July 10, 2012 - American Quarter Horse Association leaders and staff members have been developing an equine youth initiative for the past few years. This initiative was created to address the younger youth that are currently underserved by the American Quarter Horse Youth Association and to create new pathways to horseback opportunities that positively impact the lives of these young horse-interested people.
While AQHYA has some of the highest youth membership numbers in the industry with more than 26,000 youth members, these numbers have been steadily declining since 2008. To turn these declining numbers around, AQHA is taking the initiative to spread awareness on the benefits and values of being an AQHYA member.
Todd Branson, AQHA director of youth development, said part of the reason for declining membership numbers is because many younger children receive memberships as gifts. The children and parents aren't aware of all the benefits of having a membership, which is why they aren't consistently engaging in AQHYA activities.
"There's no argument that there's a great value to an AQHYA membership," said Branson. "But currently there's no process in place to embrace, engage and involve these younger AQHYA members when they receive memberships as gifts. If these kids aren't on the path to showing horses, there has been little focus on encouraging them to find alternative ways to getting horseback."
To combat the decreasing AQHYA membership and participation statistics, the Association has developed a plan that shows families and kids the value of having horses in their lives. This plan focuses on three core values including healthy living, education and youth development, which were created to involve and engage kids no matter ones skill level.
Horses encourage healthy living by:
- Offering a positive alternative activity that helps prevent children from entering dangerous environments such as ones that involve drug and alcohol abuse and gangs
- Supporting innovative programs that inspire a healthy lifestyle
- Improving and encouraging exercise.
Horses encourage education by:
- Inspiring children through innovative outreach programs from the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum
- Teaching children by offering a vast library of activities and classroom lesson plans
- Creating experiences like no other through clothing, toys books and games
Horses encourage youth development by:
- Building leaders and improving character
- Encouraging healthy competition
- Providing education through scholarships
Within the healthy living core value, AQHA is leading the development of a new all-breeds program to engage kids to horses and the horse industry. This program, named Digital Oats, uses horses as a way to emphasize a healthy lifestyle by providing kids with a digital experience and technologies that introduce families and kids to new horseback opportunities. Other youth programs already in place include Junior Master Horseman, American Quarter Horse Foundation Scholarships, Hall of Fame artifacts and horses, AQHYA shows, the annual Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar and the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show and American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.
With all the new opportunities being offered to kids, Branson reminds families and children that it all leads to getting a kid on the back of a horse.
AQHA news and information is a service of AQHA publications. For more information on The American Quarter Horse Journal or America?s Horse, visit AQHA Publications.
Founded in 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest equine breed organization in the world.? With headquarters in Amarillo, Texas, AQHA has a membership of more than 280,000 people in 86 countries and has registered more than 5 million horses in 95 countries