soooo…

With proposal number 3 voted down, I think we all need that, while IMO it was a proposal that needed to be voted down, there are clearly some issues that need to be addressed and attempting to do so would go a LONG way towards some peace in our world. So, I’m going to ask a question and request simple and direct answers that are precise, not vague. No ‘treat everyone more fairly’…that won’t do. Be very specific…if there was ONE thing you could get changed in the AMHA…something realistic and preferably relatively simple in application, what would it be? If we got a few small,simple changes implemented and got the ball rolling, then maybe the bigger things could get tackled in time.

Just a thought on how to not walk away from this experience no better for it…

Stacy

38 Responses to soooo…

  1. Stacy: I have been looking on the internet all weekend for news from the convention. Your post is the first I have seen. Do you know what the final vote total was on #3? We really wish AMHA would have had a live blog (even just a summary-didn’t need a court reporter!) of the meeting. Hopefully everyone was civil.

    Re your proposal. I absolutely agree. I sort of hope there is a panel convened of the best representatives of both show and use and they take the memberships ideas and make some changes.

    My idea: Produce a nice quality (pictures/color/articles) short (maybe 10 pages max) quarterly (print or e-zine, depending on the recipient) which would be mailed/e-mailed to the following: Group 1. New owners of Morgan horses (by the information on the transfer papers) who have not subscribed to TMH in the last 2 years. This would be provided gratis the the new owner for 4 issues and then a notice would go with the last issue telling them they need to renew either the quarterly or subscribe to TMH if they have enjoyed the quarterly. The seller of the Morgan to the new owner could have the option of checking a box when they send in the transfer papers which would indicate that the seller would pay for the first years cost of the quarterly. We would love to have this option to include as part of the package we provide to new owners. Frankly, the Morgan magazine itself can be rather overwhelming to first time Morgan owners and the quarterly would sort of let them get their feet wet, especially if the quarterly featured other first time owners.
    Group 2. New AMHA members (unless they subscribe to TMH) would get the quarterly for one year, with the same option for renewal or subscription to TMH.
    Group 3. Long term AMHA members who have, in surveys, indicated that they have little or no interest in showing their horse or subscribing to the Morgan magazine. At the present time, they can get the Newsletter but I take it that the newsletter operates more to keep the membership informed about official AMHA business. Many, many Morgan owners do not really care about the latest out of Shelburne, but would, I believe, enjoy reading short articles about Morgan owners and looking at non-posed, candid pictures of various Morgans (like the great Snow/Morgans photo essay in the latest issue!). As an example, the two recent articles in the Morgan magazine about Ms. Gardiner and Quietude, although lengthy, could be condensed and put in the quarterly.
    I know this will cost, but I think it offers at least one way to outreach to long term members who find the advertising hype or gushing show journalism of the magazine off-putting, or to new members who just want to enjoy their new horse and who want reaffirmation that they made a wonderful purchase and that there are a lot of other people out there like them.
    We have Morgan Magazine issues going back to the 50′s. You know what, one of the most enjoyable things I can do is sit down with these old (slim and in black and white) issues and read the articles and the “news” from all of the club reporters across the nation. The members were naive by our standards, the pictures quite often awful, but the love and devotion to the breed comes through in every page. I think to some degree it is that time which many of the “Use” people wanted to re-capture. We cannot go back to that post-war “golden time”(and probably wouldn’t like it much if we did) , but there is so much more to owning a Morgan than the latest Regional win, or futurity triumph and maybe a “little” magazine can bring some of these people back into the breed.

  2. Flmorgan says:

    I’m glad #3 was voted down but there will be some unhappy members. I think we should have a steering committee for each disapline which would report to our Board of Directors on the status and concerns of each disapline be it a sport or show or trail riding disapline. The committee members would be volunteer and could meet via conference calls . With that being said we may have a more balanced representation of the Membership.

  3. colwilrin says:

    The membership meeting was very civil and Cindy Mugnier was the definition of grace under pressure. The meeting was audio and videotaped. Audio will be available on the website. The hotel had VERY limited access to WiFi and other computer amenities which may explain the lack of member live coverage.

    Rather than discussing sound-bytes subject to listener interpretation, it would be more constructive for members to listen to the complete audio files of the meeting when posted.

  4. underdog88 says:

    Chris (and others wondering)-

    the results for all three were landslides:

    Item #3 was voted down 1,912 Against, 440 For

    Item #2 passed 1,881 For, 461 Against

    Item #1 passed 1,903 For, 370 Against

  5. mbk says:

    Hi all,

    Here is a partial list of standing committees already in place…perhaps we need to embrace them and offer the suggestions through them. They are all listed on the AMHA website under members only.

    Discipline Steering Committee:Charter: To act as a single channel or conduit for all disciplines, thus providing consistency and continuity in mission, goals, objectives, and implementation; To interface with AMHA staff to gain input and feedback regarding proposed initiatives. The primary focus of time and attention will be devoted to development of initiatives that will further the growth and development of all disciplines within the open competition arena to attract more exhibitors to the Morgan breed, reporting to and making recommendations to the AMHA board as well as to further the growth and development of all disciplines in Morgan shows, with recommendations and support for AMHA committees involved with Morgan show.
    And the sub-committees: Carriage Driving Sub-Committee, Competitive Trail/Endurance Sub-Committee, Dressage Sub-Committee, Eventing Sub-Committee, Hunter/Jumper Sub-Committee, Open Show Competition Sub-Committee, Working Western Sub-Committee.

    Owner/Amateur Committee: Charter: To recommend, to the Board, how AMHA can better support owner/amateur members and better meet their needs (i.e., education, communications, ethics, and participation and usage of the Morgan horse); and to provide guidance and information to new and potential AMHA members on a wide range of subjects regarding the Morgan horse.

    These committees are usually chaired by a BOD member and include the membership to fill the committees. I would think that many of the areas that come up would be covered by the list of standing committees…perhaps it’s time we use the system the way it was intended.

    Mike

  6. leslie says:

    If I could make one change to the AMHA, it would be to reduce membership costs or at least keep them where they are, but include a subscription to TMH. I honestly don’t get anything out of being a member and $70 is a lot of money. That doesn’t really have much to do with the question 3 saga, but it is far and away the first change I’d want to see. However, I assume they’ve set that cost based on what they need to be financially viable (err…as close to it as they can be) so I doubt that will change.

    Maybe now that they’ve decided to start soliciting sponsorships for the GN, they could do the same for the Pathways program. That’s how the AQHA does theirs. Participants get prizes from the sponsor when they achieve certain hour marks. I think people who trail ride are going to trail ride the same amount with or without an incentive program, but putting some effort into updating Pathways would at least be a gesture to show that the association isn’t only interested in making improvements to the shows.

    I’d also kind of like to see more A-rated Morgan shows offer sport divisions. Maine Morgan used to have (maybe still does?) a dressage division that was open to all breeds. Sort of a show within a show. That gives sport Morgan riders who usually only compete at their discipline’s shows a chance to be a part of the breed community. Keeping it open to all breeds means they’ll still have the same kind of competition (theoretically) that they have on the open circuit. And the shows can offer awards for high-point Morgans. I know a lot of shows don’t do sport divisions because it requires an extra ring, judge, steward, more insurance, etc., but since we’re just throwing out ideas, that’s one I’d like to see tried at more shows.

    I’m not sure that would be an AMHA-based initiative, though.

  7. colwilrin says:

    Leslie,

    To add to your comment regarding viability and fees. The AMHA posted a net loss of just $125.00 this past year. Pretty amazing considering they had $80,000.00 in legal fees. But for the lawsuit, the AMHA would have turned an 80K profit, and may have been able to consider ways to lower fees, add member benefits, or add to promotion of the breed.

    ***Note, numbers are rounded off from what I recall. I did not write them down.

  8. Mr Bill says:

    Damn it: I went long again. Sorry…

    Stacy has set forth a noble venture here, and the ideas posted to date have been nice. However, they have missed the point entirely. Lower fees, more communication, targeted committees are all noble ventures. Most support these things, no matter which side of the issue at hand they stand on. In fact, all of the ideas expressed to date have been addressed, attempted and implemented, over and over again, for more then 30 years.

    The issue at hand has been plaguing our breed for that long. It’s the root of almost all of the controversies we wish to resolve. From breeding and conformation debates, to just about every show-ring practice beyond a brush and a hoof pick. From the Bright Line to the ginger rule, from heavy shoes to ground flowers, it’s FAR easier to condemn and defend the little things then tackle the elephant in the room.

    Dawning my pads and helmet, I’ll take a shot at advancing this discussion.

    There is, has been (and, in my not-so-humble opinion, will always be) a faction within our breed that do not like horse shows in their present form. They do not like ‘Show’ horses, or the people that compete at the highest levels therein. They don’t like the practices, techniques or procedures. They don’t like the hoopla, the spiraling expenses or, especially, the outlandish style in which today’s Morgan show horse is presented.

    The fact that we have fun is abhorent to them.

    They have always been loud, often screaming equine-obscenities in order to be heard. They have to. As we learned at this years convention, they do not have the political muscle to take control and install their version of peace and prosperity. Whether they want to admit it or not, the trouncing the Anti-Show folks took at last months election has devastated them. After two years, hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, they failed to reach even 20% of the electorate (81.3% voted down on Prop 3).

    A majority is not within their reach. It never has been.

    Sadly, they will have to continue their verbal assault. It’s the only tool in their bag. The anti-show horse faction will bash our breed and trash its trainers, breeders and exhibitors, ad infinitum, for all of the foreseeable future. It’s becoming a tradition within our breed to hate or be hated.

    Lovely. Figure is rolling over in his grave.

    The fact is the ‘elephant’ is impossible to remove. It’s right here in the barn aisle, and it’s here to stay. There is no compromise, because even if the Pro-Show folks give in on this or that, ginger or shoeing regulations, breeding theories or show ring tactics, the Anti-Show folks will continue their assault. They have a vision for the breed that runs in direct opposition to the majority of the Show horse world.

    Pro-Show folks like, want and need the glitz and glamour. It’s part and parcel of both the bottom line and the top of the fun. Anti-Show folks Do Not Care about the economics of our breed. They are not interested in promoting the Morgan in all of its glory, from pet to park horse. They want to cherry pick the parts they like best and force their version, their vision upon the rest of us.

    I won’t get into how un-American that is.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this problem will never be resolved. The only power Anti-Show folks have is that of protest and condemnation. The effect they have on the breed is entirely negative, which, in my opinion, ultimately leaves their argument hollow. Spending a massive amount of time and energy on appeasing them is counter-productive… a waste of monumental proportions.

    For example:

    AMHA’s current full color, 8 page brochure (“The Horse That Chooses You”) does not contain one picture of a show horse. There are 7 children (no adults) and 14 fairly plain horses depicted. In 5 pages of text, there are only two sentence fragments that reference the show horse “… or elegant and aristocratic ridden in English style” and “Waiting alert and ready to enter the show ring, …”. Nowhere is a horse shown in harness OF ANY KIND. There’s only one picture of a Morgan being ridden (a child wearing a helmet). The whole thing comes off as some sort of baby sitting service. Replace the word ‘Morgan’ with any other breed and the whole thing still rings true (other then the history on page 3). It is bland and pointless, a direct result of the dumbing down of our breed to appease the moaners and whiners from the Anti-Show faction.

    I will guarantee you that this brochure did not lead to one horse sale. Someone, please, prove me wrong. I will also guarantee you that the Anti-Show folks had no complaints about it.

    Whoop-de-doo.

    Pro-Show folks need to stop feeling guilty. We are the backbone of the breed, politically, monetarily and emotionally. We do not need to restrict, redact or reduce our lives or livelihood just to appease this moaning minority. The onus is on them, not us, to proffer change. If they come up with something positive, we might just listen, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Do they impact the breed? Absolutely, but only in a negative way. The hate-mongering does indeed scare off some potential Morgan owners.

    That shame is on THEM, though, not us.

    Mr Bill
    PlayMor Farm

  9. Jan says:

    Well said, and as usual – you have a way words. Very good post.

  10. underdog88 says:

    So true, Bill! And very well articulated. Thanks for posting this!

    I like the example you use of the brochure. There have been a lot of Anti-Show folks who seem to think that there is no representation of “their side”, especially from the AMHA, and complain about this a lot. But from what I’ve observed, especially in the past few years, there seems to be an abundance of promotional material that depicts the Morgan Horse in the exact way that you describe this brochure.
    “Replace the word ‘Morgan’ with any other breed and the whole thing still rings true” is a good way to describe it. ANY breed of horse can be shown in a backyard or a field or with children and look pleasant and sweet-natured- ANY horse. But we see this depiction shown over and over and over now instead of showing what makes our Morgans different and special.

    And a good point that you mentioned about this type of promotional material is that “I will guarantee you that this brochure did not lead to one horse sale” So true. No one is going to look at something where a Morgan horse just looks plain, unremarkable, and unexceptional and go “Ooh I want a horse just like that!” If they wanted a companion they could go out and purchase literally any breed of horse, it doesn’t matter.

    This past fall at the Equine Affaire I was a little disappointed that the big posters of the gorgeous, glamorous show horses were located at the back of the aisles where most people walking through the barns don’t even go. All of the pictures up front were of Non-Show horses. Don’t get me wrong, we need to see horses like this too…but when you only show one side, it’s like saying to people who don’t know anything about the breed, “hey! look- this is what all Morgan horses look like and this is what they do” It’s just as bad as if all the photos were of fancy park horses and we showed absolutely nothing else- the horses are being misrepresented just in a different way. But we don’t want to offend Non-Show people so we never consider it or label it as misrepresentation of the breed. But it is.

  11. leslie says:

    That elephant has been introduced and analyzed on this blog before. I don’t think putting things in terms of “us and them” is really productive, though, since most owners don’t fall in one camp or the other.

    You say you want to advance the discussion, Bill, but then that “this problem will never be resolved.” You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but this post was put up to generate ideas for change, not to point fingers at the losing team and categorize them as un-American fun-haters.

  12. Touche’, Leslie..

    We might want to keep in mind that out of 6294 members, approx. 37% voted on these proposals. While that is the highest percentage who have voted for years, it still leaves a very large “silent majority” out there in the membership.

    The election was useful for one purpose: I think it defined the relative size of the groups who feel passionate about the direction the Morgan is taking. However, that still leaves a very large number of morgan owners who are not “connected”. They need to be better served.
    Also, I think there are probably a large number of members who voted against Prop. 3 because it was a poorly thought-out and clumsy attempt to take over power, not because they think that things are just fine as they are. So perhaps this was not a ringing endorsement of “business as usual”.

    I would like to see a survey go out to the membership while these topics are still fresh. This survey should be in-depth, rather like the Blue Ribbon Commission from years ago.

  13. mbk says:

    Chris,

    “However, that still leaves a very large number of morgan owners who are not “connected”. They need to be better served.”

    I would like to know if they are not connected as your statement implies or if they are in fact not interested. If it is the latter then what would you say they need to be “better” served?

    I agree with some of Bill’s points, I think AMHA has been trying to be everything to everyone and not doing the job as well as they could. My point in my previous post was that while these committees exist and have they have not been well utilized…mostly do to the ongoing never ending lawsuits by the same group of people. They no matter what have done nothing but harm the breed for a number of years now. Perhaps the numbers really will be taken as a strong enough statement, that would be a great thing!!! Perhaps then any great ideas that are proposed can actually get done without the ongoing distraction of yet another court action by the constant complainers.

    Mike

  14. Mike: That is why I think a member survey laying out the controversial issues and an agressive follow-up seeking responses (follow-up phone call/second mailing) is needed. It may be that the “silent majority” really don’t give a rip about show or use issues. Sometimes not voting is tacit approval of the status quo. We don’t know at this point.

    Meanwhile, back at the show barn they are breaking out the champagne. However, if you look a little closer, you will see less customers, a smaller slice of the pie each year, a little more shabbiness, a shrinking registry and few to no spectators in the stands. Yeah, things are going great in the breed…..

  15. StacyGRS says:

    I don’t think anyone needs to be apologetic, but I DO think there are some things that could and should be adjusted. As Chris said, this was a poorly written change and it’s defeat doesn’t necessarily say that folks think things are perfect as they are, just that this wasn’t a good enough option.
    I agree about the membership fee needing to come with more perks. The magazine? Maybe. I would settle for the on line registry use for free or even discounted. Or, an on line version of the magazine that has the articles available to all members. I understand it has to do with the cost of the software but, personally, I think they’d sell alot more on line registry accounts if it were $30.00/yr for members instead of $90. maybe make it $60.00/yr for non-members or something like that. I think the quantity sold might make up the price difference.
    Stacy

  16. Trisha says:

    I completely agree about the registry. If I have to use my five free days I look up anything and everything I might potentially want to know. It’d be nice to be able to look up what I need to know rather than squishing it into five days. There’s only so much that I can look up on allbreedpedigree.com!

    Plus, it would save time as hassle for those who work within the registry. I know that there are a lot of phone calls that come from my trainer that could have easily been answered if we had free/discounted registry access. If you call the registry, they will give you the same information for free (though I’m sure they wouldnt’ agree to spending hours on the phone with you. haha). I’m cheap and I’ll admit it. I don’t want to spend ten dollars for 24 hours of access.

  17. Vintage_Rider says:

    Sadly, this year, unless I intend to go to a regional, I won’t renew my membership, just too expensive.

  18. Mr Bill says:

    Leslie & Chris have called me out, which I always like. You guys are great.

    Both thought that my previous post did not advance the discussion. Au Contraire! I stirred the pot, which always brings the good stuff up from the bottom. :)

    Leslie thinks I shouldn’t point fingers or categorize people, yet the people I refer to are always pointing at and categorizing me (well, the figurative me). They cast aspersions and exaggerate allegations of neglect, abuse and thievery. Believe me; they can take the heat, Leslie. They are not leaving the kitchen.

    Chris & Stacy noted that the voting down of all three propositions was not a ringing endorsement of business as usual. I couldn’t agree more. All last months election did was help to define the basic, relative size of the 2 groups in opposition (400 vs 1900, give or take) and, indirectly, the size of the ‘silent majority’ (63% of the 6294 members did not vote).

    [I deleted two paragraphs covering political science... you're welcome]

    Since our biggest election in years saw only 37% of the membership expressing an opinion, Chris wants to reach out to this silent majority and find out what they think and what they want. I believe they have already expressed that opinion. These matters do not apply to them or their involvement in the breed. A majority of the ‘Silent Ones’ are General Members in the truest sense. They have a Morgan or two, and enjoy them in whatever fashion suits them. We can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars … again … to find out how they can be “better served”, but in the end we’ll find the same things the Blue Ribbon Commission (an independent, 2 year study conducted from 1996-98) found.

    http://gomorgans.net/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/blueribbonupdate.pdf

    The specific recommendations for the show ring were that no trainers be allowed to judge, that there only be one, absolute Standard set by rule of law (which I support), and an unbiased scribe be assigned to halter judges “…to assist justifying judges scorecard against [the] standards…”.

    Determining who disregarded the standards, and by how much, is virtually impossible. This is a game of opinion, not a race with a finish line or a contest with a score. This recommendation would have inevitably lead to litigation, not peace or prosperity, and was correctly tabled.

    The Blue Ribbon Commission also recommended a mediation panel be created (which became the Judges Review Board) with the authority to sanction offenders, particularly, and I quote “… errant judges who disregard the standards.”

    Again, that’s impossible to realistically deploy.

    The mediation panel was also supposed to police Trainers unethical practices, inhumane treatment, inappropriate financial gouging and (their words, not mine) “Shady Practices”. It’s been my experience that the unethical, inhumane, price gouging, shady trainers in the Morgan world are few, far between, and are always found by honest trainers as the assholes they are. Most are run out of the business when their clientele disappear and few trainers will do business with them. I can count 5 names, all with World Championship trophies, who have been forced out of the Morgan world in just this manner.

    Good riddance.

    A panel handing out sanctions is about as effective in limiting offenses as United Nations resolutions are in curbing corruption or human rights violations.

    This is a free, capitalist society. Buyer beware. Seek a second opinion.

    Having stirred said pot, I’ll now try to actually advance the discussion:

    Have the Show Ring detractors (for the sake of civility, I’ll stop using ‘Anti-Show Folk’) ever brought forth reasonable proposals for moderate change? Is there an accurate, detailed list we can tackle? Chris?

    I’m not set in stone. Neither is Stacy. But some of the complaints I hear are to just radical for consideration.

    Mr Bill
    PlayMor Farm

    Oh, and Chris: No one broke out the champagne. I didn’t even have a beer. The entire equine industry has been walloped by the economy. As a small breed, we feel it more then most. The reality is that sales are up, inquiries are up, and requests for breeding contracts are up (significantly, here at PlayMor).

    Unfortunately, we’re about to be hit with the dreaded double dip. Only the true Morgan enthusiasts will survive the next two years. Save cash, reduce dept and hang on, kids. This is going to suck, Big Time.

    b.

  19. Mr Bill says:

    AMHA lists its General membership as $70 per year. Stacy quoted $90. I may have missed a change, but regardless, the following benefits are provided to all members of AMHA:

    Regular e-mail updates & News briefs
    Newsletter – The Network
    Members Only web site access
    Access to Registry records – Five free days
    Discounts on registry services – Registrations, transfers, color tests, etc
    Discounts on Morgan merchandise
    Voting privileges
    Governance – Serve on an Association committee or run for the board.
    Free classified advertising on our web site – Photos are a minimal charge.
    Farm Finder Program
    Education – Youth & Adult Horsemastership & Award programs
    Free Promotional/Educational Material (pay for postage only)
    Professional Resources – Free clinics and educational programs
    Local Club Support – Promotional materials, and monetary support
    Youth Programs- Medal Classes, Horsemastership Program, Contests

    $70/year is not to expensive, but perhaps AMHA can install a payment plan at $5.84/month. ($7.50/month if the Gen Mem Fee is $90)

    If AMHA stopped charging extra for access to the Registry Records (which are our records, not theirs) perhaps membership would increase, or, at least, stabalize. If they must charge for it, they should consider commercial advertisers or site-sponsors, you know: annoying ads that would pay the access for all.

    “This months Registry Access is sponsored by…”

    Mr Bill
    PlayMor Farm

  20. RaeOfLight says:

    I believe the $90 Stacy mentioned was referring to the cost for 1yr of access to the online registry.

  21. Bill, the Blue Ribbon commission report was written by persons far more knowledgable and capable than I. It called attention to the existence of built-in conflicts of interest. It made recommendations that, in hindsight, if adopted would have prevented much of the present conflict.

    It is absolutely possible to judge a horse to a standard “set in stone”. Warmblood registries do it all the time. It is simply that we do not wish to live with the sanctions of not meeting the standard.

    A panel handing out sanctions for rules violations would be incredibly effective in a breed as small as this. The UN constitutes sovereign nations, Bill, not business entities.

    As far as policing trainers (I agree it is not a large problem), who else but the breed organization, Bill? New buyers are hesitant enough to put their money out. If they meet an attitude of “Buyer beware” then maybe they should just take their dollars down to the local auction barn or to another breed that polices itself more effectively.

    Lastly, I do not think many of the people who supported Prop. 3 are anti-show. I think they are anti-the-way-we-show-now. They have a perfectly good time at the Vermont Country Show, for example. I think their basic objection is 1. Shoe weight and hoof length and 2. Artificiality in any form (bustles, ginger, go-gos, shackles, tail falls). That is a pretty short list, Bill. No, they don’t want to ride bareback on a barefoot horse with a halter. They like everything kinda low key with attention paid to a horse quietly doing a good job for his rider. Not much glitz and glamour, I am afraid. But y’know, there are a lot of spectators at these quiet little shows. Go to a CDE or an open Dressage show…everyone having a good time, no weeping Junior riders coming out of the ring to a screaming parent.

  22. Mr Bill says:

    Chris is my hero, boiling the point down to a managable size.

    Houskeeping:

    Blue Ribbon Commission: Which recomendations that were NOT implemented would have prevented the conflict of interest? People who show (Trainers/Breeders/Owners) sit on the board of directors and repeatedly get re-elected by the people who show. We wish to be governed by our own, and we have the money, energy and stamina to ensure that never changes. The conflict is unavoidable. There is no way to change that unless we do something drastic like Prop 3 (akin to the blind being led by the blind).

    Honesty and integrity are the only bulwarks to coruption.

    Judging Standard: We have a Friesen, and researched the process it takes to have one authorized to breed. Suffice to say it costs tens of thousands of dollars, takes two years or more to complete, and includes so many hoops the average owner will not even attempt it. While I understand why they want to control the breed, the denial of freeedom of choice is just to un-American for me to stomache. DNA protects all registries now.

    I’d hate to see a panel of judges with tape measures and calculators determining our winners and losers. You lose the mistique and the controversies (which are part of the game). Imagine walking away from the best 10 horse park class you ever saw with a receipt detailing the scoring with nary an inch to argue over.

    Bor-ing! :)

    Trainer Ethics: We’re talking about private transactions on private property. You just can’t police that. Look out the window and you’ll see that this is world-wide, societal problem. The best we can do is slam those who are caught red handed.

    And if you don’t think Nations are Businesses, look at the oil industry. We privatize ours (and complain about the millions they make off us), while many nationalize theirs, puting that money directly into the bad guys hands. The “Global Economy” is every nation acting as a business entity. China’s kicking our ass… I say sick Trump on ‘em.. he’s pissed off about it.

    Houskeeping finished…

  23. underdog88 says:

    I just want to mention something really quick about something that Chris said:

    “No, they don’t want to ride bareback on a barefoot horse with a halter. They like everything kinda low key with attention paid to a horse quietly doing a good job for his rider. Not much glitz and glamour, I am afraid.”

    I’m not sure if you were saying that the people you were referencing want this type of competition to be the norm but….that sounds REALLY boring to me. Sorry. Actually no, I’m not sorry because it’s just how I feel. I WANT the glitz and the glamour…I DON’T WANT low key. If I wanted low key, and no glitz and glamour, and horses just “quietly doing a good job for their riders”…I would’ve chosen to show in 4-H or county fairs. It’s just the truth!
    There are disappointments in this game, sure, and that’s part of any sport, but there is also so much fun and excitement, and I really love the way the shows are that I attend; yeah, I have complaints sometimes, but not that often and they don’t make me wish for a complete overhaul or drastic rule changes.
    Frankly, I’d be REALLY, REALLY bummed if the shows got more low key or lost some of their glitz and glamour, and the same goes for the breed itself.

  24. Mr Bill says:

    The meat on the bone:

    Shoe weight: In the 90′s, we HAD to ease up on these regulations. Large horses (which we had to breed for so that the burgeoning belts of Americans could ride without looking like weebles) were often impossible to shoe correctly without going over weight. When you’re right on the line, wet conditions found leather pads soaking up moisture and tipping the scales past the mark (be it 14, 16 or 18 ounces).

    Shoe weight always comes down to defining the line between performance and abuse. A 24 ounce shoe is fine for some, abhorrent to others. Ethical trainers, those who actually care about their horses, need those horses to stay healthy so the cash register keeps ringing. They shoe their horses accordingly.

    Is there room for a modest adjustment? Sure, but it will take a compelling reason to change.

    Hoof Length: 5.75 inches does not a Walking Horse make, but I think the industry would accept 5.5 inches as the max if there was a concerted, reasonable effort put forth to effect the change.

    Perhaps in trade for allowing switches? :)

    And as for bands, I for one think they are far more humane then having a horse tear his foot up in some of the crap footing we find at show rings across the country. They also allow some horses to make a class after tearing a hoof up earlier in the show.

    Artificiality (in any form): This is really the crux of problem. Chris knows this, and is wincing as we read because he knows the dead end is near.

    I’ll work from the bottom up:

    There’s no room for compromise on tails. The industry believes the tails are fine as they are. Most of us wish we’d get our collective head out of our ass and allow switches because they have nothing to do with the performance or conformation of a horse, and everything to do with finishing the show horse look (which, admitedly, a clear minority hate).

    Bustles and ginger have been banned in the past, with absolutely no success. We like our tails up, it’s as simple as that.

    Go-gos, I assume, are the myriad of things we use to keep the horses alert with their attention (ears) focused down the rail. The current rules covering the warm up ring are strict when it comes to these devices.
    Most are already banned. If there’s an actual proposal to ban more of these devices (bag whips, bamboo sticks, etc.) I’m sure we’d consider them on an individual basis. But you can’t ban me from kicking a little dirt in front of my horse. Wake up, Buddy. It’s time to show!

    Shackles (and stretchers) are already illegal. No one even tries to cheat anymore (by using them on the show grounds). What more can we do???

    But all those things are merely fodder for argument. Chris summed up the real problem perfectly when he said; “They like everything kinda low key with attention paid to a horse quietly doing a good job for his rider.”

    No glitz. No glamour. Is this really a reasonable goal? Is it possible to make such a drastic change to an industry whose main participants love the glitz, love the glamour?

    Historically speaking, this is the ‘Y’ in the road, with each path leading in vastly different directions. The “Pro-the-way-we-show” folks turned left in the ’70′s, about the time colored brow bands came into vogue. The Lippits took a right, preaching natural, natural, natural and have virtually disappeared. Perhaps it’s time to resurrect them as a viable alternative?

    There is no compromise for this very basic issue. It’s a matter of taste, which no one can legislate. The “Anti-the-way-we-show-now” folks want me to completely change how I think, feel and participate in Morgan Horse Shows. This is a kin to giving me a lobotomy, which I’m sure they’d line up to pay for, but, come on…

    Its not going to happen. We’re talking about thousands of lobotomies. This is why, in my original post, I declared the problem un-resolvable.

    To date, no one’s proved me wrong.

    Mr Bill
    PlayMor Farm

  25. Mr Bill says:

    I haven’t heard much from the Lippit world in years. We actually had a few in training, many moons ago.

    In 30 minutes of research, I find that they are still concentrated around Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, though there are Lippit farms scattered acorss the country. They have a couple shows, their stud fees range from $200 – $900, and sale prices are between $2,500 and $6,000. While I’m sure there are individuals that are worth much more then that, they are just about as popular and as reasonably priced as they were 35 years ago.

    They are still on the small side (14.2), and many still have those giant necks (but some do not, including a few breeding stallions). Most notably, however, is they still have those beautiful, super-typey Morgan heads and faces. Those giant eyes and deep, deep jowls.

    In the immortal words Chris Farley “Me likey”. :)

    They have done an outstanding job of sticking to their original goals of controlled (by statute), selective breeding. And they’ve kept everything natural, from head to toe, stirrup to show ring.

    Is that the model the Anti-the-way-we-show-now folks are proposing?

    If so, why haven’t they dumped those crap-bred, long-necked, manufactured mutts we spotlight hungry twits show and move to the pure, the natural, the relaxed Lippit?

    Sounds like happily ever after to me…

    Sleepless in Kentucky,

    Mr Bill

  26. Gosh, Bill, your responses sound like you think I am advocating these changes. I was asked what would be on the anti-show people’s list. While I do not speak for them, judging by your reaction, I think I was pretty much dead-on in my short list. You said implementing the changes would be impossible. They are not impossible, but it would be a very radical overhaul and I agree, it would not be acceptable to the people who show (myself included).

    Of course these issues are all difficult (if they weren’t they would have been resolved long ago). I like your idea of a 5.5 length of hoof. That is very easy to measure and would keep some of the grotesque out of the picture. As someone who has shod his own horses for years, I also understand the strains we put on our horses with the long toes (more harmful than weight, in my opinion). It is a credit to our farriers and to the soundness of our Morgans that we see very few retired show horses who are lame. On the other hand, it is hard to find a sound old jumper or eventer. Those sports eat up horses and throw them out.

    Still, in a world where the horse buying public is becoming more sophisticated due to exposure to many different breeds, particularly from Europe, and a tradition of shoeing only for protection of the foot, one has to answer some pretty awkward questions such as “Why on earth do you put those chunks of iron on them?” or “Isn’t that dangerous to have the horse stacked up on those pads?” or “Can’t they move their shoulders and knees by themselves?” or (worst of all) “Are those the same as Tennessee Walking Horses-isn’t that abusive?” When you step back and look at it from general horsemanship perspective, it IS kind of weird to stack your riding horse on top of some pads and strap the shoe on. In fact, it looks so strange that it turns many people off. The public is more conscious of perceived and actual abuse. Let us hope we don’t end up in PETA’s gunsights some day.

    Bill, do you really feel all the glitz and glamour would go out of your world if your horses had to wear a keg shoe? From what I have seen , your horses have beautiful movement all on their own. You don’t raise “shufflers”. I sort of wonder if the perceived loss of glitz and glamour would only be because Morgans would no longer move like ASBs. I remember a picture of Johnny Lydon riding Waseeka’s Nocturne in a BARE-FOOT park saddle class. Nocky was over level. If they really are park horses, they will move like one.

  27. jessica says:

    Chris – “If they really are park horses, they will move like one.”

    Amen to that. No amount of weight, or length of toe, will make a horse into a park horse. If the horse is a park horse, they don’t need that. Think back on the greats of the past. Many of them didn’t have long toes or heavy shoes, and they all went above level.

  28. snerland says:

    Frankly, I am surprised at both of you, hubby included. The problem mentioned exists even in the human race. Just look at TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras” show every Tues. night. Chris makes fun of it but the show gives insight into the human way of doing things. Basically the show is divided into two categories: “Glitz” and “Natural”. The Glitz pagents have youngsters (under the age of eight) in full grown-up makeup including fake eyelashes and nails; gorgeous dresses costing as much as $5000 and the talent competition in this pagent is full of costuming, props, coaches, etc. The Natural pagent is where the girls complete with no extra frills such as makeup and hair; the dresses are less fussy and usually cost around $100. The talent is simple, no coaches allowed near the stage, no props, and simple costumes. Frankly, I like both pagents; I appreciate the diversity. Maybe we should promote shows/classes as Glitz and Natural. I am sponsoring several “barefoot classes” where only fly spray is allowed. The office manager says that there has been great interest in these classes. So, it is possible to exist under one banner. When you get the time, just watch this show, you will be amazed at the similarities.

  29. Well, I am in favor of an all-natural Miss America Pageant where they compete with nothin’ on but tanning spray.

  30. StacyGRS says:

    Whew…a couple of days and you guys have gone to town!
    First, let me say, I don’t want a horse quietly doing it’s job with no glitz and glamor. But, I don’t think glitz and glamor to one is glitz and glamor to others. I think some think it is ‘glitzy’ to have a recently clipped (or body clipped) horse with a meticulous coat and a tail that has been kept off the ground and out of the sun. I love a well turned out show horse and I love that it matters. I believe in taking pride in what I put in the ring and I don’t intend to stop that anytime soon. I want a horse to look down the rail. I LOVE the controlled energy that the saddle seat divisions represent. I love a horse that uses not just it’s basic talent, but it’s training and heart to shine. I came from the H/J world…I like the exciting horses without the imminent danger of gran prix classes!
    As for the hoof limit going from 5 3/4 to 5 1/2…do we think that people looking at pics, etc are going to see a difference? I don’t. If you prove to me that that 1/4″ is extending my horses life (sound life) then I’d go there, but to randomly take 1/4″ to try to satisfy people that want feet to be 4″ or shorter is a moot point, IMO.
    Self regulating…would have been a great thing, IMO. The more we can self police, the fewer outsiders we’re going to have come in and do it for us. I think it’s a shame that the professional’s committee didn’t work…perhaps it needed to be a couple of older, retired trainers or something. It’s hard to put the responsibility on trainers that are friends with each other and do business with each other to then be the disciplinarian. That said, I’d rather hear it from a fellow trainer and I’d rather have it stopped because the professional’s committee did it than have the repercussions of us all putting our heads in the sand. Let’s face it…you can’t police private transactions on private property, but we’ve all seen things that are just bad for the business. If there were a place to report those things and have the person advised (as opposed to later being set down or it being whispered about or the talk of the show…or worse, the shining example set forth by those that are ‘anti-the-way-we-show’ (isn’t that what we’re calling them?:) I think we’d all benefit. I think it would go a long way toward our appearance to do the right thing and a long way toward us all putting our best foot forward.
    A random piece of info…several years ago we weighed the shoes of one of our large (over 16 hands) park horses. Then we weighed the paddock boots of a client that wore a size 7 shoe. In relative terms, our client had almost twice as heavy of a shoe on as the horse did. I think that educating people as to what the shoes are, why they don’t damage them, and really knowing the facts would be an excellent plan! Explaining that the TWH world doesn’t trot would be a great start! Those horses wouldn’t be able to be shod like that if they did our gaits. Few people even know that.
    I agree that our sport is a judged sport ( as opposed to a finish line, etc) and I like it that way. I like that a slightly less talented horse can be an overachiever and beat a more talented or better put together horse by using their heart…I think heart is a huge part of this breed and should most certainly be rewarded. Our breed, from the very beginning, has been described as being ‘a little horse that didn’t think he was little’ , a ‘horse filled with pride and self carriage’, etc…these are as much a part of what makes a Morgan a Morgan as their bones, IMO. Otherwise, we all get our cards saying what our physical score is and call it a day. I like that, on any given day, the best can be less than their best and someone can sneak in and beat them. That’s the competitiveness of it. That’s rewarding the horse that WANTS to be somebody instead of just the one that was born with the best structure. BTW..don’t get me wrong…structure is very relevant and needs to be rewarded as well. That said, I think the local and regional shows would be wise to put in some educational tools at those shows. Either ‘you be the judge’ classes or a class here and there that the judge talks breifly (and positively) about…not sure exactly what, but we do need the people in the stands to see that the judges DO have reasons that are beyond “that’s my friend”…because I think there’s alot less of that than people think. I know we hate to dumb down shows, but, if people don’t know what’s going on, why would they want to sit in the stands? And, even those that THINK they know, all too often miss a big piece of it. I try hard to not sit in the stands because of what I hear people assuming happened in classes where the judge saw it differently than they did.
    I also think that every time insiders claim that the judge is stupid, political, or bad we encourage people to become soured on the idea of participating in a sport that is judged in this way. I also think that, if judges DO tend to veer a little, things like this might just remind them of where the straight and narrow is and keep them on it. The fact of the matter is that, all too often, perception IS reality and the perception of unethical judging is just as damaging as unethical judging.
    As for those saying they want things more natural, where do you draw the line? Why is a curb chain OK with these people? Or even a bit? A caveson? They’ve picked and chosen what offends and I think, for the most part, our show horses are a well cared for group whose usefulness lasts late in their lives. Are they in their natural state? No. But let’s face it, no gelding is. The whole breed concept is not one of nature but of man’s preferences. I think simple education would go a long way.
    And, yes…my $90.00 comment was about the year’s access to the registry. It’s $70 to be a member and another $90 to have registry access. per year. Despite my discount on sweatpants that say “MORGAN” on them, despite my right to run for the board, and even despite my listing on farm finder, that’s too much IMO:):):)
    Stacy

  31. Mr Bill says:

    I got way-layed, but I’m back now.

    A: Chris, you are an outstanding Devils Advocate, and bring out the best/worst in me. Never take it personal, my friend!

    B: Rarely do any Morgans wear a ‘stack’ of pads. Normally it’s one pad and maybey a wedge. Morgans ALWAYS trot better with hoof rather then pads.

    C: I’ve run across newbie’s (and old-bies) asking all those questions for years (why the long feet? why the bag whip? why do they wear a bustle?). I’ve always found answering honestly leaves most satisfied. Those that don’t like it usually don’t like our show ring anyway.

    Opinion does not automaticly equate to abuse.

    D: We already have both Glitz and Natural pageants (great analogy!): See: Lippits.

    E: I 2nd Chris’ all-natural Miss America Pageant where they compete with nothin’ on but tanning spray. Unfortunately, it would be censored here at PlayMor.

    F: Stacy: I was offering a 1/4″ off our max length in trade for allowing switches. Would you go for that? We’re looking for compromise to appease the Anti-the-way-we-show-now folks.

    G: The ATWWSN folks would not be placated by an ethics/professional committee filled with trainers because of the conflict of interest. They would want to BE the ethics committee, and we all know where that would go.

    H1: I have 35 years in now, and I can attest to the FACT that RARELY is a class placed by politics, bribery or friendship. Appearances are one thing, accusations are another, but the truth of the matter is if a judge doesn’t pin a class as he/she see’s it, they know there will be hell to pay. Heck, often there is anyway! I’ve cornered my own wife after a few classes, asking “What the heck was that???”

    Sure enough, everytime, I walk away going “Oh. Duh. Sorry.” :)

    H2: The bad (or semi-bad) judges soon find fewer and fewer shows that will higher them. That’s the natural way we police our officials. This is also why so many judges keep coming around and around, over and over (see: Nationals).

    Let’s see… what’s the next letter? Oh yeah…

    EYE: The registry records are ours, the owners and breeders of Morgan horses. The association does not own them, and charging us access to them is unethical, at the least. If you want the records on CD, then fine, charge for that. But online access should be part and parcel of the membership. The investment AMHA made in digitizing the records should not, I repeat: NOT be used to pry more money out of our pockets.

    If we need a cash cow, how about tanning spray classes at all the shows? $20 to watch, $50 to apply. Chris & I will offer ourselves as the judging panel, where we will use the 2 judge system (we want ties and work offs!).

    Mr ‘Soon-to-Be-In-Trouble-With-His-Wife’
    PlayMor Farm

  32. Mr Bill says:

    I’ve been working on an article for a while now that expands on this natural vs fancy dilemma. I doubt it will ever make the printing press, partly because it’s hollow without a reasonable stab at reconciliation. As we’re finding here, there seems to be no room for compromise between the Anti-TWWSN folks and the Pro-TWWSN clan.

    The other reason it won’t ever be seen in print is because I take a poke at AMHA. I found out last year that they will not allow that kind of criticism.

    To be fair, I was equally censored by the Connection for criticizing it.

    Its one thing to frame the argument (as we’re trying to do here), but another to convince either side to budge from their cross ties. Here are a few excerpts from my mental-meandering:

    Many years ago, a not-so great fence was constructed:

    …A bunch of people high jacked the fence in the name of progress (but really so they could add value to their stock). They garnered attention and brought great sums of money and power to bear. They made unpopular decisions. They changed the look, style and feel of their side of the fence. A few cheated and got away with it. Others cheated and were caught. But they all ignored the fact that the old-school was left standing, outside, in the cold, with nothing more then natural manes and tails.

    To say the least, it’s been chilly.

    That fence, the Great Divide, had a profound effect. Things have been different ever since. With its flash and cash and high octane stimulizer, the new Show brought new people. Most knew nothing of the past, the history.., the heritage. They skipped by that with nothing more then a nod. They went straight to the big Show, and right to the top.

    We all know there is no fence. There’s just one, big, muddy battlefield. It’s littered with the corpses of former Morgan owners, and worse, Morgan owners that never were. There’s an occasional marker noting the Bright line, Shoeing Regulations, Ginger… All the great battles won, lost or, as yet, undecided.

    As I look across that sordid mess, I see no RIP’s. The Morgan standing beside me simply shakes his head in despair. Poor guy. He never intended this. He’s the gung-ho type who thinks, as long as he’s involved, it’s all good, it’s all fun, hop on, let’s go! He can’t help it. He’s bred that way.

    Passion and enthusiasm are his stock and trade.

    Were we a Morgan, trapped by both sides, captured by a fence we neither need or want, we’d panic. We’d throw a straight-out hissy fit. We’d start kicking at things until, blasting a hole big enough for heart and soul to escape, we’d race to a new field where there are no fences, where there is no war. Where past and present, each incapable of existing without the other, protect and promote ourselves in hope of growing the family.

    We are not Morgans, though, we are the Breed.

    A dysfunctional family tearing itself apart…

    b.

  33. Bill: I think you ought to publish that article on-line (bless the internet, may it thrive forever!) .

    While you and I may not always agree, we (and everyone else on this blog), are in love with this unique breed of horse, the Morgan.
    They truly do “come to the front of the stall” as Georgie Green remarked.

    Sadly, the ATWWSN (gee, is this entering the lexicon?)people cannot see past the glitz and glamour to perceive that the Morgan in the show ring is still the eager, curious and intelligent breed that (other than Arabs) is unique to the equine world. May we never breed out that “Morgan Personality”. I was gratified to read the comments by the Dressage Trainers in TMH recently. Almost unanimously they cited the intelligence of the Morgan.

    Your allegory is all too true. Well said.

  34. Mr Bill says:

    I wish more Atwasns’s (no… we need a more pronouncable acronym) could have seen Noble Flaire (arguably their Devil Incarnate) in his natural state, at home, at ease. There’s one pic out there Tommy rarely allowed to be published. Flaire was standing 4-square, neck natural and head turned tword the camera. He looked so Morgan that Tommy stopped using it.

    My daughter, Jennifer, drove Flaire at Kohler in Wisconsin when she was 12. Short foot, keg shoe, au-natural. Breeding controvery aside, he was a cool Morgan, eager, but easy to handle.

    Passion, I think, is our biggest hurdle. Once a Morgan gets under your skin (or butt, as the case may be), the indelible impression is that of an eager partner, no matter what the crime.

    I’ll work on the article some more and see if it’s fit for print.

    Mr Bill

  35. kim viker says:

    Bill,

    Why did Tommy stop using the squared up picture of Noble Flaire?

    Kim

  36. Mr Bill says:

    You’d have to ask him.

  37. StacyGRS says:

    sort of what I was thinking. He would be the only one that would know that answer, I would guess.
    Stacy

  38. kim viker says:

    Hi again,
    What I was trying to get at, but didn’t do very well, was the statement in Bill’s post, “He looked so Morgan”. The implication being (at least in my opinion), that perhaps looking like a Morgan was not a good thing.
    This one statement is possibly one of the biggest problems that the breed faces today. I have heard it before; from people both within and not within the breed. I have heard it from people deciding to not compete with their horses because they feel that they are “too Morgany” to be competitively judged. I have heard it from my Amish neighbors asking me if we bred horses that looked like a Morgan. I have heard it over and over and over again. What is wrong with a Morgan horse that looks like a Morgan horse? Is it not cool enough? Is it because people don’t want to remember the little horse that pulled tree stumps all week long? Is there some sort of shame in that history?
    Maybe I am interpreting things incorrectly; I don’t know. (?)
    Kim

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