The American Quarter Horse Association hasn’t forgotten its roots, or the horses that helped to build the association into the premiere stock horse registry. Through the AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder Youth Horse Development Project older youth members have the opportunity to receive a weanling from a recognized Ranching Heritage Breeder, thus promoting the stock that started the Quarter Horse’s rise to fame.
There are Ranching Heritage Breeders across the world (a list can be found HERE) and there are also youth looking to become a horse owner in just as many countries. While at the Open Box Rafter Sale in Rapid City, South Dakota, on September 8, four AQHA youth members received weanling horses from Jim Hunt of Open Box Rafter Ranch, a heritage breeder. Among those eager youth was Colorado resident Emily Scoles.
Emily was a typical horse crazy young lady, and at the age of 12, her parents granted her wish to receive a horse. In fact, she got a registered Quarter Horse mare. At 16, she rescued an unregistered gelding that was not trained. With her parent’s support and a trainer’s help, Emily turned him in to a successful barrel horse. Now, she was embarking on another adventure with the Youth Horse Development Project (YHDP) under the Ranching Heritage Breeders Program.
“I knew about this program last year through an email from AQHA, but I wasn’t able to participate,” Emily says. “I knew I’d be interested this year so I downloaded the application and got started. There are 13 kids in the country that receive a free baby. The AQHA geographically looks at where the recipients are and what would work for them to pick up a horse from a breeder. But, there are seven more people selected to purchase a horse from one of the breeders at $700, which is a good deal. The breeders sign up for the program, too. It’s not like AQHA tells them to give away a horse. They sign up and the Hunt family is so generous doing this for us.”
The application process is rigorous: an essay and documented proof of the facility where the horse would be house. If the horse is given to an applicant, that applicant must send monthly progress reports to the breeder. The AQHA would expect no less of a member interested in promoting the breed.
“[AQHA] is very interested in animal welfare so we have to assure the Hunt’s and insure that get these horses are going to families take good care of them so the horse’s can go on and be viable prospects,” says AQHA President Johne Dobbs, who was on hand to present the four youth members with their foals. “The Hunt’s have been very instrumental in this youth ranching heritage program. This gives the kids an opportunity for a well-bred horse, a nice horse, to raise as a prospect. It’s a really good group of horses. As the president, my platform is youth and I’m interested in getting all children exposed to horses, from ranch kids to showing. I say that we want every child to love a four-legged animal with a long tail.”
Programs like the Ranching Heritage Breeder and the YHDP go a long way to promoting horses to all kinds of potential riders, not just ones focused on the show ring. The horses are not being given away willy nilly to any kid hoping to get a hand out. The purpose of the project is outlined on AQHA’s YHDP rules: “This project will showcase the stock being bred and raised by AQHA Ranching Heritage members. Additionally, it will provide an opportunity for youth to become engaged in the horse industry at a fundamental level that will be fun and educational.”
It may seem like homework to send in a monthly progress report, but it goes a long way to encouraging ranches to participate in the program. Jim Hunt says their three-year involvement has enriched the Hunt family with new friends.
“Number one, we gain some new friends. The horse business is a people business,” he says. “You’re not just giving something away because horses are hard work. We gain new relationships and new friends, and our horses get to go to homes and be promoted. It’s good fro everybody. This is the third year for us to do this program. We keep up to date; the kids are required to give us a monthly progress report. Through emails and pictures we watch the horses grow and connect with the kids.”
One thing Hunt can say for certain is that the horses and the kids connect, and Emily is the prime example. Prior to the ceremony, she gave a description of her “perfect” horse.
“I’m definitely looking for a timed event prospect,” she says. “I’m looking for something not huge because my gelding is big, but something with a motor and agile. They all seem great! There are four fillies and two colts, all with impeccable bloodlines. I’m hoping for a filly because I could potentially go on and breed her, and we don’t have the facility to keep a stallion.”
Shortly after the ceremony presenting her with a sorrel, striped-face filly, she was out in the pen loving on the horse. The filly is by French Flit who is by Frenchmans Guy, exactly the bloodline Emily hoped to get for a barrel prospect. The filly is out of Sugar Chileta, a daughter of Sonny Sugar by Sugar Bars with Driftwood on the dam side. To say Emily was excited is to vastly downplay her emotions.
“I can’t even think straight! I feel like I won the lottery! I got a little sorrel filly with great bloodlines for barrel racing,” she says. “I was just out loving on her and she is super sweet. I’m so excited! This is a great program!”
Emily is just one of 20 youth that will aid AQHA in promoting its ranching roots through the YHDP. Next year, another 20 young members will step up to the responsibility of horse ownership. For more information on the program or to download the application click HERE.
(All photos by Darrell Dodds)