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NOLA-This One Is Going To Be Hard To Top!

by Leeann Mione

NEW ORLEANS, La., - Kudos to the UPHA and Chapters six and seven for putting together a combined UPHA/AHHS Convention that will be one to talk about for years to come.

Boston will be the host city for next year’s convention and Chapter 14 has effectively been issued a throwdown. They definitely will have their work cut out for them to top the success of this year’s event.

With a dramatic increase in attendance and a completely revamped agenda, this convention was fun, informative, important and easy-to-enjoy. The Big Easy provided a terrific location and the UPHA and chapters six and seven capitalized on that fact.

With Bourbon Street a short walk away and the gastronomic adventures that New Orleans provides, the schedule this year allowed time to actually get out and enjoy the city.

Thursday evening has traditionally been reserved for the AHHS National and Regional Awards banquet but this year a "Welcome Party" was planned instead. Buses provided transportation from the host hotel, Sheraton New Orleans, and the buses made trip after trip to get everybody to Barbe Smith’s Cascade Stables in Audubon Park because so many people wanted to come.

The Welcome Party was a fantastic way to start the weekend’s agenda. It was a unifying event. A place to eat and drink together, catch up with each other after the holidays, and just relax and have fun.

How nice for those that had come to New Orleans early for judging clinics or meetings to have a great place to go that provided an atmosphere, a Saddlebred stable, that is familiar and comfortable to just about all of us. For those that traveled to New Orleans Thursday, having somewhere to eat, drink and see fellow attendees rather than having to try to navigate through a perhaps unfamiliar city to find a place for dinner or entertainment was a welcome change.

The huge heated tent provided plenty of room for the big crowd and the buffet kept them coming back for more. Smith and her support team even provided authentic New Orleans and Mardi Gras touches. The Red Hot Marching Band paraded through the crowd. The riding lieutenants of the Mardi Gras Krewe Of Hermes made an appearance with the horses in a parade outside the tent.

The famous Roman Candy cart, complete with Ada, the mule that pulls it, was set up in one corner of the tent and it seemed there was barely a minute when somebody wasn’t taking somebody else’s picture with her.

Roman Candy, a uniquely New Orleans tradition, is a form of hand pulled taffy that only comes in three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It proved to be extremely popular and was yet another "New Orleans" touch at the Welcome Party.

The positive comments began not long after the Welcome Party started and they continued all weekend and even after the convention was over.

Utilizing social media for many different purposes in the horse industry was a hot topic all weekend with presentations during the Friday morning round table discussions and presentation at the UPHA Associate Membership meeting.

The power of social media and its ability to convey messages almost instantly was dramatically proven on Barbe Smith’s (Inducted into the 2009 UPHA Helen Crabtree Equitation Hall Of Fame) Facebook page (comments printed with her permission). Some of the comments posted were:

"Thanks again for all you and everyone with the Cascade family did to make the convention so great. UPHA in NOLA was awesome! And congrats on your award, well deserved."

"Thank you for all the work you did on the was the best! Congratulations on your award."

"Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into making sure we had a great time!! Its been one of the best! Congrats on your award!"

"Thanks for everything you did for all of us at the convention! It was the best ever! Congrats on the award, you deserve it. Miss ya, love ya!"

"Barbe - Congrats on your award! You more than deserved it. And also - Thanks for the greatest convention ever. You all put so much time and effort into it and we all appreciate it."

"UPHA in New Orleans is by far the best Convention we have ever had!! Congrats to you Barbe and all that helped you with it!"

"It was the best EVER!!!!! you guys did a great job and thank you so much for showing us all a fantastic time!!!"

For those of you reading those comments here for the first time, it’s been less than a week since the convention ended and they are already "old news". That’s how quickly information is disseminated by the internet and various social media sites such as Facebook, twitter and MySpace.

The party kicked off a convention that rocked all weekend and it was just the beginning of the "feel good" atmosphere.

Sponsors are essential to the success of virtually any endeavor in the horse business and a long list of sponsors provided time, money and hard work to ensure that people enjoyed their time in New Orleans.

The continental breakfast was provided Friday morning by Victory Lane Stables, Patrice Watson and Tommy Benton and got the morning started right.

Friday morning, the UPHA got down to business with the Active membership meeting. Officers were elected for 2010 after the nominating committee of Larry Bacon, Jim Taylor and Jimmy Robertson put forth their recommendations earlier in the year.

James Nichols was reelected President, Bret Day will again serve as first vice president and Gary Garone will remain as second vice president.

Jimmy Robertson then took the podium to speak about the upcoming FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. A concerted effort is being made to make sure Saddlebreds are well represented at the games and an application form for participation was handed out to attendees. The World Equestrian Games Committee (WEG) is asking anyone interested to donate horses for the presentations themed "The American Saddlebred-The Horse For Those 7-70" during the event. Applications are due back to Germaine Johnson, of the planning committee, by March 1, 2010.

Horses need to be available for at least four days between Sept. 25 – Oct. 10, 2010. The presentations are to be set to music at least 30 minutes in length including time required to enter and exit the ring.

The WEG are held in even numbered years, every four years, between the Olympic Games. ASHA President Judy Werner appointed Jimmy Robertson, Germaine Johnson, Marilyn Macfarlane, Nelson Green, Mary Ann Cronan, Laurel Nelson, Rob Byers and Elizabeth Shatner to the ASHA WEG committee to plan and execute the showcasing of Saddlebreds during the games and the national and international exposure to our breed will be unprecedented.

The roundtable format has been popular since its inception several years ago and Friday morning seven topics were presented.

Lori Nelson, from USEF, joined Werner, Fran Crumpler and John Conatser in a discussion on how to initiate and follow through on a proposed USEF Rule Change.

The discussion was informative and the panel made several interesting points. Proposing a rule change is often easier than you think it will be. When proposing a rule change, make sure the rule doesn’t already exist and ask yourself "Will this benefit competitions five or ten years down the road?. Remember that nothing is singular. Changing one rule automatically changes several others.

Bob Griffin and Sandy Currier led a discussion on marketing your horse or business with DVD’s, web sites, newsletters, etc.

Lots of different information was presented and like many of the roundtables, this was one where people attended the same presentation more than once to soak up the information. Griffin, long a proponent of using the internet to market his Northern Tradition Farm and their horses, addressed the various ways to take advantage of the fact that technology is becoming more and more "user friendly". It gets easier all the time to make your own DVD’s or build your own web site.

Currier added tips that she has used to successfully navigate the internet and use it to the advantage of Bluebonnet Farm.

Both stressed that marketing does not equal selling. Just because a horse is showcased on a web site doesn’t mean it is sold. The target audience must be identified. It is still necessary to sell a good, quality horse at a fair price and marketing is a numbers game.

Rich and Maureen Campbell, with Holli McDowell, of Majestic Oaks led a discussion about "How To Pick Your Next Show Pony" and that turned into a discussion about some of their tips on training and deciding which ponies will make it to the show barn and which division they will show in. With a wealth of world and national titles to their credit for Majestic Oaks, the presentation was one that made people stay and listen.

Gary Garone, Kristen Cater and Bob Funkhouser were asked to lead a discussion about how to run a successful UPHA Chapter and UPHA Chapter Horse Show.

They are definitely qualified to speak on the subject as Chapter 14 is the largest and arguably, most active chapter in the UPHA.

Cater has proven her talents at fundraising with her efforts to raise money for the UPHA Pink Ribbon program in 2009. The success of Chapter 14 and their horse show is due to their philosophy of making sure everybody is included in the process of achieving goals set forth in their meetings. The Saddlebred and Morgan members work side by side to get things done and the chapter always has an upcoming project to work on.

With more than $60,000 in their bank account and the 2011 UPHA/AHHS National Convention to look forward to in addition to the 2010 UPHA Chapter 14 Horse Show, the group has a very busy year ahead. Kent Moeller, manager of the Chapter 14 show said, "They are the best organized volunteer group ever."

Jim Lowry, Randy Harper, Maria Gilman and Rob Byers encouraged their audience to "Ask The Judges". They spoke about what its like to stand in center ring and be responsible for making the decision on results. Lots of questions were put forth and the overwhelming message from the panel was that it’s much harder than it looks and everybody should have the chance to judge a class at least once in order to be able to gain some perspective about the job of judging a horse show.

Margo Urad, from Rockwall Insurance Agency in Texas and the sister of trainer May Chaddick, has been working with UPHA President James Nichols for more than a year and a half to create a group policy for UPHA members. Regular, standard major medical insurance would be provided by Assurant group and supplemental insurance would be provided by AFLAC.

The very basic "build your own" policy would offer a $25 co-pay for office visit and additional coverages could be designed by the purchaser. Those who take advantage of the policy would have only one phone number to call. Urad will be able to evaluate current policies and advise those interested in taking advantage of the UPHA group policy.

One of the biggest points Urad made was to encourage everyone to evaluate their current insurance policy. One of the biggest mistakes people make with insurance is to become complacent and not re-evaluate their coverage as their life circumstances change.

The Friday afternoon Horse Of The Year Luncheon was a well-attended event as voting for the overall Horse Of The Year winners is limited to those in attendance so it almost always draws a big crowd.

After lunch, James Nichols welcomed the group and then introduced outgoing AHHS President Judy Lowry who thanked the UPHA for including the AHHS Awards presentations in the lunch agenda.

She presented the following awards: Charles and Barbara Fitzpatrick won the Mr. and Mrs. John Costello Breeder Of The Year Award. Steve Kildow won the Lydia Luhmen Pederson Distinguished Service Award. Larry Bacon accepted on his behalf.

Stephany Monteleone, the home town girl, was named the Anna Lee Spires Judd Amateur Exhibitor Of The Year.

Caroline Rainbolt-Forbes won the Spirit Of The Medallion Award and Charles Gassen was named the Junior Exhibitor/Youth Of The Year.

Rich and Maureen Campbell closed out the AHHS presentations when they were awarded the Bill G. Robinson Trainer Of The Year award.

The Hackney awards were followed by the UPHA Horse and Pony Of The Year Class Winners presentation. (See separate edit this issue).

The group moved from the luncheon to the UPHA Associate Membership Meeting which was open to all convention goers and was an extremely informative session.

President Dr. Owen Weaver introduced Elizabeth McMillan, of, who spoke about "Rethinking The Horse Business-Succeeding In A Changed World".

How are the economy, the horse industry and the internet affecting business owners?" Answer: Sales are down, leases are up. Show entries are down, lesson program numbers are up. The economy affects all businesses; some positively, some negatively, some quickly and some over time.

Sounds like doom and gloom right? According to statistics, there are 9.2 million horses in the United States and approximately one-third of all families surveyed want to ride or be involved with horses. That is a perhaps shocking statistic. One third of all families in the United States want to be involved with horses? Who knew? That is exactly the point.

According to McMillan, people believe that horses are inaccessible. They want to be involved, but they don’t know how to go about it. Her presentation centered on how marketing has changed in the last couple of years. The Internet and social media are tools too powerful and too essential to be ignored in efforts to draw in new clients and promote a business.

Next on the afternoon’s agenda was the Equitation Forum which began with the highly entertaining video created by Donna Smith, Julie Anne Wroble, Bob Griffin, Tom Thorpe and Kristen Gilbert that was presented at the 2009 clinic.

Scooter Scheurich and Avery Bul were patient and willing "guinea pigs" and headed to the front of the room to showcase how to dress for the show ring and how not to dress for the show ring.

Bob Griffin and Donna Smith spoke about the 2009 Good Hands Finals that were held for the first time at Mid America Mane Event Horse Show. A tremendous effort was made by the committee to make the finals the successful event that it was.

Brooke Jacobs took the podium to speak about World Cup for 2010 which will be held in Shelbyville, [Ky.] and the winners will be presented at the World Equestrian Games.

Helen and Jimmy Robertson will be the coaches for the Three-Gaited Team and Barbe Smith and James Nichols will be the coaches for the Five-Gaited Team. Applications for World Cup are due by Jan. 15, 2010 and can be accessed on the web site:

Kathy Boggs, Lynn Harvey McNamara and Liz McBride-Jones closed out the session with a presentation about judging standards. All three have a wealth of experience judging in the equitation and performance divisions and prior to their presentation, they gathered comments from other judges about some of their "pet peeves" in the show ring. Those varied and numerous comments resulted in lots of conversation and questions from the crowd.

Friday evening’s awards banquet with the UPHA Live Auction is always an eagerly anticipated event and this year the "feel good" atmosphere was pervasive which led several generous bidders to open their wallets and raise even more money than last year.

The Condo in Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia was the highest selling item of the night. Ron and Liz Jones had the winning bid of $3,700. The Shelbyville Horse Show package which included a table for eight on the second level of the stands for the whole week as well as gate passes and tickets to the horseman’s tent drew a winning bid from Gene van der Walt of $3,500.

Those were just two of the 13 items that were auctioned off to raise a total of more than $23,000 for the UPHA.

The silent auction also had numerous items available for bidding and it generated more than $8,000 total by the end of the convention.

Friday night is dedicated to presenting the Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award, Instructor of the Year Award, Herman Miles Horse Show Manager Of The Year Award, Associate Member Of The Year Award, and the Shirley Parkinson Professional Achievement Award. (See separate edits this issue).

Before those awards were presented, Sarah Byers spoke to the crowd about the success of the Ribbons Of Service program, Nancy Herbert spoke about the UPHA’s success raising money in the Pink Ribbon program and Barbe Smith took the microphone to not only thank everyone for coming to her beloved New Orleans and the convention but also to let them know how much the UPHA Benevolent Fund benefited her after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The national honor shows were also named and for 2009 Midwest Charity was the winner for the Saddlebred division and Southern States was selected as the Morgan National Honor Show.

In year’s past, dancing and music have closed out the evening and sometimes a big group stays to take advantage of it, but often its only a few that are left to heat up the dance floor.

This year, the UPHA and convention organizers took advantage of the city of New Orleans and acknowledged that most of the people there wanted to go out and play on Bourbon Street. True to their predictions, a large group headed out "en masse".

The move saved money for not only the UPHA but chapters six and seven and with such a nice, accommodating hotel serving as the host hotel, even those who didn’t want to go out and about, could relax comfortably at the lobby bar and lounge. The mood certainly didn’t indicate that the music and dancing was missed.

Saturday morning started with the continental breakfast provided by Mr and Mrs. Ed Perwein, Jean Huffstickler and Rusty Colvard.

The group then moved into the grand ballrooms for the UPHA General Membership meeting. The meeting is always interesting and also informative. Chapter Chairpersons give their reports on the financial status and goals/accomplishments of their chapters from the previous year.

James Nichols, Bret Day, Gary Garone and Tammie Conatser led the meeting and almost every chapter was represented.

Brent Jacobs briefly reviewed the updated bylaws of both the UPHA Membership Organization and the UPHA Foundation. Most revisions, according to Jacobs, were housekeeping issues – formally putting in writing things the UPHA had already been doing for years.

Bret Day was next to take the podium to address the crowd about the 2010 UPHA Classics Incentive Sale as well as to discuss why the 2009 sale was cancelled.

A new sale committee for 2010 has been formed and includes John Jones, Jimmy Robertson, Bret Day and Kim Crumpler. The 2010 sale will include yearlings and two-year-olds in training. Day acknowledged that they believe yearlings to truly be the base of the sale and their inclusion is vital to the sale’s success.

For 2010 at Kansas City, the schedule has been revamped and the sale will start at Thursday evening immediately following the UPHA Classics Championships. The UPHA Exceptional Cup will be moved to 6 pm Friday evening and the Tom Bass Mo-Kan Five-Gaited Championship will be moved as well which, the group estimates, should allow the Thursday evening session to end by approximately 8:30pm. Hors d’oevres will be served and the sale will have a "party-like" atmosphere to also celebrate the UPHA Classics.

Videos of colts for the sale can be sent to the UPHA to be posted on their web site. The committee says that the input they have received regarding the schedule change indicates that people would rather stay up late than have to get up early in the morning so the move from Saturday morning should prove to be a good one.

Chapter horsepersons and horse shows of the year were also presented at the meeting (see separate edit this issue).

The Rule Change Forum was led by Fran Crumpler, Lori Nelson from USEF, Bret Day, Jimmy Robertson and James Nichols.

Judy Werner took the microphone to address the issue of a proposed general rule change regarding the use of multiple NSaids. The hot topic drew lots of comments from the group.

One of the proposed Saddlebred rule changes would allow a horse sold as a three-or five-gaited pony during the competition year to change divisions with the new owner.

The topic of whether or not the height restriction for Saddle-type ponies should be raised from 14.2 to 15 hands was also another hot button issue, with some arguing that it would give some of the smaller horses that currently measure above 14.2 a place to compete competitively. Others worried that it would pull horses out of the 15.2 and under three-gaited division and raise the selling price of saddle type ponies.

One of the saddle seat equitation division proposed rule changes was disapproved by the majority in a straw vote. The group disapproved of removing test 1 (addressing the reins) for safety reasons, feeling that it was a valid test that should remain. The straw poll vote to eliminate test 14 (dropping irons) in the adult saddle seat equitation division was approved by the majority.

Whether or not a workout should be required in a saddle seat equitation championship if there is only one entry also drew lots of comments and the straw poll opposed that change by a majority. Most seemed to feel that it is not the rider’s fault they are the only entry in the championship and most riders and instructors welcome the chance to perform the workout for the audience and to gain additional practice with a workout.

Straw votes are taken at the general membership meeting for many proposed rule changes to give the committee important feedback about how the majority feels about a proposed change when they go to the USEF National Convention.

The roadster division proposed rule changes were for the most part, just a formality. Jimmy Robertson stepped in to review the proposed changes in Mike Felty’s absence.

While the UPHA was having their general membership meeting, the AHHS gathered for their general membership meeting. New officers were elected at the Saturday morning board meeting and the results were announced to the group.

Randy Harper was elected president, Carl Nichols will now serve as vice president, Vern Houston will remain as treasurer and Kathy Barlow will remain as secretary.

The AHHS Open Competition Awards as well as the USEF Regional Awards for the Hackney division were presented as well. (See separate edit this issue).

The move of the Limited Breeders Stallion Service Auction to its own event in February instead of its traditional Saturday afternoon luncheon, was met with approval as well.

Lunchtime Saturday offered three great options – it seemed there was something for everyone. The Hackney group moved to their luncheon where the fantastic new video to promote the Hackney breed was presented. The Hackney Foundation created the approximately 30 minute long video which should be an important tool in bringing new people to the breed.

The Morgan luncheon was also on the schedule. One of their biggest topics of conversation was a proposal to change the qualification requirements for Morgan Horse Of The Year Awards. The group recommended that awards be added in more divisions to make it easier to qualify. They also recommended that western and hunter divisions be added.

Tim Roesink was named to head a committee that will take the proposal to the UPHA Board Of Directors meeting in April where it will be voted on. If the changes are approved, they will go into effect for 2010.

The group at the luncheon also reviewed the proposed USEF Rule Proposals that will be going to the 2010 Rules Forums held throughout the country and the stallion owner signature change for AMHA registrations.

The first ever Youth Luncheon to honor the Ribbons Of Service participants was not only a great event, but was completely sold out with 100 tickets sold. Once again, kudos to the UPHA for recognizing and rewarding one of the most worthwhile causes supported by UPHA members in 2009.

The passion of Helen Robertson and a big undertaking with help from Sarah Byers and the equitation committee, the Ribbons Of Service program made volunteers of both parents and junior exhibitors by the end of the year.

The high point of the afternoon was arguably watching the Ribbons Of Service participants present a check for more than $33,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Carson Kressley was a featured speaker and as always was entertaining and dynamic, but even he took a backseat to Allyson White, a cancer patient of St. Jude’s who, along with her family, came to the luncheon and put a face to the cause of why it is so important for our industry to help wherever we can.

White took the microphone and for the briefest of moments worried whether she’d be able to follow Kressley, but she soon warmed up and was obviously right at home in front of the crowd. Her story is just one of many of the young people and their families that are helped by St. Jude’s and it was apparent by the end if the luncheon that she may just be a horse fan.

Rachel Machamer, Audrey Lowry and Aleia Brown were also recognized for their terrific accomplishments with the Ribbons Of Service program, as was Machamer’s trainer Lynda Freseth.

Dale Becker, one of the generous sponsors of the scholarship and prize money for Ribbons Of Service, along with UPHA Chapters six and seven, donated a $600 gift certificate to Becker Brothers Clothiers. Fay Lowry, well known trainer in her own right and mom of Audrey Lowry, won the gift certificate.

To sum up how important it was to include the luncheon in the schedule, the words of Andy Freseth are perhaps the most fitting. Freseth said at the event, "I have never been so proud to be a member of the UPHA as I am today."

Like last year, Saturday afternoon was left open so people could do whatever they wanted. It was a perfect way to end the "business" part of the convention and get everybody reenergized for the Saturday night dinner and awards gala.

After cocktail hour which drew a big crowd, decked out in their finest, dinner was served. After dinner, the UPHA Classic Champions and UPHA Challenge Cup Champions were presented, then it was on to the traditional Saturday night awards which included the UPHA Morgan, Hackney and Saddlebred Overall Horse of the Year winners (see separate edit this issue), as well as the young trainer, equitation instructor hall of fame, professional horseman of the year, first ever lifetime achievement award and the Tom Moore UPHA Hall Of Fame Inductions.

The evening’s dinner and awards ceremony, like the night before, was emotional with heartfelt acceptance speeches and presentations that brought tears and smiles at the same time.

New Orleans herself is a city that often evokes emotion and she was the perfect hostess, along with chapters six and seven for one of the best conventions in recent years. Boston…game on!

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