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ASHA Reorganization - An Editorial

The American Saddlebred Horse Association is positioning itself structurally, financially and with management to address the continuing critical shrinkage of the breed. The Saddlebred is rapidly running out of time to reverse this disturbing trend and the ASHA Board is committed to doing whatever is necessary to turn things around.

Structurally, a reorganization has been proposed; financially the ASHA had a very good year and is taking steps to raise needed funds; management-wise, changes have been made to upgrade and professionalize the staff.

The reorganization proposal will be voted on at the annual meeting Feb. 17-19 in Lexington. This change was first discussed seven months ago prior to the July 2004 Board meeting and has been discussed at every Planning Committee and Board meeting since that time.

A special Planning Committee, composed of co-chairs Jim Ruwoldt and Joan Hamilton along with Judy Werner, Elizabeth Deknatel and Fred Sarver, met numerous times on the plan before unanimously recommending it to the Board. The Board has held any number of meetings and conference calls on the plan and finally voted to recommend it to the full membership with only two dissenting votes out of the 18 member Board.

The reorganization received the blessing of ASHA legal counsel and auditors but, when questions were raised about possible legal or IRS problems, outside opinions were sought. Those opinions confirmed the judgment of the Association attorney and auditor.

The Association staff has aggressively disseminated detailed information about the reorganization both in mailings and in the media and has set aside time for discussion of the proposal at the annual meeting. Board members have attended a number of regional and state meetings at their own expense explaining the changes and answering questions.

Despite all of this, a few individuals are attempting to postpone or stop the reorganization because they don't want to "rush" into this change. As an ASHA Board member for four years and an active participant in this breed for over 30 years, there have been few if any issues more planned, studied, and discussed than this one.

And in reality, it is not a terribly significant change except that it will enable the Association to more effectively raise funds, provide potential tax benefits to donors, save sales tax of certain purchases and enable the ASHA to use those funds to provide much needed promotion for this horse.

The Association has encouraged and welcomed questions and opinions, has debated and discussed the issue thoroughly, has obtained two separate opinions from accountants and lawyers and has provided the members and the public with a wealth of information.

The plan is no magic bullet but anyone who says it is being rushed into, won't pass muster with the courts or the IRS, or that the ASHA is "hiding": anything, simply doesn't have their facts straight.

Unfortunately, personalities have been injected into the debate with Executive Secretary Alan Balch and President Fred Sarver being unfairly attacked. A letter allegedly written by Hoppy Bennett and published on the National Horseman web site was over the line and Fred and Alan deserve better.

This reorganization is simply a step in the right direction and has been endorsed by a lot of committed and qualified horse people, not to mention lawyers and accountants. If you have questions, come to the Convention and participate but remember we are all in this together and don't have time for personal vendettas or attacks on people who are striving to improve this wonderful breed of horse.

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