With the encouragement of Dr. Arden Huff of VPI & SU, an ad hoc committee was formed to discuss the formation of a breed organization in Virginia for the American Saddlebred Horse. The committee's efforts culminated in a meeting in Roanoke on March 22, 1975, attended by more than one hundred Saddlebred enthusiasts. A charter group of 91 members voted for the establishment of the American Saddlebred Horse Association of Virginia (ASHAV), and elected officers and a board of directors. At the first board meeting on April 6, 1975, committees were established to write bylaws and begin the formation of the organization.
Major highlights of AHSHAV's formative years:
- In 1975 the ASHAV Youth Committee was formed. Saddlebreds were recruited for the Virginia 4-H judging contest, and a 4-H Saddle Horse Club was sponsored in the Roanoke area. Annually a Youth Sportsmanship Award winner is selected from among youth members nominated.
- In 1976 the "Heads Up Virginia!" newsletter was formed.
- In 1976 the first annual general membership meeting was held. Through 1980 the single day meeting included an educational clinic / seminar, membership business meeting, awards dinner, auction fund raiser and social / dance. In 1981 the meeting was expanded to a 2 day convention to accommodate growth in the High Points Awards program.
- A Service Award is given annually to an outstanding member.
- A Youth Sportsmanship Award is given annually.
- The High Points program began in 1978 to encourage participation in horse shows with classes for Saddlebreds. The initial 6 show divisions have expanded to 42 as the program has grown.
- In 1990 the Hall of Fame was established to recognize individuals who have played significant roles in the Saddlebred industry in Virginia. A plaque with the names of honorees is displayed in Anderson Coliseum at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.
- A Futurity Committee was formed in 1976 to promote American Saddlebred breeding. At the Roanoke Valley Horse Show in 1977 the first ASHAV futurity classes were held. Two divisions were created. Classes in the Old Dominion division were open to horses with owners living in Virginia, and classes in the Open division were open to horses with owners living outside Virginia. In 1990 the ASHAV futurity classes were moved to the ASHAV Horse Show held at the Virginia Horse Center.
- In 1979 the Board authorized directors from each zone to select horse shows with classes for Saddlebreds for financial support from ASHAV, initially through advertisements and later through class sponsorships.
- On August 31 and September 1, 1984, the first ASHAV Horse Show was held at the Hill & Dale Stock Farm in Chatham, Va. The Show offered trophies and a $10,000 prize list for about 50 classes, primarily for Saddlebreds but with some Morgan and Western classes to attract local exhibitors. One Saddlebred / Morgan judge and one Western judge tied the classes. In 1988 the ASHAV Horse Show moved to the Virginia Horse Center, and was expanded from two to three days. Subsequently ASHAV futurity and Grand National classes were added to the show. In 1992 the show moved indoors to the new Anderson Coliseum, and in 1994 the show expanded to four days and added a panel of three judges. For 2004 the show will have 116 classes, and 12 academy classes will be added. Awards won by the ASHAV Horse Show include the prestigious UPHA National Honor Show in 1994 and 1995, and show managers won the UPHA Herman R. Miles Award in 1996.