2024 AHJA Presidents Letter

To our Arizona Hunter-Jumper Community,


First, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself as the current President of the Arizona Hunter Jumper Association.

My name is Michelle Henderson, I’m an Arizona native who grew up riding and showing here and am now an active professional in Arizona. I’ve been a member of our hunter/jumper community here in Arizona since the early 90s showing at WestWorld, Tucson and Flagstaff.

When I took on the role as President in November 2023, I spent a good bit of time speaking to trainers, owners, and riders to get a true picture of what our constituency felt was needed to stem the decline of our shows in Arizona. Our VP, Julie Williams, did the same. 

I also wanted to understand how large the opportunity was to grow our organization, and learned that while AHJA has about 100 members, the USEF has 525 Arizona members recorded as either Hunters or Jumpers and over 1000 horses registered. The majority of these members, AHJA and otherwise, are participating at horse shows in contiguous states.

With these numbers in mind, our board and I looked for a way to recognize the accomplishments of the entire Hunter Jumper community and encourage them to participate in AHJA so we could grow the organization, and, in turn, provide more value to our community.

It's understandable that change can provoke strong emotional reactions and resistance. However, at this time it's important to remember that inclusivity and evolution are vital for any community or organization to grow and thrive.

AHJA's decision to implement a more inclusive membership system is a step towards creating a more diverse and accessible Hunter Jumper community here in Arizona and in no way implies a deterrent to any member wishing to show exclusively in Arizona.

In fact, the new system recognizes those showing in Arizona exclusively, those wishing to show in Arizona as well as our contiguous region as defined by USHJA and offers a third level of recognition for those members who exclusively show in the schooling shows.

Unfortunately, recently there was a large amount of incorrect information that was published on social media. I want to make sure that everyone is clear and has all of the facts. 

The details of the new membership system are at the bottom of this letter. I’d like to clarify that this change was passed in accordance with AHJA’s own bylaws and rules, by its board of directors, for the benefit of all its members. This change was voted on not once, but twice, and unanimously approved by the entire board present at both meetings. I’d like to also remind everyone that all AHJA board members are volunteers; we are not paid and accept no remuneration or gifts from any outside parties or interests. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like any clarification.

Ironically, I was alerted to the recent social media posts concerning CEP shows when I was coming out of a meeting with the new management at Westworld. In this meeting, myself and our AHJA VP, Julie Williams, were pushing for answers, dates and deadlines on the issues that our H/J community has run into in the past with Westworld.

During this meeting, it was reiterated by Julie and myself, over and over how we absolutely cannot afford to lose our H/J shows here in Arizona. This is a concern for all of us, and it is a reality we may face if we cannot find viable solutions to the very real problems that are facing our shows and our community.

The outcome of this meeting was extremely positive. We are in the process of setting up an open house with the management at Westworld so that they can let all interested members of our H/J community know what the plan is, when to expect the changes and to get your feedback as a community. Please keep an eye out for this event, as I would like for everyone to attend and hear it “straight from the horse's mouth” so to speak about the changes we can expect at Westworld in the near future.

Further, I would like to remind everyone that AHJA is a member focused organization and is moving towards being more inclusive and building a community. We are not a horse show production company. We can advocate for changes in our sport and community, but ultimately, it’s up to the horse show companies to hold shows that people want to, and subsequently do attend.

Unfortunately, the decision to not hold AHJA medal classes and the subsequent posts by CEP were not officially communicated to the AHJA board by CEP. We found out like many of you did - on social media. AHJA has been a supporter of CEP shows for many years, and CEP a supporter of AHJA. This decision to not hold AHJA medal classes was made directly by CEP themselves. As the new category system does not disadvantage riders who do not travel out of state, but specifically recognizes them, this decision by CEP only harms Arizona competitors by further limiting their options at shows. AHJA would like to encourage CEP to reconsider its decision to not hold medal qualifying classes and submit points their points to AHJA.

With that being said, it's crucial to embrace progress and adapt to the changing needs of the sport. AHJA will continue to evolve and grow, just like our sport has over the years. We have a good start to a full calendar of events this year, which ranges from clinics with the masters of our sport, a mental skills clinic, to a horse health care series taught by some of the top veterinarians in our sport and community. We sincerely hope that you join us at these events.

In closing, I’d also like to invite everyone in our community who wants to help build up the hunter/jumper sport here in Arizona to head on over to our website and apply for one of our committees. Our committees are a great way to get involved and help us help the Arizona H/J community thrive. We understand that your time is valuable, and we have many opportunities available at all levels. We genuinely want to see the sport here in Arizona grow, but we will need your help to get there.

Let's focus on building a stronger and more inclusive community together. I hope to see you all soon!


Michelle Henderson


Beginning April 15, 2024, AHJA’s new membership structure will be as follows:

USEF/USHJA Category 1 Membership: $100

All AHJA Category 1 members will accrue points and have their points count towards Category 1 year end awards based on the USHJA Zone Horse of the Year Contiguous State/Country chart provided that:

1.         The rider is a current active member of AHJA.

2.         The horse is a current actively recorded horse with AHJA

3.         The show manager or show production company follows the procedures set forth in section 2.1B.

Category 2: Local Level: $75

All AHJA Category 2 members will accrue points within the state of Arizona ONLY. Category 2 members can show at Arizona “A” rated shows and Arizona schooling shows and have their points count towards Category 2 year end awards.

1.         The rider is a current active member of AHJA.

2.         The horse is a current actively recorded horse with AHJA

3.         The show manager or show production company follows the procedures set forth in section 2.1B.

Category 3: Schooling Show Level: $50

All AHJA Category 3 members will accrue points within the state of Arizona at the non-rated, schooling show level and have their points count towards Category 3 year end awards.

Joining or Upgrading Membership throughout the year:

1.         If an exhibitor wishes to join or upgrade their AHJA membership or record a horse at a show, they must submit a completed application by joining on the AHJA website.  Points for the show will be counted towards Year End Awards and Medal Finals Qualification.  There will be no paper memberships available.

2.         If an exhibitor decides to upgrade or join AHJA after the conclusion of a show, they must join with 10 working days of the conclusion of the show for points to be retroactively counted.


  • Category 1, 2, and 3 will all have separate awards at the year end banquet.
  • Category 1, will not compete against Category 2 for awards.
  • Category 3 will not compete against Categories 1 or 2 for awards.
  • Those who only show in AZ and sign up for Category 2 membership, WILL NOT, compete for awards against those who show in the contiguous zone/Category 1.

Those members who have already joined AHJA for the 2024 year:

  • You are invited to delineate which member category you wish to have your points counted in at no extra charge. 
  • The “old” Category 1 memberships will automatically default to the “new” Category 2 Local Membership.
  • The “old” Category 2 memberships will automatically default to the “new” Category 3 membership.
  • If you would like to change your Category, just let us know prior to April 15, 2024.