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On the Drive with AQHA Chief Executive Officer Karl Stressman

Filed under: Club & Show News,Club and Show News |     


It has been a privilege to work with AQHA staff, the AQHA Executive Committee, Board of Directors, Standing Committees and council members and, of course, AQHA members from around the world over the past seven months, and we have only just started this drive toward success. As a horseman myself, our business at AQHA is personal. This lifestyle we live is more than how we spend our time, it’s our passion and represents who we are at our core.

Looking back over 2022, here are some highlights of the efforts made to drive AQHA forward and what we have accomplished as an Association working together for the good of all AQHA members and American Quarter Horse owners worldwide.

In August, I shared my plan around Driving AQHA Forward, including the top initiatives and priorities to serve the membership. These top initiatives are:

  • Evaluate the number of staff in relation to expense to create an efficient environment
  • Develop additional youth resources to grow, lead and challenge our youth members and enable AQHYA to recruit more members.
  • Implement myAQHA, which is a new member portal that will replace the current AQHA Services. MyAQHA is currently in beta-testing and is being designed to give members more access to what they want and need.
  • Redesign the AQHA website to provide an easy-to-navigate website that fulfills our users’ needs and experiences.

The identification of these top initiatives was the first step in the plan to drive AQHA forward. I’m proud to share the progress in each area, and we plan to make even larger strides in 2023.


Our first initiative was to maintain current talent and hire top candidates to fill open positions. The goal to hire individuals who have a passion for AQHA and the membership and hire people who are invested in our vision and growth.

This year, we announced a partnership with Of The West, the official job platform of AQHA. Of The West is a multi-faceted platform focused on bringing together job seekers, employers, services and tradespeople serving all areas of the agriculture and western industries. This is an effort to meet professionals in the western industry where they are at and, additionally, as another tool for our members to utilize with their own job hunts through providing discounts to AQHA members to use the platform.

To expand on this, AQHA staff also organized a job fair in January 2023 to recruit top talent on site and scout out the next generation of employees who care about our horse and members.


Our next initiative is to develop additional youth resources that grow, lead and challenge our youth members and enable AQHYA to recruit more members. Youth are the future of our industry, a sentiment we have heard across the board.

This year, we unveiled new programs for youth in addition to supporting programs to meet youth where they are already participating with their American Quarter Horses. These include,

  • A new partnership with the Youth Equestrian Development Association (YEDA) to create new scholarship opportunities for participating American Quarter Horse Youth Association members. YEDA participants who are also AQHYA members can earn scholarships through the AQHA Outstanding Youth Award, as well as through the YEDA Scholarship Incentive Fund Program.
  • An expanded partnership with the National High School Rodeo Association that relaunched the horse of the year program at the national finals rodeos for high school and junior high, as well as a new state horse of the year program in 2023 and AQHA incentives at Western Legacy Series events.
  • The addition of the AQHA Emerging Leader Award, designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the Association’s exceptional young adult members, ages 21-35, as a stepping stone from AQHYA to AQHA and a means to stay involved with AQHA from a leadership capacity.
  • The American Quarter Horse Foundation has received gifts and commitments to create or fully endow eight additional scholarships benefitting AQHYA members and received seed funding to develop a Youth and Young Adult Education Endowment which will provide perpetual support for educational programs that engage young people at varying ages.

It is encouraging to see more youth and young adults involved in our industry, and our goal is to keep them engaged and a part of the drive to success for our Association.


The next challenge we took on was to implement myAQHA, the new member portal that will replace the current AQHA Services. At this point, myAQHA is in beta-testing with members to see what components they enjoy and what changes they would like to see made before we proceed with debuting a final product to the full membership. MyAQHA is designed with our members in mind to give more access to what they want and need.

The desktop version of the portal is ready, and the team is working on the final touches for a mobile site experience so members can access their membership information on the go.


The final initiative to accomplish is redesigning the AQHA website to provide an easy-to-navigate website that fulfills our users’ needs and experiences. An initial facelift was completed at the beginning of October with the goal of optimizing user web experience and to make information more accessible.

The AQHA team is continually looking at ways to improve how we are reaching our members online. With the facelift, our goal is to continually evaluate and improve how the website functions and welcome constructive feedback from the membership on what they want to see and how they utilize the website for their AQHA information and business needs.

Driving Onward in 2023

Looking at the strides we have made on this drive to success, it’s evident that none of this is possible without the support of AQHA members, AQHA staff, the AQHA Executive Committee, past presidents, committee and council members, and the countless AQHA members who volunteer their time to serve the membership and are driven by passion and a will to serve and improve for the sake of the American Quarter Horse. Your contributions as a member matter, regardless of what part of the Association you belong to. We are all part of Team AQHA and all a part of this organization and this industry. The excitement and passion I have personally seen in our members over the past seven months for the American Quarter Horse is unmatched and exciting to be a part of.

As we approach the end of 2022, there is still plenty of work yet to be done and improvements to be made. Rest assured, we are on board and ready to start 2023 strong and ready to drive forward with new initiatives and goals to best serve the membership. There is still time to be a part of the future of AQHA by submitting your rule-change proposal forms by December 31 and to also register for the 2023 AQHA Convention, slated for February 24-27 at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas.

Our offices will be closed December 23 and 26, as well as January 2 to allow employees to spend time with their families during the holidays.

We are living in exciting times in our industry, I am looking forward to seeing what’s next and what the new year will bring for AQHA and the equine industry!

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