the theme she’s giving to 2013 is “new horizons.”

I sure don’t mind saddling up for that, rain or shine; how about you?

Christine Hamilton
Editor, American Quarter Horse Journal