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Not If---We Will!

ASHA Convention Wraps With Optimistic Look Toward 2005

by Lynn Hutchinson

A large group of interested breeders, owners, exhibitors and just plain lovers of the American Saddlebred gathered for what many thought was an uplifting convention. The battle cry turned out to be “Not if this and if that---it was We Will!”

A full day of committee meetings highlighted the opening day of the 2005 American Saddlebred Horse Association Convention at Embassy Suites Hotel in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, Feb. 17.

For the first time in ASHA history, all committee meetings were open to members for auditing and participation. The morning included sessions for finance, breeders, futurities, sweepstakes and Grand National.

Members attending the finance committee meeting received a full briefing on the sound financial condition of the organization, as well as detailed materials documenting the investment portfolios and the 2005 budgets.

It was standing room only for the breeders’ committee, with several spirited debates. Several discussed rule requirements, including the requirement for signed Breeders’ Certificates as a prerequisite for foal registration, a new idea discussed (and voted down) for special late foal annual registrations, and a very lengthy debate that continued into the futurity meeting on class conduct for the in hand Kentucky Futurities.

A wide-ranging discussion included several ideas for improvements in class conduct for large in hand events. Finally, the committee voted to maintain the existing discretion of the judges in how they conduct the events, but to include a strong recommendation (but not a requirement) that in large classes the top colts should get a second lead.

In the Grand National and sweepstakes committee meetings, several ideas were advanced about better marketing these programs. Chair Bill Wise and All American Cup founder Jim Aikman offered valuable insights as to the history of such programs, and the need for personal commitment and aggressive marketing to wider audiences in order to help them reach their full potential.

Strong attendance continued in the afternoon for committee meetings for pleasure horses, standards and rules, and the registry. Attention in all three meetings centered on rules and rule making, with committees and members updated on the registry’s own internal rule making, as well as the United States Equestrian Federation rules. In the registry committee meeting, several possible updates in the rules were opened for discussion, including some which had been rendered obsolete over the years.

A major issue discussed was the possibility of adopting new rules for naming Saddlebreds, to permit reuse of names after a 40 year time period, much like the Thoroughbred industry, excluding names of horses whose accomplishments merited inclusion in the ASHA Reference Directory. No formal action was taken, but staff was directed to further research the ideas presented and prepared new rule language for consideration.

Friday morning began with forum titled Understanding The Proposed Corporate Reorganization. The new reorganization was explained to the large group with many positive questions being asked.

Alan F. Balch, ASHA Executive Secretary, gave the timeline for this and stated, “This whole thing isn’t a requirement or necessity but should help keep our costs from rising.” It was the general feeling as the audience left the room that this reorganization is probably a very positive move for this organization.

A forum titled "Marketing the American Saddlebred as a Sport Horse" was held. Carriage expert Barry Dickinson, FEI Level Dressage Trainer and Judge Johanna Gwinn, American Saddlebred Sport Horse Association Founder Julie Lynn Andrew and Sue Skipper, owner of 2003 Open and Purebred Reserve Champion The Lady Stella, discussed the Saddlebred as a sport horse. This discussion centered on marketing and advertising the breed to the sport horse community, as well as improving the breed’s reputation within sport horse disciplines. Later a well attended Sport Horse luncheon was held with Barry Dickinson acting as featured speaker. Year end awards were given out in the dressage, driving, eventing, hunter, jumper, distance riding and sport horse in hand disciplines.

Fran Crumpler and Tim Lockard co-chaired the USEF Rule Change forum. A rule will be in effect that states that minors will not be allowed to operate a motorized vehicle on the show grounds, including such things as golf carts, motorized scooters, etc. A rule which was well accepted.

A rather lengthy conversation took place about whether to allow the use of urethane compounds in a country pleasure horse’s foot. This action caused a rather mixed discussion with Bob Ruxer stating, “this our last free standing horse in their purist form.” The committee assured everyone present that this question definitely will be pursued.

A seminar was held on Lordosis and Epitheliogenesis Imperfecta (E.I.), discussing the status of ongoing research and latest developments. Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Dr. Gus Cothran and Dr. Alan Raun updated the membership on the study of both conditions. Drs. Gallagher and Cothran have been doing extensive research on the two genetic problems. The ASHA is funding these studies.

American Horse Council Chief Operating Officer Nichole Lamoureux updated the membership on a number of equine issues that are up for discussion in Washington, D.C. Cheryll M. Frank also gave an update on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and what it means to the equine industry. This all took place in the American Horse Council: Equine Issues on Capitol Hill seminar.

The forum Increase the Breeding of the American Saddlebred and How it Relates to Futurity Involvement was well attended. Jim Aikman, owner of Hide-A-Way Farms and founder of the All American Cup led the forum discussing today’s futurities. It focused on the training of colts, the idea of good show colts later making good show horses and increasing futurity participation and pay outs. Aikman’s All American Cup provided the largest prize money ever offered in any Saddlebred competition. Aikman stated, “Think positive---you can do it! And yes, good colts make good horses.”

More than 200 youth attended youth activities and demonstrations presented by William Woods University. Participants learned new skills and strengthened their equine knowledge by taking part in these fun activities and demonstrations. Laura Ward, Division Chair of Equestrian Studies, was on hand to give advice on pursuing a career in the equine industry.

As the youth were enjoying themselves, the adults attended “The House of Bourbon: Bourbon County’s Saddlebred Kingdom” at the American Saddlebred Museum. The main event of the evening was a bourbon tasting hosted by Blanton’s Age International, winner of The International Wine and Spirit Competition’s Gold Award from 1999 through 2003. Dinner was hosted through the generosity of the following Bourbon County Farms: Escondida Farm, Hillcroft Farm, Leatherwood Stud LLC and Winding Creek Farm.

Saturday morning began with the youth awards breakfast with "academy award" medals being presented to those who earned their gold, silver or bronze medallions for their participation and success in 2004. Next it was off on the youth field trip, beginning with Conatser’s Carriage Lane Farm, Nelson Green Stables and Bill and Nancy Becker’s Shadow Run.

In the afternoon, attendees were given a behind-the-scenes tour of The Red Mile. Established in 1875, The Red Mile is the home of Standardbred harness racing and has been the host of the Lexington Junior League Horse Show since 1937. Suzie Teater gave a tour of the Tattersalls sale pavilion.

The youth awards luncheon was held at The Red Mile clubhouse with youth clubs receiving outstanding achievement awards. ASHA juvenile choice award winners and the photo contest winners were also recognized.

As the youth were having a great time the adults were keeping busy, starting with the ASHA open forum “Brainstorming the Future of the American Saddlebred." This forum contained ASHA leadership and staff reports on 2004 finances, statistics, long and short-term trends and forecasts. It was stated that we have a declining number of registrations and declining transfers. Our membership is on an upswing with a big spike in 2004. There is a growth of membership in the senior members, the youth and also lifetime memberships.

“We have a tremendous amount of data but then don’t use the data in the best way possible," said Balch. "We have a great deal more marketing to do with our priority being the health and growth among our breed in the United States. We have to turn our thoughts into generating revenue. We cannot be content with our registrations being on a level plateau in a growing economy.”

The floor was then opened up to the general membership, quite a large crowd, and many had ideas to express. After listening to this whole discussion it made one realize that many do care about our Saddlebred industry and that this association is open to new ideas.

Anne Stafford, Frank Barnett and Dr. Alan Raun discussed the perceptions of the Saddlebred by existing and potential markets. This whole discussion opened up a lot of thoughts and discussion. Ideas such as, “we should be selling fun,” to “there are no grass roots classes," to “our breed is perceived as being too expensive,” and “we should find some way to have our instructors keep their amateur status,” were discussed. Of the many ideas presented, “We have to find a need and fill it. No one really “needs” a horse,” seemed to be discussed the most.

The annual luncheon was held in honor of the ASHA charter clubs, the national pleasure champions, the Breeder’s Award winners, the Castleton Award presentation and the ASHA Charter Club of the Year Award. This was sponsored by the ASAC (American Saddlebred Association of the Carolinas). Featured speaker was Kentucky senator Damon Thayer who serves as vice president of the Breeders’ Cup and event marketing for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. He addressed the large crowd about a bill pending in the Kentucky legislature to provide incentives for Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and other breeds. The American Saddlebred may qualify for a portion of an amount in excess of $1 million annually to increase breeding.

During this luncheon a slide show introduced the Breeder’s Awards champions with presentations following the slide show. The presentations are listed elsewhere in this issue.

During the afternoon a book signing was held with Sandra McIntosh, author of the book L.S. Dickey and The Valley Horsemen. She was accompanied by Don Harris, Dudley Abbott and Mary Ann Teater Pardieck. Proceeds from this will go to the American Saddlebred Museum.

An interesting and entertaining forum was held “Filling the Gaps Between Amateurs and Professionals” which focused on amateur owner/trainers and how they can shrink the gaps between amateur and professional skill levels. Betsy Boone served as moderator, with Bret Day, Fran Crumpler and Nealia McCracken discussing what judges look for, suggestions for better grooming and tack fitting skills and more. Patty Lovelace, president of the ASAC amateur owner/trainer club, explained the steps to starting an AOT club.

A breeders forum was held; “The Future of American Saddlebred Breeding” with Dr. Peter Sheerin and Michele LeBlanc from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, and others updating breeders with the latest breeding information. The discussion also looked at the future of equine breeding appealing to broodmare and stallion owners.

The final afternoon wound down with the ASHA board meeting.

Three new directors assumed their positions in leadership: Tim Lockard of Iowa, Paul Treiber of Wisconsin and Art Zubrod of Kentucky, joining Vicki Gillenwater of Tennessee, Fred Sarver of Kentucky and Misdee Wrigley, also of Kentucky, who were returned to the board for additional terms of volunteer service. Outgoing directors Tom Ferrebee, Carolyn Groves and Kris Price Knight completed their terms.

The incoming board met Saturday, Feb. 19 to elect officers. Sarver was reelected as president, Sandra Lilly, of West Virginia, was reelected secretary and David Howard, of Tennessee, was reelected treasurer. Wrigley was elected first vice president, and Mary Anne Cronan was elected second vice president.

More than 1,100 members voted in person or by proxy on a proposal for an internal reorganization of the American Saddlebred Horse Association and ASHA Foundation, which was discussed at length in a previously mentioned forum and formally considered at the annual meeting of members the next morning.

Over 91 percent of the members voting approved the proposal and the directors voted to implement the corporate change beginning at the conclusion of the first quarter, March 31, 2005. A special meeting of the board will be held prior to the transition date to consider actions necessary to effectuate the transaction.

The American Saddlebred Horse Association Foundation, Inc., a public charity, will be renamed the American Saddlebred Horse Association, Inc., and become the membership organization for the breed, led by the 18-member board now in place. That board will elect a nine-member board of directors for the American Saddlebred Registry, Inc. (the current Association), whose assets, except for the breed’s registry, database and prize programs, will be transferred to the new association. Budgets for the 2005 fiscal year for both corporations were approved by the directors Saturday afternoon.

The board acted to end the restriction on the use of frozen semen of deceased sires effective March 4. Further details on this important step will be forthcoming.

The week was capped off by the American Saddlebred Ball at Keeneland’s Entertainment Center on Saturday evening, and was sponsored by John and Dorothy Lenore of Lenore Farms. More than 460 guests, including more than 200 attendees of the Saddlebred youth conference, were in attendance. The evening’s program was highlighted by presentations of the industry's most prestigious honors, following musical video tributes to recipients and the big winners of the 2004 competition year. Maestro Don Bill and the Marksberry Big Band of Cincinnati entertained throughout the evening with both swing and contemporary hits, and the dance floor was crowded until the event concluded at 11 p.m.

ASHA President Fred Sarver commented that he felt the convention was an unqualified success.

“We just had a wonderful, enthusiastic, and positive feeling throughout. We opened up our committee meetings for the first time, and attendance at these important meetings will only grow larger in the future,” said Sarver. “Several of our forums were so crowded that we will have to reevaluate our space needs for next year."

Sarver also said the youth conference was excellent.

“The youth conference turnout was far above any total we previously had with hundreds of youngsters attending the field trip to the barns of Nelson Green Stables, Carriage Lane Farm and Shadow Run. We owe these horsemen, as well as all the attendees of all ages, a real debt of gratitude for their inspiring commitment to the Saddlebred.”

ASHA Announces Details on Allowing Use of Frozen Semen From Deceased or Castrated Stallions

The ASHA board of directors formally voted to relax previous restrictions on the use of frozen semen collected from an American Saddlebred stallion that has died or been castrated. The rule reconsidered appears in the Rules and Regulations of the American Saddlebred Registry, Section III [Registration], J [Transported Semen], 3.

Effective March 4, 2005, all restrictions on the use of such frozen semen will be eliminated. Henceforth, frozen semen collected from any American Saddlebred stallion that has died or been castrated may be utilized in breeding, provided that all other terms and conditions applicable to registration are met.

The vote took place Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005.

ASHA President Fred Sarver added clarification to the ruling.

“Originally, in 1995, the association passed a rule that only allowed the use of such semen for a period of three years after the calendar year in which a stallion died or was castrated. Later, the association revisited this rule, and extended that same three-year limitation until this year, when it was to be examined once again,” Sarver said. “The breeders committee considered it, and upon that recommendation, the board acted to remove the restriction. We feel we’ve had the time and experience now to be able to see that eliminating the restriction is in the best overall interest of the breed and of the breeders themselves.”

Any questions on this matter should be referred to Sr. Registry Supervisor Petra Green at ASHA.

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