What Can I Do For You?
TWHBEA Urges Members to Ask The Question…

By Jeffrey Howard

“I promised when I was elected to be up front with you on good and bad and we will touch on both,” said David Pruett, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) President as he addressed the National Board in Lewisburg, Tenn., on May 24, 2008 for their semi-annual meeting.  Pruett took time to address the objectives before the new executive committee and was proud to report that they are spending wisely and “running it (TWHBEA) like it is their own business.”

Listing the accomplishments of the first six months of office, he pointed out the commitment to attend and participate in the 2010 Equestrian Games, the return of the Tennessee Walking Horse Foundation (a 501(C)(3) organization that allows tax deductible donations), the launching of the Trail and National Parks Service programs, new horses at Opryland, iPEDS updates and ease of use improvements, a commitment for a total makeover of the TWHBEA web site to include aspects for all disciplines, and the sponsorship of the 2008 Sound Horse Conference.  “We have to be accountable to our members,” said Pruett.  He continued, “and be proud of what we leave for the future.”

Bob Ramsbottom, Senior Vice President, briefly addressed the directors to thank first and foremost the efforts and time of Pruett.  “No one puts in more time than David Pruett and I thank him,” said Ramsbottom.  Ramsbottom also covered other actions and accomplishments including the new four levels of membership that will hopefully increase the membership, working with Walking Horse Report to update iPEDS with show results, and setting up a committee to look at forming a strategic plan for TWHBEA.  Also, Ramsbottom was instrumental in the application of becoming a breed partner with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

Stan Butt, new permanent Executive Director added to Pruett and Ramsbottom and asked the membership to ask the question, “What Can I Do For You?”  Butt continued, “We have seen a paradigm shift in the industry.”  Butt explained that a paradigm shift is defined as shifting perceptions and that is exactly what is going on in the industry right now.

As for the good and bad, the financial report given by Admin/Fiscal Vice-President Mike Inman, could sum up both and was the feature of the meeting.  Inman started his report by thanking the staff, one reduced by nearly 50% from its height.  “The staff deserves our appreciation.  People are doing bigger jobs, taking on additional responsibilities and working harder to sustain the benefits to our members,” said Inman.

Inman posted a slide that gave the goals of the executive committee and they included the following three initiatives:
1.  Publish each month the actual financial performance of the Association so our membership can be informed and involved
2. Stop the plan to place our Association headquarters at risk if at all possible
3. Restore financial integrity to our Association

“When we took office, Chuck Cadle, previous Executive Director, was prepared to draw against the building to pay the bills,” said Inman.  “I said no.”  TWHBEA has made an arrangement to postpone the final payments to the law firm from the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) lawsuit, simply trying to buy it time to restore cash reserves and get its feet on the ground.  As for restoring the financial integrity, Inman said “we are making progress, but we are not out of the woods yet.  It will take at least two to three years to build our reserves to $750,000 and that may be optimistic.”

Inman touched on many of the good things happening at the Association including bettering the budgeted $105,000 loss through April 2008 by $201,000, meaning TWHBEA has a net gain of $96,000.  Revenues are up $161,000 over budgeted figures, while expenses are down $40,000 over projections. According to Butt, $564,000 cash is available for operations yet Inman warned of the remaining outstanding invoices, including the $170,000 due Bone McAllester Norton, futurity liabilities and lab work.

Another positive pointed out by Inman was that contributions to TWHBEA are approaching $38,000.  TWHBEA has asked its membership to help out in a time of need and donate to help restore the financial stability to TWHBEA.

The bad took a little more time to discuss at the meeting and began with Inman explaining the loss of $1,700,000 in cash in less than two years.  In the three years of the NWHA lawsuit, TWHBEA paid $732,000 defending its copyright suit.  The sanctioning plan took $238,752, plus travel, clinician and other expenses associated with the plan.  Inman pointed out that today’s overhead is $705,000 annually, whereas before it was $1,300,000, an excess of $600,000.

Next came comparisons to 2007.  In all, revenues through April are down $590,000.  The two major contributors are Registry & Membership, down $395,000 and the Voice, down $149,000. 
It is noteworthy to bear in mind here, expenses through this same time period are down $907,000, including the Voice expenses which were down $171,000.  Net profit is up $318,000, from a loss of $222,000 in 2007 to a gain of $96,000 this year.

Inman pointed out to the National Board members that first “we have to earn your trust and then your support.”  Inman also stressed the importance of looking at the percentage of spend in 2008 versus 2007.  “As a percentage, we have spent more on the pleasure horse in 2008 and less on the performance horse,” continued Inman.

Another disturbing announcement made public for the first time at the meeting was the $43,000 shortfall in the Futurity account.  According Greg Cook, the accountant performing the audit, this shortfall came about between August and October 2007 when funds were transferred from the Futurity bank account to the General bank account to cover operating expenses.  These funds will be made up by transferring funds from the reserve account to the futurity account.

During Inman’s report, Chuck Cheek addressed the members.  Cheek has been commissioned by the executive committee to negotiate the remaining legal fees due Bone, McAllester & Norton and to audit the bills received from the firm.  “Discussions are ongoing, I have learned a lot,” said Cheek.  “We are making progress to a solution on the outstanding billables.”  Inman pointed out that Cheek has donated his time for this and to this point Cheek has donated approximately $30,000.

During the remaining committee reports, each Vice-President gave a summary of their group’s accomplishments.  The Breeders’ report, given by Stan Butt in the absence of Dee Dee Sale, who was on a judging assignment, highlighted the successful amnesty program, the Equine Summit in Lexington, iPEDS phase 1 updates, changing the gelding transfer from $40 to $20, and simplifying of the registration process.
Chris Bobo gave the Enforcement report and made reference to several eye-opening comments and suggestions he had received.  He then explained the process for filing a complaint and thanked everyone for wanting to do what’s right.

Bill Stricklend gave the horse show report and focused on the Futurity program.  Stricklend pointed out that in 2008 weanlings must be nominated by August 1, 2008 to become eligible in the program.  This weanling crop of 2008 will begin the transition to the “true” futurity in 2011.  The 2008 Futurity will be held the first Wednesday of the Celebration and will be judged by Celebration judges and serve as qualifying classes for Celebration World Grand Championship classes.  Also, the 2008 Futurity will add a Two-Year-Old and Three-Year-Old Park Performance class and a Two-Year-Old and Three-Year-Old Western Trail Pleasure class.

In 2009 TWHBEA will institute the second phase of futurity changes by linking the regional futurities to the national futurity.  In 2009, a full stud fee will be required to nominate your stallion and one-half will go to the National Futurity and one-half will be split among the participating regional futurities.  The regional futurities will be limited to 10 and will have to commit by March 15, 2009.

Other possible changes to the futurity could be a fall date in the future, breaking weanlings down by age for competitions, and having to qualify to come to the National Futurity.

An excited Joyce Moyer gave her marketing report and promised those in attendance, “we are listening.”  With a $20,000 budget Moyer has had her work cut out for her but she hasn’t let it deter her fortitude to get things done.  During her presentation, Lori Northrup from FOSH presented TWHBEA with a plaque for their participation at the Sound Horse Conference.

Moyer pointed out the positive things going on including the partnership with Tom Seay and Best of America By Horseback, the National Park Services, 2010 Equestrian Games, and NetPosse.com, a group that helps locate lost and stolen horses.  TWHBEA is the first horse organization to partner with NetPosse.com.  Also coming up is the June 7th National Youth Equine Trails Day, which TWHBEA will participate in with 13 rides in 10 states.
Darren Gray gave the Owners/Exhibitors report and explained with no monies available his committee has focused on education and clinics.  The TWHBEA sponsored educational clinics have been expanded to four days during the Celebration, will be held in Champions Arena and will be taped for future learning on the web site.  Also, Gray announced the re-birth of the Go Gelding program and mentioned that it was open to all HIOs and would conclude with a high-point reward at the end of the year.

During Gray’s report, Nicole Carswell gave an International Committee report.  Highlighted in the report was the expansion of TWHBEA programs internationally in 2009, forming a show circuit starting with European Championships in September 2008, the first European futurity, and more horse expos and shows in Canada.
Connie Hess gave the Performance Horse report and commended the trainers.  “We have taken leaps and bounds this year.  The trainers are doing an awesome job presenting horses,” said Hess.  She also pointed to the successful Fun Show with the USDA present as a guide to the progress being made.  Also highlighted by Hess was the success of the Academy program which broke many records in entries at events earlier this year.
Hess also gave some promotional ideas for the performance horse including posting showbills on the TWHBEA web site, sponsored “Ride A Performance Horse” at events allowing people to come and ride a performance horse, posting videos of performance horses on TWHBEA web site, and encouraging more exhibitions outside Middle Tennessee.

In Diana McMurtrey’s Pleasure Horse report, the World Versatility Show took center stage.  The show will be held in conjunction with the WHOA International Pleasure show on August 1st and 2nd.  Bill Stricklend and Dee Dee Sale will donate their time and judge the event and Stan Butt will do the announcing.  McMurtrey pointed out the need to improve the judging in pleasure horse divisions, with regards to judges’ qualifications.
Jamie Hankins, a holdover from the previous executive committee, praised the communication between the WHTA and TWHBEA saying, “I have never seen it this good before.”  Hankins has been preaching for communication and unity and feels strongly that the last six months have moved the industry in that direction.   Hankins also pointed out the need for better training of judging and specifically mentioned training in the versatility area.  Dr. Dave Whitaker and Dr. Doyle Meadows have agreed to help in this area according to Hankins.

With regards to judges, Hankins was asked a very tough question by Leslie Topham from Utah, who wanted to know if the NHSC would reinstate the licensing of the 80 judges who were certified under the TWHBEA plan previously.  The NHSC revoked the licenses of any judge who got a license from TWHBEA.  Topham added, “I don’t think it is fair that TWHBEA, after abandoning their plan, doesn’t work to get our license back with the NHSC because as it stands now I can’t judge for three years.”  Hankins and Pruett acknowledged this challenge and promised they would take it to the NHSC for their review.

Nathan Jackson added, “Why at the TWHBEA World Show are we not using our own licensed judges?”  To this Hankins deferred to Diana McMurtrey and the point was made that Sale and Stricklend were not hired but had volunteered their time.  Jackson rebuked, “I bet you could find TWHBEA licensed judges that would also donate their time.  This sends the wrong message.”  It was pointed out that TWHBEA has suspended its HIO thus its judging program.

Donna Benefield then took the floor to clear up a couple of points.  One, she said “The HPC has not been notified of the Sanctioning Plan not being active.”  Inman and Pruett responded that it was their understanding that the HPC had been notified through Craig Evans of the suspension of the Sanctioning Plan.  Benefield added, “Also, you don’t have to be an HIO to have a judging program.”

The discussion then turned to the By-Laws and Debra Jack took her turn at the microphone.  She was also met with many challenges including several by California director Frances Cole, who initially challenged the ratification of the actions of the executive committee Jack acknowledged the error in the order of the agenda but also pointed out that all of the minutes from the executive committee meetings are posted on the web site and directors have full access to this information.  Cole responded, “yes that is correct but what about actions taken in executive session?”

Jack reviewed many of the proposed by-law changes that will be sent out to directors before the annual meeting in December.  One of these was not allowing any future proxy voting at the Board of Director meetings.  It was determined according to Jack that these people have already been delegated the responsibility of representing their region and thus should be present to vote.  This again was challenged that in the new age of technology this was a step in the opposite direction from where the corporate world is moving.

Another hotly contested issue was that of the marriage/partnership qualification for national Board of Directors.  Jack stated the executive committee had made a policy decision that marriage would qualify one of the partners for election upon the owning of one horse and both if they own multiple horses.  This will be voted on as a change of the by-laws in the December meeting.  Mark Mattson challenged, “It either has to be a policy change or a by-law change, it can’t be both.”  Lori Northrup made a motion to rescind the policy decision of the executive committee with regards to the marriage qualification, however the parliamentarian notified Pruett that after the previous ratification of the actions, it would first have to be rescinded and then Northrup’s motion could make it to the floor.  This failed, thus the motion from Northrup never made it to a vote.

Another by-law change that will be before the directors is that of suspensions from HIOs and how they affect the qualification of directors and those currently serving.  It was determined by the by-law committee that as it stands right now there is no binding action in the by-laws for suspensions received by HIOs as TWHBEA is no longer a sanctioning body nor a part of any HIO, both stated as requirement s in the current by-laws to initiate the action.  They will address this with a special committee that also includes members from outside of TWHBEA so that they can fully understand the action needed.  It is however in the by-laws that any USDA suspension would disqualify an existing member and prevent qualification for the National Board of any general member.

 Christy Lantis was the last director to take the floor and has the responsibility for the youth of TWHBEA.  She joked, “many of my youth have aged out of the program during this meeting,” referring to the over nine hour meeting.  Lantis announced the hiring of Paulette Ewing as the Youth Coordinator.  Lantis accompanied the youth to the American Youth Horse Council Symposium in Raleigh, NC.  She urged people to help with regards to the youth scholarship program, one that normally has around $20,000 to give to youth but this year has none. 

Programs that are being looked at include a Youth Championship Horse Show, King and Queen Contest, and having Celebration youth reporters write nightly stories and published in the Voice magazine.
In old business, many motions were made.  Some were passed, others were not.  Those that did pass the vote of the board included adding both English and Western Two and Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure classes at the Futurity.  Also, with regards to payouts at the Futurity, the non-designated monies from horses that don’t show will now be split proportionately to those that have designated pleasure or performance.  In the past this money all went to the performance division.

Another successful motion will require future executive committees to post online the financial reports currently being done and follow a 36 month time period, giving full access to members to see the financial performance of TWHBEA.

Also, the Board will now have to approve the executive committee moving any funds out of restricted accounts to the general fund.

On an positive note, Sharon Brandon was recognized for her 45 years of service to TWHBEA.  Brandon has recently returned to the position of Registrar to help TWHBEA out in a time of need.  Brandon received a ring as a gift of appreciation and thanks from the executive committee.  She added, “this should go over here with my wedding ring since I feel that I have had two marriages in my life, one to TWHBEA and my husband.”
In what was an extremely long day, TWHBEA accomplished many of its executive committee’s goals including the beginning of the restoration of the financial stability of the organization.  The cuts to programs and budgets are astounding but as Inman put it, “we can’t spend money we don’t have.”  That sums up the first six months pretty well.