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USA Equestrian Honors Its Own

The 86th USA Equestrian Annual Meeting got underway in Lexington, Kentucky, January 15-18, 2003 at the Marriott Griffin Gate. In addition to the many activities and meetings held during the four day convention, awards were given in all the disciplines represented by USA Equestrian. Saddlebreds and Morgans were well represented in these awards with Charles Crabtree, Iris McNeil, Judy Werner, Mary Gaylord McClean, Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Kenneth Wheeler all received awards of distinction. In addition the horse of the year awards were given in the various disciplines.

A new Pegasus award was created four years ago to hail those who have made an undeniable impact on the sport by attracting new fans. This year there were three recipients and one of them was a man who rewrote the book on breeding and showing Saddlebreds, Charles Crabtree.

As a partner with his wife, the famed equestrian Helen Crabtree, Crabtree opened their stables in 1959 and started the journey to becoming one of the most awarded and honored equestrian families in the horse show world. Together they earned 75 World Championship titles, including CH Yorktown’s 1966 World’s Champion Five-Gaited Two-Year-Old title with Charles aboard. In 1989, the Crabtrees were inducted into the World Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame. As a new recipient of the Pegasus Award, Charles Crabtree is honored for his lifetime commitment to excellence and his service to horses and the sport.

This year the Honor Roll of Distinguished Officials – formerly known as the Judge Emeritus Award – was presented to Iris McNeil of Lexington, Virginia.

Since the mid-60s, Iris served the Federation as a steward for some of the most prestigious and well-honored horse shows in the country. From the National Horse Show to the Washington International to Devon to the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, her talents and patience benefited thousands of competitors and horse show officials alike. In addition, she donated her time and energies to serve as a panelist for Stewards Clinics during the 1980s. And just last year she was inducted into the National Hunter Hall of Fame.

Iris was named as the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award for the Walter B. Devereux Memorial trophy a decade ago and now she has been honored once again.

It is a common fact that without great breeders of our competition horses – we would be out of luck. Thankfully for us, there are those people who lovingly and carefully apply their “eye” to breeding the best. And one of the best was honored by USA Equestrian with the Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeder’s Award, Judith Werner.

Judy, along with her husband Roy, has consistently bred outstanding show horses and her Redwing Farm’s breeding enterprise has raised the bar in the development and improvement of show horses. They stand Radiant Sultan, a top ten rated American Saddlebred stallion and sire of numerous world and reserve world champions, who will be joined in 2003 by Designed, a world champion bred by Redwing Farm and shown by Werner to his win at the 2002 World's Championship Horse Show. The farm has produced a remarkable number of show ring winners from a small broodmare band.

USAE celebrated Judy’s love and caring in producing world champions time and again and her sound impact on the breeding of the American Saddlebred by awarding her with the 2002 Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeder’s Award.

If there was an equestrian who knew what it was like to be a winner in 2002, it would have to be Mary Gaylord McClean of Simpsonville, KY. During the 2002 competition year, she ruled the three-gaited, roadster pony and harness pony divisions at the big shows. Three-gaited wins at the Rock Creek and Lexington Junior League horse shows, coupled with her numerous Champion titles in the Roadster Pony classes at the American Royal and World’s Championships Horse Show in Louisville, placed her name at the top of a competitive list. She was awarded the Bill Robinson Trophy, which goes to a rider, driver or handler of any horse or pony breed that is shown in harness or for driving performance in non-international disciplines.

When you think “western pleasure” in 2002, the name Eitan Beth-Halachmy of Grass Valley, CA, should come to mind. Beth-Halachmy carved out a spot for many trophies this past year. His long list of wins includes a unanimous World Champion Morgan Western Pleasure title, Senior National Champion Western Pleasure and both the three- and four-year old World Champion titles to name a few. The Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy is presented to the rider, driver or handler of any horse of pony breed shown in a non-Western discipline.

There is no argument that Kenneth Wheeler of Cismont Manor Farm in Keswick, VA, is a handler who demands excellence. And he did not disappoint in 2002. His wins included Handler of the Best Young Horse at Devon and at the Middlesburg Classic and he took the inaugural titles at the National Hunter Breeding Championships named for his late wife, Sallie Wheeler (Handler of Best Young Horse and the Handler of the Day). The Norman K. Dunn Trophy is awarded annually to the top handler of any horse or pony breed show in-hand or at halter.

Perhaps the most anticipated event of the convention was the Horse of the Year Awards which were hosted by Brian O’Connor. This year, Champions across the many breeds and disciplines were awarded their honors after a cocktail hour and dinner at the Marriott Griffin Gate. The enthusiastic and far-traveled crowd were ready to have fun and emcee O’Connor did not disappoint as he kept the pace of the evening flowing as the many honorees made their way to the stage for awards presentations and photographs.

Unlike prior years, only the Champions were called to the stage, whereas past years saw the awarding of the Reserve Champion honors. This allowed the evening to clip along speedily, and Brian O’Connor’s quick wit and lively hosting were a highlight hopefully to be repeated.

In addition to the many awards presented, the annual convention serves as the official word on proposed rule changes within the various disciplines. In the January 20, 2003 Saddle Horse Report, the complete list of proposed rule changes which were to be voted upon at the USA Equestrian Annual Meeting were printed in their entirety. The results of the votes from these proposed rule changes are as follows:

The Hackney Committee approved all proposed rule changes as written. The committee commented on article 501.9 stating that they would prefer to allow one repeat measurement for owners/exhibitors to allow an opportunity for compliance to measurement rules.

An open discussion of rule change proposal to article 3401.1 (requiring that after December 1, 2003, all horses that have not already been shown prior to that date, be registered Standardbred horses) was held at the beginning of the Roadster meeting. Several non-members were in attendance and expressed opinions on the change. The committee considered all comments and revoted again passing the change. Of the nine members present, seven voted to accept, one voted to table and one abstained from voting. The committee approved most other changes, withdrawing articles 504.1 and 3412.1 and making some minor amendments to a few others.

The Saddlebred committee discussed in depth the measurement rules put forth by Measurement Task Force as well as a request from a horse show manager to hire judges who are not licensed by USA Equestrian to judge an unrecognized class at a recognized horse show. The committee reviewed all rule change proposals, amending three for clarity and approving all others as written.

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