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Editorial by David Howard



I’m glad I’m not a Walking Horse trainer!

            Now don’t get me wrong… but here we are less than a month away from our Super Bowl and they are talking about changing the rules in the inspection area.  When the Commission finishes sifting through all of the recommendations, how will a trainer know what to expect? (Fortunately, the NHSC has released their plans for the inspection area this week – see article on this site).

            A couple of points– the Celebration affiliated with the National Horse Show Commission, just as it has every year since the NHSC has been in existence, and will follow the inspection procedures that this organization proposes.  The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, the National Horse Protection Society, the United States Department of Agriculture and others can recommend all they want, but the ultimate authority for this year’s inspection is the Commission, a recognized Horse Industry Organization.    

            It should be noted that the Celebration has not made any recommendations nor endorsed any and they have as much at stake as anyone.  They have met with the groups making the recommendations but have not made any request or demands of the NHSC.  They have handled this issue the same as they have every other year and placed their confidence in the Commission’s inspection process.   This is what the law requires of show management– affiliate with a USDA sanctioned HIO and let them do their job.

            Now back to my main point!

            I am not saying that the recommendations that have been made and the changes being implemented are without merit and should not be given consideration… but it’s basically changing the rules in the fourth quarter.  The success of the Celebration is critically important to this industry and last minute changes in such an important part of the show have the potential for confusion and turmoil.

            If we are going to change the rules, let’s give the people (trainers) with the responsibility for complying with them sufficient notice and time.  Let’s have the rules and the new Operating Plan in place at the START of the show season and not be changing them on the eve of the World Championship.

            There were obviously some changes in the works from last year’s experience with horse and human traffic problems in the inspection area.  Changes of this nature occur every year but some of the changes being recommended should have been publicly considered a long time ago, not weeks before the World Championship.

            At one meeting I attended, a non-horse individual made a similar observation about changing the rules just before the start of the game.  Jim Allison is a long-time Southeastern Conference official; he manages Duck River Electric in Shelbyville and has an impressive business background.  He doesn’t pretend to be an expert on horses but he knows about rules and their enforcement.  Hopefully, his very good advice will be followed in the future.

            I have heard the Celebration criticized in the past for “changing the rules” at their show.  That is simply not true– the Celebration is bound by the rules of the HIO it affiliates with and enforces all of the rules, even though some smaller shows do not.

            Quite frankly, it’s time for this industry to get its act together and stop the infighting.  There is important legislation being considered in Washington that needs everyone’s input and support; a new operating plan is in the works for 2007 and our participation at USDA listening sessions is virtually non-existent; the TWHBEA and other industry organizations need to stop arguing and start building a structure that addresses the needs of all groups and leads this industry into the future.

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