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What Matters? Focused Unity Matters.

At the end of his speech to open the ASHA Annual Member Meeting in Lexington this past week, president Marty Schaffel paraphrased a passage from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “We are standing together, arm in arm, looking outward in the same direction.” As it relates to the American Saddlebred industry, this is an important thought. Let’s examine the thought in its parts:

•“We are standing together…”: At the convention, we saw members from many organizations come together to discuss, debate, resolve, and strategize many of the issues and challenges and opportunities facing our industry. Some of these issues are global—rising costs, more recreational options, less agriculture are among those problems. Some of these issues are specific—distribution to new parts of the country, fewer and fewer shows, fewer instructors. And some of these issues are of our own making. Regardless, at this time we need to “stand together” to address the challenges and opportunities.

•“…arm in arm…”: This phrase implies not just that we stand together, but there is an inherent need for a closeness. This past week a metaphor was offered when discussing some of these issues together, “Like our horse, we are better off in a herd.” This sentiment implies a closeness that is beyond just standing together. We must be “arm in arm”. In other words, we must stand linked—ASHA, UPHA, AHHS, ASR, ASB Museum, AMHA, and American Road Horse & Pony Association. Each groups interests are linked and made better “in the herd.”

•“…looking outward…”: We must look to the future. We have to look at how to build the market in more places for more disciplines. But the important part of this passage is that it says we don’t need to look “inward”. Issues that do not work to advance the breeds and disciplines are just noise and distraction from the pressing and important needs of the industry and the breed.

•“…in the same direction.”: What direction should that be? Marty outlined very important thoughts in his address. In his talks with members of the ASHA, he identified three important things that customers/exhibitors/owners want from this activity, their hobby: Safety, Fairness (especially as it relates to judging and transactions), and Fun. He also identified three important things he heard from people who make their living in this industry: Financial Viability, Fairness (especially as it pertains to things like Safe Sport), and a Broader Market. It seems that we should focus on these imperatives: broadening the market; promoting fairness and transparency in all ways, maintaining and creating a safe activity that is also fun. This should be the directions in which we look. Anything else is a distraction.

Marty wrote in his President’s message following the convention, referencing the ASHA Board meetings, “While we all did not agree with each other on every topic, we had very collaborative discussions, and we found our way to unanimous consensus on every issue as we deliberated on them. This is a huge accomplishment over the past two years.” In other words, “Standing together, arm in arm, looking outward in the same direction.”

In his session on Friday night at the convention, famed Hall of Fame thoroughbred and quarter horse trainer, D. Wayne Lucas, hit on many of the same themes. He talked about trust and customer service. He talked about giving and teaching. He talked about many of the completely selfless acts that it takes to succeed in life, with customers, with horses. He spoke at length about his love for his customer Bill Young. It was touching. But in the end, it demonstrated that none of us stand alone. We must stand arm in arm.

This weekly column is called What Matters. “We are standing together, arm in arm, looking outward in the same direction.” This Matters A Lot.

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