In the aftermath of widespread protests decrying police brutality and systemic racism in the United States, the country as a whole has been called to look racial disparities squarely in the face in recent weeks. The horse industry has had to contend with the uncomfortable reality that our sport is not immune to inequities. We at National Horseman stand against racism in solidarity with people of color, especially Black equestrians past and present, who have been and continue to be a vital part of our community. While we strive to celebrate and preserve the history of our wonderful breed, we also recognize that we must do our part to encourage inclusivity and listen with sincere hearts to the stories being told by the Black community.
Every year since 1991, National Horseman has presented the Castleman Award to a member of the Saddlebred industry who has had a profound impact on the breed. The Castleman Award was so named because General John B. Castleman founded the American Saddle Horse Breeders’ Association (later to become the American Saddlebred Horse Association, or ASHA) in 1891 in our Louisville office. He was known as a pioneer and advocate of the breed; nonetheless, Castleman was also a Confederate general during the Civil War, a painful reminder of the oppression of Black people that is still operating today. While the impact he had on the American Saddlebred is undeniable, it is important to us that all members of our community feel valued, respected and safe. Therefore, we have decided to give our annual award a new name: the National Horseman Icon Award.
We have built a legacy on telling our industry’s story for the past 155 years, and we continue to do so. At the same time, we are committed to evolving and moving forward for a better industry and a better world for all. Our publication intends to have no association with racism or discrimination of any kind, whether based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Our goal is not to erase history, but to take responsibility and respond to an increased awareness of how symbols of oppression negatively impact our community. We wanted to give this honor a name that embodied all the great horsemen and women that together have shaped our sport. It has been a collective effort over many years.
Every year at the UPHA Convention, we honor an exemplary individual who has advanced the Saddlebred breed, and we will proudly continue that tradition. We have so much love for these incredible horses and the people who love them, and we are grateful for each and every one of you. As the great Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We stand with you.