When was UMH started, and why?
There had long been an interest in having an exhibitors' and breeders' support organization for the Mountain Horses. In the summer of 2000, interest grew among a wider group of exhibitors in having a show circuit and other activities that could augment the services of the breed registries in promotion of the Mountain Horse breeds. A small group made an appointment to meet in Winchester, KY. Word got around and a crowd showed up! There was clearly a lot of interest and enthusiasm. After three days of non-stop meetings, an initial board was selected by consensus, and an independent Executive Director was hired to get the start-up process underway. Incorporation papers were approved and filed in September, 2000.
What type of organization is UMH?
UMH is a non-profit Kentucky corporation dedicated to the interests of its member associates.
How is the organization structured? Does it have members?
There is a Board of Directors that sets policy and general directives. Individuals join as "member associates" of the organization who have a variety of privileges and benefits, including serving on the committees that are directly responsible for our youth, Ladies Auxiliary, show programs and many of the other day to day operations of UMH. Regional representatives from across the United States help us to reach out to Mountain Horse owners in every state. See the About Us page for a list of existing committees and the Regional Representative in your area.
Is UMH "competitive with" the existing breed registries?
The goal of UMH is to augment and support the existing breed registries, by providing supplemental avenues to promote the Mountain Horse breeds. Although the individual registry associations sponsor some promotional and exhibition activities, they are limited by their bylaws to supporting their breed alone. It is clear that there is an important role for an organization that is able to promote, and provide activities for horses of all of the breeds, especially in areas where there are not enough horses in any one registry to make an event successful.
In order for UMH to achieve its goals, strong breed registry associations and programs are essential. We are not a breed registry, but a registry of all the mountain horse breeds with independent show sanctioning and promotional organization for the horses registered and certified by the existing breed organizations. We have attempted to tailor our activities and programs to supplement the programs of the breed registries.
The independent show program of UMH has several key differences from the programs of the breed registries, which allows us to offer something different to exhibitors who are benefited by our format. Experience tells us that these types of choices are good for any segment of the horse industry, and tend to provide stimulus to all of the associations which serve our Mountain Horses.
How are UMH shows different and how do they benefit the industry?
Registry associations are limited by their bylaws to the promotion of only their own registered horses. In most parts of the country, however, combined classes are needed and utilized in order to have enough horses to support classes at a show. These classes have been very popular, but prior to UMH, there was no vehicle for sanctioning these classes or providing high point awards. UMH provides a combined registry format and organized regional programs to recognize these classes with high point awards.
Perhaps the greatest innovation of UMH, however, was the organization of classes into “way of going” divisions for Country Trail, Trail, Classic, Park, and Western Pleasure. This allows many more horses to be competitively shown and helps to eliminate the pressure on trainers and breeders to breed only one kind of horse or to force their horses into an arbitrarily-determined and narrow range of performance style. The ability to allow equal prestige and opportunities for the full spectrum of our horses’ natural abilities is vitally important to the effort to preserve these horses in our breeding programs, as well as to reduce the temptation to train horses with artificial training methods.
Won’t the addition of a Park class just lead you down the dangerous path to "big lick" sored horses? Won’t their action just get more extreme and artificial?
Just the reverse. We strongly believe that it will help us keep that syndrome away, and help preserve the natural horse. What had been going on, prior to the establishment of the way of going divisions, was that the most animated or "big moving" horse always won or tied high. The medium action and trail-type horses continued to lose out if this was the only type of class provided. When a separate class for a trail type of horse was first provided it did not lead to a championship and so had lesser prestige. So people were required to push their horse into a higher-stepping box whether the horse was that type naturally or not. This is what leads to abuses and artificially enhanced ways of going. What if you did not have to force your horse to go a certain way, because you have a place to show your type of horse that has equal rewards and prestige?
Most Mountain Horses fit the Classic, Trail, or Country Trail Pleasure categories and not the Park category. This has been demonstrated by the popularity of these classes at UMH shows, but having a class where the natural Park horse can strut its stuff without penalty is also important to the preservation of the entire spectrum of the breeds. UMH is totally committed through its rules, stewards and judging program to ensuring that all of the horses in our shows remain natural and true pleasure-type horses.
Are there other differences between the UMH sanctioned shows and registry shows?
One goal for our independent organization is to insulate Mountain Horse showing from some of the political issues and inevitable swings of fad and fashion in defining how the horse should look and perform. These problems are endemic to breed registries and inevitably cause problems for breeds when there are no alternative show venues.
We also believe that very competent judges are a major factor in the success or failure of any show circuit. UMH is working to ensure a high quality of professional judging at its shows by requiring all judges to be independently licensed as well as completing UMH licensure requirements.
An additional difference is our emphasis on paybacks and prizes at UMH shows and encouragement for show managers to offer bigger incentives for participation. UMH shows award performance points based on the level of paybacks which accumulate toward year end high point awards, including a high point award category for the highest money earning horse at the end of the show season.
How does UMH and its promotional goals fit in with the current interest in "preserving the horse"? Is promotion in the absence of preservation in the best interests of the Mountain Horse?
There are really two answers to this question. The first is that "preservation" of a breed is, and must remain, the strict province of a breed association in its exclusive functions of defining, registering and certifying the horse. This process represents the breed organization’s opinion that this is a horse that is worthy of representing the breed in the show ring, on the trail, or in the breeding barn. There will always be many other ancillary organizations surrounding a successful breed but only the breed registry should be defining what is the breed standard to be preserved.
Once a horse is registered and certified to show and breed by its respective breed registry, promotion of that horse by that breed association and by other various ancillary organizations, such as UMH, is what helps to promote that particular horse and others exhibiting similar traits.
On another level, we believe that having separate classes for the different ways of going is the best way to preserve the original Mountain Horses. The approach of trying to narrow the definition of the acceptable way of going for the horse as a way of trying to promote a particular type or style as "preferred", and thereby preserve that style to the exclusion of other types or styles, simply does not work as a practical matter. You do not end up accomplishing the basic goal, as judges often tend to reward the most athletic horse and you risk limiting the gene pool of the breed. A single type or style is also always at risk for fluctuations with fads, fashion and swings in what is "politically correct" over the years. This has almost ruined some equine breeds at different times in history. As the AQHA has discovered, over-all breed stability is best achieved by providing horses of each type and style, naturally occurring within the normal range, with an event in which to show.
How will judges in UMH shows be selected?
Judges must attend UMH clinics and maintain their UMH membership, in order to stay current with UMH Rules. Individual show managers choose their own judges from the current Active Judges List. At shows organized and hosted by UMH itself, including the Spring Premier, the Kentucky State, the Summer Celebration and the World Show, judges are selected from the approved judges' list by a Director of Judges.
You have stated that UMH will not have the same political issues as the breed associations. How will you insulate yourself from politics, and is this a good idea? And what safeguards are there so that the board members do not just design things to benefit themselves?
We have an overriding philosophy in this organization that represents a very simple but often overlooked truth: If something we do benefits all of us, it almost always benefits each of us. If we design a show program in which you can be successful, that is what benefits UMH the most. What our Board knows is that to successfully promote these horses and to grow, you need to provide a first-class, completely honest and unbiased show environment, which has the highest reputation. What the founders of UMH wanted was for the Mountain Horse community to grow. We want to attract more good trainers, more good breeders, more enthusiastic owners, and more good horses. This is the basic goal of UMH. This is what benefits the organization and the Mountain Horse Industry as a whole. To do this, we must design things to provide equal opportunities for everyone.
Our organization facilitates this by providing for a Board, carefully selected to be individuals who have these interests and goals at heart and an understanding of how they may be best achieved. Our member associates participate by serving on committees that instruct the Board as to how they desire the organization’s programs to be run and the rules to be written. This structure is working very successfully, with the recommendations of the committees generally passed by the Board as a matter of routine.
The ultimate safeguard for the exhibitor is that we are not the only game in town. We will have to successfully carry out these goals for people to join us and participate in our programs.
Come give us a try! Our motto is "UMH is the place for you to show your kind of horse." Our promise is “It IS about the horse.” We would love to have you join us.