The AQHA Intern Experience

A Look Inside my Internship

A look into my life as AQHA’s 2017 fall communications and digital marketing intern.

Born and raised in Colorado, this is my first trip to Texas. Spencer Lynn photo.

My name is Gary Hawkes, and I’m from Parker, Colorado, which is slightly southeast of Denver. I am working for AQHA this fall as the communications and digital marketing intern.

Born and raised in Colorado, this is my first trip to Texas. I grew up in the little town of Elizabeth with my dad, DeWayne, and mom, Karrie, who helped fuel my horse obsession, and my not-so-horse-crazy older brother, Justin. My mom grew up on a horse farm in Nebraska and she carried on her love of horses to adulthood, where she had a few noble steeds. Dad was a bull rider his early 20’s, but Mom told him to call it quits before he had kids. That’s when he switched to team roping while my brother and I were growing up. It is safe to say horses were in my blood. I grew up with horses that pretty much did it all, or at least whatever we set our sights on. I got involved in my local 4-H club, which allowed me to branch out into the show world. I did not know much; all I had ever done was run our horses out on trails, through the pasture and running the roping steers back down to the chute. I had no clue what a lead was, or a pattern or what “judges” were. Boy, was I in for an awakening.

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 As time passed, my knowledge and my love for showing grew. I got my first American Quarter Horse in my freshmen year of high school. His name was Stroke Of Real Luck, better known as “Sammy Jo.” I continued to compete in 4-H while starting to cross over into AQHA, which grew another addiction. I started competing in AQHA events in 2008, shortly after purchasing Sammy Jo, and there my love for the Association began to blossom. I hit multiple personal goals my first few years showing with Sammy Jo, such as novice youth top-10 for the state, multiple circuit championships and just having a fun time and making friends. I was finishing high school when I decided I had outgrown SammyJo, but I would never sell him. We leased him to some friends, who had a horse-crazy little girl who needed a saint to pack her around, and he was the man for the job. However, that is a story for another time...

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I am a senior in college at the University of Northern Colorado, working toward a degree in communication and a minor in business. While finishing up, I had the option to complete an internship or take two more classes, so internship it was. I had always wanted to be a horse trainer, but the time spent working for a few horse trainers and seeing the trials and tribulations they went through showed me that maybe there are other careers out there that allow you to be involved in the equine industry.

And that is how I got to the position I am in today. It has been three weeks since I first started my internship, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Continue to look for more stories throughout my journey.