By Laurie Haughton, Chair, CQHA Media, Marketing & Communications Committee

Canadians played a major role in a new program designed by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to support their Professional Horsemen Association, which was facilitated over two days in person in a workshop format hosted at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada from January 16 to 18, 2024.

AQHA Pro Horsemen Academy

The event was open to all members of the AQHA Professional Horsemen Association and other industry professionals to participate in the collaborative learning experience hosted by expert instructors. It provided an opportunity for horsemen and women to learn game-changing business tips on financial success, effective customer communications, conflict resolution, marketing strategies, legal liability, risk management, animal welfare, and much more.

Craig Cunningham, CPA, CA, MBA, an AQHA amateur competitor from Toronto, Ontario, led the instruction on day one, taking the group through lessons on financial fitness strategies for equine business that reached beyond the fundamentals of business management. The session included exercises drawn from the unique and intrinsically personal and multifaceted relationships horse trainers often have with their horse owners and clients. From tips on being financially sound to identifying your brand and staying true to it, Cunningham — having spent years showing in the Quarter Horse industry — was able to draw from personal experience showing on both sides of the border. He worked with both Canadian and American professional horse trainers and coaches to really narrow in on some of the pain points common to most equine businesses, and to offer solutions to mitigate situations which can be financially taxing and take an emotional toll due to the unique nature of horse sport.

Day two saw AQHA pro horseman and Canadian-born Robin Frid take to the stage. As the past chair of both the AQHA Pro Horsemen Association and the current chair of the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission, Frid talked about the reason why we were all there: the love of the Quarter Horse breed and doing our best by the horse. The audience was given a chance to work in groups to look at case studies and solve for issues concerning professional ethics, animal welfare, and resource management, all in an effort to help bring the lessons learned to reality.

There is no doubt that the horse industry is complex. Those who dedicate their lives to being professionals within equine sport know it is both physically and emotionally demanding, and not a business to be in if you are looking for a nine-to-five gig with excellent job security. This is the reason why AQHA will be supporting those in attendance with six months of online interactive learning, gamification, and live Q&As through their new online learning platform designed specifically to support professionals in the Quarter Horse industry.

The Canadian Quarter Horse Association (CQHA) was pleased to be represented by members from four provinces: British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Going forward, this experience will provide an excellent opportunity for CQHA’s officials and professional development committee to network with those in attendance to brainstorm ideas for programs that can be developed to support Canadian professionals. 

Learn more about the AQHA Professional Horsemen Association

Canadian Quarter Horse Association

Photos courtesy of Laurie Haughton