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UPHA/AHHS Convention Draws Light Crowd and Big Controversy

HILTON HEAD, S.C. - The UPHA/AHHS Convention, with a relatively light turnout, allowed those that did make the trek to South Carolina to enjoy wonderfully warm weather at the beach front Marriott Hotel when they weren't inside attending the various meetings and forums or applauding award recipients at the three award banquets.

Some large R judges came to the island early in order to attend the clinics that are now required every five years instead of judging tests. Others came on Thursday morning to play in the UPHA golf tournament.

One of the biggest news items of the weekend involved the SEN Judging System. Thursday afternoon the equitation committee met in a closed session to vote on continued use of the SEN Judging System for the UPHA Equitation finals. The committee voted to approve the SEN system by one vote. Although it did not pass unanimously, the bottom line is that the committee did vote to pass it.

The SEN System has been in use at the equitation finals for several years and has developed fans and opponents who are both firmly entrenched on both sides of the issue. The alternative to using the SEN System is the MOS System which has been used for many years.

After the equitation committee approved use of the SEN System, the vote went to the UPHA Board. In a surprising move, the UPHA Board and chapter chairmen and women voted to discontinue use of the SEN System for the UPHA finals. The system can still be used at USEF shows if the show chooses to use it, and can be used for the Medal Finals and Good Hands Finals.

The UPHA's decision to discontinue use of the system after it had passed through the equitation committee left those in favor of it shocked and those who didn't favor it relieved.

Thursday evening's cocktail reception preceded the awards dinner and auction. Dr. T. J. Blevins presented the Mr. and Mrs. John Costello Breeder of the Year Award to Steve and Bill Kildow and also to Jim Spurrier.

The Lydia Luhman Pederson Distinguished Service Award was presented to Betty Glasgow. Mary Campbell and Jane Mueller both received the Anna Lee Spires Judd Amateur Exhibitor Award. Kelsey Herbert received the Spirit of the Medallion award and Meredithe Steinhauer received the Junior Exhibitor/Youth Award. The Bill G. Robinson Trainer of the Year award was presented to Chris Gantley of Winding Creek Farm.

After the dinner and awards, the live auction was held to raise money for the AHHS. A variety of items were available for bidding including a full-body limited edition Hackney bronze by designer Connie Foss. Ed Frickey bid on behalf of Dinwiddie Lampton who purchased the bronze for one of the highest bids of the night.Lampton purchased the bronze for $5000. According to AHHS President Junior Schut, the AHHS Foundation should net approximately $8000 from the sale and the AHHS should net over $7000 when the final totals are tabulated.

Originally, the evening's entertainment had been billed as "Talent Night on Hilton Head" but the lack of participants cancelled the event. Comedian Jerry Farber entertained the crowd instead and his act drew lots of laughter and applause.

Friday morning's meetings began with the UPHA Active Membership meeting in which officers were elected for 2005. At the same time, a meeting was held for the UPHA Associate Members and they also held elections.

The UPHA general membership meeting featured reports from various committees and chapter chairpersons, a video and presentation about the South African Saddlebred industry and a brief discussion about the MOS system.

Jimmy Robertson, John T. Jones, Renee Lavery, Randy Harper, Jim Taylor and Larry Bacon moderated the first part of the the meeting. Larry Gilpin announced to the audience that he and Misdee Wrigley had been nominated by the associate membership and accepted the nominations to serve as president and vice president, respectively, for 2005.

Nancy Jones reported that the 2005 Heritage Venture project calenders were being sold this year for $15 to raise money for the UPHA Horsemen's Benevolent Fund and the restoration and archiving of historical photos.

John T. Jones spoke about the success of the Yearling Sale which was held at the UPHA/American Royal National Championship Horse Show. A total of 25 yearlings were sold and grossed more than $287,000. The average sale was more than $11,400 which was considerably higher than the average of the 2003 sale. Jones gave special thanks to Fred Sarver for the consignments from the Jones Mountainview Saddlebreds dispersal. With the success of the 2004 sale, discussions have already begun for plans to make it even bigger and better in 2005.

Show manager Fern Bittner and American Royal President George Guastello both spoke about the American Royal. Each had plenty of praise for both the UPHA and the staff of the show who worked hard to make the show so successful.

"A partnership of equals does work," said Guastello, referring to the UPHA and the Board of Directors of the American Royal. He went on to add that the show gave away $400,000 in added prize money.

According to Guastello, the contract between the UPHA and the American Royal Horse Show has expired. A decision had to be reached by Jan. 11, 2005 to decide whether a long-term partnership will continue.

Guastello also told the group that a $100,000 grant has been given to the show and a new arena is being built in downtown Kansas City.

Fern Bittner thanked the UPHA board and especially Jim Taylor for their help and hard work in making the show such a success. Special thanks was also given to Renee Biggins for her work with the UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup and sponsors Mary Gaylord McClean and Elisabeth Goth.

Karen Richardson and Shirley Parkinson were thanked for their hard work on obtaining sponsorships, along with Nancy Jones.

Bittner was encouraged by the new barns that came from the southeast region of the country to attend the show but set a goal in 2005 to have more Hackney Ponies participate.

Randy Harper, referring to the American Royal, thanked Sarah Rowland and Nancy Jones, Bob Wolf and Elmer Fields who handles the stabling at the Royal. He also thanked Dabora, Inc. for sponsorship of the UPHA Classics, manager Fern Bittner and president George Guastello.

Chad Graham gave a report from the young trainers committee. The group met at Lexington Junior League and discussed money raising ideas including a colt preview, similar to what is done in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, and a 50/50 raffle. In addition, the committee is investigating a means of providing insurance for young trainers who may not financially be able to supply their own.

Reports on fundraising efforts and important news from throughout the year were given by chapter chairpersons. David Earehart reported that in 2004 Chapter 20 collected more than 300 toys for Toys For Tots. In addition, money raised by the chapter would be given to the Red Cross International Response Fund to benefit victims of the recent devastating tsunamis.

Randy Harper, after the chairpersons reports, took the stage again to tell the audience that the UPHA had signed a three year contract with the World Cup and that the UPHA gives $7500 per year to World Cup. Equitation committee member Kim Crumpler will sit on the World Cup board.

The UPHA has also made a 10 year committment for scholarships in the AHHS Youth Medallion program at the American Royal.

Lynn Via, of Fox Grape Farm, made one of the most dramatic announcements of the morning. Via went on to explain that a challenge grant is being established in memory of L.B. Porterfield, Don Stafford and Lee Kent. Money raised for that challenge grant will be matched by Peter and Lynn Via, up to $150,000, to benefit the UPHA Horseman's Benevolent Fund.The money given by the Vias will be placed in a trust fund which is being established for the benevolant fund so that the individual UPHA chapters can use the money they raise throughout the year for other things in addition to contributing to the benevolent fund.

A discussion had been scheduled regarding the MOS system but only a brief mention was made by Jimmy Robertson that Jeffrey Williamson had been asked by the UPHA to update the software for the system.

An entertaining video was shown of the South African National Championship Horse Show which is held each year in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The show is billed as the largest outdoor horse show in the world.

Gene van der Walt, of Singing Hills Stables, led a discussion about American Saddlebreds in South Africa. More than 10,000 Saddlebreds in South Africa trace back to Cameo's Farewell. Jim Aikman sold Cameo's Farewell and Indiana Ace to exhibitors in South Africa and they are probably the two most infuential sires of the breed there today.

Tom Welch has previously judged the Bloemfontein show and he praised the quality of horses and how well organized the show was. He encouraged anyone who could, to attend the show.

Gene van der Walt also spoke of the tremendous need for sponsorships at the show. Currently, the economic climate in South Africa is very poor and the American dollar, which is approximately five times stronger than the South African rand, is the main currency in South Africa. He passed out letters to the group that explained the tremendous need for funds.

The Saddlebred Museum luncheon featured an entertaining video "The Spindletop Legacy - Legends and Luminaries". The video, which was part of the museum exhibit this past year, was entered in international competition. Narrated by Misdee Wrigley, the video received a bronze medal from among more than 10,000 entries including those from such fortune 500 companies as Boeing and Turner Broadcasting.

Highlighting the impact of the Spindletop Farm breeding program on the Saddlebred industry in the 1930s and 1940s, the video included rare footage of Pansy Yount, trainer Cape Grant and the world's champion and grand champion stallions and broodmares from the Spindletop breeding program.

Tolley Graves thanked both museum curator Kim Skipton and board member and narrater Misdee Wrigley for their hard work and participation in making the video possible.

A copy of the book Passions and Prejudice - The Legend of Spindletop, by author Linda Light, was available on each table as well as a copy of the video. Both items are available for sale by the museum.

The Heritage Venture calender, featuring past champions, is also being sold by the museum to benefit the UPHA Horsemen's Benevolent Fund, the Saddlebred Museum and the cataloging and preservation of the archival photos.

After the luncheon, a forum regarding tax problems and opportunities in the horse industry was led by Robert Hill, MBA, CPA and Charles Stivers, CPA from Crowe, Chizek and Company, LLC.

The informative discussion addressed such topics as selecting the proper entity for your horse operation, deciding whether its a business or a hobby, sales and exchange of horses and depreciation and cost recovery.

Each attendee of the forum took home a bound booklet they could use for later reference.

The Morgan membership forum, along with the Morgan membership luncheon on Saturday afternoon, were both working sessions. According to trainer Sandy Sessink, both sessions were very productive and attendance was up from last year.

A decision was reached to hold the UPHA Classics finals at the Jubilee Regional Horse Show one more year. Those that attended the convention and were present at the membership meeting were able to participate in the vote and final decision. After the 2005 show, discussions will be held to decide whether the classics should move to another show.

Committees were formed to address a variety of issues affecting the Morgan industry including rule change proposals for 2005.

George Morris was originally scheduled to speak at the equitation forum on Friday afternoon, but due to illness was unable to attend. USEF President and Olympic Gold Medalist David O'Connor graciously agreed to fill in at the last minute and he spoke to the group about the sport of eventing, the horse industry in general and the need to encourage more young people to participate in the horse industry.

Many people thought that there would be a discussion about the UPHA's decision to discontinue using the SEN system for their equitation finals. Again, in a surprising move, there was not. Because both decisions regarding use of the SEN system were made in closed sessions, many of those in attendance at the convention knew of the respective decisions of both the equitation committee and the UPHA Board of Directors only by word of mouth. No official mention was made in the general membership meeting or the equitation forum about what had happened or what the plan is now for judging the UPHA Equitation classes.

A meeting was held to review and discuss the Yearling Incentive Sale that was held at the Royal and was so successful, and to discuss future plans for the sale.

During the Hackney Rule Change forum, moderated by Carrie Mortensen from USEF, various proposed rule changes were discussed. One of the most heated discussions occurred regarding the proposed rule change regarding measuring roadster ponies in their championship classes.

In 2004, all roadster ponies were measured and divided by height; 50" and under and 50" to 52". New cards were issued but they are not permanent cards and are protestable. The proposed rule change says, in summary, that in roadster pony championship classes (except in the junior division), the first place and fourth place ponies have a heel measurement taken by the show steward immediately following the class. If the heel measurement differs from what is on the measurement card, an overall height measurement will be taken. If there are fewer than four ponies in the championship class, the last place pony will be measured.

The proposed rule change raised several questions: 1. When exactly is "immediately" ?, 2. What if the first place pony is disqualified? Is the second place pony measured?, 3. Where will the measurement take place?

These are just a few of the questions that were raised and the resulting discussion caused arguments and hurt feelings among some in the group. When it came time to take a vote, 14 people voted to approve the proposal as written to be submitted to the USEF. Six people voted to not submit it as written and 13 people abstained from the vote. Mortensen told the group after the vote that the proposed change would be taken to the USEF committee as written.

Friday evening's cocktail reception and UPHA awards dinner and live auction were well attended and provided an entertaining evening.

Chad Graham once again entertained the group with his impressions of various members of the Saddlebred community. His comedy routine drew roars of laughter, even in most cases from those he was imitating.

The UPHA live auction raised approximately $55,000 according to president Randy Harper. Those that were bidding had a variety of great items to choose from but the one that brought the most money was the Tom Moore Memorial Bronze, donated by the UPHA. Bob Ruxer purchased the bronze for $3300 and donated it back to the auction. John T. Jones then paid $3000 for the bronze and will be able to keep it until the 2006 convention in St. Louis.

Larry Gilpin purchased the Mardi Gras package which was also one of the highest selling items. The package included a chariot which leads the Orpheus Parade, costume, throws, two VIP tickets to the Mardi Gras Ball after the parade and two tickets to the Toby Keith concert. Donated by chapters six and seven, the item raised $5000.

Members of Chapter One took the opportunity to make the auction one of their most lucrative fundraising events and purchased items totalling more than $11,000 to benefit the UPHA. Sandra Surber and Bill Tomin led the bidding.

Beth Snider and Sally Jackson both received the Sallie B. Wheeler Distinguished Service Award, James LaHood received the Herman Miles Horse Show Manager of the Year Award, and Jim Aikman received the first of two Shirley Parkinson Professional Achievement Awards. Carson Kressley received the Associate Member of the Year Award.

Chad Graham presented Smith Lilly with the first ever Young Trainer of the Year Award, and Kim Crumpler presented Scott and Carol Matton with the Helen Crabtree Equitation Instructor of the Year Award.

Other awards included the chapter horse shows of the year and chapter horsepersons of the year. Midwest Charity Horse Show was named the Saddlebred National Honor Show and New England Regional was the Morgan National Honor Show.

The AHHS Regional Associations meeting started things off on Saturday morning and was followed by the UPHA General Membership Meeting which included a USEF rule change forum for the Saddlebred, Roadster and Equitation divisions. Fran Crumpler, Cindy Boel, Randy Harper and Carrie Mortensen moderated the forum and the proposed changes voted on by those in attendance now head to USEF.

AHHS officers and directors Junior Schut, Matt Schuckert, Ed Murray, Chris Gantley, Sandra Surber, Dr. Bing Crosby, Frances Bjalobok, Cleo Lowe, Dr. Jane Keil, Dr. T. J. Blevins, Carl Nichols and Ed Frickey led the AHHS general membership meeting.

Some of the items discussed included a financial report from president Junior Schut and a report on new classes being offered for aged ponies at shows in the tri-state area from newly elected AHHS Foundation board member Jay Kennedy.

Dr. Alan Raun discussed a new fundraising campaign for the foundation titled "Hackney In Action". He also told the group that the Kentucky Horse Park has agreed to give the land to the foundation for a building at the park. Fundraising for the building will be an ongoing project for the foundation.

Dr. Blevins told the group that Eugene Kennedy has been approved by the World's Championship Horse Show for nomination into the Hackney Hall of Fame. 2004 Hall of Fame inductees Randy and Denessa Harper were congratulated as well.

Matt Schuckert, speaking about the Hackney Futurity, said that a two year option has been picked up by the Ohio State Fair and that Hackney Horse futurity classes have been removed from the Ohio State Fair Horse Show.

The decline of ponies that show at the American Royal has been an ongoing concern for several years now and it once again was a topic of discussion. Questions were raised about whether the AHHS Medallion classes and the UPHA Hackney Pony Classics should be moved from the American Royal. The UPHA, in response to declining participation has cut funds for the pony classics from $10,000 to $5000. When a straw poll was taken however, the majority of those that voted wanted the classics to stay at the Royal along with the medallion classes.

Junior Schut did tell the group that 2003 scholarship winners from the medallion classes would now be paid their scholarship money. They were not paid out in 2003 due to lack of funds.

The group proceeded directly to the Ninth Annual Limited Breeders' Weanling Stakes Stallion Service Auction, luncheon and reverse raffle. Because bidding is typically slow to get started whenever any auction is held, this year, the stallions were auctioned in reverse order. That meant that Arthur B, owned by Steve and Bill Kildow, was auctioned last instead of first. His service sold for $1900. Twentieth Century, last year's high seller, sold for $2300. For the first time, Heartland Code Of Honor was offered by Heartland Hackney Farm and a true bidding war broke out. In the end, his service was purchased for $6500.

The auction was a great success and although totals have not been completely calculated yet due to buy backs that are not figured in yet, the auction is projected to approximately double what was raised last year.

Junior Schut thanked those that donated services for the auction and also recognized outgoing board members Carl Nichols, Matt Schuckert, Mary Lou Greenwell and Josh Greer. He welcomed new board members Rodney Root, Larry Ella and David Estes and re-elected board member Ed Frickey.

Georgia Blevins won the reverse raffle and her prize was a Freedman Pony Harness. Mary Lou Greenwell and Ann Fitzpatrick each received $100 when their numbers were drawn in the raffle.

The UPHA Associate Membership meeting featured a discussion about helpful hints from prominent horse show managers Ray Cloninger, Jim LaHood, Fern Bittner and Scarlett Mattson. The panel shared their insights and suggestions for making the entire horse show experience easier.

Saturday evening's awards banquet was a new experience this year. Bob and Raye Lynn Funkhouser took on the challenge of changing the format to make it more entertaining and encourage attendance.

"Soul Kitchen" traveled from the Northeast and they rocked the house. Not only at the end of the evening, but they accompanied each announcement of horse of the year winners and the personalized script that went with them.

The buffet dinner received mixed reviews but the entertaining format was enthusiastically received. After the first group of horse of the year awards were presented, the second Shirley Parkinson Professional Achievement Award was presented to Chuck Herbert. Rather than a speech, Randy Harper, Larry Bacon, John Jones, Jim Taylor, Jimmy Robertson and Renee Lavery each related stories and jokes that kept the audience in suspense about who the winner was. Their performance drew lots of applause and laughter from the crowd.

In addition to the other horse of the year awards, two famed horsemen were inducted into the Tom Moore Hall of Fame. Jack Nevitt was presented the award by his son Jeff Nevitt and Johnny Lucas was presented his induction by long-time customer Phyllis Brookshire.

The final award of the night was the Richard E. Lavery Horseman of the Year award. As the lights dimmed, the video screen showed clips of champion horses and ponies from throughout the years. Friends of the recipient each spoke on camera about why the recipient was so deserving of the award. Most also gave credit to his wife, believing that she was a huge part of his success.

John Conatser, in his acceptance speech was moved to tears and brought tears to many in the audience. The entertaining video and Conatsers eloquent speech after receiving his much deserved award, proved to be some of the highlights of the night and a fitting close to the convention.

Overall, the UPHA convention could probably be considered a success. Meetings and forums were held as scheduled, awards were presented, meals were served, etc. However, if attendance and input measure the success of a convention, this one scored relatively low on the list.

If you don't go, you don't have an opinion to be heard and you don't vote. If your horse was nominated for a horse of the year award, shouldn't you pay tribute to that honor by showing up?

A tremendous amount of time, energy and hard work go into the planning and execution of the UPHA Convention and this year, those that came were able to enjoy a beachside resort, wonderfully warm temperatures and plenty of activities to choose from. While certainly, the storms that plagued the Midwest kept some people from coming, was it apathy that kept the rest away?

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