The following are my personal notes from the convention. They are not official minutes. Any errors are my own. I didn't take the time to polish all of the prose, so some of it is rough. I hope it is intelligible!

Since different people will be interested in different things, I've tried to group similar items under headings reached by the links below. Unfortunately I can't be in two places at once, so I wasn't able to attend all of the committee meetings potentially of interest to me and other VAHA members.

Mary Ellena Ward

Arabian Horsemen's Distress Fund Elections
Leveling the Playing Field Market Development and Promotion
Membership Region 15 Caucus
Resolutions Sport Horse
Western Dressage Working Western


Arabian Horsemen's Distress Fund Update

Presented by Mary Trowbridge

The AHDF started as an idea in 2002-2003 that spread. It is an Arabian community fund – by the community for the community. 100% of the donations go to those in need.

In this past year Mary wanted to get away from the "trading on tragedy" emphasis to become a vehicle that promotes the community. It's been a unifying endeavor and community builder as well as a celebration – something that brings the disparate groups within the Arabian horse community together. It is not limited to AHA.

They now have the first corporate sponsor: Markel insurance. This includes donation of funds, but more importantly guidance on preparation and prevention of tragedies such as catastrophic fires.

Fundraising events bring people together for a fun time. One such event was held with great success at the 2012 R15 show. Another is planned for 2013.

At this year's US National Show Mary got the idea to "glam it up" so she approached Saks 5th Avenue for a very successful cooperative event. They called the media in to get coverage throughout Tulsa. Local people walking by saw the event. As a result, the stands were filled for the rest of the show with local folks who came out to see the Arabian horses.

There is a local charity in Tulsa called the Little Light House. Mary and friends decided to give back to the community by taking an Arabian horse to visit the children there. Major Major, a multi-National champion, was just the right horse for this effort and the children and their caregivers were charmed. The proceeds from a later fund-raiser were split with this charity.

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There were many offices up for election this year and we were blessed with a choice among capable candidates to fill them. The new AHA president is Cynthia Richardson, who has been active in many capacities over the last 40+ years. Vice-President Nancy Harvey has been known for her dedication to the youth of AHA. David Corning and Jan Decker will continue as Treasurer and Secretary.

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Leveling the Playing Field Forum

This session was presented by the Competition Advisory Committee and Stan Morey. This group has been discussing the possibility of changing our current class divisions from "age group" based to "achievement level" based with emphasis on both the Amateur and Youth divisions. This forum is the start of discussion potentially leading to a resolution for next year's Convention.

AQHA has implemented a leveling program with some success. At present this is just an idea for AHA as an extension of the select rider programs. The idea is to group horses (and riders) so that they are competing against comparable horses (and riders). The session today is intended to be more of a brainstorming session that may result in a resolution by 2013.

The goals are to:

The discussion was lively with a number of ideas presented, including:

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Market Development and Promotion

New Marketing Director

We were introduced to the new (less than a week on the job!) AHA Marketing Director Bill Harless. He is himself a horseman who started out riding reiners but is now competing in the Hunter/Jumper world. He has worked at American Airlines and with the US Pony Clubs. He told us about his recommendation that all marketing be done with a customer focus: AHA needs to identify its various customer groups, what services they need, and how to provide them.

Another emphasis is a focus on The Horse. The Arabian horse will sell itself if it is brought face-to-face with people. There needs to a grassroots focus that emphasizes the horse rather than the next show. We need to get out to non-horse events. We're not competing with other breeds, but with the myriad other things that people might spent their time and money on.

Web Site Redesign

The current web site is ancient, hard to navigate and difficult to maintain. There is a new design in the works, which is first starting with detailed requirements and priorities. The new web site came up in many of the discussions and presentations.

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There were three major membership resolutions before the convention: 1) changing the membership year to a calendar year (as was the case in the past with IAHA), and 2) changing the name of the Competition Card to a "premium" membership card, and 3) raising the AHA dues. Spoiler alert: None of these resolutions were approved.

AHA Executive Vice President Glenn Petty attended the committee meeting to speak on these topics.

The bottom line on the membership year is that from the competition perspective a calendar year makes better sense, but from a registration perspective an anniversary year makes better sense. The major concern is that making a change right now will divert resources from other projects that may be of higher priority, such as the web site redesign.

The "premium" card is a good concept especially since it would include a subscription to the magazine. At present fewer than half the membership has elected to pay the extra $10 for the magazine. (Editor's comment: the magazine has improved a lot in the past few years – if you aren't getting it, you should!) With the declining subscription numbers, outside advertisers have backed away from placing ads. Unfortunately covering the cost of sending the magazine to all members would result in a significant dues increase, more than is being proposed, and would probably result in more members dropping out.

A question came up in the session about insurance. There is a rumor going around that the $1M insurance coverage that comes with the Competition Card is for the association as a whole rather than for each individual. This was researched with Equisure and the answer is that each and every member with this level of membership gets $1M excess liability coverage. If you hear this rumor, please speak up.

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Region 15 Caucus

R15 Championship Show

The 2012 show transferred $27,500 to the Region.

2013 dates are: 3 July, Firecracker Classic; 4-7 July, R15 Championship.

Markel will continue to sponsor the Firecracker and will also provide continental breakfasts Wednesday-Saturday, a Wednesday evening promotional event, sponsor Sport Horse and Dressage awards, and advertise in the Omnibus and show program.

Patron's packages will allow for three levels this year: Platinum (3 meal passes, gift, reserved seating, ringside banner and class sponsorship), Gold (same as above but no meal passes), and Banner Sponsor (banner and reserved seating only).

Deadline for the omnibus is 1 January 2013.


In 2012 R15 reserved 67 event days for the various clubs based on the prior year's experience. Some clubs added additional days after the deadline. All the reserved days were allocated by 15 February, but more, for a total of 84, came in late. One club is going to be billed $1,400 to cover the overage for their late application. Moral of the story: clubs estimate the number of days you will be using in 2013 and get the count in before the deadline, which is 1 January for 2013.

Marty reported on the estimates that have been taken to Markel for 2013. "Event days" includes shows, trail rides, meetings, banquets, etc. Each event is covered for a day before and a day after to allow for set up & take down. These days do not figure in the "event days." No club will be penalized for not using its reserved days, but it would still need to pay for them.

AHA and USEF will automatically issue a Certificate of Insurance when approving the show. Other COI requirements will be $35 per event.

If a club chooses to opt out of the R15 negotiated insurance and pursue their own, the prices quoted for other clubs would not be affected.

2013 Meeting Dates

2013 Region 15 meeting dates are: 31 March, 18 August & 13 October. You don't have to be a delegate to attend; all are welcome. Meetings are held in Frederick, MD, as it is the most central location.

Treasurer's Report

There is an unexpected positive balance from last year's budget that will be placed in a contingency fund. Some of it will be used to pay Markel for the insurance and will be offset by funds from clubs as they are received.

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There were 54 resolutions! The vast majority of them were "housekeeping," which may have reorganized or moved paragraphs, but didn't substantively change any requirements. Others were somewhat more controversial. The following is not an exhaustive list.

01-12 Membership Restructure Calendar Year

This motion would have changed the membership year to 1 Dec-30 Nov rather than the anniversary date we have at present. It would allow joint membership cards with USEF. Implementing the change would impact other ongoing Information Technology (IT) work such as the web site redesign. Many individuals felt that it would also discourage non-showing members from joining or renewing. The resolution was defeated.

03-12 Amateur Owner Rule added to Code of Ethics

Some exhibitors have been "purchasing" accomplished show horses for less than market value for limited times solely to enter a show as an amateur owner. The "purchase" is effectively a short-term lease. The change clarifies that a "purchase" must be a "true sale" (specifics on how this is determined are in the resolution). It passed.

05-12 Protective Headgear

Riders in jumping classes must wear proper helmets both in the show ring and when schooling (with some exceptions for horses cross-entered in non-jumping classes). It passed.

30-12 Extended Gaits in Western Pleasure

This resolution would have allowed judges to call for the extended walk, jog or lope if necessary. There was a good bit of controversy about this one and it was defeated.

36-12 Green Trail Horse Definition

A green trail horse is defined as one in its first or second year of trail competition. The years need not be consecutive. Passed.

41-12 Eliminate Backing in Walk-Trot/Jog [Equitation] &
45-12 Removing the Back in Country English Pleasure Walk/Trot

These two resolutions removed the backing requirement in the only two W/T classes where it was allowed. Passed.

44-12 Adding Dressage Walk/Trot to the Walk/Trot-Jog Performance Section.

Dressage to be added to the list of classes in this section (English Pleasure, Country English Pleasure, Hunter Pleasure & Western Pleasure). Passed.

46-12 Clarification of Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian Being Allowed to Compete

The title sounds a little stilted, but what this resolution basically does is allow HA/AA stallions to compete in-hand. Passed.

49-12 Regional Two-Judge System

Regional shows have been required to have three judges and to use MOS scoring to place the class. This resolution provides that regional championships that had fewer than 250 horses in the prior competition year may use only two judges and the "Two Judge Total Point System." If the prior year's show had fewer than 150 horses, a single judge may be used. Passed.

52-12 Membership Dues Restructure

This resolution was withdrawn, but it would have raised the AHA membership fee, which hasn't been changed since the formation of AHA in 2004.

EE1-12 Select Rider Further Defined

I got quite confused in the various iterations of this resolution, but the bottom line is that a select rider may not have won certain honors in the section in which they are showing, but may have won various honors in other sections. The intent is to allow riders to change sections, e.g., from Western Pleasure to Country English Pleasure. This passed.

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Lance Walters, AHA President

The financial picture is looking much better than it has in recent years. The Sweepstakes Fund has been paid back early and with appropriate interest. Accounting controls are now in place to prevent unrestricted borrowing from it again. Over the past three years the accumulated surplus has exceeded $600K and another $100K surplus is expect this year. Sponsorships are expected to increase following the hiring of Bill Harless, the new marketing director.

Nevertheless memberships and registrations are down for our breed as they are for most others. There is declining opportunity for agricultural pursuits nationwide, which is causing some of this. Our future must be in the youth and we are increasing funding for youth programs.

The board is working on a 1-year strategic plan, which will be completed shortly.

David O'Connor, USEF President

The discipline side of the sport , e.g., dressage, is a huge growth area. Arabians are well positioned to be successful here even though economic times are still a challenge. He is just back from FEI seminar where he learned that the endurance discipline is the fastest-growing in the world – over 300% growth last year. What an opportunity for this organization.

USEF has had a huge success by the use of IT to reduce staffing expenses. Questions all organizations must be asking: What is our next investment? Where should we focus NOW for the future? Even though these choices may not have immediate effect. Youth must be the top focus. Many are lost after college, but 25 years later they will come back.

AHA leadership has been very active in USEF and have shown the ability to make hard decisions. The new USEF president will be Christine Tower.

Dave Corning, Treasurer's Report

For some years AHA paid sweepstakes payout from operating expenses rather than the bonds. As the economy changed, this had confused the picture (and everyone else) enough that the sweepstakes fund was then used to pay operating expenses. It has taken some years to "pay back" that fund. As of this year, Sweepstakes has become a separate 501(c)(5) organization. This will provide additional protection for those funds.

Current performance to budget is positive. There will be no profit over the next two years because of depreciation expense, but this is not a problem. The real need is to focus on cash flow and inter-fund liabilities (this is in essence the money we owe ourselves when money is taken from one budget line item and applied to another). If we continue to be conservative and responsible, it will take another three years to bring the inter-fund into balance, but it will never go away.

For the first time in the past five years, our working capital has a positive balance. We could pay all our external liabilities if we had to. The inter-fund liability has come down by over one-half and is expected to come down even more by the end of this fiscal year. As noted above, it will take another few years to get where we want to be.

AHA is losing a key staff member now in the finance area (she is returning to take over her family's farm) and is searching for a replacement.

In 2011 the delegates approved a plan that would enable money earmarked to youth programs to be carried over from year to year if not fully spent. Some money will be carried over this year.

Glenn Petty – EVP Report

The Horse Registration System has been in service for the 2nd year and is still being tweaked. The Membership duties have recently been moved to the Competitions area. In the Competitions area, AHA has recruited a professional show secretary to manage. The 2012 show results will not be completed until the distance results are in. (IT issues delay the distance results.) Praise for AHA Staff (47 in total) down from 103 in 2004. Losing Lisa Montgomery who has been the accounting supervisor – returning to the family farm. AHA policy is to fill vacancies with qualified people who also come from the horse industry.

The current AHA office building was constructed in 1980. AHA moved there in 1995. Major repairs will soon be needed and the location is not optimal. Our warehouse facility is in a somewhat run-down location leading to staff concerns. Need to decide whether to sell these buildings or move or stay and repair. Regardless of the decision, AHA will stay in Denver. Investigation of options is just beginning, but a decision will be needed eventually.

Glenn has been active with a coalition of EVPs with other breed organizations. AHA will be hosting the next meeting. Declining memberships, youth, registrations, and other common problems are the topic of discussion. Looking at a youth leader training seminar for the youth leaders of all these organizations. The majority of our members started with another breed. Collectively the most impact will be recruiting youth into horse sports in general.

Positive buzz is big this year. Breeding is improving. Need to buck the trend toward not registering horses.

One key to growth is the development of the new web site. It's more video based, member friendly. Most likely a two-year project.

In the process of recruiting new corporate partners.

Finances are slowly improving. Cutting expenses has been useful, but it is now hurting. Downsizing can only go so far and service to the membership is now being impacted. Employees must now be high on the priority list for this year. It's cheaper to retain employees than to recruit and train new ones.

Jay Hickey, American Horse Council (AHC)

The AHC is basically a lobbying group. We need someone in Washington to make sure that Congress doesn't do anything stupid that would negatively affect the horse industry. The result of the latest election may not simply be status quo. It may be easier to reach some kinds of agreement. Our issues are bi-partisan. Mr. Hickey discussed actions in 2011 and outlook for 2012.

What is the "Fiscal cliff?" Tax cuts expire & automatic program cuts kick in It would take about $5M out of the economy with a potential for another recession. With luck politicians can now say "compromise" without choking. These are interesting times.

He recommends the Horse Owners and Breeders Tax Handbook, one of the products of the AHC. Check it out.

USDA 2012 appropriations passed. Important because of disease control. There was a specific directive to continue to work with horses. The 2013 bill did not pass. The AHC worked hard to get the USDA equine vet position filled and funded. Even though the appropriations bill didn't pass, USDA is recruiting.

Immigration. Optimistic that comprehensive reform will pass in the next congress. Horse industry uses a lot of workers who have temporary (H2A & H2B) visas or are undocumented. The present state of affairs is unworkable.

Horse welfare is an issue. Three bills before Congress at present on equine welfare, e.g., slaughter. We don't need congressional interference in our industry! Extensions to the Horse Protection Act were proposed in 2012. Would prohibit artificial gait-enhancing devices in three breeds (not Arabs), but some other provisions might seep over. Looking hard at this bill.

The Recreational Trails Program has been reauthorized for 5 years.

National Equine Health Plan. The USDA needs to develop, in conjunction with the industry and the AAEP, a plan for handling disease outbreaks.

AHC is working on a marketing work initiative.

Keynote Speaker – Dr. Jerry Black, DVM (Colorado State University)

The economy:

"Stress factors" include extreme increases in cost of corn, hay and unemployment.

Decline in registrations has been less dramatic in Arabian breed as AQHA, Paint, etc. The declines in registrations and transfers started prior to economic decline. There have been increases in small shows and therapeutic riding programs.

The Unwanted Horse:

Bovine disease in Europe, e.g. "mad cow" decreased the demand for beef, which increased demand for horse meat. This drew media attention and resulted in federal and state bans on slaughter. Traditionally the slaughter price set the lowest price on the horse. The availability of cheap horses in the USA has been a major factor in making our horses attractive to slaughter buyers. The downturn in the economy, cost of euthanasia & disposal, and indiscriminate breeding complicate the issue.

The overriding question: are horses livestock or companions? One definition is that livestock provide work or other products (better for taxes and other reasons.)

Animal activists have become involved, not just in slaughter, but in misuse.

Increased urbanization has decreased the place for large animals. Less than 3% of the population lives in rural areas, but Americans have a love affair with the horse.

The definition of unwanted: "No longer wanted by their current owner because they are old, injured, sick, unmanageable, or fail to meet their owner's expectations." This often includes healthy horses of a variety of ages and breeds that might be more than satisfactory to others, but are of no use to their current owner.

BLM horses. Population increase 20% per year. They are over capacity in the wild and in holding areas. 47K fed at public expense.

In spite of the closing of the US slaughter plants, the same number of horses are being slaughtered – over 100K annually are simply shipped to Canada and Mexico. LEGAL transports and slaughter are treated "humanely," but there is no regulation of illegal operations. The type of horse processed mirrors the population within the US, so no one breed is being singled out.

Horse welfare:

The major challenge in the vet profession for this century. E.g, having to euthanize a healthy horse. Greatest threat is a misinformed public. According to surveys, people felt that "the most credible source" for info is the HSUS, then vets, then PETA, then the owners. This is upside down! The industry must become the focal point for information: not animal welfare organizations. "Why do we do it this way" rather than "We've always done it." Look at it from the public's point of view. We must change and be able to explain WHY what we do is good. As horsemen, we need to work on our image. Deliberate soring attracts negative media attention. Rodeo is still targeted by animal activists in spite of low injury rates. Urban carriages are criticised. Racing, especially high-profile breakdowns. Unacceptable training techniques. AQHA: ANYTHING that causes obvious distress is a problem. Need penalties to stop. Views on animal welfare conditioned by personal experience. The public views animal welfare as similar to their own personal welfare. Not sure what protecting animals really means.

Equine obesity. In Virginia (VT study) over half of horses are overweight. The problem is worse in horses than dogs or cats. Causes include lack of exercise and too much concentrate. Genetic easy keepers. Horses should be maintained at a body condition score (BCS) of 5-6. If higher, decrease caloric intake. Manage exercise and grazing. One score high is about 40 pounds. Can lose 1 BCS/month safely.

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Sport Horse Committee

The discussion in the Sport Horse Committee meeting that I attended was primarily a review of the proposed resolutions. The other topic was Sport Horse Nationals and additional proposed classes. The major change was the addition of combined training beginner/novice exhibition classes to 2013 SHN with no qualification required. The combined training includes dressage, using the eventing tests, and stadium jumping up to 2'7" (I think).

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Dressage Committee

The meeting I attended was primarily focused on "western dressage" and how it can be incorporated into the Arabian world. The speaker was Val Waggoner.

The only place within USEF that Western Dressage is defined is in the Morgan Division. They have specified that only licensed dressage judges may judge this class. There is a movement to form a separate USEF affiliate (Western Dressage Association of America, WDAA) that could be the repository of the rules. There are also other competing groups such as "Cowboy Dressage." WDAA is a non-profit with a focus on education. (There is a Virginia affiliate in the works.)

At present a class at an Arabian show has to be non-rated.

One gentleman from Oregon told his experiences. His show offered a Western Dressage class after the regular Dressage classes with the same judges and set-up. Have own equipment rules. It is a different division with different rules and this must be kept in mind. Use the Morgan rules, but easy to include in a show. Some judges refuse to participate, but this was not a problem at their show. Prefer the large ring for this event.

There is a need for judge training. There are judging criteria on the web site of WDAA. Names of clinicians also available. The gaits are the major hurdle. Videos are also available. Recommend Buck Brannaman.

A working group was formed to pursue and investigate how to work together.

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Working Western Committee

Ranch Sorting

Ranch sorting will be added to the AHA class list. Introductory place for people to start working cattle. Will be putting forward $$$ to support.

Cutting & Ranch sorting added to one-day show list. Folks feel that these shows are very appealing to the working cow folks. It used to take 25 horses to qualify as a one-day show, but many shows have been in the high-teens. As a result the minimum has been removed.

Can have three back-to-back one-day shows as long as at least one is a "specialty" day, e.g., Working Western or Sport Horse. The weekend restriction has also been removed to allow classes at county/state fairs to encourage them to offer Arabian classes again.


NRHA and USEF are parting ways. A new organization, USA Reining has been created to be the FEI affiliate. USA Reining is picking up the NRHA rules mostly, but it is geared to FEI level events. The split is due to the need for a national affiliate. NRHA is international and is therefore not eligible. USEF was the national affiliate, but USA Reining is picking up that ball. Judging qualifications will not change. Not clear what the long-term effects will be.

As for us, we will continue to look to NRHA for rules. Not clear what the appropriate mechanism is to make that happen. Through the Board? Through the resolution process? Michael Damianos, chair, appoints an ad-hoc committee with Jim Hitt as chair to review this in more detail. Will present results at the resolutions meeting. One known item is short-stirrup reining, which will not be addressed by USA Reining.

Breaking up into "Birds of a Feather" groups for trail, reining, working cow & sorting, cutting. No mounted shooting representation this year.

Trail (Lorne Robertson, chair)

This is the session that I attended.

Last year there was a focus on green trail. Working with USEF to improve their definition. Want two years to show at green, like hunter. Want an exemption if can't be two consecutive years, e.g., if the horse was injured and couldn't go to a minimum four shows that year – this is the same as hunter. Not about winning prizes, but about building confidence. Must rely on the course designer to set an appropriate level of course rather than specify what is allowed. Focus on introducing older horses. The judge can also exercise discretion on removing obstacles or making them easier.

Discussion of how to grow the trail division. Putting money into trail has helped in other regions. Sponsorships. W/T trail. Trail-in-hand. Trail is a good spectator class and has been successfully advertised to the general public. Fun classes, e.g., poker classes where everyone gets a playing card for successfully negotiating the obstacle. Best poker hand wins. Trail clinics at shows give everyone at the show a shot at a trail class. Put together a one-page for show secretaries. Counting trail toward high-point awards in any division. Joint classes. Marking obstacles (1, 2, etc.) to help people remember the course. Many people are insecure about memorizing the course and it deters them from trying. This can be done at the show committee level.

Working Cow Horse/Reined Cow Horse

Arabian Working Cow has had some membership and leadership changes. Looking at associate memberships. THIS year the cattle at US Nat'ls were good. Will try to keep up the good work by having a liaison relationship set up with the US Show Commission to select suppliers.

How to incorporate "herd work" into the one-day shows without need for a cutting judge.

Working with the color-breed congress that comes to Tulsa after US Nat'ls so that our competitors can participate. Use the one-day show format to do this.

Use a horn to signal the end of work rather than a whistle.

Need two goes for the reined cow horse championship. This would put them in line with the other working western disciplines.

Discussing the use of non-Arabs for turn-back horses at shows. There should not be a restriction to Arabs – all that means is that people have to bring (and pay for) non-competing horses.


Want to get more people looking at ranch cutting or two-hand cutting classes. Want to add this in the class list. Now have a youth cutting. This was voted in as a one-year trial. Will evaluate. At present it is still a local class option.

Practice time at US Nat'ls? Running out of "space." At present the only time to practice is in the middle of the night.


Big issue is noted above. Problems with "the draw." May need a rule change since the rule book is pretty specific on HOW this is done. They want to be able to use computers to do the schedule for the entire division.

Awards have improved at US Nat'ls, but it still needs work: a "better blend."

Give a hand to the Arabian Reining Horse Association. And thanks for sponsorships.

Snaffle-bit rules for junior horse and futurity have been reconciled.

Western Riding

These classes are not being offered in many places. If anyone is asked, the youth are really interested in having the class and are working on getting an exhibition class at Youth Nat'ls. It is already in the rule book, but it's a challenging pattern. Would be useful to have a much easier introductory pattern. Paint Horse has a simpler pattern, but it is limited to younger riders.


Dressage can accumulate achievement award points with scores as well as placings. Why can't we do that in working western? Need more info. Let's let the awards folks look into it and make a proposal.

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