Over the weekend I had the pleasure to attend the 2017 American Quarter
Horse Association Convention in San Antonio, Texas. As an International Director and member of the International Committee, I was able to participate directly in the governance of the world's largest equine breed association and recognize those members who have made significant contributions to the breed and Association. While it is no secret AQHA's growth has been stagnant in recent years, I left the meeting with a sense of optimism and excitement for the future. With more than 1,000 registered attendees traveling from more than 30 countries around the world, AQHA membership came prepared to work and influence the future direction of the Association - and Kentucky was represented well.
The meeting was kicked-off with a keynote address by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas - the only person to be inducted into both the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse halls of fame. As a proven winner with 49 world champions, Lukas suggested that your "attitude is the most important choice you make everyday. Believe in yourself, and don't be afraid to lose." As far as selecting winners, he believes a good horse should "have a head like a princess, a butt like a fry cook and walk like a hooker" - that tip probably best left to the horse biz.
The Awards Banquet honored all the high-point winners for 2016, in addition
to the Professional Horseman and Horsewoman of the Year. Bennie Sargent, of Paris, Kentucky, was selected as the 2016 Most Valuable Professional, recognizing him for a lifetime of volunteering his time to promote the American Quarter Horse. First recognized in 2006 as the Professional Horseman of the Year and then inducted into the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2015, Bennie continues to work as an Ambassador for AQHA in places as far
as China, where he regularly travels to conduct educational clinics and judge horse shows.
To cap things off, Norm Luba, of Louisville, Kentucky, was elected by the AQHA Past Presidents as the newest member of the Executive Committee. As a lifetime AQHA member since 1995 and a Director since 2011, Norm most recently served as Chairman of the Stud Book and Registration Committee. Norm will undoubtedly work to take AQHA to a higher level over his next five years of service and I look forward to supporting his effort - just hoping we can all keep up with him as he is truly a work horse!
As I did get my start in the horse business in Kentucky, I was proud to see the Commonwealth, and more importantly, my friends, Bennie and Norm, being recognized as leaders in the industry by the rest of the AQHA family. Their continued leadership, combined with a new energy behind AQHA's international initiatives, gives me a renewed sense of optimism for our efforts to develop the emerging equine industry in China.