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Letter From Anne Stafford


To All American Saddlebred Horse Enthusiasts:

I am writing this letter to anyone who has an interest in the American Saddlebred horse. I believe we need to address a problem that as a breeder I feel is long overdue. We are raising a wonderful animal, yet we are continuing to promote two misconceptions: one is that they are only for the wealthy, the other is that they are crazy and hard to ride.

We can start to change these two misconceptions with some serious thought to what makes other breeds fly where we have failed. It is not the horse but the promotion. Perhaps we are asking some horses to do something they are incapable of doing thus they become labeled as unruly, hard to ride or just no count.

We enjoy saying our horses are the aristocrats of the horse world, but soon it will make no difference if no one is breeding, riding or wanting to show them.

No one has any trouble selling a superstar but superstars are in the eyes of the beholder. We want to raise great horses but we must be able to sell ALL that we raise profitably. We no longer have a market for the medium-priced horse because we have no place to show them. We have absolutely NO entry level classes for the riders who are getting into the horse business after the age of 10. When the pleasure division was developed it created a place for a nice horse that was not a stake horse. The country pleasure division added to that and now the academy division has made a place for some of these horses. All of theses divisions have flourished to the point that the pleasure division is so competitive it has lost its purpose for the beginning rider.

I think it is time for us to realize people do not continue to breed and raise American Saddlebred horses because they cannot market them. As professional horsemen, riding instructors, breeders and owners, I would like to see all of us encourage a new division or two. One division I suggest is novice rider classes in any division. This will give the entry-level rider an opportunity to compete and win. Another division I suggest is non-canter classes. The third division is a gaited division. I truly believe that this would in time be as big as our pleasure division. It should be a performance class for the American Saddlebred horse shown only at the slow gait and rack. Imagine how many people who could learn to love to ride an American Saddlebred horse if that was what they wanted to do. Take away the negatives and the errors. Everyone knows that showing is fun and a learning experience, but it is a lot more fun when you are WINNING!

When an adult wants to learn to ride or considers getting back into the horse business after being away from it for some years, it is almost impossible to compete in the classes that are offered. Think of the options we would have to offer with these classes in place. Why don’t we learn from other breed disciplines how to market our horse?

Think how this could impact the industry for the horse trainer, owner, breeder and exhibitor. Think how this could impact the small shows. For this to work the UPHA and ASHA will have to endorse the idea. Horse show managers as well as individuals, will have to be supportive of it. If this is not in your plan, don’t do it, but don’t knock it because it will eventually filter down or up to you. If we can draw people into the breed and help them enjoy competing they WILL buy a better one. Call the classes and divisions first year novice rider, first and/or second year green or whatever. We must encourage people to get into the American Saddlebred industry. The “big money” programs are super but we need to encourage our grassroots. This would help everyone in the business now and assure some future for the breed. No matter how wonderful the horse or how expensive he is, if there is no base to this pyramid it will soon be non-existent.

Anne Neil Stafford

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