Skip to content

2010...A Challenging Year!



An editorial by David L. Howard

“True change never occurs
Until the pain of change is less than
The pain of staying the same”

There is a lot of conversation about SHOW’s $100 horse card and justifiably so.  They have done a poor job of explaining what the money is being used for…but more about that at a later time.

More importantly, we need to take stock of where this industry stands at the start of a new year and where it is going.  Like it or not, the Walking Horse industry, by almost any objective measure, is in a free fall.  The numbers from our national organizations are in a steady decline and its time to face some unpleasant facts if the industry is going to turn around.

The TWHBEA is a strong measure of the industry’s health and they report unprecedented declines.  Membership reached a high of 18,508 in 2005 and at the end of 2009 it was 10,942, a decline of over 40% or 7,566 members. 

Breeding is the lifeblood of any breed and the stallion breeding report numbers are even more discouraging.  In the yearly reporting period ending September 30, 2003, (12 months) the TWHBEA recorded 27,943 stallion breeding reports.  In the time period ending October 1, 2009 (13 months) they recorded 9,231 reports…a drop of 18,262 or over 65%. 

TWHBEA records show that first time foal registrations have fallen from over 12,000 annually to 6,055, virtually half.  If you look at the number of foals registered by calendar year of birth you have to go back to 1965 to find a worse year than 2008 when 6,625 were registered. In 1965, the number was 6,156 and grew to a high of 15,431 in 2002.  From that high point till now represents a decline of 8,806 registrations or 60%.

The TWHBEA annual financial report is not yet available but these declines are going to continue to manifest themselves on the bottom line.  Frankly, the Board and staff deserve a great deal of credit for making the truly difficult decisions to control expenses and keep the doors open.  It has not been easy.

And the TWHBEA is not alone.  By way of example, The Celebration has lost over $650,000 in the last three years despite reducing expenses by a million dollars.  WHOA has not yet released their numbers for 2009 but they have always faced financials challenges and 2009 will in all likelihood reflect that.  Trainers report that they are having difficulty raising sponsorship money for their March show and that money is critical to their yearly operating budget.

What’s the point of the numbers? 

You have to be aware of the situation before you can make positive changes and nothing can be changed until you face the facts. The facts are not good and its time to do something about it.

The industry needs to start by pulling together and offering support instead of criticism; assist those in leadership positions instead of questioning their wisdom or motives and begin a comprehensive plan to get the Tennessee Walking Horse back to a position of dignity and respect in the horse world at large.

It is enough of a challenge to have to deal with the ignorance and bias of the national media; the unscrupulous efforts of the Humane Society of the United States to destroy the padded show horse and the ongoing struggle with the United States Department of Agriculture to work together enforcing the law.  The industry, small as it is and getting smaller, cannot meet these challenges and continue to pull apart with each group doing their own thing.

What kind of future is there for this horse? 

The good news is that the future begins tomorrow and what that future holds depends on each and every person involved and their willingness to change the failed ways of the past.  It’s no secret the two critical challenges are showing compliant horses and improving the quality and integrity of the judging.

If these two areas of concern are not addressed properly and in a unified fashion, the numbers recounted above will continue to worsen and this breed will continue to shrink.  It is time for everyone to step up and do their part.  Remember, the greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you can only do a little.  Do what you can. If that happens, the best is yet to come.

More Stories

  • Latest Issue 3 1 31

    Read More
  • Walking In The Smokies stall deadline approaching

    The Walking In The Smokies Horse Show, scheduled for April 8-10, 2021, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is preparing for their first annual show and would like to send a reminder to anyone needing stalls that the deadline is March 15. Please contact Lexi Stinnett at 828-550-8520 to reserve stalls on the show grounds. Read More
  • Trainers' Show announces judges

    The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association National Trainers’ Show will be held at Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, Tenn. March 18-20, 2021. Judges for the three-day event will be Wayne Dean, Newton Parks and Johnny Puckett. Read More
  • USDA prepares for 2021 show season

    The USDA recently conducted their virtual HIO training course for the 2021 show season. The USDA and industry recently received the final report from the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) and some of the recommendations in that report are communicated in the new processes the USDA will implement in 2021... Read More
  • WHOA hosts virtual awards ceremony

    On Saturday. February 20th, the Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) held their National High Point awards for 2020 on their WHOA Facebook page with winners who chose to be zooming in to accept their awards... Read More
  • WHOA to host virtual awards ceremony on February 20

    The Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) will recognize their award winners from the 2020 show season during a virtual awards ceremony on Saturday, February 20, 2021. The show will be broadcast live on WHOA’s Facebook page beginning at 6 pm central time. Read More
  • FAST Spring Showcase announces judging panel

    The FAST Spring Showcase is pleased to announce that John Fikes, Newton Parks and Sam Sorrell will judge this years’ two-day event. The show will be held at Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, Tenn. April 16-17, 2021... Read More
  • Obituary – Kimberly Woods

    Kimberly Lynn Woods, age 47 departed this life on Sunday, February 14, 2021 at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky... Read More
  • WHAA annual barn party rescheduled due to inclement weather

    There will be a lot of great items to auction as well as breeding fees to some of the top stallions in the industry and training fees for many of the top trainers. Everyone is encouraged to bring your young horses to preview for the upcoming show season. Read More
  • Birth Announcement – William Jackson Bauer

    Dr. & Mrs. Will  Bauer of Gainesville, Georgia welcomed their first child, William Jackson Bauer, on December 4, 2020. Jack weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces at birth... Read More