Never Say Never

American Paint Horse Association Chief Marketing Officer Steven Hayes has built his career in the Western industry by always saying yes to new opportunities.

Steven Hayes may have graduated Tarleton State University with a degree in animal science, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his résumé. From his job at a regional feed company to his current role as Chief Marketing Officer at the American Paint Horse Association, the Comanche, Texas, native is a long way away from the career he thought he would have in pharmaceutical sales. Along the way, he says he’s learned a lesson of paramount importance — never say never.

Steven and Shantell Hayes. 


Equinety: How did you become involved in the Western industry?

SH: I grew up in a ranching family. We had a cow-calf operation and raised cutting horses. Our ranch wasn’t big enough to support another family, so I knew I would have to pursue a career doing something else. I got a rodeo scholarship to Odessa College in Odessa, Texas, and then moved to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, to finish my degree in animal science. Like most kids who are just graduating college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I thought I might go into pharmaceutical sales. 


Equinety: Tell us about the journey that led you to your current role at APHA.

SH: Well, I never did end up in pharmaceutical sales. My first job out of college was working for a local feed company. I spent about a year there before getting a call from the United States Team Roping Championships. They were looking for someone to work in classifications and event management, and that was a wonderful but challenging role. I loved the data-driven side of things but talking to the team ropers and telling them they were moving up or down in the numbers could be tough. It was great for me as a young person in my career to go through that. 

I spent three years there before receiving a call from the National Cutting Horse Association. They had an opening in their marketing department, so I moved there and began working as Director of Marketing Operations. I did a little bit of everything at NCHA — I think I wore a little bit of every hat at one time or another. 

Three years later, I transitioned to working at APHA as Chief Marketing Officer. They were looking for someone to bring some creative ideas and growth opportunities to new projects at APHA, including its new for-profit subsidiary, Marked for Greatness Properties. It has been an interesting journey. I’m open to anything — I like to try different things — and I’ve really built my career around that mindset.


2022 APHA World Show – Shine Mega Shine and Steve Meadows were stars in the Ranch Rail Pleasure Sweepstakes at #PaintWorld, scoring a payout worth more than $1,000 and the championship. APHA File photo


Equinety: What do you love most about your work?

SH:  I love the people. Our industry feels big — it has lots of tentacles — but at the end of the day, it’s actually pretty small. The people who work in this industry are different than those you’ll find in corporate America. I grew up living the Western lifestyle and being able to hold true to my core values and my identity within the places I work at is important to me. The cowboy code is lived in this industry — you can trust who you work with, and I have forged great relationships through sponsorships, partnerships and events. 


Equinety: What is your best advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in the Western industry?

SH: Never let an opportunity pass you by. I’m in marketing and business, but I have an animal science degree. I’ve gotten where I am today because opportunities presented themselves and I said yes, even if I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I could work hard and figure it out. 

Second, be open minded. A lot of people have a plan for their life. They say they’ll never work in retail or sales, or whatever it may be, but that limits a person. Be willing to try. The biggest thing in the Western industry is getting your foot in the door, no matter where that door is. You never know what it may be holding open. 


Equinety: What made you want to try Equinety?

SH: So many products on the market are designed to help with one specific area — mane and tail, hoof health, joints — I liked the idea that Equinety would let us streamline our supplements so we wouldn’t have to feed 10 of them. It really lets us pare things down while still making sure the horses get everything they need.


Equinety: You’ve only had your horses on Equinety for 30 days. Have you noticed any changes?

SH: We can already see a difference in their overall appearance. Their coats are healthier and shinier. I know we haven’t been using the product for very long, but that’s something we noticed almost right away.


Note: The American Paint Horse Association and Marked for Greatness Properties invites interested parties to attend the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering, from October 28—30, 2022 and the Cowgirl Gathering, from November 11—13, 2022. Contact APHA for complete information, or visit

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