Say ‘Yes’ to YES

The AQHYA Youth Excellence Seminar was a mix of excitement, learning and personal growth.

The AQHYA Youth Excellence Seminar was a mix of excitement, learning and personal growth.

The 2010-2011 AQHYA officers and directors were elected at the Youth Excellence Seminar June 24-26 in Amarillo.

By Tara Christiansen and Amy Brown

The AQHYA Youth Excellence Seminar and Convention kicked off Thursday, June 24, in Amarillo with pizza and a motivational speaker. From there, the youths got down to business with campaigning, voting and educational workshops.

First on the card was motivational speaker Grant Baldwin. He kept the youth laughing as they broke the ice with the game “Rock, Paper, Anything,” his own twist on “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Grant is the author of “Reality Check: The Student’s Guide to the Real World.”

After a few rounds of “Rock, Paper, Anything,” Grant had the youth gather in and share their winning “Anything” hands, which ranged anywhere from “Michael Jackson” to “bear claws.” The answer Grant was looking for was “Chuck Norris,” a man he recognizes as his own personal hero.

Grant’s speech on Thursday evening was directed toward recognizing how excuses can limit people’s lives. Among his many examples, there was one that stood out. Grant said people are inclined to use their past as an excuse for compromising their future, but he stressed, “Your past doesn’t have to determine your future.” He also encouraged the youth to take responsibility for their lives so that they can make an impact in the world.

The morning itinerary had participants up bright and early for more inspiring sessions with Grant. His session on Friday, “What the Heck Am I Doing With My Life?” encouraged attendees to pick a career that they’re passionate about, instead of choosing one for monetary gains.

Grant kept the mood very light and entertaining throughout all sessions. When he started Friday, he asked the youth members what they wanted to do when they grew up, with the most comical answer being “an ostrich farmer.”

Between sessions, candidates campaigned for AQHYA director and officer positions. Set up around the room were display boards, which the candidates used to promote themselves.

One campaigner was Edwin “E” Gaffney, 18, of Aurora, Colorado. E was running for Region 8 director and AQHYA president. He offered insight into what makes a great AQHYA officer.

“My grandfather always told me, ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth so that you can do twice as much listening as talking.’ ” E took this to heart as he got to know attendees from across the country. “I try to keep in mind that two monologues don’t make a dialogue.”

E said he has a passion for the American Quarter Horse and its Association, and he has competed in pretty much every AQHA event, from halter to reining. There are so many things the Association does well, E said, but there are things that the youth members can improve upon. There are more than 30,000 youth, but there is a need for improved communication, he said.

Over the last year, AQHYA members have been involved in trail conservation projects. E agrees that these are great service projects, but he would like to see more people-related projects that will impact not only people and horses, but that will also promote the breed and the Association. For instance, E and other AQHYA directors and officers fed the homeless on Thursday night with leftover pizza from the opening dinner.

The attendees got a dose of sport psychology on Saturday from international United States Equestrian Team coach Daniel Stewart. In 1998, Daniel began coaching USET team members, and in 2002, he was transferred to Spain to coach and train all U.S. team members when they competed in Europe.

Daniel focuses on the mental approach to riding. He says riders can focus on physical factors, such as seat positioning and body control, but they also need to work on mental toughness and self-confidence.

Winning is just as much a mental game as it is a physical game. You can be the most physically prepared person, with the best horse, but you can mentally defeat yourself before you even step foot into the arena.  He encouraged using positive words and thoughts to keep your mental state positive. To read more about what Daniel had say about defining success and setting attainable goals, look for an article in the August issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

Daniel’s second workshop demonstrated on-the-ground exercises that riders can do to improve their horseback riding, and the demonstrations had the audience in hysterics.

The conference was bittersweet, as four out of the five 2009-2010 AQHYA officers delivered their retiring addresses.

YES also marked the election of the new AQHYA officers. Representing AQHYA in 2010-2011 are President Dakota Diamond Griffith, Vice President Brooke Ingstad, Secretary Leah Thomas, Treasurer Rachel Pendergraft and Sentinel Britt Lynch.

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