SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The board of the directors for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration held a dinner meeting with the board of directors of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) on Thursday, May 4th at the Blue Ribbon Circle Club.  The meeting, which has been held several times in the past, is an opportunity to share opinions about the world championship horse show and the Tennessee Walking Industry in general in a relaxed atmosphere.

            Following dinner, TWHNC Chairman John T Bobo updated the assembled groups on work being done with the National Horse Protection Society (NHPS) and its development of a plan of operation.  He stressed the importance of support of the NHPS by nationally acclaimed veterinarians from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and that, due to their support of the NHPS; officials within the federal government have taken notice.  One of the main selling points this group has is that their affiliations are not with the Tennessee Walking Horse, but with other breeds and disciplines.

            Bobo said The Celebration’s role has been, and will be, as a facilitator to help bring all interested parties within the industry together.  To that end, he announced a meeting would be held on Saturday, May 13 in Shelbyville in hopes of coming away with a single plan the entire industry can support.  The WHTA and Walking Horse Owners’ Association will be represented via the National Horse Show Commission Board of Directors.  In addition, representatives of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, Kentucky HIO, NHPS and NHPS’ Advisory Committee have been invited.

            “We have a short window of opportunity to make a positive splash in Washington,” explained Bobo.  “We need to get all the parties together and come away with a unified plan that we can present to the USDA and to Congress.”

            Bobo said the plan being put forth by the NHPS and a plan being developed by the TWHBEA are very similar.  “The plans have many more things in common than differences.  We hope the meeting on the 13th can iron out any of those differences and we can come away with a united front.”

            Other items of discussion included the quality and soundness of horses being shown this show season.  Celebration CEO Ron Thomas got a very positive response on this subject from the members of the WHTA board.  Thomas also threw out scenarios to the trainers about the lack of USDA inspections so far this year and what should fans and show officials expect from the trainers when those inspections begin to take place.

            WHTA President David Landrum was the first to respond by saying, “We’re going to show horses.”  Other comments in the affirmative came from many of trainers present.

            Thomas also led a discussion about improvements that can be made at the Spring Fun Show and Celebration.  Several suggestions were made that will be looked into for implementation.

            Both groups also acknowledged their concerns over a drop in attendance at the National Trainers’ Show over the past few years.  Calsonic Arena has hosted the event for the past 17 consecutive years with two more years remaining on the current agreement.  The Celebration’s CEO noted during that 19-year period, The Celebration would have been responsible for payments made to the WHTA totaling $418,028.  Both The Celebration and WHTA plan on developing ideas to help promote the show and regain attendance levels of past years.

            “The Celebration has been an avid supporter of the Trainers’ Association,” explained Landrum.  “It’s a very special relationship.  The Celebration gives us a national stage to compete while we provide the most exciting show horses in the country to the fans.  We appreciate the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their board and know that our ideas and suggestions are going to be heard and, if possible, acted upon.”