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Recap of AQHA’s First Virtual Youth Excellence Seminar


For members of the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, the Youth Excellence Seminar or YES is one of the best times of the year. This annual conference is usually held in Amarillo, Texas, where AQHA’s Headquarters reside. This three-day conference is filled with inspiring speakers, fun activities, and the election of AQHYA’s Youth Board.

In early May, AQHA announced that due to the global pandemic and unforeseen circumstances, the Youth Excellence Seminar would be going virtual. Youth members, though sad to not make the fun trip to Amarillo, rose to the challenge to see YES in a new way.

Read through to see how AQHA’s first Virtual Youth Excellence Seminar was able to reach its members.

DAY 1

Starting on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, members of AQHA were invited to the Virtual Youth Excellence Seminar. Kicking off at 9:00 am, the day was set with fun-filled activities and speakers that youth members could enjoy from home or with a watch party.

Undeniably, one of the most moving parts of the virtual YES convention was hearing from keynote speaker, Amberley Snyder. Members of AQHYA got to sit in and listen to Amberley’s emotional and influential story in a live session. Snyder is a championship barrel racer who was involved in a car crash that paralyzed her from the waist down. She overcame the injury and kept competing.

Participants even got to ask Snyder questions after she spoke. After an awe-inspiring morning, the youth got to experience welcoming videos from the 2019-2020 AQHYA Board, AQHA President Butch Wise, and AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines.

Following the welcoming addresses, members got to hear retiring speeches from exiting AQHYA Officers, in addition to listening to an Equine Industry Youth Forum, AQHYA Committee Reports, AQHYA Convention Reports, AQHA Highlights and even got to hear from AQHYA Past President Brock Murphy and his journey from AQHYA to the White House.

After all of the informative and exciting meetings, videos, and sessions, Regional Director elections opened. Delegates got to vote for director candidates in their region. Representatives submitted their voting ballots on a digital platform after going through a lengthy process of watching pre-recorded prepared speech videos from all of the candidates, hearing an impromptu question answered by each of the candidates, and reading about what each candidate has as a platform or mission.

After all videos, slides, and short essays were viewed and completed, then each delegate could vote for the director candidates of their choosing.

DAY 2

Wednesday morning brought another action-packed day for the participants of the virtual YES. The members started their day with a warm welcome, retiring addresses, inspiration from past YES keynote speakers like Jess Ekstrom, Rick Rigsby, and Clint Swindell.

In addition to hearing from past keynote speakers, participants got to meet a new spokeswoman, one closer to their age. FFA member Mamie Hertel spoke with AQHYA members and participated in a live workshop session where she talked about perspectives. Hertel’s insightful sessions weren’t the only thing to keep participants entertained.

Both from home and in a group setting, youth were able to participate in fun activities like community service, sculpting horses out of marshmallows and toothpicks, and trying to get a cookie from their foreheads to their mouths without hands.

More activities and leadership sessions were also made available to participants like a video series with AQHYA Past President Olivia Tordoff as she spoke with AQHA staff at the organization’s headquarters in Amarillo. The leadership activities also included a session on “Networking 101: Making Friends and Building Your Future” with AQHYA Past Presidents Ann Elizabeth Tebow, Austin Halvorson, and Abigail Pait NeSmith.

A session on “Embracing the Athlete Mindset” with Dr. Ali Hartman was also included. After completion of all of the sessions and videos, delegates were once again able to cast their votes, but this time for the National Officers.

With the same process as the Regional Director elections, Delegates had the task of watching pre-recorded prepared speech videos from all of the candidates, hearing an impromptu question answered by each of the candidates, and reading about what each candidate has as a platform or mission.

After all videos, slides, and short essays were viewed and completed, then each delegate could vote for the officer candidates of their choosing.

DAY 3

Thursday morning, the AQHYA National Officer and Director Team were finally announced. Delegates and members alike got to see if their favorite candidates were selected into a leadership role. The twenty-four devoted youth in these positions are influential, passionate leaders with a will to make AQHYA better.

AQHA’s Youth Excellence Seminar had a very successful virtual run. While youth members missed another opportunity to hang out with friends and meet new members in person, it’s safe to say the YES is just as impactful from the screen as it is in person.

For more information on the Youth Excellence Seminar and other youth programs AQHA has to offer, visit https://www.aqha.com/youth-excellence-seminar.


About the Author – Oklahoma State Equestrian Commit, Lauren Pursley is a devoted youth equestrian showing in the all-around events with her horse Lovin Some Lazy Lola. Lauren is the current Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association Vice President, AQHYA Region 8 Director, and a member of Team USA 2020 for the Youth World Cup.  In addition to competing in AQHA shows, Lauren competes in Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) horse shows and is participating in the 2020 AQHA Ranching Heritage Bred Young Horse Development Program.

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