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A parting message from APHA Executive Director Billy Smith

Thanks for the kind words that so many of you have sent my way after the announcement that I’ll soon be leaving APHA. I’ve had to remind some of you that I’m passing to another branch of the horse community rather than that other, more permanent, passing that initiates similar kindnesses. Nonetheless, Ms. Mindy and I are genuinely grateful for your kind words and encouragement.

It’s my wish that you’ll continue the great work of APHA and throw your support solidly behind Dave Dellin, who has been integral in crafting APHA’s future.  So as the sun sets on my time at APHA, rest assured that I’ve never failed to notice the kindness, commitment and support of APHA members. I’ve learned something valuable from every encounter, conversation and exchange. I also hope you’ll never take for granted the kind of top-shelf staff you have at APHA, who work tirelessly on your behalf.

Please take some time to reflect on the past decade, never failing to remember that there’s much to do if we genuinely want to preserve the Paint Horse for our children, grandchildren and for the ages. Moving forward is the only way to preserve this great legacy.

With the support and leadership of APHA boards and committees, much has been accomplished. I’ve had the distinct privilege to work with some of the most passionate and innovative presidents and boards of any organization in the community of horse people. Some of it is very visible, and some of it was crafted behind the scenes to end with an organization that’s the most fiscally sound in the horse community. Moreover, APHA has demonstrated that it’s the most creative, innovative and forward-thinking organization in the equine realm. It needs to continue down the path of innovation.

At my very first Convention, I promised only one thing—that I would do everything in my power to leave APHA better than I found it. Only the members of APHA can assess if that promise is fulfilled, but here’s what our dutiful staff and committed APHA leaders have accomplished over the last decade:

  • Doubled the amount of investment dollars under professional management
  • Increase APHA’s investment portfolio to 20 months of operating capital
  • Initiated expert investment management
  • Developed a modern governance structure
  • Sold the Meacham Boulevard building at the top of the market
  • Successfully moved to the Fort Worth Stockyards and negotiated a favorable long-term lease agreement that puts APHA in front of 8 million visitors a year from all over the world
  • Developed a governance structure that opens more leadership opportunities to more people
  • Developed relationships with the Cowboy Channel, PBR and other groups on the horse periphery
  • More than doubled APHA World Show entries since 2011
  • Right-sized the staff to meet financial projections
  • Developed HorseIQ, which has revolutionized judge training, making it the best judge training system in the world
  • Negotiated the transfer of Red Steagall’s Cowboy Gathering to Marked for Greatness Properties with no purchase cost for APHA
  • Created the Cowgirl Gathering
  • Increased World Show payouts from $300,000 in 2011 to almost $1.5 million in 2023, in part by injecting the yield from APHA’s investments
  • Significantly attracted corporate partner investments into APHA
  • Created first equine association Youth World Show scholarship program
  • Initiated and delivered a strategic plan that focused discipline in the areas of customer experience, educational leadership and financial leadership

I look forward to watching APHA’s bright future in the coming years. As many of you know, I enjoy reading more than just about anything, but as I get older some of the most sanguine reflections have come from some of the simplest of texts. So, I’ll depart with something from A.A. Milne’s masterpiece, Winnie the Pooh. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”