Texas A&M University Equine Initiative Conducts AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Seminars in Uruguay & Argentina

Versatility Ranch Horse has undoubtedly become one of the most popular new areas of riding and competition for American Quarter Horse enthusiasts, and excitement for this event is shared by American Quarter Horse owners in South America. In May 2011 Texas A&M University's Equine Initiative helped to strengthen that enthusiasm by conducting two Versatility Ranch Horse seminars and the first ever AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse show in South America. Texas A&M's team of presenters included Dr. Jim Heird, Executive Professor & Coordinator for the Equine Initiative; Dr. Josie Coverdale, Assistant Professor in Animal and Equine Science; Anna McNaught, Program Coordinator for the Equine Initiative; and Chance O'Neal, Horse Trainer for the 6666 Ranch and the first AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Champion. Accompanying the group was Christine Hamilton, Editor for the American Quarter Horse Journal.

The team began with a seminar in Montevideo, Uruguay which coincided with the Fiesta del Caballo horse show. Coverdale and McNaught began the seminar with presentations on AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Competition and Health and Nutrition of the Mare and Foal. Heird and O'Neal followed with a day and a half of hands-on help with the Versatility Ranch Horse events. Once again, Coverdale's knack for making complex topics accessible and easy to understand was appreciated by the participants, as was O'Neal's teaching style and willingness to take time to ensure each participant had their questions addressed. The Montevideo seminar culminated with Heird judging the AQHA classes at the Fiesta del Caballo.

Following the Montevideo seminar the team had the opportunity to visit multiple ranches in Uruguay to view foals that are the result of a frozen semen program with the 6666 Ranch. "The ability to import frozen semen makes a huge difference in the advancement of American Quarter Horse genetics in South America," said Heird. "Importing a new stallion is incredibly expensive, but importing semen from a variety of outstanding stallions makes genetic advancement more attainable."

The second seminar of the trip was hosted at a ranch owned by Laurencio Leal Lobo in Urdinarrain, Argentina. The seminar again included lectures and hands-on help for Versatility Ranch Horse events. However, at the end of the seminar the team had the opportunity to be involved in something truly unique - the first ever AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse show in South America.

Participation in the show was outstanding, with ten entries in the open division and four entries in the amateur division. Heird served as the judge, McNaught as the scribe, and Coverdale and O'Neal helped the exhibitors prepare.

"Versatility Ranch Horse is a natural fit for Uruguay and Argentina given the huge role that agriculture and ranching plays in their ecomony and their history," said McNaught. "It was so meaningful to be a part of the first AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse show in South America."

This year, more than 70 people attended the seminars held in Uruguay and Argentina. Funding for the seminars is provided through the William R. Verdugo International Horsemanship Camp grant from the American Quarter Horse Foundation. Additional support was provided from the Texas A&M Equine Initiative.

"I have been privileged to be a part of the American Quarter Horse's growth in South America for more than 25 years," said Heird. "I am appreciative of the support that we receive from the American Quarter Horse Foundation. It allows us to continue to strengthen our relationships with outstanding horsemen in South America, which in turn strengthens their commitment to this outstanding horse."

South America May 2011 181

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