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UPHA Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award: Tammie Conaster




Leadership is a thankless job, not meant for a lot of people. Those who do choose that path, do so out of a deep love for a cause and for tonight’s honoree that cause is the show horse industry.

The Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award has gone to many individuals who have given in many different ways, but this honoree’s service has been exceptional and multi-dimensional, going back several years and showing no signs of slowing down.

A graduate of the Kentucky Belle Riding Academy, she began showing at the age of nine. She happened to live across the street from Jim B. Robertson who directed her first blue ribbon at Orlando on the old Sunshine Circuit. She later rode with Sam and Marie Brannon and then Don and Anne Judd before graduating with a law degree.

Like some of us in this room, she tried the real world as a practicing attorney for 10 years but the urge to be in a barn rather than an office or court room was too great. She became great friends and then the significant other of a guy with riding gloves in his back pocket. Their relationship is going on 30 years, 25 of those married.

Together they’ve built a thriving training and breeding business, keeping the numbers small enough to give each individual the utmost attention, whether they are in the training barn, the breeding shed, or the pasture. She is hands on with every aspect of their business and her positive attitude and organizational skills have worked greatly in their favor.

“She stays very steady, patient and positive, regardless of a particular result on any given day,” said Gabe Deknatel in a past interview. “If you have a bad ride or make a mistake in the show ring she knows in the long run things will come together. She doesn’t get too wrapped up in a single moment; she keeps things positive and forward facing.”

It is with those attributes and a very take charge personality when needed, that our honoree has been so successful as a leader in the industry. She’s passionate, understanding and extremely loyal. 

Starting out as the co-chair of Kentucky’s UPHA Chapter 9 she was asked to be on the national board by then president James Nichols. Dedicated to the fundamental purpose of the UPHA and its members, she worked her way up from two years as Secretary, two years as Second Vice-President and two years as First Vice-President, before taking the hot seat for three years. During her time as Madame President her knowledge of law was of great benefit. She worked tirelessly with our other organizations in the battle to get a positive response with the USDA APHIS ruling on the Trotting Breeds; helped establish the UPHA Code of Ethics; helped put on the Super Convention in Boston; this past year was part of a lobbying group that traveled to DC and met with various members of Congress about the PAST ACT; and chaired the UPHA committee that developed a Consent and Waiver Form to assist members working with minor athletes.

Not shy about multi-tasking, she has worn many hats in her quest to make the sport of showing horses better for everyone. Co-Chair of the Conference Committee, Chair of the Governance Committee, Co-Chair of the Kentucky Fall Classic Horse Show, member of the American Royal Steering Committee and UPHA Classics Committee, and the World’s Championship Horse Show Advisory Board are among her other appointments.
Currently? Still as involved as ever, she’s serving on two committees for UPHA.

“She has the unique power to inspire people and the compassion to listen to the needs of others,” said Nancy Becker who has worked with our honoree for numerous years through the UPHA Foundation. 

“She has championed UPHA with her integrity, courage, determination, and competitive spirit and she continues to help move the organization forward.”

An accomplished horsewoman, a USEF judge, a former president of the United Professional Horsemen’s Association, a leader in the trenches involving the most pressing issues, an organizer of conventions and horse shows, indeed, Distinguished Service.

Recognizing Tammie Conatser with the UPHA Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award isn’t near enough thanks for the hours and insight she has given and continues to give, but we hope she knows this token of our appreciation is extremely heartfelt.

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