Countless members described the Youth Excellence Seminar (YES), recently held in Amarillo, Texas, as "the opportunity of a lifetime" that they will always remember. Photo © Emily Ambrose

2017 AQHYA Youth Excellence Seminar

Dancing, campaigns, educational lectures, and tons of laughter were just a few things that occurred at the 2017 Bank of America Youth Excellence Seminar, also known as YES. The YES Conference is held annually in Amarillo, Texas for AQHYA members, as well as members in other associations such as NRHA, MRHA, and numerous others.

This year, approximately 200 youth from across America attended the seminar. The event lasts three days, each day being occupied with countless activities such as speeches, service activities, and social events. The events are designed to teach riders about leadership, to meet new people from other states, and to learn about their beloved association, AQHA.

Attendees had the privilege of listening to Dr. Rick Rigsby, who is the President and CEO of Rock Rigsby Communications. He expressed a powerful message that taught youth how to live every day with excellence and passion. Laughter filled the room with his light hearted humor, and his captivating personality kept youth

interested in his message. In awe of his powerful words, youth exhibitor Kamiah McGrath said, “Listening to Dr. Rick Rigsby speak was truly inspirational. He taught me so much about how to impact people around me by being the best version of myself. His jokes were hilarious and his stories were so influential to all of us.”

To carry out service, the youth went to Snack Pack 4 Kids, where they packed over 1,000 bags with food for underprivileged children and teenagers all across Texas. In addition, they brainstormed service ideas and were inspired to touch their community at home by participating in service projects or by starting a club. Attendee, Natalie Hilty said, “Snack Pack 4 Kids was an absolutely amazing experience to learn all about how kids who are in need are able to receive all kinds of care through this fantastic organization. They are each given a bag full of needs such as toiletries, food, and drinks. They are truly inspirational!”

Another highlight included a trip to AQHA Headquarters and the Hall of Fame for fascinating presentations that gave insight as to how AQHA works and what positions are available within the association. Youth member, Madison Parduhn said, “Touring the Hall Of Fame was a new experience. I loved getting to hear what each person had to say about the actions of the association and highly advise people to take a tour.”

For people running for an officer or director position, they had to go through multiple steps while at the seminar in order to be elected for a position. The steps included an interview with a panel of people who represent AQHYA, campaigning to the fellow members for their platform, and giving a speech about the specific plans they will bring to AQHYA.

Aside from all the leadership and team building activities, the youth got to show off their dance moves at the dance on Wednesday evening. For many, this was the highlight of YES because of the hilarious dance moves everyone showed off. The craziness included dancing on the stage, people dancing in a big circle, and fun music.

Smaller activities that occurred throughout were designed to help youth meet other horse lovers to create lasting friendships, which most certainly worked. The most common response about YES from attendees was the number of new friends they made. Aside from this, the small activities also introduced youth to leadership skills, such as brainstorming characteristics of a leader, problem solving situations, and learning about their own personalities.

The 2017-18 AQHYA Executive Committee and directors are excited to serve! (Journal photo)

Finally, after three memorable days, the YES Conference finished with the awards dinner. This is the time that all the new officers and directors for AQHYA are proudly announced. The AQHYA National Officers for 2017-2018 are President Ty Cornelius, First Vice President Kylie Good, Second Vice President Caleb Sturgeon, Executive Member Olivia Tordoff, and Executive Member Alan Hinds.

Emotional words were spoken by 2016-2017 AQHYA President Brock Murphy as he gave his final speech as President. Other speeches were given by close members of his officer team, including new president Ty Cornelius. In addition, Brock was awarded with the prestigious Wrangler ASPIRE Award for his significant accomplishments in leadership and service.

On behalf of all the youth who attended, I cannot thank everyone who ran this seminar enough. It was an unforgettable experience that I, along with all the attendees, will promote to other youth so they can experience the impact this event has. Countless members described it as “the opportunity of a lifetime” that they will always remember.

View the slideshow of pictures from the seminar below.

About the Author: GoHorseShow writer, Emily Ambrose of Chardon, Ohio is in the 12th grade at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, commonly known as NDCL. She trains under the guidance of Seth and Amber Clark from Pierpont, Ohio. Emily avidly shows her horse, Play For A Minute, known as Ralphie, who is an 11-year-old quarter horse appendix. Her love of showing has been strengthened with the support of all of her friends in the Quarter Horse community and will continue her passion through and follow the completion of her college career.