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2009 Saddlebred Summit & Youth Conference

by John Privette

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The ASHA Convention, held at the beautiful Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa in Lexington, Ky., Feb. 12-14, 2009, was a "feel-good" and informative experience from beginning to end. With entertaining guest speakers, numerous well-deserved awards presented, open and educational board meetings, general membership meetings and the spectacular Saddlebred Ball Saturday night, ASHA worked hard to make this a memorable weekend for everyone.

Events kicked off Thursday morning with numerous committee meetings, Charter Club Workshops and a welcome reception that evening which was sponsored by the FEI & Emerging Disciplines Committee and Janet Thompson.

Friday morning the schedule started with the Amateur/Owner/Trainer Open Forum. ASHA Executive Secretary Alan Balch began the forum and introduced the panel: Nelson Green, Allison Deardorff, Tre Lee, Matt Shiflet and special guest Richard Shrake. Discussions centered around the most successful practices in training young American Saddlebreds, from teaching a colt to tie and lead to bitting and guiding. The panel emphasized the importance of all the "basics".

Friday’s Awards Luncheon hosted a big group on hand to see presentations of the FEI Disciplines Awards, USDF (United States Dressage Federation) All Breeds Awards, ASHA National Pleasure Awards and ASHA Charter Club Of The Year Award. (see separate edit in this issue.) Kyle Bailey presented the Castleman Award to Ed and Ada Perwien of Bluebonnet Farm in Texas.

The open forum "Saddlebreds For Every Generation" featured the panel of Alan Balch, Diane Hauslein, Mark Strong, Susan Vine, Lisa Siderman and Martin Gueldner who discussed promotional efforts. Scarlett Mattson, of the World’s Championship Horse Show, and ASHA’s Susan Harris discussed 2009 qualifying processes and systems.

Friday afternoon also included several open committee meetings before things wrapped up in preparation for the museum festivities.

Friday night’s American Saddlebred Museum Exhibit Opening and Reception was an elegant, well planned and entertaining event. While the youth enjoyed their pizza party, youth activities and dance party, the adults enjoyed great food, an open bar and a gorgeous array of exhibits at the museum. "Friday Night at the Movies II", the American Saddlebred Museum’s blockbuster event, featured a viewing of Saddlebred Stars II. Some never-before seen historic film footage gave glimpses of such greats as Noble Kalarama and Jack Thompson, H.C. Barham on Man Of Destiny, Walter Murphy on Marie Bosace BHF, Art Simmons on Anne Marie, Dick Boettcher on Crescendo, Stonewall’s Beau Peavine, Leatherwood King, Captain Courageous, Special Assignment and Wing Commander and Earl Teater along with many more.

The gathering was designed not only to showcase the new exhibit "Moments Of Merit" but also as a fundraising effort featuring six superbly unique items. The items included A Woodford Reserve Selections Gift Basket, "Guided By Love" Oil on canvas, Project Runway Getaway for two in New York City, vacation in Paradise-Villa del Oso in Sayulita, Mexico, 2009 breeding to Undulata’s Nutcracker and the DVD of Saddlebred Stars II. The live auction raised in excess of $30,000.

The evening also included a complimentary bourbon tasting by Woodford Reserve. Transportation from the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort was provided for the large crowd in attendance.

The youth began their Saturday morning bright and early with an awards breakfast at the hotel before heading off for their field trip to Grey Ridge Farm, Prospect Lane, Clouse Stables and the awards luncheon at Sunrise Stables. (see separate story in this issue.)

The adults headed into one of the large banquet rooms for the first forum of the day: Saddlebred Owners, Breeders and Professionals’ Educational Forum. Dr. Ed Squires, executive director of the Maxwell Gluck Equine Research Foundation at the University of Kentucky, and a pioneer in equine reproductive techniques and the non-surgical collection and transfer of equine embryos, discussed how to breed efficiently- the best results for the least cost. Dr. Gregory Ferraro, director of the Center for Equine Health at the University of California, was joined by Dr. Scott Hopper and Dr. Sean Owens to lead the discussion on the coming stem-cell "miracle" in equine medicine: what’s possible, what’s likely and what to be wary of.

The open forum "Marketing The Breed: Surviving Change" featured the panel of Craig Dado, vice president of marketing for Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Dr. William Shanklin, one of the world’s most prolific equine marketing authors. Dado explained the six steps of the marketing process and the importance of each one: 1. Discovery, 2. Objectives, 3. Strategies, 4. Tactics, 5. Measurements and 6. Branding. Dr. Shanklin discussed the importance of the ASHA having an interactive web site and the possibilities and challenges of a blog.

The Annual Membership Luncheon not only featured great food but an opportunity for attendees to meet volunteer and staff leadership of the association to review its progress in the last year and the state of the breed financial reports. The luncheon’s keynote speakers included Dr. Nancy Cox, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture associate dean for research and Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station who described the University’s equine initiative. Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council, spoke about how his organization represents the horse industry in Washington D.C., and John Nicholson, director of the Kentucky Horse Park, provided the latest details on the planning for the World Equestrian Games 2010.

Those in attendance at Saturday night’s Saddlebred Ball would be hard pressed to find an event in the Saddlebred industry more glamorous. The event this year was packed with over 450 in formal attire for the awards presentations, dinner and dancing.

Alan Balch got the evening started after the cocktail reception with the evening’s first award. Standing ovations from the huge crowd were the order of the night and it was obvious in each acceptance speech that the honorees were grateful and honored.

Peter Cowart headed to the stage first with wife Kim, daughter Camile and Megan McClure. Cowart was presented with a diamond ring honoring his championship performance in the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship with CH Breaking News.

With the big band sounds of swingtime adding to the festive atmosphere, Ivy Johnson was next to head up front. She was presented with the Frank Ogletree Youth Award.

Brent Jacobs of Werk Way Stables won the Gordon Jenkins International Award for promoting the American Saddlebred outside of the United States.

Misdee Wrigley Miller and everyone else got a kick out of the cute video showing old pictures when she accepted the Lurline Roth Sportsmanship Award. Miller was chosen for this award for her sportsmanship and contributions to the breed, and her support of ASHA.

Unable to attend, Michelle Macfarlane was honored with the Meritorious Service Award for her contributions to ASHA on almost all levels over a long period of time.

Mike Spencer was overwhelmed when he received the C.J. Cronan Sportsman Award. The recipient of this award is chosen for his sportsmanship and contributions to the breed.

The Breeder of the Year Award was presented to Mary Gaylord McClean. Recipients of this award are chosen based on a statistical analysis of their successful show performance during the year.

In an emotional and heartfelt acceptance speech, Tom Galbreath was inducted into the Breeders’ Hall of Fame for his proven commitment in the betterment of the breed.

Vicki Gillenwater presented the Paul and Dorothy Gillenwater Family Award on behalf of her late parents to the Dix family and the Lynn Harvey McNamara family.

Bill Wise, the Teater family and Minna Hankin Mintz were each honored with the Wing Commander Medal for demonstrating outstanding service to ASHA and the breed, and their dedication to advancing the popularity of American Saddlebreds to the public.

The thunderous applause and standing ovation seemed to go on forever when Don Harris took to the stage after a memory-evoking video of his life and many world champions. He was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

It was a fabulous end, in high style, to cap off a successful, informative and enjoyable convention.

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