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IAHA® Names 2000 Youth Of The Year Melissa Albers, 18, of Alma, Ark., was recently named the 2000 International Arabian Horse Association® (IAHA®) Youth of the Year in recognition of her contributions to the Arabian horse breed and for her personal achievements. She was selected from nominees from across the U.S. and Canada. As Youth of the Year, Albers will act as an ambassador to the Arabian horse and International Arabian Horse Youth Association (IAHYA) in 2001, and will have the opportunity to make appearances at places such as the IAHYA Convention and Youth National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show and the IAHA Convention, a task she said she's looking forward to. "It's real exciting and kind of hard to believe," she said about her honor. "I'm excited to show off a horse that's so versatile. I'm thrilled!" Albers was elected by her peers at last year's IAHYA Convention as treasurer for 2000-2001. She has been actively involved in many IAHYA activities, including Creative Contest, Youth Achievement Awards, Youth Team Tournament, Novice Youth Judging Contest, Team Hippology and Judging Contest and Hippology Contest. In 2000, she received top five honors along with a $500 scholarship as a Lois Cochran Finch Youth Excellence Award winner, following a top ten win in 1999. Albers has a lot of goals for IAHYA and actively works to help implement some of these ideas for the betterment of the association. One of these goals is to increase participation at youth activities, a goal she's working toward as co-chair of the Youth Activities Committee, as well as to promote all the activities that are available to youth. "A lot of times people just don't know they can do all that stuff. I really want to get the youth involved and include everyone, not just the ones who show," she said. As Arabian horse ambassador, Albers said she also wants to help dispel myths surrounding the breed. "I want to try to spread that Arabians aren't hot horses, but instead horses with personality and kindness," she said. "They have such versatility. They can do everything and are so athletic and talented. They are graceful and strong. It just gives me the chills when I watch them." Albers has helped highlight the Arabian horse's versatility through her local state horse council exhibition. She also attended Equitana, where she distributed information about the Arabian horse at her state's booth. In addition, she volunteered her time at her farm's Saddle Up America open house. Albers' involvement with Arabian horses started when her family moved to Arkansas before she was born. Her mother had grown up on a farm and enjoyed horses, and ultimately purchased Arabians and Miniatures. Albers grew up sharing in the responsibilities that horse ownership bring. "I'm very glad I grew up with horses, especially Arabians. It really changed my life," she said. "I learned self confidence, how to keep organized, how to get up early and I learned responsibility. I also learned about dedication. I love Arabians because whenever you need a friend, they're always there - just to pet and give kisses to. They have beautiful eyes. You look into them and feel they understand how you feel." Albers has been showing Arabian horses at Class A shows since 1993 and she's shown at Youth Nationals since its inception that same year. She has also helped her nieces and nephew in events such as lead-line and Stick Horse Contest. Albers' showing career has been versatile, as she has seen success in events such as walk-trot, dressage, reining, showmanship, show hack, English, western, native costume and hunter. According to Albers, her current horse, an 18-year-old gelding named Naturally+/ (*Rumadii x Szena Szena) does "everything." She also owns and competes with a Half-Arabian named My Cinder (Sur-Lancelot x Flicka). In addition to her busy equestrian schedule, Albers also gives her time to her community and school. She is a volunteer at Rocky Creek Horse's Help, a therapeutic riding facility. She has given blood since she was 17, and also became certified in CPR and First Aid. At school, she is an active member of Future Business Leaders of America, Quiz Bowl, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Science Club. She is an honor student and maintains all A's. She is secretary of both the Le Cercle Francais and Social Studies Club. During all of her four years of high school, she has been on the All-Academic Team for scholastic accomplishments. Albers has also consistently been included as a Who's Who Among American High School Students. On her national French exam, she recently placed seventh and 11th in her state. She is a Hugh O'Brian youth leader alumni for her class. Last year she was awarded the Bausch and Lomb Science Award for her school for excellence in science. She competed this year in a district science fair and history day and received first. She placed third overall in the state. Albers has already been accepted and plans to attend Austin College in Sherman, TX, a choice she made because of its liberal arts curriculum. She is interested in taking courses in French and math, but doesn't know what major in particular she wants to pursue. Another reason for her choice in schools is the location, which is close enough to home to allow her to continue to show horses during the summer. The International Arabian Horse Youth Association (IAHYA), which makes up 18 percent of IAHA, has approximately 5,000 members in the U.S. and Canada.

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