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Saddlebred leadership meets, recommends future steps


Lexington, Kentucky ­– Directors of the American Saddlebred Horse Association and American Saddlebred Registry, along with past presidents of the Association and members of its Strategic Planning Committee, met for nearly three days last week in French Lick, Indiana, to assess opportunities for the breed, discuss member concerns, and consider recommendations for action.  The leadership retreat culminated in meetings of both boards of directors, as well as the Association’s Executive Committee Wednesday October 12.


Several hundred written opinions received from members were gathered by Association staff and provided to attendees from correspondence over several months, and ideas expressed on Internet threads accessible to all.  Materials provided to leadership also included strong member input recently obtained following a mass email to all members who had provided the Association their e-mail contacts.  Directors submitted topics and opinions for consideration anonymously, in order to facilitate a completely free, objective discussion without preconceptions.


Among the matters considered or acted upon by the boards are the following, and where formal action was taken, all decisions were unanimous:


  • A recommendation will be submitted forthwith to the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show management asking that an additional, alternative class be offered in the two-year-old three-gaited division, in 2006, restricted to entrants with natural tails.  A natural tail is defined as an unset tail (bustles permitted), with no breakover, no gingering, no strings and no braces permitted.  This additional class would carry at least the same purse as the traditional class for these colts, and perhaps additional added money from sponsors, which is already committed.  The concept behind the class is to provide greater time and opportunity for breeders, owners and trainers, to assess the future direction of young stock, prior to setting tails, thus opening greater market opportunities for Saddlebreds.  The Kentucky State Fair will be urged to respond with a decision as soon as possible, in order to provide breeders, owners and trainers of 2005 yearlings with maximum time to plan.


  • The Standards and Rules Committee will be asked to develop a rule for immediate submission to the Federation, via its Saddlebred Committee, for a rule requiring unset tails (as defined in the newly recommended class at the Kentucky State Fair) for all Saddlebred two-year-old classes to be enacted as soon as practicable.  Given the rule change calendar in place, absent extraordinary or emergency circumstances, were the rule to be submitted immediately, the earliest effective date is likely to be for the 2008 competition year, which commences in December 2007. 


  • The Sweepstakes, Futurity and Breeders committees will all be asked to hold meetings in the near future to assess the impact of these recommended changes, and any bearing they may have on Registry prize programs or events.


  • The Strategic Planning Committee has been directed to develop a detailed plan for Regional Championship competitions and awards before year-end, to be conducted in 2006.  Its task is to define the criteria for these competitions, assess locations and also develop companion plans for annual awards on two levels for Annual Regional Championships, to be based on points accumulated in competitions in a region.  Charter Club leadership and others in the U.S. regions will be asked to provide advice and make recommendations, in order to stimulate interest in existing competitions as well as encourage new small competitions around the nation.


  • A Charter Club Council and international adjunct will be formed with representatives from throughout the United States and foreign countries to advise the board on regional issues, problems and proposed solutions, relying on Charter Club members and their recommendations recently submitted.  The Association board expects to act on these recommendations at its next meeting, unless action is necessary earlier by the Executive Committee.


  • A detailed marketing plan will be developed, including recommendations on raising needed funding, in order to define the truthful, positive image of the American Saddlebred, and to overcome negative images that have been ignored or permitted to exist in the past.  The breed’s image as the world’s first and most beautiful competition horse, in its traditional role, and as the only breed in the world specifically developed for the saddle, as its name implies, will be sharpened and enhanced.  In addition, the breed’s exceptional suitability for several other purposes, ranging from competition in international disciplines such as dressage and driving, national disciplines such as western and hunter competitions, and as a recreational horse, will be recognized and enhanced as never before.  The Association’s existing awards programs will be expanded to include competition results in all non-traditional sections and disciplines, where such inclusion has not taken place.  Where specific board action is required, it will be considered prior to year-end.


  • Judging standards will be addressed immediately, and repeated bulletins from the Association’s Standards and Rules Committee to all officials on “points of emphasis” will be prepared as needed.  In addition, that committee is undertaking a line-by-line analysis of general and breed rules, in conjunction with the Federation Saddlebred Committee, to propose possible changes or refinements in existing rules.  The Association will also consider a program whereby all competitions with Saddlebred events would be sent judges’ cards and other materials directly, at no cost to the competition, to be certain that class specifications are current and that judges are properly advised of the latest modifications to the rules.  In addition, the Association will urge the Federation to consult with its leadership to expand its role in Continuing Education and clinics for Saddlebred officials, and on the Federation’s advisory committee for Continuing Education.


  • Convention plans for February 2006 in Lexington, Kentucky, include live demonstrations as part of a new Federation clinic to be held at Tattersalls.  In addition, live demonstrations of training methods and the proper use of various training devices will be arranged if possible.  Complete discussion will also be scheduled of any rule changes contemplated. 


President Fred Sarver, who chaired the meetings, commented that he was pleased at the fact that virtually none of the comments or ideas from members fell outside the numerous topical subjects submitted for consideration by the directors, indicating that the leadership of the Association and Registry is well aware of the concerns of the membership at large. 


“Just because the topics are consistent doesn’t mean the opinions about actions to be taken are similar.  They aren’t, and the discussion was spirited and contrasting points were debated at times,” Sarver said.  “But this is as it should be, because the individual directors and committee leaders are just as passionate as are the members in almost all cases.  While forming a consensus on some issues is really a difficult process, I should emphasize that all the recommendations we made were unanimous, so that achievement is noteworthy.” 


“With all that being said, I want to thank all the volunteer leaders who could attend for taking time away from their businesses and families, and doing so at their own personal expense for the welfare of the Saddlebred.” 


Executive Secretary and Registrar Alan Balch assisted in organizing the meetings, participated fully, and developed scores of action points for follow up.  Additional meetings this fall of both boards will be held by teleconference to take formal action after referral of many matters to appropriate committees for detailed study.


“In several cases, new committee rosters have not yet been announced, and that will be happening soon.  Many members who submitted serious, detailed thinking are not on committees, and several will be contacted and asked if they are willing to serve in their area of concern,” Balch said.  “We expect to complete that process within 10 days, and one benefit of this process is that we’ve developed some new leadership possibilities.  Committee meetings will be held between now and the convention in February 2006 and there is the time and need in some cases for multiple meetings.”


Questions and comments are welcome, and should be directed to the Association’s executive secretary via letter, or e-mail to


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