It is always a pleasure to meet up with horse people from all over the nation, especially when it’s at the AHP Equine Media Conference.  Canceled in 2020, this year over 100 media, sponsors and speakers gathered in Irving, Texas in September for some cowtown tours, interesting seminars, inspiring speeches, food, fun, and networking.

Although many attendees were masked, that didn’t stop the glee felt by those who were able to attend. Even if folks might have been hesitant to hug, the warm welcome and camaraderie was palpable, thanks to Executive Director Chris Brune, as well as assistants Judy and Gary Lincoln. Jackie McFarland of EqSol represented us and was happy to see old friends as well as make new connections on our behalf. 

And the swag was not to be missed! From tiny trinkets to leather-bound journals and more, sponsors, and publications offered a plethora of collectible goodies.

Pat Trowbridge

Pat Trowbridge,
English Group Publisher, Equine Network, LLC

Chris Brune

Chris Brune,
AHP Executive Director

Barbra Schulte

Barbra Schulte,
President /CEO, Center for Equestrian Performance

Stephanie Macejko

Joycalyn Wininger (left),
Assoc. Director, Corp.
Accounts, Zoetis Equine
with Stephanie Macejko,

VP of Marketing, Breyer


Opening up the conference on Thursday evening, President/CEO of the Center for Equestrian Performance, Barbra Schulte, who was also the 2020 Zoetis Equine Industry Visionary Award Winner, gave the keynote address. She reminded the group how to rekindle our creativity and ‘mine our uniqueness’ by thinking positive (right up our keyword alley) and to be a STAR:

  • See yourself from a place of strength.
  • Trust the journey, the path you choose.
  • Act on your goals, that will fuel action. Take small steps, love errors, they are part of the path. 
  • Rise to your potential. No one escapes ‘falling off of the horse.’ Be resilient, don’t give up.

She noted that hope is a verb, not a noun.  Remember what you love and why you love it.  

The 2021 Zoetis Equine Industry Visionary Award Winner was Breyer Horses. For 70 years, this company has epitomized the essence of this award – “leadership, ingenuity and innovation and serves to inspire those qualities in others.” Stephanie Macejko, VP of Marketing for Breyer, talked about their engaged clientele, children and adults alike; how horses inspire timeless values, and how Breyerfest has evolved due to the pandemic. A popular in-person event, usually with thousands of Breyer fans in attendance, had to ‘pivot’ to offer fans the event virtually. Participants from 107 countries joined in to a sold-out virtual Breyerfest, exemplifying how widespread and engaged their audience truly is!


With a variety of breakout sessions on Friday and Saturday, we attended
45 Ideas: Tips for Networking & Personal Branding, with Moderator Pat Trowbridge, English Group Publisher, Equine Network, LLC, and panelists Catie Staszack, representing her media company, Emily Marquez-Dulin, Executive Director of Brooke USA, Whitney Allen, AHP President and Managing Director of USHJA Advertising and Sponsorship, and Kathy Dando, representing her media company via Pat Trowbridge, as she could not attend. With literally an idea from a panelist every 45-60 seconds, a slew of  concepts and advice showered the audience. Interesting, active, and engaging!  Some nuggets we pulled from the hour were:

  • It’s all about relationships. Genuine relationships that include first names, handwritten notes, and healthy conversation. 
  • When reaching out, be kind. Be thoughtful.
  • When giving out merchandise, consider the use. 
  • Be unique. Evolve. Have mentors. Always follow up. 
  • Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 
  • Be a good listener. It’s an opportunity to grow.
  • Collaborate. Connect. Love what you do.

We also attended informative lectures on SEO and data analytics. And we wrapped up the sessions on Saturday at Free Your Mind – and the Creativity Will Follow, where we started with a blank sheet and, guided by Larri Jo Starkey, used our crayons to free our creativity.

AHP conference - free drawing


There are always myriad special occasions at the AHP Conference. We weren’t able to attend each one, but were pleased to be a part of the Cowboy Heritage evening, where the 2020 and 2021 Student Award Winners and 2021 NextGen Award Winners were announced. After dinner, we watched a screening of  “Cowboys, A Documentary Portrait.” Co-director and cowboy, Bud Force, was on hand following the film for a fascinating Q&A.


Jackie moderated a lunch table for us during the conference, and guests at the table ranged in their experiences, but, of course, all were in the horse niche. We asked them, “What does positive reinforcement mean to you?” And we received a number of answers, each unique:

  • Deeper connection. Giving the horse a voice. 
  • Dogs. Pavlov. Conditioning.
  • Constant conversation with the horse
  • Inspirational. The positivity is contagious, an amazing learning journey.  
  • Rewarding. Change your way of thinking. More support for the horse.
  • Animal science. Reinforcement/punishment. A training option.
  • Critical to understand what motivates the horse. They don’t think like we do. Reward any effort. Take time. Think like a horse thinks.

Certainly a trip worth traveling, Via Nova continues to look forward to future AHP Conferences, especially in 2022 when AHP returns to Lexington, Kentucky!