The Walking Horse Report recently sat down with Performance Show Horse Chairman Terry Dotson regarding the status of the organization and its efforts to continue to promote and protect the interest of the performance Tennessee Walking Horse. Dotson also serves on the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s Leadership Committee and owns and operates Winding Creek Stables in Kingston, Tennessee. 

Can you update us on the status of PSHA and if funding of the organization and its efforts is still needed?

PSHA is still active and works with other industry organizations such as FAST, The Celebration, TWHBEA and the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association to protect the interests of the performance horse. We also employ lobbyists Jeff Speaks and Bill Spencer, who have been and will continue to be critical to our industry. They make sure our voice is heard from both a legislative and regulatory perspective.  

WHR: How does PSHA raise money and fund Jeff Speaks and Bill Spencer?

Dotson: The major funding source for PSHA is the $15 fee the SHOW HIO collects at horse shows it affiliates. This fee is in addition to the $15 inspection fee SHOW charges. It accounted for just under $120,000 in 2017 to pay for lobbying efforts. However, this fee is only a small part of the money raised through PSHA, FAST, The Celebration and others to help with the efforts to save our horse. 

Prior to March 2013 all of the monies paid to Jeff Speaks for lobbying were paid by members of the PSHA board and since that time 50 percent of his fee is still paid for outside of the monies collected by PSHA. Bill Spencer came on board sometime in 2014 and is paid for by the fee charged by SHOW at the horse shows as well as 50 percent of Jeff Speaks’ fee.

In addition to the help we receive to pay for lobbying efforts, I want to also acknowledge the legal help this industry has received. The outside lawyers and firms have been excellent but few realize the unbelievable amounts of time that industry lawyers have donated as part of the last nine years of battles.  In addition, the industry, through FAST, raised the monies to prepare the work that would have led to the lawsuit challenging the rule proposed by USDA that would eliminate the pads and chains had that lawsuit been necessary.

WHR: What are some of the accomplishments PSHA, along with the others you mentioned, have achieved?

Dotson: Thank you for asking this question. The accomplishments are many and I will start with stating this: Our horses are continuing to show. The PAST Act has yet to come to a vote, even in committee, despite the unending efforts of the Humane Society of the United States and the millions of dollars they have spent trying to get it into law. I hear people say that the PAST Act is behind us and this is simply not true. The HSUS continues to push the PAST Act and its elimination of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry as one of its major legislative priorities and it’s our understanding that they are working extremely hard to have the PAST Act put in to the Farm Bill that Congress will be working on this spring. We must stay diligent in our opposition to their objectives.

In addition, we’ve had legislation introduced as an alternative to the PAST Act, the industry prevailed against the USDA with regards to the issue of the Minimum Penalty Protocol, prevailed in removing the names of industry participants from USDA web sites listing them as violators before they had ever received due process, and just last year were successful in not allowing the USDA’s proposed rule that would mirror closely the PAST Act to become enacted. These were all critical victories for the industry that came through the hard work, generosity and sheer determination of not only PSHA and its board members, but also the other industry organizations such as FAST, TWHBEA, The Celebration and the SHOW HIO and the other individuals that have given so generously of their time, talent and financial resources.

This doesn’t include the information obtained through the swabbing programs, skin biopsies, Veterinarian Advisory Council and other veterinarian help that has been so critical to all of the efforts that have been undertaken and have resulted in great achievements in the courtroom and in the show ring. 

I would also like to thank Sheryl Crawford and the others that were so critical in the University of Tennessee study that was favorable in regards to the walking horse. 

This is a collective effort and I want to emphasize that it is these efforts from so many people that have resulted in the positives for our horse. I just can’t stress enough, though, that the work is not done and fees are still necessary. For only one HIO to be collecting those is disappointing and just continues to place additional burden on individuals to make up the shortfall.

WHR: What is next for the industry and PSHA?

Dotson: Quite simply, we must continue to fight and challenge the efforts of HSUS and other groups trying to eliminate our horse and our industry. Everyone must understand and appreciate that these groups are fighting just as hard today to get rid of our horses and our industry as they have the past few years and we must continue to push our solutions with both Congress and the USDA.  

However, I do think the accomplishments to date set the stage for the industry to be more proactive and go on the offense to achieve a long-term solution that guarantees our future and provides a clarity for owners, trainers and horse shows. We have been steadfast in our support of an independent HIO or enforcement entity that would impose strict guidelines and penalties for violations of the HPA as determined by objective, scientific testing protocols with clear rules and guidelines to ensure the welfare of our horses competing.

The USDA has been very transparent and straightforward with the industry in the last couple of years. Bernadette Juarez has been very up front with what her expectations are and the objectives of eliminating soring and ensuring fair competition.  We share those same goals. The collective approach to enforcing the HPA with the industry and HIOs is very refreshing and encouraging.  

WHR: On a personal note, you were recently able to host the Vice President of the United States at your Worldwide Equipment facility in West Virginia. Can you tell us what that experience was like?

Dotson: First I gained a new appreciation for security and the stature, prestige and protection of our Vice President. Mike Pence’s brother has been a friend of mine for over 30 years so we had that connection. His brother just retired as a member of the Cummins Engine Company’s management team. The Vice President very much looks and talks like, and is humble like, his brother.  

I was surprised that Mr. Pence’s chief of staff brought up the walking horse industry when we met. He was aware that we had an issue and I told him that yes we did have an issue and would appreciate him helping right the wrongs of some previous administrations. Worldwide was honored to be asked to host the vice president and appreciated his kindness and awareness of our needs.