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A Message from the Ky State Fair Board

Published: June 28, 2024 Updated: June 28, 2024

With the 121st World’s Championship Horse Show fast approaching, the Kentucky State Fair Board (KSFB) is eager to debut what will surely be one of our history's finest events. With increased prize money and entries, we see this year as a foray into even bigger and more prestigious horse shows. We cannot express to you in words how appreciative our board is to all our exhibitors, partners, sponsors, and teams that dedicate their lives to celebrating and growing the Saddlebred industry. Come August, everyone will be part of writing a new chapter in a century-long book celebrating Kentucky’s only native horse in the state, where its industry remains as vibrant as ever. While recognizing the bright future, we must also recognize the dust that has kicked up along the way, creating turmoil and misinformation within our community.

KSFB wishes to inform the members of the American Saddlebred Horse Breeders Association (ASHBA) and the exhibitors at the World Championship Horse Show (WCHS) of the reasons behind our decision not to renew the license agreement with the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) for the 2024 WCHS.

During the 2023 WCHS, the Stewards—hired by KSFB and approved by USEF to ensure compliance with all competition rules—received a complaint from an exhibitor and several spectators regarding a rule violation in class 52. After reviewing the video evidence, the Stewards confirmed the violation and informed the WCHS Manager of the disqualification. 

KSFB received written statements from two individuals who reported overhearing the trainer responsible for the violation claim that they would contact USEF to overturn the penalty. The following day, USEF notified the WCHS Manager that the disqualification had been overturned.

The Stewards consulted with the then-USEF attorney about their authority to enforce the rules and were encouraged to 'do your job.' Consequently, the Stewards informed the WCHS Manager that the disqualification was reinstated. However, on Thursday, USEF sent a written communication to the WCHS Manager, overturning the disqualification for the second time. This action was deeply concerning to us and an act of injustice to many exhibitors competing at the show. 

Given the show’s prestige, an impartial governing agency is essential to ensure fair treatment for all exhibitors and to enforce all competition rules. KSFB places the utmost importance on respect and fairness for all exhibitors. The incident described above is deeply concerning and contradicts our core principle of fairness, which remains our highest priority. To this date, we have yet to receive any information on the due process they performed regarding class 52 from ASHBA or USEF.

On January 17, 2024, a meeting was held at the Kentucky Exposition Center to review compliance matters for the 2024 WCHS. Attendees included Kentucky Venues management and USEF representatives. During this meeting, and much to management’s surprise, USEF CEO Bill Moroney asserted that USEF's governance authority superseded that of the state fire marshal, local ordinances and codes, the state veterinarian, and even the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Kentucky Venues found this governance structure misaligned with reality and impossible to comply with in the future.

Also, USEF's reluctance to specify an approval date for its licensure of the 2024 WCHS left Kentucky Venues in a state of uncertainty, with the deadline for the WCHS Prize List fast approaching on March 31, 2024. As a result, Kentucky Venues had no choice but to explore and consider an alternative governing body for the 2024 WCHS.

As management pushed forward in finalizing the classes of competition for WCHS, they encouraged ASHBA to utilize a clearly defined exemption in their affiliate agreement with USEF, which would have permitted several futurity and sweepstakes classes to be presented at the 2024 WCHS. Unfortunately, ASHBA denied this request and formally notified management that the ASHBA-funded futurity and sweepstakes classes would not be held at the prestigious WCHS.

In our immediate response, and to further demonstrate our 120-year commitment to the American Saddlebred community, KSFB funded several revised and added classes such as the WCHS Futurity and Bill Wise WCHS Sweepstakes. This financial commitment represented the largest growth in prize money in recent history. By taking this action, we ensured that owners and exhibitors who planned for many years in advance to participate at the WCHS still have the opportunity this year.

ASHBA maintains that USEF is the only governing agency with which they can affiliate, despite numerous American Saddlebred shows across the United States selecting ESC as their governing body. Recent decisions by ASHBA's leadership to defend and support USEF, are perplexing to us.

KSFB remains committed to the American Saddlebred and Hackney breeds, as well as our affiliations with the American Road Horse and Pony Association, US Trotting Association, and other organizations supporting the prestigious World Championship Horse Show. We are dedicated to fair treatment for all exhibitors and believe in strict adherence to published rules. KSFB will not tolerate favoritism over fairness.

The prize list for the 121st World’s Championship Horse Show is available online. Preparations are underway to welcome all owners, exhibitors, trainers, and guests to Freedom Hall to celebrate Kentucky’s high-stepping excellence and witness the only place where World’s Champion titles will be earned. We are eager to work alongside you for the future growth and success of this event and our beloved breeds for many more years to come.