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What matters? Vitality matters.

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

What makes something “vital?” Fitzgerald thought it was about persistence. Any horse trainer, riding instructor, rider or driver, farrier, groom knows how valuable persistence is when dealing with horses. Repetition and consistency are key attributes. As we look at the vitality of our industry, we value those people and practices that are consistent and repeatable.

Over the past year, the ASHA has tried its best to be a “vital” organization. We have tried to be consistent and trustworthy. From our communications to our partnerships to our efforts to advance the breed, our goal has been to be consistent and excellent. Every week, the ASHA president, Marty Schaffel, writes a personal note. Every week, we publish this What Matters column. We created the Trot Talk series of podcasts and aired them consistently. We’ve created consistent social media campaigns from Behind the Saddlebred Scenes to Saddlebred Strong. We’ve consistently advocated and taken a leadership position on the Joint Leadership Council and with the National Affiliates in the USEF. We have consistently worked for the betterment of the American Saddlebred and our members. And now, in this trying time, we’re working to help our brothers and sisters persist.

But, the next step of vitality, said Fitzgerald, is the ability to start over. What will it take to start over? It will take all of us participating in old ways, new ways, and unexpected ways. The old ways that will help our industry to endure include breeding. We need American Saddlebreds now and into the future so that this magnificent breed will endure. We will need to compete once competitions come back.  We will need to promote once events come back. It may be joining or rejoining the organizations and associations that support this breed and this industry.

The new ways might be showing at shows that you never showed at before in classes you haven’t considered before. Please consider contributing to one of the funds set up to tide our trainers, riding instructors, lesson barns, and show support personnel over to better times. 

Unexpected ways could be volunteering for a committee, or at least as Marty Schaffel offered in his column this week, contributing new ideas for the betterment of the breed. It could be signing up for one of the new virtual shows and virtual lessons that have been innovated in the last few weeks. 

These times are trying. But in trying times, you may try new things you wouldn’t consider in more comfortable times. Now is the time to try to imagine the future we want for this breed and for this industry. This is not the time to imagine the worst, but to plan for the best.

The famous American poet, memoirist, singer, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure."

Let’s use this very experience to create a new vitality and power to endure.

What matters? Vitality matters.

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