Christa Baldwin and Casey Devitt were named the top AQHA Professionals of the year at the convention. Photo © Dakota Diamond Griffith

The Rock Candids & 2016 AQHA Professionals of the Year Announced at Convention

Three industry professionals were recognized by their peers March 18 at the 2017 American Quarter Horse Association Convention in San Antonio. The Don Burt Professional Horseman of the Year, Professional Horsewoman of the Year and Most Valuable Professional awards were presented by Professional’s Choice during the Association’s Awards Banquet.

CLICK HERE to view candids from the AQHA Convention kindly taken by Dakota Diamond Griffith and Kelly Boles Chapman and sponsored by The Rock

Casey Devitt

The 2016 Don Burt Professional’s Choice Professional Horseman of the Year is Casey Devitt of Frankfort, Kentucky. Devitt sets an example for what an active AQHA Professional Horseman and AQHA member should look like. He has been involved in every aspect of the industry – from racing to showing.

Devitt (pictured left) has served as a judge, show steward, show manager, show monitor, mentor and trainer to other riders. He has ridden as a jockey; judged large AQHA events, such as the Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show and the All American Quarter Horse Congress; and has also served as a show steward and as a mentor to other AQHA show stewards.

Over the years, he has been able to share his experience with AQHA from a different point of view because of his varied background. He has shown in ranch events, cattle classes, competed in rodeo, ridden as an exposition rider and has a background in veterinary medicine. Devitt has trained amateur and youth riders to be successful and knowledgeable AQHA members.

Christa Baldwin

The 2016 Professional’s Choice Professional Horsewoman of the Year is Christa Baldwin (pictured, middle) of Stanton, Michigan. With more than 25 years of service, she has served as an AQHA director, held an AQHA judges card since 1997 and has served on the international, shows, professional horsemen and judges committees.

During her time as a judge, she has judged top events, such as the Lucas Oil World; Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show; AQHA Select World Championship Show, presented by Adequan® (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan); and Congress. At the collegiate level, she won the Congress judging competition as a student at Michigan State University. She is a long-time breeder, trainer and volunteer clinician to AQHA members. The amateur and youth competitors she has coached through the years have gone on to earn high-point and all-around titles on the national level, in addition to Congress and world championship titles.

Baldwin is also responsible for facilitating international clinics in Europe and Australia to share her knowledge and passion for the American Quarter Horse with AQHA members across the globe. She has also been able to share her knowledge through published articles in The American Quarter Horse Journal.

Bennie Sargent

The 2016 Most Valuable Professional is Bennie Sargent of Paris, Kentucky. Sargent (pictured right) is the epitome of an AQHA Professional Horseman. He was named the AQHA Professional Horseman of the Year in 2006 and has continued to volunteer to further enhance AQHA, along with the people and horses he is passionate about.

Sargent has dedicated his time to promote AQHA, the American Quarter Horse and AQHA educational programs in China. He has visited the country numerous times, hosted delegations from China in Kentucky and also arranged for the first Chinese competitor to attend the Lucas Oil World.

In his local community, he has served as chairman of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association Horse Show Committee, Quarter Horse representative on the Kentucky Equine Education Project, a board member of the Kentucky Horse Park, as well as serving as one of four volunteer committee members working to establish an American Quarter Horse-dedicated racetrack by Keeneland. Sargent has also served as a previous KyQHA president and volunteers as the western team coach for the University of Kentucky’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team.

About the Professional Horsemen of the Year Awards

Being named an AQHA Professional Horseman of the Year is one of the top awards of the equine industry. These individuals were nominated and voted on by their peers.

Congratulations to the 2016 professionals of the year. For more coverage of the 20167 AQHA Convention, visit