You might say AQHYA's newly elected president, Sam Friend was meant to lead the nearly 30,000 Member organization, even though he only started thinking about it three years ago.
"The day I came home from the hospital, my mom was riding with me on a horse, so I've guess you could say I've been on a horse all my life," says Sam.
However, it wasn't until he attended his first leadership conference in Amarillo, Texas, that the thought of jockeying for the top spot occurred to the Kansas native.
"I went to my first leadership conference three years ago. I was all alone and scared to death," admits Sam. "But I was impressed with all the people and the speakers that I met. I remember thinking back then that it'd neat to someday be president of AQHYA."
So, the 17-year-old set out on his mission, learning as much as he could and getting active both within AQHYA and his state. Today, Sam hopes to take what he's learned along the way and make an impact on AQHYA.
"I grew up with horses, and I think it's one of the best ways for a kid to be raised," he says. "I learned to be more responsible and honest thanks to my horses. You can't lie to a horse. They'll see right through you every time you try.
Admittedly competitive - yet easy going by nature, Sam hopes to bring in some of his outside experience to help him achieve his goals within AQHYA. A strong tackle for the Jefferson West High School Tigers, Sam also is captain of his high school's varsity football team. He also holds first chair - trumpet - in his school's band and is involved with "Teens as Teacher," an outreach program where high school students talk to elementary school kids about some of the challenges they'll eventually face.
"I like being involved and being a leader," says Sam. "I've learned that you can lead by example but you can't get too rigid. Sometimes you have to 'go with the flow.'
"I definitely feel you have to think before you speak, be friendly and always be willing to work with others. But if you're worrying that someone's always watching you or if you get uptight, that's going to translate into what people think about the organization.
"AQHYA is all about being a team. When you're on a team, you have to communicate. You have to listen. You have to be involved. And you have to remember that there are other people on the team or others who want to be on the team, and I want to help those people."
One of the ways Sam hopes to accomplish his goals as president is by getting the other officers and directors more involved.
"The last thing we want to do is go somewhere and not work," says Sam. "Whether we're talking to people or helping AQHA [staff], I'd like for us to have jobs when we go places - no just be there."
When he's not on the football field, brushing up on his trumpeting skills or riding horses, which Sam says is his favorite activity, what does he enjoy doing?
"Pretty much from November through Christmas, my English Setter, "Chase" and I are out pheasant and quail hunting," Sam says.
Sam comes from a family which has passed the equine lifestyle down from one generation to the next. His grandparents, Duane and Marlene Putnam, have been breeding and raising horses for more than 40 years; his parents have been involved; and now Sam and Savanna.
"I had a great childhood," says Sam. "Actually, I'm still having a great childhood. I've always had horses and my parents stressed things like values, family and being a good person."
Most people who meet him think they've succeeded.
Name: Sam Friend
Birthday: September 14, 1983
Parents: John & Diana Friend
Siblings: Sister, Savanna
Hometown: Ozawkie, Kansas
Education: Senior at Jefferson West High School, Meriden, Kansas
Words of Wisdom: "If things aren't working out, stop, adjust and give it a better shot."
Favorite Ice Cream: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Favorite Food: "My dad's barbecue ribs - he makes some mean ones."