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Forums to be Held at ASHA Annual Meeting

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The American Saddlebred Horse Association will once again hold its annual meeting at the Embassy Suites in Lexington, Ky., Feb. 20-21, 2004. This year's agenda has been expanded to include a variety of forums and seminars for Friday and Saturday.

For anyone involved in breeding Saddlebreds, Friday offers many opportunities for dialogue and learning. The day begins at 9:30 a.m. with a panel discussion on specific issues facing today's stallion owners and managers; it is open to everyone interested in learning more about the American Saddlebred breeding industry. Starting at 10:30 a.m. and immediately following the panel discussion will be a question and answer session with Dr. Peter Sheerin, an equine reproduction specialist from Rood & Riddle, a full-service equine hospital, known and respected for its innovative and highly skilled treatment of horses.

Running concurrently with the stallion session at 9:30 a.m. is the Sport Horse Forum. On the panel are Judy Gassman and her trainer Chrissa Hoffman from Full Circle Dressage in Pendleton, Ky. Hoffman is an instructor, trainer and FEI rider, who holds both Bronze and Silver Medals and is currently working toward her Gold Medal. Judy Gassman owns two Morgan horses and is one of the riders at Full Circle Dressage. Joining them will be Debbie Banfield, a trainer, instructor, clinician, judge and competitor with Gayla Driving Center in Georgetown, Ky. Her methods are solid and long lasting, and she has experience with practically all breeds of horses and ponies.

"We are so pleased to have these women, who are so accomplished in their fields and also familiar with our breed, come and speak to our members about Saddlebreds and their discipline," said Judy Werner, ASHA Sport Horse Committee Chair.

Friday afternoon begins at 1:30 p.m. with a presentation on the "X-Factor," the large heart in the American Saddlebred breed. Marianna Haun, who has written two books about the large heart in Thoroughbreds and a two-part series in American Saddlebred addressing this genetic trait in the American Saddlebred breed, will conduct the seminar. Dr. Fred Fregin, who actually measures horses' hearts using a portable ECG machine, will also be available during the session.

Saturday begins with the ASHA Annual Membership Meeting and Open Forum. Jay Hickey, with the American Horse Council, will address the membership. Representatives from the World's Championship Horse Show will discuss different aspects of the show and will be available to answer any questions.

Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., two forums will be conducted. The first one is aimed at the amateur/owner/trainer. Pat Borders, who will moderate the forum, said, "As an amateur/owner/trainer, I am so excited to be involved with this forum. Regardless of whether or not you actively train your own horses, this forum is about learning how to be a better horseman and how to listen to your horse."

There will be a panel discussion with Rob Byers, Smith Lilly, and special speaker Eitan Beth-Halachmy, a fifth-generation Israeli, and his American-born wife Debbie own and operate Wolf Creek Ranch outside Sacramento, California, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Eitan received his formal horsemanship training from Adam George, Director of the Israeli National Stud and former Hungarian cavalry officer. In addition, he spent two years in Vienna, studying pre-veterinary medicine and cleaning stalls at the Spanish Riding School, where he observed the harmony that can exist between horse and rider. However, it was his love for the freedom represented by the American cowboy that brought Eitan to merge the two disciplines together.

Joining Eitan on the panel are Rob Byers, Shelbyville, Kentucky, and Smith Lilly, Princeton, West Virginia. Both are respected Saddlebred trainers who enjoy the breed for all that it has to offer. Rob and Smith are very excited to be able to contribute their knowledge of the horse in this format.

The panelists will each make a presentation: Rob Byers – Bits, Smith Lilly – Training Issues, and Eitan Beth-Halachmy – Teaching Self Carriage. Questions and discussion on those and other topics will be encouraged. "We are hoping to foster an atmosphere where people will not be afraid to ask a question," said Kayce Bell, ASHA convention coordinator. "This forum is meant to be a time of learning in a fun and relaxed manner. We hope that everyone will take advantage of the panelists we have available."

Due to the response ASHA has had to this particular forum, anyone interested in attending only this forum may register for a fee of $25.

Running at the same time will be a forum for parents of children involved in riding programs, and for people interested in purchasing their first horse. "Riding and being involved with horses taught me lessons that have carried over into all areas of my life," said Vicki Gillenwater, past winner of two ASHA Sportsmanship Awards – Frank Ogletree for youth and Lurline Roth for adults. Serving on the panel will be trainers and parents discussing the benefits of riding, what's involved in buying and keeping a horse, and things to know should your child enter the competitive arena; they will also be available to answer any questions you may have.

Please visit the ASHA Web site at for details regarding the ASHA Annual Meeting; new information is posted frequently, and registration is available online. Registration packets and Board of Directors election ballots were mailed to all active ASHA members in mid-January.

Embassy Suites' discounted group rate is $110 per night and includes a full breakfast. To make reservations, call Embassy Suites at 1-800-EMBASSY and mention the ASHA Annual Meeting code "AMS" to receive the special discounted room rate. To reserve on the Internet, go to, click on FIND A HOTEL, enter Lexington, Kentucky, click FIND IT, then BOOK A ROOM, and enter convention code "AMS" to receive the discounted group rate. This rate is available until Feb. 3, 2004.

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