Editor’s note: The Walking Horse Report conducted the following exclusive interview with Celebration and SHOW HIO CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows. Dr. Meadows recently announced the 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration judges. SHOW also recently added Co-Compliance Coordinators Dr. Steve Mullins and Dr. John Bennett to their SHOW Inspection Team.

Q – Overall what is your impression of the judging panel selections for this year’s Celebration?
A – I am extremely happy with the panel and their knowledge across the board. It is a very experienced panel with four of the judges having judged our show previously. The fifth judge (Jennifer Bingham) has judged all of the big shows across the country except for the Celebration. One of the big problems is we don’t have large regional shows to prepare someone to judge the Celebration. We may have experienced judges that aren’t prepared to judge our show.

Q – What qualities did Jennifer Bingham possess that warranted her selection?
A – She was selected last year and was involved in a rules violation that prevented her from judging. It has nothing to do with her ability to evaluate horses in all of our classes. She also has a pleasure and equitation designation on her judges’ license.

Q – Why did you not have separate equitation judges this year?
A – For two reasons, first and foremost was the significantly small number of equitation riders last year. Secondly, the monetary constraints of the Celebration prevented us from selecting a separate panel.

Q – Did you consider not paying preliminary premium monies to those entries that did not show back in championship classes?
A – We evaluated this option and decided to leave it alone this year. It is my intent to enact this policy in 2010. However, at this year’s Celebration no premium money will be paid out until all accounts are settled in full at the Celebration.

Q – Is there a new fee for entries at the Celebration?
A – At the Celebration, we have maintained the same fee structure for four consecutive years yet we have continued with increased expenses and a reduction in revenue while paying the same premiums. However, this year, we have initiated a one-time $50 ground fee per horse. There is not a championship horse show in this country that doesn’t charge grounds fees, schooling fees, drug testing fees and office charges. Almost all small shows in other breeds in 2009 have incorporated those additional fees into the cost of maintaining a horse show. Relative to other championship horse shows we have by far the lowest fee structure in the industry.

Q – I have heard that box seats and reserved seat sales are down. Is this the case?
A – There has been a decline since 2006 and that trend continues today. I think we have a great challenge but a huge opportunity as we work through SHOW and the Celebration to make our industry better. All of these things didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be fixed immediately. We are working extremely hard to develop a strategic plan that will allow the Celebration and walking horse industry to be successful for years to come. The Celebration obviously is dependent on a strong walking horse industry and the walking horse industry needs a strong Celebration to showcase this wonderful horse.

Q – Switching gears a little, how would you evaluate the performance of Drs. Mullins and Bennett as Co-Compliance Coordinators of SHOW?
A – I could not be more proud of two individuals who took it on themselves to enhance and improve the consistency of the inspection process. I assure you if they did not love the walking horse industry and want to see it prosper, they would not be doing this. It is a tremendous amount of work and effort they have accepted in addition to their normal practices. It is a win situation for SHOW, however, I don’t think the average person knew how important the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act was to these two guys and how seriously they have taken the entire inspection process.