On the heels of Friday’s general membership meeting, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association annual directors meeting mirrored yesterday’s meeting in tone and efficiency as about 70 of the group’s leaders gathered at 10 a.m. for a heavy load of business with the election serving as the pleasant shake-up of the day.

While there was no drama or negative undertones, the results of the election culminated with quite a new crew for the Executive Committee with several directors rolling off the board and a couple directors even changing positions. 

Outgoing president David Williams was actually speaking to continued changes in the Futurity program, but his comments captured the sentiment of Friday’s elections equally as much as he encouraged the positive group to continue embracing change. 

“When asked why you do something our answer is often, ‘Well, because this is the way we’ve always done it,’” said Williams. “Change is good.”

In addition to Williams rolling off the EC, the seats of Steve Smith, Keegan Meadows, Carrie Benedict, Russ Thompson and Ashley Wadsworth were open for the taking, with several being a result of directors reaching their six-year term limits. 

Similar to the general membership meeting, the TWHBEA directors meeting reflected an atmosphere that was seemingly non-confrontational, light-hearted yet also productive. By noon, the elections were underway and within 10 minutes the 2020 Executive Committee had been officially named without controversy. 

All nominees were confirmed by a simple and agreeable voice vote with the most notable change of committee being the change in the president’s seat. Former Bylaws director Margo Urad of Texas was unanimously applauded for her acceptance of the nomination of president, filling in the seat formerly held by Williams. 

A nominating committee consisting of Williams, Spencer Benedict, Wadsworth, Smith and Ford Gates had been appointed to select nominees for the election, and they received no opposition from the floor for their selections, which added a few new faces to the group and some role changes as well. 

Following Urad’s confirmation, nominee Mike Floyd of Tennessee was confirmed into the Sr. Vice President’s role, with Christy Lantis of South Carolina earning the nod to oversee Admin-Fiscal. Dee Cantrell also earned the confidence of the group to head the Breeders division, and Thom Meek will now serve over the Training arm of the group. 

Rounding out the rest of 2020’s TWHBEA Executive Committee are last year’s secretary Jim Heiting (Welfare), Brad Woodruff (Owners/Exhibitors/International), Kristen Reichard (Pleasure Horse), Frances Bates (Marketing), Denise Rowland (Performance), Chris Hazelwood (Youth), former performance leader Robin Webb (now Bylaws) and Walt Chism (Secretary). 

The room was filled with appreciation for what seems to be a diverse and energized group of directors who are all enthusiastic about their seat on the bus for the work slated for 2020. In fact, a couple directors changed seats from 2019 to 2020, most notably new president Urad, in addition to Rowland, Webb and Heiting.

Rowland, who went from overseeing the Admin-Fiscal for the last term, to vice president of the performance committee expressed her excitement in the year ahead ahead. 

Last year was Rowland’s first term in the Admin-Fiscal seat in a very close contested election and while Rowland had good news to report when she gave her committee report prior to the election about TWHBEA’s financials, she admitted it was a challenging role and she thought she could serve better in a different seat, which she will now have a chance to do (Performance). 

Rowland also suggested she believed there was someone who could do a better job in the Admin-Fiscal chair and she proved to have a lot of support in that sentiment as Lantis rolled into the spot with great confidence of the collective group. 

Several had a chance to address the large group, with Webb’s comments making an impact as she encouraged everyone to align with as many other groups and friends from other breeds and animal groups as possible. 

“Be diligent, and know what’s going on locally,” she said, stating communication is key in order to develop a strategy. “Be proud of your horse and know that there is an attack on us all … Build alliances and know we are all in this together.” 

Prior to the election, the 2019 EC gave committee reports, which will be printed in more detail in the next Walking Horse Report. One of the highlights, however, came from Smith, who reported on some of the challenges the industry is facing as well as the NAS study currently underway in regards to the inspection process. 

Smith applauded the leadership working on behalf of the horse in Washington, but also cautioned that support could change quickly. He also spoke frankly about the NAS study.

“We will lose without it,” he said. “People ask, ‘What if it’s bad?’ … It can’t be bad. Sure, there’s a chance we still might lose with the study, but without it, we definitely will lose.”

Benedict gave a full report on the Futurity, explaining the positive trends from this year’s competition, the first upward movement since 2012. Those numbers will be reported in more detail next week as well. 

The next TWHBEA Directors meeting will be held May 23, 2020.