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Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

As a participant in the horse world all of my life, I am extremely disturbed over the most recent actions taken by the USEF appointed Saddlebred Committee. Saddlebred Committee, by its name alone, implies interest having to with Saddlebred Horses. In the Saddlebred world, what more fundamental Saddlebred organization is there than the American Saddlebred Horse Association?

Having served myself as an ASHA board and committee member for more than 13 years, I can attest to the difficult tasks which require precious time and hard work, all performed in an effort to maintain or “make better” this Saddlebred world we live in. Therefore, I have a great deal of respect for those who serve.

Fred Sarver, president of ASHA, has openly solicited input and worked hard with members of UPHA and USEF in an effort to contribute to a resolution of tough issues. The “low back” issue which the following changes address is one such issue. From these efforts the rule changes to article 3502.2, 3505 and 3508 were put forth.

These changes were allowed to go through the thorough and lengthy process of discussion, voting by the ASHA board of directors, presentation at the UPHA Convention in open forum, voted by the board of directors of UPHA, then on to the USEF appointed Saddlebred Committee where they were finalized.

The other rule change pending to article 3505 referred to as “The Munford Rule” was approved and amended by the Saddlebred Committee, presented to the UPHA in open forum and voted by the board of directors of UPHA, then passed on to the Saddlebred Committee. Prior to the Saddlebred Committee convening Fred Sarver, ASHA president, presented a memorandum dated Jan. 9. In it, Sarver advised the Saddlebred Committee that ASHA had not had the opportunity to discuss nor weigh in on this proposed and newly amended rule change.

Despite this notice, chairperson of the Saddlebred Committee took action on the Munford Rule and after this committee twice being deadlocked, one vote was wrangled and the Munford Rule was approved to be forwarded to USEF as a rule change.

Take note of the two very different approaches to adapting these most current rule changes. One, presented by ASHA is inclusive in that both ASHA and UPHA were included, the other exclusive in that it purposely excluded ASHA from “weighing in.”

You may agree or disagree with the end product by change, but any reasonable person knows that this sort of exclusion in a small world such as ours is a most destructive element because of the divisiveness it fosters.

These above mentioned rule change proposals are important. Both ASHA and UPHA have public perception, decades of tradition, as well as their highest standards and ideals at risk, therefore feelings are strong, appeals are passionate. ASHA has based some of its reward programs on the premise that championships put horses under the most stringent scrutiny. Discussion and debate on such issues are not to be feared but are a necessary part of the process toward a resolution. Few would expect everyone to agree or be totally satisfied, but to deny members or associations the opportunity to “weigh in” is wrong.

The unwillingness of the Saddlebred Committee to table the Munford Rule until ASHA could weigh in on it only seeks to promote feelings of futility, mistrust and suspicion and undermines the good faith relationship, cooperation, and respect which officers and members of ASHA, UPHA and USEF have worked to hard to nurture.

One might argue that ASHA representatives on the Saddlebred Committee have failed in protecting the interests of ASHA. Representation is not a replacement for open discussion and voting the board of directors and with the sequence of meetings and convention dates which occur between Kansas City Royal (where the Saddlebred Committee meets) to the USEF Convention (where changes are written into rule) one cannot be prepared.

Consider this time line: 1. Nov. 22, Saddlebred Committee adopts and amends Munford Rule change. Thanksgiving Holiday, Christmas Holiday, New Year’s Holiday. 2. Jan. 9-10 at the UPHA Convention rules presented and discussed in open forum and Munford Rule amended again, UPHA board of directors approval. 3. Jan. 10, Saddlebred Committee holds meeting and votes to finalize the Munford Rule.

In no more than 50 days during the holiday season a rule change is passed through the system and ASHA is shut out. ASHA holds its annual open forum, committee meetings and board of directors meetings in February. Even if these convention dates were changed it would be impossible to insert them between the November Saddlebred Committee meeting and the USEF Convention.

Some consider this hasty action taken by the Saddlebred Committee to be a successful attempt at railroading. Some declare it to be arrogant and irresponsible. I hope it’s simply an error in judgment made under intense heat and political influence existing in the atmosphere at the UPHA Convention where the Saddlebred Committee decided to hold its final meeting before the USEF Convention.

The Saddlebred Committee serves as liaison between Saddlebred organizations and USEF. ASHA must be allowed to participate. I call upon the Saddlebred Committee to rectify this injustice by respecting the rights and the importance of the ASHA organization and its board of directors. In the Mission Statement of ASHA is clearly states as its first charge, to “safeguard the integrity.” ASHA cannot be excluded but must be included in all changes which occur. It is in the best interest of all of us to work together.


Joan A. Hamilton

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