Copyright 2006 WHR

by Sadie Fowler

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. -- Tom Blankenship presented the National Horse Protection Society’s conceptual plan to clean up the walking horse industry to the National Horse Show Commission Monday, Feb. 27, 2005. Following a meeting Sunday, where Blankenship presented the plan to a group of TWHBEA Executive Committee members and Celebration board members, Blankenship urged the Commission board to consider the NHPS proposal in an effort to save the industry.

The day after the Commission meeting with Blankenship, the following motion was made by Mack Motes, seconded by Link Webb: “the Commission agrees with Blankenship on the concept of a study and would like the opportunity to participate,” according to David Pruett. The motion carried unanimously.

“We can’t defend wrong anymore,” said Blankenship at Monday’s meeting. “We are one New York Times article away from being put out of business.” He said in order to clean up the industry he recommended putting a group of highly intelligent people together to look at everything facing the industry and to establish a new plan.

Blankenship presented the Commission with a broad outline that resulted from a meeting held in Florida in January between prominent veterinarian Jerry Johnson and five other veterinarians who have major roles in their respective organizations including the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). The USEF regulates most equestrian events excluding TWH shows.

Blankenship explained that the idea for the NHPS came up in August, after the Belfast and Wartrace shows, when Bill Johnson of Waterfall Farm called him requesting a group be formed to permanently resolve problems the industry has been dealing with for 35 years. Bill Johnson and Bob Medina both donated money to the NHPS to begin structuring a plan. January’s meeting resulted where a conceptual plan was developed.

Blankenship attended the Commission meeting in hopes to gain the endorsement of the Commission to acknowledge the NHPS and to give them the chance to further develop their plan.

“We keep putting band aids on. We need a permanent fix…we need to deal with problems we know exist,” said Blankenship. “I commend the Trainers’ [for recent actions taken to clean up industry] but this industry needs to step up an give them help.”

Blankenship told the Commission that the people who attended the Florida meeting are the best in their disciplines and stressed the importance of making a clean, fresh start based on recommendations from the group.

“My job was to help with the skeleton of the plan,” said Blankenship, explaining that his role was more of a mediator than anything else. “I get upset when people call this the Blankenship Plan. This is not a Blankenship Plan.”

Blankenship said that communication within the industry is not good and said he was asked to be a peacemaker. “I have to emphasize that everyone wants to blame someone else. The government is not our problem, we are our problem.” He continued, “I encourage you to strongly consider [NHPS recommendations] regardless if the Breeders’ work with the Commission in 2006 or not.”

Mack Motes then asked, “This is just a planning group, right? If there’s a better deal than the Commission, I’m for it.” Further clarifying Blankenship’s points, Motes stated that this group would simply come in and look at all aspects of the industry; at this stage, they would not have the authority to implement anything. Rather, they would simply look at everything going on in the industry and come up with a proposed plan.

“I wouldn’t be against a study group,” Motes said. “It’s coming a time where we need to look at ourselves and see what we’re doing and what we ought to be doing. I believe, and I think most trainers believe, we have got it good in the show ring. The problem is from the trailer to the show ring. We have never tried anything like this before and I can’t see how anybody could be against this,” Motes said. Motes concluded by stating the NHPS would simply be making recommendations. From there, the Commission may decide whether to accept those recommendations or not.

Blankenship agreed with everything Motes said.

Jamie Hankins, who also serves on the TWHBEA Executive Committee commented that what was presented by Blankenship at the Commission meeting was quite different than what he had understood after attending the TWHBEA meeting earlier that morning where TWHBEA Executive Committee President Jerrold Pedigo updated everyone on his meeting with Blankenship Sunday.

Questions came up about potential legislative change. Specifically, Lonnie Messick asked if the government would not be a factor anymore under the NHPS plan. Blankenship said the first priority is to clean up the industry and get to the point where “we can say we are doing the best jobs we can do.” What happens after that will be dictated by how much improvement has been made, according to Blankenship.

David Pruett later asked how the NHPS plan would be financed and Blankenship answered by saying he did not know, however he had ideas.

Blankenship concluded his presentation by requesting the Commission get back to him as soon has they decided whether or not they would be giving the NHPS their blessing to go forward with developing a more detailed plan. The Commission decided the following day to go with the concept of the study proposed by Blankenship.

Neils Holch next took the floor requesting the Commission continue to retain him as their attorney. He had requested the TWHBEA do the same in their executive committee meeting earlier on Monday. Both groups confirmed with the Report that they would indeed retain Holch as their attorney through the 2007 Operating Plan negotiations.