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APHA Hosts First-Ever Paint Horse Halter Industry Summit

Passionate halter enthusiasts gathered September 24 in Fort Worth, Texas, to share ideas to help improve the Paint halter horse industry. Hosted by APHA, the Paint Horse Halter Summit was an instrumental first step in addressing current issues and brainstorm guiding principles that will help lead the industry forward in coming years.

About 60 halter industry members from across the country attended the meeting, including breeders, trainers, exhibitors and judges; APHA executive committee members and select staff were also present to hear the group’s ideas.

The main purpose of the summit was to develop a list of guiding principles that will be used by APHA to help move the Paint halter industry forward. Attendees’ viewpoints differed on a number of topics, but the final list of action items represented a consensus of opinions among the group—an overarching goal of the summit, APHA Executive Director Billy Smith says.

“We have a grand opportunity to grow the halter industry,” Billy said. “There are a lot of forces at play that I think are leading us in that direction. To get there, we’ll have to find some common ground and consensus.

“I hope you come here with an open mind, thinking you have some strong views but still willing to hear the views of others. Everyone who has a viewpoint is extraordinarily passionate about their opinion; that will get us a long way, but we need to get to a place where we all are comfortable moving forward.”

Two professional moderators lead the day-long discussion: Beth Krugler and Trey Gordon. Both are lawyers who specialize in mediation, and neither Beth nor Trey has direct ties to the halter industry, giving them a fresh view on the discussion.

The morning included spirited discussion about judging standards and accountability, the need for expanded education, ways to expand recognition and participation, combination of the World Shows, use of specialty judges and the need to serve as positive ambassadors for the industry. The group also discussed current strengths of the APHA halter industry, including its focus on Youth, family-friendly atmosphere, strong regional clubs, significant money-earning opportunities through the Breeders’ Futurity program, and progressive-minded association leadership.

In the afternoon session, the group refined their discussion to develop guiding principles that warrant future consideration and possible action by APHA leaders. The overarching takeaway was a need to work on strengthening, growing and promoting the halter horse industry and its players: owners, breeders, trainers, exhibitors and judges. The group outlined six sub-points under that topic, including:

–       Seriously exploring a way to combine the APHA World Shows.

The group agreed that combining the APHA World Championship Shows into a single event would be ideal, but they realize other limitations—such as timing, facility availability and more—might impact the final decision. Most agreed that combining the shows into a major mid-summer event in June or July would be optimal, while concurrently exploring the continuation of a fall futurity concept in the interest of young horses’ development and maturity.

–       Developing an APHA Specialty Card program for judges.

Currently, APHA permits shows to hire judges for specific events who hold cards with affiliate organizations, like the World Conformation Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association and National Cutting Horse Association. The group suggested developing an APHA Specialty Card program, whereby experts carded by an affiliate like WCHA could apply for APHA Specialty Card certification. The APHA Judges Committee would review applicants and issue the specialty cards at their discretion. This would help expand the pool of qualified judges available to officiate classes within their areas of expertise while providing strong affiliation with the parent breed association for which they would be judging.

–       Offering a limited division in halter classes.

Designed to reward and recognize exhibitors and horses who fit certain criteria—such as having never before placed in the Top Five at the APHA World Show, for instance—a limited division could help expand participation in halter classes. This concept is already in place for select APHA performance classes at the World Show.

–       Enhancing recognition of exhibitors at the World Show.

This might include offering more awards and revamping class awards presentations. The group also suggested exploring the possibility of offering trophies instead of belt buckles and awarding major prizes through at least third place.

–       Exploring the option of adding owner/breeder/exhibitor classes or recognition at the World Show.

Providing special recognition to exhibitors who bred and own their horses helps develop the market for Paint halter horses and gives them a reason to continue breeding. It was suggested to first offer owner/breeder/exhibitor recognition in weanling classes, and later explore expanding it to yearling events, as well. This could possibly be offered as a class within a class through the Breeders’ Futurity.

–       Increasing and promoting education of judging standards throughout the industry.

The group agreed that better education about halter industry standards and judging guidelines is needed throughout the entire industry. This might include modification of judges’ seminar requirements; more educational articles; and helping control the message and perception of the halter horse industry through one-on-one conversations with others.

The Paint Horse Journal’s series “The Game Plan” has helped explain the judging criteria for various classes, including halter. Check out this series in every 2014 issue of the Journal, and watch accompanying videos explaining what judges are looking for in each class on YouTube.com/aphavideo.

The guiding principles outlined above will not be immediately implemented—instead, they’ll serve as a roadmap for ways to improve the Paint halter horse industry over the next few years. The ideas will be shared with the Executive Committee at their meeting later this month, and a plan to address each goal will be compiled.

“I very much appreciate your willingness to put in the time to do this,” Billy said. “If we can’t get some general agreement on direction, we won’t be able to grow the industry. We’re still going to have disagreements from time to time, but if we can agree on these principles, we can expand the halter industry and the breeding and showing of Paint Horses in the future. I hope in a year or two or three, we can look back and see this was where we began to make some positive movement.”

[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]

About APHA
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.