The Equine Chronicle was lucky enough to have two ladies send us their thoughts and images from the 2020 APHA National Convention that recently took place in Fort Worth, Texas. Thank you to Kory Kumar for her insightful blog post and Brittany Siler for the fun photos!
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Gaining A More Global View
EC Blog by: Kory Kumar
The American Paint Horse Association, in my opinion, is truly marked for greatness! The association has been working very hard for the past several years to make their best better, and, from an outside perspective looking in, I feel that the work is paying off. APHA, like all other breed associations is a complex system of inner networks, which is full of many levels of complexity that are largely unknown to general association members.
Just recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the American Paint Horse Association Annual Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. This trip was my first experience at the association’s National Convention. I was very excited to go and learn about all the things going on, as well as the manner in which people interact during the event. I had heard stories from others who had previously gone, but I truly wasn’t sure if I, as a general member, would have a role in anything, or how much I would personally be able to interact during the meetings. Michael Polanyi summed it up nicely when he said, “Personal participation is the universal sense of knowing.”
The first day of the event started with a presentation on the equine industry at large and the fruits of the work that APHA has been doing to bring value and history back into the headquarter offices. The information shared at this meeting had a profound effect on me and challenged what I thought I knew about the equestrian industry that I love so much! Once again, in my life, I just didn’t know, what I didn’t know, until I knew it.
The horse industry, at large, and stock horse breed organizations specifically have dropped in horses registered, as well as individual memberships progressively, and, for the most part, continuously over the last decade. There are many reasons for that, but just that fact alone is something to wrap your head around. When a stock horse breed organization has less than 2,000 horse registrations per year, they begin to enter a category known as a “rare breed.” That number may seem like a large number, but when you consider that since 2014, there has been a progressive decline resulting in 1,400 less registrations, you can start to wrap your head around a more global view of a single issue and then begin to consider the further implications for the association, as well as the trickle-down effect for individual members.
Within the small pond of my own APHA work, I know that regional clubs and horse show committees are all concerned with trying to make shows more profitable and looking for ways to bring people in. Now, with my more global view of the larger association, I understand that APHA is also concerned with declining membership base, as well as a declining horse registration base. We are all working with the same goal in mind, “To do right by the horse,” said Billy Smith.
The American Paint Horse Association has put into place a system of allowing its membership base to actively learn, collaborate, and participate in decision making processes for the purpose of making lasting and positive changes within the organization. Now, just like with all groups, things happen behind closed doors. However, the things I saw and participated in, showed me just how important my thoughts, opinions, and ideas are, as well as how a single person’s idea can blossom into a collaborative discussion that can have large scale growth. “Hope is born of participation in hopeful solutions,” said Marianne Williamson.
Since I had come to Fort Worth for the purpose of learning, I decided to learn as much as I possibly could by attending as many committee meetings as possible. I’m not a state APHA director, or an alternate director (as far as I know), but rather a general member who is curious. I went into each meeting with no expectation other than to listen and absorb what I could. I was so pleasantly surprised with my three-day experience- at how much I was made to feel welcome and important to all the discussions I got to participate in.
Sitting quietly is not a personal strength for me. It is a fact that I actually take daily attention focusing medication. I’m a highly social person who is not generally shy in the presence of strangers. After all, a stranger is just a friend who hasn’t been met yet. I was, however, deeply determined to sit quietly and take in as much information as I could at the meetings I attended. As luck would have it, I didn’t need to silently remind myself of the social norms associated with being a guest. My vocal participation in each committee meeting was not only encouraged, but requested by the committee members themselves, in response to collaborative problem solving for the general membership body related to the committee they were representative of.
Not only was the input from all guests encouraged, we were thanked for taking the time to be at the meeting, as well as for participating in the discussion topics. As someone who is not otherwise connected to the association beyond general membership, the experience of inclusion at the annual convention made me feel like a very valued and respected part of the larger association.
In addition to the connectedness I grew to feel to APHA as a whole, the time spent with my Pacific Northwest Paint Horse Associates enhanced my overall experience. So often, we only get to see people at individual horse show events or meetings. The things you think you know about someone based upon minimal interactions pale in comparison to the things you learn about them when able to unite as a representative group within an even larger group. I dare say, we learned that we all have more in common than we previously thought and realized how we can help one another toward our common goals. When reflecting upon this experience, the faces of these people will come into my mind, and I will smile. Perhaps, part of the reason I was able to have such a genuinely positive experience at the APHA Convention is because of these people whom I hold so dear.
In a nutshell, I encourage everyone to step outside of themselves, and their own pond of experience, and jump into the larger pool of collaboration. The time I spent at the APHA Convention was so worthwhile! I walked away with a higher degree of respect and understanding for all the work that goes into a sport that I love so much. I walked away feeling like my voice and opinions matter. I walked away realizing that there are so very many people out there, who all want what I want. “Let’s all do right by the horse,” as I heard Billy Smith say a few times. “The horse, with beauty unsurpassed, strength immeasurable, and grace unlike any other, still remains humble enough to carry a man upon his back,” Amber Senti.
Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts American Paint Horse Association! I can’t wait to have this experience again!
– Kory Kumar