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2011 AMHA Annual Convention

Coverage by Diana Davidson, Bob Funkhouser and Tuffy Owens

BOSTON, Mass. – The theme of uniting and inspiring that began in early January at the UPHA Annual Convention at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel continued on February 23-26 as the American Morgan Horse Association followed suit. A strong showing of AMHA members from New England and across the country gathered for a highly successful and decidedly positive convention.

The annual convention again served as the perfect venue for members to come together and focus on the achievements of the breed and unite to help preserve, protect and promote the Morgan horse with spirit and purpose. The AMHA membership of approximately 7,500 represents a group of people as diverse as the many facets of the truly versatile Morgan horse. The convention was filled with many ways for all in attendance to share knowledge and information, generously donate time and/or resources, govern our breed and association, and help promote the Morgan breed to the public worldwide.

The AMHA Board Of Directors were first to tackle the business at hand with their full schedule of meetings, which were open to all beginning on Monday, and continuing throughout the week. A larger group of convention attendees started to gather on Wednesday as the Massachusetts Morgan Horse Association sponsored a farm tour to Hobby Knoll Stable, Timber Hill Stables and Townshend Farm. The growing crowd reconvened at the Boston Park Plaza on Wednesday evening for a Welcome Reception hosted by the New England Morgan Horse Association.

The schedule of seminars and forums at the Boston Park Plaza began on Thursday and featured many choices for convention attendees. There were a myriad of topics of interest to choose from depending on your focus and viewpoint within the Morgan breed and industry. While moving from meeting to meeting, attendees visited with the many commercial exhibitors in the Morgan Marketplace.

The history of the Morgan breed was prominently featured throughout the convention with a number of interesting and insightful presentations. New York State Morgan Horse Society historian Valerie Low gave a presentation on creating historical videos. Nancy Caisse, Marilyn Childs, Bob Brooks and Mary Jean Vasiloff were on hand for some fascinating memories of horses, people, events and stories of days gone by. Mary Jean Vasiloff returned on Saturday to discuss Morgan evolution and how breeders have tailored their breeding programs to suit different uses. Marilyn Childs, the last surviving member of the Morgan Horse Club (now AMHA) Board Of Directors meeting many years ago in New York City, discussed some of the changes she has seen in the past 70+ years. Bob and Patti Brooks presented a pair of seminars on the development of the official Morgan Judging Standards and a follow-up that included fascinating comparisons of some of today’s Morgans with the original woodcut of Justin Morgan in Volume 1 of the Morgan Horse Registry.

The immensely popular Train The Trainer series returned with another series of discussions on all disciplines and areas of training to help amateur/owners learn how to prepare for competition. The audience listened to a fabulous group of knowledgeable professionals and asked some great questions as well. The panelists included; Peggy Alderman, Ann Anderson, Richard Boule, Steve Davis, Krista Dent, Alicia Fraser, Sarah Gove, Mike Goebig, Jonalyn Gwinup, Sammi Hazen, Suzanne Haberek, Kurt Hufferd, Rick Lane, Pam Maloof, Cheryl Marcelonis, John McDonald, Mallory Mignot, Jeff Morse, Judy Nason, David Rand, Harry Sebring, Mary Shappee, Bonnie and Keely Sogoloff, Ken and Diana Swanson, Scott Travers, Jaisen von Ballmoos, and Luman Wadhams.

The seminars offered were very informative and wide-ranging. They were diverse yet several had topics that fed into one-another. Continuing on the topic of training and competing, Tuffy Owens moderated a seminar on working relationships between owners and trainers with panelists Bonnie Sogoloff, Grace Steere and Kathy Gutting. Fred Nava once again moderated a roundtable discussion with show managers and show committee members on running successful and profitable competitions. Two popular and fast-growing divisions in which Morgans compete were presented in seminars as Jeff Morse discussed the carriage discipline while Ellen DiBella and Eitan Beth-Halachmy gave an entertaining and informative presentation on Western Dressage.

Care and wellbeing of our horses took center stage in several seminars. The topics included Gastic Ulcer Syndrome, a presentation by Dr. Jay Merriam on keeping our horses sound and showing, metabolic challenges in feeding with Karen Lassell, the teamwork of the veterinarian and farrier, fertility challenges in the horse industry, understanding colic, and care and management of the aging horse.

The program of seminars also featured wide ranging topics of candid equine photography, protecting your equine business, fitness training for the equestrian, mental approach to riding with confidence, and tips for trainers on how to help nervous riders train and compete more successfully.

The youth of AMHA had their own week’s worth of programs to enjoy. In addition to their meetings under the direction of Youth Council President Kate Foy, the youth enjoyed a full schedule of activities. Speakers included Taylor Royals, Christine Harb, Sascha Mills, Sarah Harb, Sarah Hamilton, David Porter, Andy Illes, Steve Davis, Kathryn Quinlan, Madison Cromwell, and keynote speaker Jenny Susser. Those in attendance also enjoyed Horsebowl, a pizza party, horsemastership testing, arts and crafts.

Several other meetings took place during the convention including an AMHI Trustees Meeting under the direction of Robert Morgan, USEF Rules Committee chaired by Georgie Green (the new rules for 2011 are available on the USEF website and everyone who shows at USEF sanctioned shows and events is urged to read and be familiar with all rules that apply), AMHA Professionals Meeting chaired by Harry Sebring, and the National Museum of the Morgan Horse Council chaired by Robin Veghte and Jeff Gove.

On Thursday afternoon, the Grand National Show Committee followed up their most recent January meeting with a progress report on the 2011 show. 2011 show chair C. A. "Tony" Lee, III, along with several other show committee members and show manager Fred Nava were on hand to discuss the show with interested audience members. The show will be held on October 8-15, 2011.

Tony Lee welcomed the audience and invited everyone to attend the show. Show manager Fred Nava was next to speak as he went over changes at the Fairgrounds, footing changes, the addition of an early morning coffee hour, the policy for non-show horses, check-in and move-in procedures, stall panel removal fees, official vendor policies, education regarding post entry fees, and proper attire for handlers.

Committee member Georgie Green discussed the schedule, the addition of new classes, splitting driving classes with 17 or more entries, cross entering which will now be allowed between junior exhibitor and youth classes, ladies and ladies amateur classes, and amateur and amateur masters classes. World Futurity chair Barb Rudicel gave an update about the program, the WMF/AMHA Stallion Service Auction, and encouraged everyone to support the World Futurity, encouraging breeding and giving back to the breeders. Sally Plumley spoke about the Silver Possibility and a trio of parties in 2011 (a welcome party on Saturday night, the Silver Possibility Party with karaoke on Thursday night, and the Afterglow party on the final Saturday night). Sherry Cole addressed the Hospitality Center which will again feature the presentation of judge’s cards in folders, morning coffee, pleasant conversation and information. Sherry Cole and Iann Fu Longenecker updated everyone on the policies for ordering banners (a new deadline of July 1) and banner maintenance. Cindy Mugnier outlined the plans for education clinics including one for trail in 2011. Grand National Director of Sponsor Relations Sally Wadhams thanked all of the generous donors and discussed sponsorships, ads, box seats, VIP parking and a new sponsor parking area for 2011. The prize list and website will have all of the sponsorship opportunities for 2011.

The Plaza Ballroom welcomed a large audience on Thursday afternoon for the AMHA Annual Awards Luncheon. Carol Fletcher Churchill chaired the awards program and Jeff Gove served as luncheon’s emcee. The awards ceremony featured many Morgan owners and enthusiasts from across the country who work very hard on behalf of the Morgan horse. These individuals have been very successful in promoting Morgans and are most deserving of these awards.

Numerous recognition awards and special presentations were bestowed. The members of the AMHA Board Of Directors were introduced to the audience. Numerous club and club newsletter awards were also given out to the North Central Morgan Association, Vermont Morgan Horse Association, The Lippitt Club, and the Rainbow Morgan Horse Association. In support of Team Morgan, Ann Hailey of Copper Beech Morgans once again generously donated the grand prize to the winner of the AMHA/Team Morgan Win a Morgan Horse Essay Contest. This year, 11 contestants vied to win CBMF Stolen Kisses, and the contest winner Samantha Richards of Laramie, Wyoming was represented by her trainer Mallory Mignot.

AMHA Master's Certificates for devotion to the Morgan breed for individuals over the age of 60 were presented to several deserving members with Kris and Allen Breyer, Stephen Herz, Robert Harb, Diann Sanel, Sara Hausamann and Patricia Lloyd were on hand to accept their awards. AMHA Promoter and Promotional Awards went to several dedicated breed promoters; including Eric Stormer, Nancy Caisse, Susan Colleton, Barbara Irvine and Joan Travers.

Old Vermont Rebel, Canequin Reachforthestars, SMC Clear Shot, Sea Cloud Charade, Kara Katona, Everlasting QUA-Lity, Kennebec Ladyhawke, Underwoods Winchester, Century Savoir-Faire, Blueandwhite Cadence, Burnham Thompson II, Dale Thompson, Rebecca Jones, Canequins Leatherstocking, were all honored with AMHA Open Competition Awards.

AMHA honored 25-year judges Scott Thacker and Gerry Rushton as well as 30-year judges Tom Caisse, Anne Judd, Pierre Loiselle, and Anne Speck. The six 2010 AMHA Gold Medal Winners were recognized Western Seat – Madison Wurster, Saddle Seat – Michaela Gillispie, Hunter Seat on the Flat – Sascha Mills, Dressage Seat – Austin Oplotnik, Reining Seat – Zachary Roe, and Hunter Seat Over Fences – Elizabeth Vieira. In closing, a video representing some of the winning moments from the 2010 Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show was shown.

Thursday evening’s festivities featured Vegas In Boston as the AMHI invited everyone to an entertaining evening of Vegas-style gambling, a dinner buffet and an auction. Event sponsors were Rick and Debbie Lane of Cabot Morgans, Dan and Leslie Kelley of Victory Lane Farm, and Dawn and Brad Fire of Peeper Ranch. Vacations in Key West, Florida; La Jolla, California; and, Vail, Colorado, as well as a first edition sculpture by Maretta Kennedy sold to the highest bidder with encouragement from veteran auctioneer Bill Carrington.

Convention attendees were up bright and early on Friday as the buses departed rainy Boston for the eagerly awaited barn tour to Chrislar Farm and Taylor River Farm (see separate story). While the weather to the north featured copious amounts of snow, that did not deter the hale and hearty Morgan contingent from enjoying a great day with wonderful Morgan horses and Morgan people.

The AMHA/World Futurity Stallion Service Auction took center stage on Friday evening with a huge crowd filling the Imperial Ballroom. The bidding for the amazing lineup of stallions kicked off online on December 1, 2010 and concluded on February 24, 2011. At that time the stallions with the top 10 bids as well as the Kim’s Bellegante egg went forward to the final round of live bidding on February 25 at the Boston Park Plaza.

The room was filled with anticipation as the crowd enjoyed the pre-auction reception. When the clock struck 7:30pm, it was lights, cameras and action! It was time for the eagerly anticipated AMHA/World Futurity Stallion Service Auction chaired by Tony Lee and Barb Rudicel. Auctioneer Bill Carrington explained the rules of the auction and presided over the fast-paced action with David "Tuffy" Owens adding insight on pedigrees.

The 11 stallions services, egg from Kim’s Bellegante and the opportunity to be featured on the front cover of the December 2011 Morgan Horse Magazine were then auctioned off with live bids from those in attendance as well as the many cell phones that were pressed to the ears of many working the auction for AMHA and those bidding for others not in attendance.

When the evening was finished, a grand total of over $95,000 was raised and will be distributed to the AMHA Marketing Program, World Morgan Futurity, AMHA Regional shows, and the AMHA Show Grant Program. The high bid of the evening went to Dan Kelley as he purchased the December 2011 cover of The Morgan Horse Magazine for $10,000. Bill and Sammi Hazen generously donated an egg from world champion Kim’s Bellegante that was purchased by Bob Kellert for $8,000.

The services of the top 11 stallions, winning bidders and bids were; Dragonsmeade Icon (Kevin Schengrund) $7,500, Mizrahi (Kirsten Johnson) $5,600, Mastroianni (Maura Sweeney Reeve) $3,400, SYP High Definition (Kirsten Johnson) $3,400, BKC Valiant Star (Alicia Deery) $3,000, Hollybrook Stage Rage (Dragonsmeade) $3,000, Astronomicallee (Anne Wyland) $2,625, Minion Millennium (Julie Spaniel) $2,600, SpiceOLife Present Tense (Mark Yoder) $2,300, Cartier (Kevin Schengrund) $2,000, and Grand Cru Beaujolais (Ann de St Remy) $2,000.

"I would like to thank the Morgan community for the responses to our requests for stallions, sponsorships, and advertisements," said Barb Rudicel, auction co-chair. "Because of their generosity, the whole Morgan community benefits from this auction! I would like to say a special thank you to the Hazens for offering an egg from Kim's Bellegante, which was something new and different in the auction. Thank you stallion owners, thank you booklet advertisers, and thank you sponsors. It is because of you, we can now give back to the Morgan community!"

"We are so thankful for the generosity of the Morgan community," added C. A. "Tony" Lee III, auction co-chair. "Year after year our Morgan stallion owners donate their horses' services, regardless of the state of the economy, all for the betterment of the breed and the community. We can't thank them enough."

The excitement on Friday night was just getting starting as a special comeback performance by Harry & The Lashwhips followed the Stallion Service Auction. Thanks to the sponsorship of The Kelley Family of Victory Lane Farm and The Lloyd Family of Taylor and Lloyd, the Morgan world united to rock out with its favorite performers (two-legged performers, that is).

There was still much business to done on Saturday with a full room of attentive members in attendance at the AMHA Annual Membership Meeting. AMHA Executive Director Julie Broadway was first to the podium as she welcomed everyone and thanked them for their attendance. AMHA President Cindy Mugnier then called the meeting to order and introduced AMHA Director Jeff Gove who read the meeting notice. The representative from the official tabulator Survey And Ballot Systems then confirmed that there was a quorum for the annual meeting and quorums for the election of Directors in Regions 3, 4, 5, 10, and for Director-at-Large.

President Mugnier then asked AMHA members in attendance to stand when their region was called. She went on to introduce the Convention co-chairs and committee, AMHA Board Members, AMHA Directors Emeriti, AMHA Youth Council and AMHA staff members in attendance. The minutes of the 2010 AMHA Annual Meeting were then accepted. The candidates running for the board were then introduced, and there was a call for any additional ballots. Following this, the election was declared closed.

AMHA Vice President of Finance Harry Sebring was next on the podium to discuss AMHA's current financial status. Sebring stressed that prudent management practices continue to be the key to a strong financial position for AMHA. A handout was provided for all members with the preliminary and tentative audit as of December 31, 2010. The complete 2010 audit will be available at the May AMHA Board meeting. Sebring noted that AMHA has had a challenging year due to the economic downturn, decline in registrations, as well as well as the legal expenses AMHA has been forced to incur due to the Hazelwood et al litigation (where AMHA legal fees are not covered by its insurance). Sebring commended The Morgan Horse Magazine on its significant turnaround in the past three years. He concluded by thanking Executive Director Julie Broadway and the AMHA staff for making some difficult choices and their continuing hard work and sacrifice.

In her report AMHA Bylaws Committee chair Linnea Sidi went over the summary of the changes to the bylaws and a handout with all of the changes was also available at the meeting.

AMHA Executive Director Julie Broadway returned to the podium with an overview of the state of the Association and achievements in the past year. She thanked the hardworking AMHA staff and outlined some of the many tasks they perform. While AMHA memberships and registrations have declined, Broadway added that the percentage decline in the past five years is in line with other breed associations. Broadway went on to outline the many programs and services performed by AMHA. She then thanked and congratulated everyone involved with the Morgan participation and promotion at the World Equestrian Games and Team Morgan Competition.

AMHA Youth Council President Kate Foy was next to the podium as she introduced the AMHA Youth Board members in attendance and turned the microphone over to incoming President Rebecca Jones. Jones went on to outline some of the goals and programs planned for the Youth Council in 2011. She also was proud to list among the council’s accomplishments the rule change that was proposed, discussed and written by the Youth Council and ultimately passed by USEF to raise the maximum age in all AMHA Medal Classes to 21. Recent changes to the USEF Youth Council, now called USEF Young Equestrians, have allowed the AMHA Youth Council to elect two representatives for this program, which includes representatives from every national affiliate. The two AMHAY representatives chosen were Kate Foy, senior representative, and Connor Farley, junior representative. The annual fundraiser for cancer awareness, Justin Time for a Cure, raised $2,187.82 in the year 2010. The new goal for 2011 is to double that by raising $4,000.

AMHI President Robert Morgan was next to give his President’s report as he welcomed everyone and thanked President Mugnier for the opportunity to address the audience. During the AMHI Annual Members Meeting held earlier in the week, the current executive committee of President Bob Morgan, Vice President Susan Fu, and Secretary Mona Skager, was re-elected. Trustees Sherry Cole, Ellen DiBella, Beth Fancsali, Elaine Galatz, Barbara Rudicel, Mona Skager and Mark Staehnke were re-elected for three-year terms.

The mission of the AMHI is to support the activities of AMHA through education and the preservation of the history of the Morgan breed via its fundraising. Morgan went on to outline many AMHI activities including; Grand National, World Morgan Futurity, Morgan Weanling Gala, National Museum of the Morgan Horse, and scholarship programs. He also updated the status of the Morgan Pavilion at the Kentucky Horse Park as well as the proposed sale of the building in Shelburne.

2011 Grand National show chair C. A. "Tony" Lee, III thanked everyone for their support of the show and gave a brief status report on the upcoming show along with a video presentation of some of the highlights of the 2010 show.

President Mugnier then returned to the podium with her address that focused on continuing AMHA’s mission to unite the diverse membership. She outlined changes and accomplishments in 2010. The physical move of the AMHA offices has brought an opportunity for increased visibility just as the Morgan breed enjoyed in 2010 with its participation at the World Equestrian Games, many youth activities, success in competition in the United States and internationally, along with raising awareness through corporate sponsorship fundraising.

Mugnier concluded her address by thanking the membership. "I am honored to have been your president for the past three years. It has been quite a ride. I believe that Morgans are the best-kept secret, and we have to let the world know about their beauty, stamina, personality and character. Morgans are a diverse breed and are the perfect fit for so many disciplines and people. It is the love of the Morgan breed that unites us. ion, its promotion and its protection. The time has come to stop pointing a finger and to start lending a hand."

Following a sustained round of applause, President Mugnier then asked the members in attendance for any questions from the floor. There were several questions concerning the current litigation, a newly formed grievance committee, director expenses and reimbursements, and the integrity of the registry, along with a thank you to President Mugnier, Executive Director Broadway, the Board of Directors and AMHA staff.

President Mugnier then called on the official tabulator to announce the results of the election. This election featured the highest voter response in many years with over 37% of the AMHA membership included in the verified results. David Earehart and Gayle Singer – Region 3, Patricia West – Region 4, Kris Breyer, Region 5, David Bramley – Region 10, and Harry Sebring - Director-at-Large were elected to three-year terms. President Mugnier went on to thank outgoing Directors Sherry Cole, Ling Fu Wylie, Jack Gatewood and Barbara Hewitt for their service and leadership on behalf of AMHA. Cole and Wylie were later named Directors Emeriti.

The results of the four Bylaw Changes on the ballot were announced next. Items #1, 2 and 4 all passed by wide margins as recommended by the Board Of Directors. The results of the all-important Rule #3 proposed by the plaintiffs in the Hazelwood, et al v. AMHA, et al lawsuit was resoundingly defeated by a vote of 1,909 to 439. The results brought a loud and sustained round of applause from the audience.

Following video highlights of the Morgan breed in 2010, the meeting was adjourned.

The AMHA Board of Directors Re-organizational Meeting followed. The AMHA Board Of Directors elected Harry Sebring as President. Sebring will chair the Executive Committee which includes; Jeff Gove (Vice-President of Finance and Comptroller), Kathy Newcomb (Eastern Vice-President), Linnea Sidi (Central Vice-President), Bill Pettis (Western Vice-President), Cindy Mugnier (Past President) and Julie Broadway (Executive Director and Corporate Secretary).

The AMHA Annual Awards Banquet was a fitting grand finale to a memorable convention in Boston. The Imperial Ballroom welcomed nearly 300 guests as some of the Morgan breed’s top supporters were honored.

Carol Fletcher Churchill chaired the event, while Helen Herold served as emcee, and Miss Massachusetts 2011 Alida D’Angona posed with all of the award winners.

The current AMHA Directors were introduced to a warm round of applause. Outgoing Directors Awards were given to Sherry Cole, Ling Fu Wylie, Barbara Hewitt and Jack Gatewood. Cindy Mugnier was honored for her three years of exemplary leadership as AMHA President and the gavel was passed to Harry Sebring who was welcomed as incoming AMHA President. Grand National Show Manager Fred Nava gave a special recognition award to gracious longtime volunteer Anne Mears.

Numerous recognition awards and special presentations were bestowed including certificates of appreciation to; Convention co-chairs Sara Foy and Jared Gove, 2010 Grand National chair Fred Dills, and numerous members of the Morgan community for their participation in the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

The evening continued with several prestigious award winners; Nike Five Time and Bens Charley Brown – Therapy Horses Of The Year; Jonalyn Gwinup - Cecil Brown Sportsmanship Award; Connor Chaffin-Farley – Youth Achievement Award; Katharine Thompson - AMHA Youth Person of the Year; Christine Cassenti, Robert Kellert, Harry and Carolyn Sebring - AMHA Golden Reins Award; John McDonald – AMHA Professional Award; Yum Kee Fu - AMHA Man of the Year; Susan Fu - AMHA Woman of the Year; Beverley Olson and Eitan Beth-Halachmy - Hall of Fame; Kathy and Vincent DeFazio, Mary Jean Vasiloff and Orcland Farm - AMHA Breeder's Hall of Fame. In addition the AMHA Show Horse Hall Of Fame inducted Carmen Miranda, Lady’s Enticement and Merriehill Hooligan. (Please see the award speeches in their entirety in this issue.)

As the curtain closed on the 2011 AMHA Annual Convention co-chairs Sara Foy and Jared Gove reflected, "We are so happy that the Morgan community came together in Boston for the 2011 AMHA Convention. The Convention was a Wicked Good Time! We are grateful for the support of the New England Morgan Horse Association, Massachusetts Morgan Horse Association, Connecticut Morgan Horse Association, Maine Morgan Horse Club, Granite State Morgan Horse Society, and Vermont Morgan Horse Association. The Barn Days were a smashing success - thank you to Chrislar Farm and Taylor River Farm for their hospitality and generous hosting of convention attendees. The Youth convention was great, hosting 20 of our younger members and the seminars and presentations were all well attended. While we wish the weather had been brighter it didn't stop any of the fun, but we are looking forward to the Florida sunshine for AMHA in 2012!"

AMHA Executive Director Julie Broadway added, "AMHA could not be more pleased with the 2011 convention in Boston! We had great seminars, fabulous barn tours, very deserving award winners and lots of fun.

"Many thanks to Sara Foy and Jared Gove for all their hard work, and to the New England Morgan Community for opening their doors and arms to embrace the over 350 people that attended from across the US. We hope everyone will join us next year in Orlando, Florida. Get out those Mickey Mouse ears!"

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