When the "Official" Record Gets It Wrong - and the Officials Don't Care
Shetland enthusiasts have been proud of their Congress champions since 1947. Those of us who are both pony enthusiasts and history buffs enjoy looking back through the list of winners from time to time. Anyone with a pony on that historical list takes pride in having achieved that milestone.
Unfortunately, time marches on, and its passage is accompanied by changes, many necessary and wonderful.
We wouldn’t have air travel ... or antibiotics ... or cell phones ... if it were not for inventions, advancements and the ability of some to think outside the box. You wouldn’t be visiting this website if computers hadn’t been developed or if Al Gore ... tongue in cheek ... hadn’t invented the Internet.
Regardless of great progress, not all changes bring universal improvements.
It used to be ... in many pony associations ... family or farm memberships were the norm. Those types of memberships have increasingly disappeared. The reasons memberships moved away from the farm or family type vary. In some instances, “legalities” were cited. In other instances, frankly, it was just easier for the current record keepers. Regardless of the reason, some tradition was lost when the importance of “farm name” in pony ownership was lessened.
Another change that came along - computers and computerization of records. That’s a pretty new phenomenon when you marry the concept of computerization to horse-keeping records. After all, an organization like the American Shetland Pony Club would have registration records going back to the late 1800s, and there were no computers then.
Truly, the growth of computer capabilities has been hugely helpful in everyday life and especially to business functions and record keeping. Few can imagine maintaining records by hand any more. Equine registration work in 2011 takes a fraction of time and requires fewer people to do said work thanks to the digital age.
What, then, happened to all the paper records and the old ways of doing things? For the most part, the information shouldn’t be lost. Libraries took on tasks such as digitizing their old microfiche files. Entities like breed registries worked over time to input old records into their electronic registration databases.
Unfortunately, that input was done by humans. Introduce humans and you introduce human error. When the American Shetland Pony Club decided to offer a stud book database on line, more than 100 years of the association’s history needed to be entered - decades upon decades of hard copy records were entered by people.
Before the ASPC’s studbook went live in the early 2000s, registry employees spent nearly three years inputting old records.
As I said, introduce humans and you introduce human error. There are mistakes here and there in the ASPC’s electronic studbook. No big deal some might say. History buffs, however, say something different.
For many years, the ASPC has offered a list of Congress Champions through the years by printing the history annually in the official publication. In 2011, staff opted to re-do the champions list rather than use the electronic file that was readily available on the former computer system. When the list got retyped, all references to farms in relation to ownership were removed. Ownership on the list is now cited only in terms of what appears in electronic registration records, which means only individual names. No consideration was given to how winners might have been handled or promoted over the years by their people. Goodbye farms, good bye long-term historical importance. One example is the change to how the ownership is listed for Kilbro’s Willie Doo. When I asked a member of the Kildow family if the change was cool or if it sucked, the response? It sucked. There is no credit for the three-way partnership that existed for years and that used to be noted on the old list.
Changes like that aren’t the only concern. Along with that? Hello errors that were introduced when humans mis-entered old information. Also, the digitized records of old registration work failed to include old lease info in many, if not most, instances, because records on old leases weren’t very well kept. So, the database ... while official looking ... may not be quite so historically accurate after all.
In 1981 Betty and Woody Thompson were thrilled to own the Grand Champion Mare, Over. Printed show results following that Congress reflect Betty & Woody as Popular’s owners. The ad the Thomspons purchased and placed in the Congress issue of The Pony Journal promotes THEIR grand champion mare, Popular Demand. The Congress highlights article written by ASPC staff in 1981 recognized Betty and Woody. For 30 years, the Thompson's, in some form, were listed as Popular’s owners on the historical list
Woody Thompson passed away in 1987. His daughter opted to keep three ponies out of all the ponies running in Woody’s pastures in Oaktown, IN. One of those three was Popular Demand.
I’m pretty sure LIbby would be shocked to know that, after 30 years, the ASPC’s “official” list of Congress champions now gives someone else credit for owning Popular Demand. Someone else’s name is in the database; therefore, it MUST be right. Of course, if you REALLY look at the studbook, Popular’s listing isn’t complete. Her registration would have been historical in terms of the creation of ASPC’s electronic database. That means her listing was one entered by hand by an employee ... an employee who was just doing a job ... an employee who had never been to a Congress.... and employee who had never met C. Elwood Thompson... an employee who never saw the pride Woody took in having Popular & So Easy on his farm for years after their Congress wins ... an employee who never saw what having Popular Demand, Kojack & So Easy to Love meant to Woody’s daughter.
Some people talk a good game about history meaning something, but their actions continually and consistently fail to bear that out. Sadly, not many beyond me seem to care. It’s just an old champions list.
I have champions on that list. What if other errors are introduced in the future? Who will stick up for me? For my farm? For my ponies? I hope someone will. I’m going to for Woody. After all the years of riding in his pick-up through the hilly pastures in southern Indiana and then drinking Coca Cola from glass bottles when the pony viewing was done ... I think I owe him that. Ownership in an individual name might be easy; it might be legal; it might be P.C. It doesn’t necessarily make it right. And it’s definitely not right when the records are flat out wrong.