Journal on the Road

Youth Excellence in Region Five

July 16, 2011

AQHYA officers and directors — past and present — are on hand at the Region Five Championships in Pennsylvania.

By Holly Clanahan of America's Horse

AQHYA President Abigail Pait enjoys herself in the youth performance geldings class at the Region Five Championships. Journal photo.

It has been said that AQHYA builds leaders, and AQHA President Peter J. Cofrancesco III recently wrote a column that appeared in AQHA publications, urging a revitalization of our youth initiatives. At the Region Five Championships in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, it was pretty clear why this deserves our attention. Several past and present AQHYA officers and directors were on hand, and all of them are just exactly the types of young people our industry needs.

The current AQHYA president, Abigail Pait, was on hand, competing in classes and volunteering her time to help organizers — smiling all the while. This marks her third year as an AQHA director.

Asked how that experience will benefit her going forward, she names college interviews, job interviews … “It's just something that gives you a lot of experience in the real world,” 17-year-old Abigail says.

As she competed in youth performance geldings (and ultimately placed second), others with AQHYA connections were all around.

Sitting outside the arena at the Merial booth was marketing representative Sarah Hutton, who was an AQHYA director for Region Nine from 2004-2006.

“I was always one of those kids who was super involved,” Sarah says, eager to talk about her AQHYA ties. She attended the Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar, traveled to AQHA events and even competed on the United States' 2006 Youth World Cup team.

“I made a lot of really good connections,” she says. By being an AQHYA director, she learned how cool the Youth World Cup was. And because of being on that team, she was recruited to the University of Georgia's equestrian team. There, she got her degree in ag business and met another connection who helped her get her job with Merial. At the Region Five Championships, she was educating exhibitors about Merial products like Ulcergard — and even about AQHYA, when an interested youth member overheard her talking about the Youth World Cup.

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“AQHA has really been a huge part of my life,” says Sarah, who now lives in Sulphur Springs, Texas. “It helped me make so many connections that I wouldn't have made, and it helped me with my career path. It all ties together.”

As she spoke, we spotted another AQHYA alumni inside the show ring. Jessica McMullen of Spring Run, Pennsylvania, was showing Certain Kinda Look in amateur performance mares. (They won the Region Five Championship.)

Jessica, now 21, will be a senior this fall at Texas A&M University, where she is on the western championship-winning equestrian team. She was an AQHYA director in 2006-2007 and was AQHYA secretary the following year.

“I met a lot of people,” Jessica says of her time in AQHYA leadership. “It got me out of my shell.”

Her trainer, Rhonda Replogle, chimes in: “I think it turned her into a nice young lady.”

Region Five action continues through Sunday, with over-fences classes, trail, western riding and more on tap today. To see a sampling of Friday's highlights, click on the slideshow photos below to read the captions.

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