A new leader has taken the position of chief of shows for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). The promotion fills the spot vacated by reining trainer Pete Kyle.
Pete Kyle’s AQHA Tenure
Kyle, who held the position since 2014, announced his resignation on Jan. 3. A past AQHA Professional Horseman of the Year, Kyle is an AQHA judge and rode all-around horses before specializing in reining. Justin Billings will succeed Kyle in the position.
“Pete has brought years of experience and knowledge to the Association, and we are grateful for his service to AQHA,” AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines said in a statement. “We wish Pete the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
Those endeavors, Kyle said, include spending more time with his family – including grandchildren Colton, 4, and Emma, 1. He and his wife, non-pro reiner Tamra Kyle, plan to remain in Amarillo.
The winner of more than $656,000 said his departure from AQHA does not mean he will jump back into the training business, although he would like to do some roping and assist his wife with her reining horses.
He’ll also no doubt foster his grandchildren’s love of horses. Colton has a pony, and young Emma already has her eye on it, Kyle said.
“She screams to get on that pony. I mean, she can’t wait for her brother to get out of the way,” Kyle said. “We put her on and walk her around and she loves it.”
In the five and a half years he was with the association, Kyle said he enjoyed the camaraderie with other AQHA employees while the entire organization worked to make its many championship shows a success, and also tackled other projects.
He was especially proud of the work the team did getting the Level 2 implemented at the World Shows, which he said increased entries and helped solidify that division for the weekend shows.
“I just went in [and] tried to do a good job to help the exhibitors and hopefully continue to make the association and the horse shows better. And, hopefully there were some things that we did that were better. And, we just truly enjoyed it. That’s for sure.”
Billings Takes Helm
Kyle’s successor, Billings, joined AQHA in April 2017 as the manager of shows and was promoted to director of shows in January 2019. In his previous position, he formulated policies/procedures and provided overall direction for the show department. He also planned, directed and coordinated operational activities related to the more than 2,800 AQHA-approved shows with continued success of AQHA’s seven world and championship shows.
In addition, AQHA officials said Billings was instrumental in launching the 13-&-Under division of core classes at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, which doubled in participation the first year, and the Level 2 division at AQHA Regional Championships, also creating entry growth at those shows. Billings assisted in moving the Nutrena East AQHA Level 1 Championships to Wilmington, Ohio, where that event doubled in size the first year. Billings and the AQHA Show Department digitized the AQHA world championship show invitations to provide a smoother and faster entry process for members.
“My vision for the future of the showing industry is a reimagined customer experience where members gain more value through their participation in AQHA competitive events,” said Billings. “These changes include real-time leaderboards, online show experience enhancements and member-first initiatives, which truly move the needle toward innovation while staying true to the core values that built AQHA.”
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