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Focus On The Future

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188 – November/December, 2022

By Kory Kumar

The overall decline of youth participation within the horse industry is a big problem. This decline is the topic of many meetings and a priority of many national committees throughout our breed associations. Everyone wants to know how to fix it. How can we grow our youth numbers? How can we infuse new people into the associations and industry? How do we grow and sustain that growth over time? In short, how do we ensure the growth and survival of our beloved industry and horse shows?

During the 2021 stock breed association convention season, the idea of empowering amateurs to become paid lesson givers for beginning riders was discussed as a potential solution to declining youth engagement. Ultimately, the rule change proposals brought forward were not passed by several breed associations. Failure to pass the originally presented proposals has not stopped the discussion, however.

Jenna Tolson, a Kansas State Director for the American Paint Horse Association, also serves on the Amateur Committee. As she listened to the discussion going around regarding the Amateur Lesson Giver proposal at the 2021 APHA Convention, she realized that more than anything the stock breeds needed unity to work toward a solution for the problem of youth engagement. Jenna says, “It seemed like there was a big disconnect on where to go on the issue, but obviously we all agree that getting new people into our industry is a big challenge and we need to do something.”

Following her time spent at the 2021 APHA Convention, Jenna created the Facebook group called “Focus on the Future,” an unofficial, non-specific stock breed association-based group dedicated to continuing the conversation about the steady decline of youth and new participation within the stock breed industry. The goal of this group is to talk about the issues. Jenna says, “We have to talk through all the issues before we can look for ways to fix things.”

There are many nationally-recognized industry participants in this group who are often present for the monthly Zoom meetings. Jenna is hoping that the conversations will move toward directives and/or proposals to stock breed associations for 2023 convention considerations. Currently, the group is primarily comprised of APHA members, although she hopes to gain additional stock breed representation going forward. Currently, there are many Chairs and Vice Chair APHA Standing Committee members actively engaged and in regular attendance for these meetings. There have been four Zoom meetings to date. Each meeting looks at the issue of youth engagement from a different lens. All the meetings have been recorded and can be revisited by anyone interested; and they are available on the Focus on the Future Facebook page and on YouTube.

Encouraging the Love of Horses

Click here to read the complete article
188 – November/December, 2022

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