TheJournal’s Christine Hamilton is in Houston for a first-time AQHA convention experience.
Packing for a first-time trip to an AQHA convention, I asked advice on what to bring. Fellow staffers stressed business casual and a fancy dress, which is a stretch for this gal who’s usually either in jeans and boots or hiking pants and another kind of boots. Luckily, my fashion savvy sister-in-law helped me shop.
Facebook suggestions included a jacket, layers, phone (which I forgot on my last trip to Houston), cash, pain meds for sore feet, comfy shoes, good shoes and bedroom slippers (great suggestion, Gale). Adding iPad, camera and laptop, I felt ready.
As far as what to expect, I had some ideas. But walking through the hotel lobby my first morning in Houston, I posed this question to AQHA members I met on the elevator, in line for coffee and at convention registration: Why come to convention? What’s in it for you?
Here are the top four responses:
To Network and See Old Friends
That’s what Jennifer Horton of bar H Photography said; she’s also the youth adviser for the Iowa Quarter Horse Association. She and her husband, Bill, always stay at the official hotel because they run into Quarter Horse people from across the country. It’s a great place to make contacts for their horse photography business and, as avid competitors themselves, stay on top of issues that affect our horse.
To Pick Up an Award
Two highlight convention events are the Awards Presentation Banquet on March 9 and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame Inductions Banquet on March 10. Convention is the place where our big-hearted American Quarter Horses and their owners’ accomplishments are honored.
Amateur exhibitor, owner and breeder Ann Hards of Berthoud, Colorado, wouldn’t be anywhere else than right here this weekend, to walk to the podium on behalf of her homebred mare, Lavish Love (HBF Iron Man-Jaybos Love Notes by Jaybo Lad). “Lovey” is the 2012 AQHA year-end high-point open ranch pleasure mare and senior ranch pleasure horse. Ann took off work to attend convention, barely making it in time through winter weather airport delays.
The Hall of Fame Inductions Banquet will be webcast live. What fan of the American Quarter Horse wouldn’t jump at a chance to see history-making people and horses honored and watch legends come to life?
To Change AQHA
Who makes AQHA rules? Not anyone who works at AQHA headquarters in Amarillo. Rules are proposed and discussed and passed by AQHA members. And any member can potentially change our Association.
AQHA member Nancy Martin came because she is a national director from Utah where she is the current president of the Utah Quarter Horse Association. A strong supporter of the AQHA Region Seven Championship Show, she knows that convention is where great grassroots programs like the regional championships (formerly known as regional experiences) get started.
Rule changes are handled through the 12 AQHA committees, which meet at convention. Their 2013 agendas are available online so you can see exactly what topics are up for discussion. Have an opinion? Contact your state national directors and let them know. Better yet? Get involved with your state affiliate!
To Change the Horse Industry
What happens at/to/with AQHA has a tremendous impact on the horse industry as a whole. The numbers say why:
- 2,978,776 registered horses worldwide; 865,817 owners of those horses
- 6,105,432 Horseback Riding Program hours logged
- 281,563 AQHA members
- 3,180 AQHA-approved shows and special events
- 8,657 official races
It’s the world’s largest equine breed and equine breed association and is a powerful force in advocating for horses and horse owners worldwide. When you are involved with AQHA, you have the potential for impacting horses everywhere.
The horse industry faces challenges and threats in every corner – from trail riding to 4-H and the competition pen – and those challenges come from within and outside of our community. Convention is a great place to learn about them and get prepared to face them together.
Here’s a good example – the open member forum is from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 pm. on Friday, March 8, and this year’s topic is animal welfare. The American Quarter Horse Journal will be there to share what’s discussed.
Honestly, that’s why I’m here, and why I work for AQHA: to steward our breed and our animal. And connect with others who want to do the same.