By Joelle Johnson, CNATT Chairperson
Before I get into the amazing details of how CNATT2022 was such a raging success I want to share the story of how CNATT was created…
I have been a member of the quarter horse industry my entire life, so I have seen how the ebb and flow of the Canadian and American economies can affect the Canadian Quarter Horse industry. I have seen struggles but never have I been so worried for the future of our beloved affiliates as I was post pandemic. Everyone was eager to return to the show ring, but was our excitement enough to combat rising gas prices and inflation?
While attending a year end banquet for the Quarter Horse Association of Alberta, I overheard many longtime amateur members that I personally know and consider my family, reminisce about “the good old days”. When shows were so large, we had days that never ended, they just flowed from the end of one to the beginning of the next with mere hours in between. Group activities were numerous in these days, whether to generate funds or just to kick off our boots at the end of a long day. In these days the friendships were unyielding and lifelong.
I knew something had to be done.
I became obsessed with understanding what it was my fellow exhibitors needed to drive them to love showing their equine counter parts the way they had 15-20 years ago. I reached out to exhibitors from across the province and into neighboring affiliates asking them what they wanted to see change. I posted to my public social media account, asking followers if they could choose the prizes that would light a fire in their competitive souls what would it be? Many of course said cash. We all could use some extra cash. That is a never ceasing ideal that unfortunately for most clubs, isn’t an option. Gathering sponsorship is hard, and asking people to hand over cold hard cash in an economy where it’s worth less and less every day, that is difficult. Beyond money, many responded that items they could physically use were preferred over trophies. Blankets are a never-ending necessity in every barn whether you show halter or reining. Tack, buckets, and other every day items also topped the list.
Of those I spoke to, many remembered fondly of a circuit once held in Drayton Valley, Alberta. This event was organized by Jackie, Kathy and the rest of the Harke family. Every year they held a team tournament including all exhibitors and it was infamous for its great prizes and positive experiences. Unfortunately, despite the success of this show, it is no longer held and the Harke family has long since moved on from the Quarter Horse industry in Alberta.
Once I had my questions answered, I reached out to the one person I knew I could count on to help. A person who is well known for her organizational skills, her drive to volunteer and her ability to plan and event; Laurie Haugton, current CQHA Vice President and our organization’s saving grace. We shared a long, fruitful conversation brainstorming ideas and together we created the Canadian National Team Tournament. A tournament of 100 AQHA members from across Canada competing for a title and along the way meeting new people and having fun! The ten teams would be sponsored by Canadian owned stallions, thus incorporating a need to drive the visualization of available breeding options close to home during hard financial times.
Obviously as it is with any new program, there was some apprehension. Stallion owners weren’t sure if they would benefit from the program, and some amateurs didn’t understand how they could participate, especially those who weren’t sure if they could afford to even attend any AQHA circuits. But, everyone’s desire to see new and expanding change outweighed their apprehension, and 100 members took the leap of faith and 10 stallion owners put their trust in Laurie and I.
Once our team sponsors were secured, our members registered, it was time to select our teams. On May 1st, 2022 a Live Instagram event was held with the incomparable Brad Bowie. Ten names were randomly drawn from across Canada for each of our ten teams, doing our best to make sure each team had a representative from every affiliate in Canada.
Once teams were formed, the connections were only moments behind. Facebook friend request multiplied across the social media platform and groups were formed in private chats. For team Yall Hashtag this specifically, it only took one day for the members to begin introducing themselves and their equine partners. For the rest of the season these private chats would become a breeding ground for positive messages, well wishes and encouraging words. Members shared placings, the good and the ugly, and pushed each other to try new things.
At the circuits, new friendships blossomed and old ones strengthened. Cheering could be heard from aisle to aisle among the barns and playful competitive banter rang through the practice pens. Even the occasional high- fives were seen shared amongst rivals.
For members in Saskatchewan the first show of the season brought their rigs to Moose Jaw. As part of the CNATT program non-horse events were introduced. These events were open to everyone, but were incorporated to allow those who were unable to show, or who only showed minimally a chance to earn a few points for their team. They also were created to open the channels of communication and increase camaraderie. The first non-horse event held in Moose Jaw, a tricky scavenger hunt followed by a race of slow and steady proportions proved to be exactly the icebreaker those western Canadians needed. On a personal note, this experience warmed my heart to the core. I haven’t seen laughter and teamwork like this among AQHA peers for many years, and it was in this moment that I knew all our hard work had been worth it. The program was successful.
While the non-horse events were plentiful and successful at the individual circuits, Laurie soon discovered that the CNATT members could also benefit from online contests. Bubble gum was chewed, fleece coolers became dresses, and equine partners questioned the sanity of their owners who dressed them as dragons for photos. Multiple incredible prizes were awarded for these contests. A special heartfelt thank you must be said to Gilles Seguin of Tendo Enterprises, Leanne Karoles of Ace Therapy, Robyn Duplisea of Show Horse Today, Jessica Turner of Rose Fire Saddlery, Alfatech Alfalfa Products, AQHA and the CQHA for their generous sponsorship of all CQHA awards and prizes.
As the weeks passed, and show after show was held across the country, points were tallied, and posted regularly. The competition became more and more fierce. It was even noted that boots and breeches that hung in closets for years were dusted off in order to aid in team standings.
It didn’t take long for team sponsors began to see how the program could benefit their businesses and swag was spotted through out the barns. Sirtainly Sierra vests, My Sleepy Valentine hats, and Yall Hashtag This hoodies became advertising beacons. Banners were created and shipped to each individual member with their team logos and they hung proudly on stalls up and down the aisles.
On social media the hashtags were abundant. Pictures of successful days were littered with reminders to investigate the incredibly talented stallions and their get which we are so lucky to have available to us in Canada. Each hashtag aiding the competitor’s in their race to the top. In addition to member social media presence we were beyond blessed to have the support of Robyn Duplisea and her online magazine Show Horse Today to highlight our program, its members and our sponsors.
The season has now wrapped up, the tack cleaned and put away for the winter. The final show results tallied and our winner has been crowned. Taking home Gold in the first ever Canadian National Amateur Team Tournament is team Sirtainly Sierra, silver to My Sleepy Valentine, and bronze to team Good Intentionz. Members of the team Sirtainly Sierra will receive a custom-made buckle, and a $200 gift certificate to Rose Fire Saddlery. Team My Sleepy Valentine will receive $100 gift certificates and team Good Intentionz $50 gift certificates to Rose Fire Saddlery. These awards, along with 3 remaining participation draws will be presented to the winners at the Canadian Quarter Horse Associations awards banquet. Further information on a date and location to come from the Canadian Quarter Horse Association in the coming weeks.
I am beyond blown away by the success of CNATT2022, I never could have imagined that it would become such a roaring success. I am so thankful to Laurie Haughton, Holly Kress, and Hannah Searle for all their hard work this year. I am so lucky to have a team who believed in this from day one. Thank you to all of our Canadian show secretaries from coast to coast for being so diligent with their show results, without you this could not have been possible. Finally, to our sponsors, stallion owners and business owners alike, your support for this program has been nothing less than amazing. I am so touched by your support for such a new program, dreamt up by just an amateur with a dream and a desire to see change.
I cannot wait to see what 2023 holds for the Canadian National Amateur Team Tournament!