From the desk of MHSA News Editor, Lynn Frazee:

Often when we hear the words, “banquet” and “annual meeting” in the same sentence, we cringe, thinking, “how can I escape from that torture?” While in years past, the MHSA year-end banquet may have garnered the same reaction, this year, on January 25, 2014, those in attendance enjoyed a lively, energetic and fun-filled day that was, in all respects, a true Celebration of Champions.

Equestrians from all disciplines met for their own forums to discuss rule changes, to work on patterns, and to discuss horse show business in an open forum. Following those forums, the distinguished horseman, trainer, rider and UPHA promoter, Smith Lilly, gave a fascinating and interactive talk that encompassed horse and riders of all disciplines.

Following Smith’s presentation, Kim Frazee directed a live gift basket auction. The live auction was met with gales of laughter and a ton of teasing among the group, and 30 minutes later had generated not only much laughter, but also a substantial financial boost to MHSA. Our thanks to Kim and his merry men of spotters: Larry Zion, Ben Hibbs, Darryl Vehige and Terry Frazee, who worked the floor looking for bidders. Thanks also to Mary and Melissa Williamson and everyone else who ‘modeled’ baskets for the group. Hattie Francis did a fine job of checking-in the baskets, taking the money and overseeing the process to ensure it ran smoothly. Baskets were generously donated from Rock Ridge Farm, Team Wildwood, Central States Horse Show, MHSA Kickoff Horse Show, St. Louis National Charity Horse Show, UPHA American Royal Horse Show, Janet Green Stables, Greg Haston Stables, Nancy Roth, Don Shilling & Jan Burden, Sue Webster, Blue Moon Stables, Avalon Photography & Stables, Dr. Cathy Harris, and “The Rat Pack”. All agreed it was a great addition to the day’s events.

An incredibly gracious Sandy Rafferty accepted the Jeff Shikles Distinguished Service Award, as MHSA President, Janet Thompson gave a moving presentation, accompanied by a slide show created by Lynn Frazee and Erica Jobe. Long touted as MHSA’s most sought after award, this award remembers Jeff, who lost his life several years ago. He was an incredibly caring person and is greatly missed by the MHSA community. Sandy’s lifetime of loving and training horses and riders made her a most-deserving recipient of this award. Long thought of as the “Grandmother” of therapeutic riding, Sandy has mentored most of the instructors in the therapeutic riding community, has prepared riders for national and international competition and, by promoting therapeutic riding, has bettered the lives of countless individuals and through them, countless communities.

Gina Vehige presented the MHSA Horseperson of the Year award to a deserving Sue Webster, who works day in and day out to tirelessly ensure the organization runs to perfection. Kudos to Sue, especially as the secret was carefully kept form her…not an easy task when she is the person who puts the banquet information together!

The latest school horse to enter the MHSA School Horse Hall of Fameis Rosy Erganian’s lesson horse, Sneekers from Sunny Oak Farm. It is always wonderful to see the write-ups on these wonderful horses who have so much to teach all of us. (Be watching soon as we add a new section under “Awards” on the website to honor all of our former School Horses of the Year.)

Stacy Wright, who spearheaded the awards committee this year, ensured that first place winners would go home with wooden groom boxes embellished with the MHSA logo. These awards will be seen throughout the region in years to come. What great advertising for MHSA!

Perhaps the most well-received MHSA news of the day was the unveiling of MHSA’s new website, overseen capably by Tracy Feller and created by webmaster, Jesse Windsor. They will now be assisted by a team of new section editors. The new website offers education about breeds, styles of riding, and divisions of MHSA. There are also interactive, searchable sites such as the “Find a Stable” section. This will allow customers, members and quine enthusiasts to connect with stables in their area of interest.

Much planning and hard work was put into MHSA’s annual event that celebrates the 2013 Champions, horses and riders alike. MHSA gratefully acknowledges all the volunteers who made the annual meeting and awards gathering such a huge success.

How fitting that 2014 is designated ‘The Year of the Horse’! MHSA stands poised to reach new heights and set the bar higher in its quest for serving the equestrian community. We have plans to partner with new groups, such as FOSH (Friends of Sound Horses), and VERSA, the newest Charter Club from the American Saddlebred Horse Association (that seeks to elevate the versatility of the American Saddlebred), and 4-H. These liaisons have been established to connect with wider circles of horsemen and women, and to provide more education and engagement with young riders and their horses, who will be the members of tomorrow.

The motto of this year’s gathering, “The Celebration of Champions” truly captured the spirit of the event. It celebrated Champions of all sorts–from those exceeding their personal best in Therapeutic Horsemanship, to Regional and World Champions, to lesson and Academy riders. It underscored the theme of what these marvelous creatures have to teach us, and encouraged us all to reach for our dreams.