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You Can't Look Back Without Looking Forward



By Jeffrey Howard


Editor’s Note:  As 2014 comes to a close, the Walking Horse Report is pleased to provide a review of all that transpired in the historic year for the industry.  We did the same thing in 2012 and it was well-received so I hope you find the content that follows helpful in jogging your memory. Click here to view the Year in Review issue.

The year will be remembered for the PAST Act not coming to a vote in Congress.  Given the circumstances, which seemed dire at several points, the HSUS and their many allies were unable to succeed in their quest to destroy the show horse. Thinking back, it is an amazing accomplishment for the industry.  The PAST Act had every major veterinarian association, most other major show breeds and 70% of the House of Representatives and 60% of the Senate in support of the bill.

So how did the industry survive?  First, thank the lawmakers that took time  to understand the industry and the impact it has on so many lives plus the economic impact.  Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Senator Lamar Alexander led the way by introducing industry legislation that had the support of TWHNC, TWHBEA and WHTA.  

Representative Scott DesJarlais has been a tireless worker and the Tennessee Republican delegation  in the House have supported the Walking Horse.  Representative Hal Rogers and Senators McConnell and Rand Paul from Kentucky were also strong supporters and worked on our behalf.  TWHNC, PSHA and TWHBEA also worked alongside the industry lobbyists to help fight for the show horse.  Many of you contributed your time, talent and treasure and for that I say thank you!

Although a major accomplishment, the fight is not even close to being over.  HSUS will be back in 2015 with another PAST Act and a full barrage of their propaganda and money.  The industry must continue to push real solutions that have a basis in veterinarian science and objective testing.  The days of talking about our problems and blaming others are over.  We need to be proactive, take the necessary steps and implement them expeditiously.  

Although we share little in common with the HSUS and other opponents of the show horse, iit is important that we focus on what we share in common.  Both sides agree that the current inspection method and regulatory structure do not work.  The HSUS claims that horses that should be turned down are allowed to show.  The industry feels that horses that are turned down should be allowed to show.  Where is the truth?  Who cares, we agree the method for determining violations has failed.

That leads to the implementation of objective testing at the 2014 Celebration.  Whatever your feelings are toward the Celebration, they’ve been crowning our World Champions for 76 years and through the VAC advanced and demonstrated the industry’s stated position in favor of objective testing.  The bills introduced by Blackburn and Alexander called for objective testing and Senator Alexander encouraged the Celebration to implement this program in the effort to defeat the PAST ACT. Was the program perfect?  No, but I ask you to find a program in any major equine or professional sport that is.  I would like to thank the Veterinarian Advisory Committee for stepping up to help our horse and the Celebration for having  the courage and financial commitment to make it a reality.


Our problems are real and growing.  The lack of youth participation, the decline in the number of horse shows, the drastic decline in breeding, the declining number of training operations and increasing nationwide criticism of our horse are just a few.  However, the solution is simple in my mind.  Eliminate the uncertainty of pre-show inspection while keeping a performance horse and watch the breed flourish and grow.  Another area of commonality with our opponents inside our industry, the Tennessee Walking Horse is the best and most versatile horse In the world. I can’t tell you how many veterinarians and representatives of other breeds that say the Walking Horse should be the second largest breed in America.  The question remains, what are we going to do to achieve that lofty status?

We don’t have to like each other, agree with each other or even spend time with each other in order to support each other and as a result support the horse we love so much.  I urge you over the next year to seek the facts, search for the truth, support those who are fighting our fight in Washington and elsewhere and step up and do your part to assure the survival of the performance Tennessee Walking Horse.  Gossip, criticism, back-stabbing and negativity won’t advance one solution but will continue to fuelthe negative trends that threaten the very existence of the horse.

This industry is full of great people that have tremendous talents to help.  I thank all of you that continue to show, train, breed and promote the horses you love so much.  The future can be bright for all of us.  The basis for the future is the horse, not the people.  Let’s do everything we can to allow him to flourish.

Our family has been in the industry for over 40 years.  Thank you for the friendships that we’ve made, the lessons we’ve learned and the support of our business.  I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I enjoy the opportunity to get to know each of you and your families better and simply can’t thank you enough for your support of Walking Horse Report.
 

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