By Jeffrey Howard

Representatives from the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWHNC), Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA), Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) and Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse (FAST) met in Lewisburg at the TWHBEA headquarters on March 15, 2022. The meeting was organized by the Breeders’ and was an informal gathering to share accomplishments and challenges facing each.

TWHBEA Executive Director Mark Farrar spoke on behalf and TWHBEA and talked about a lot of the positive metrics in the industry. Farrar spoke to the Tennessee Walking Horse being the second fastest growing breed in 2021 when comparing new registrations to the previous year and being fifth overall in total registrations. Both statistics shocked Farrar in his new role with the growth and strength of the breed nationally.

Tommy Hall, who will retire as the Executive Director of WHOA at the end of the year, spoke to the strength of the numbers of horse shows put on by WHOA over the last 14 years. Hall also spoke to three new three-day shows WHOA is conducting this year in Conyers, Georgia, Oak Grove, Kentucky and in Festus, Missouri. Just

in 2021, WHOA had 60 horse shows with 14,108 entries for an average of 235 entries per show. Celebration CEO Warren Wells spoke about the start of horse show season and welcomed the Trainers’ Show to the horse show grounds this week. The Celebration is making continued improvements to the barns with the latest being electrical outlets being installed at each stall. Wells spoke about the upcoming Celebration and the opportunities that Celebration had explored with TWHBEA regarding the Futurity with further announcements to come soon. The Celebration is continuing to focus on attracting other equestrian events in order to increase revenues which are needed to continue to update and improve all of the facilities.

WHTA President Bill Young spoke to this week’s Trainers’ Show and the three events that the Trainers host each year, which also includes the Yearling Sale and Horse of the Year Banquet. Young announced this year’s banquet will be at Calsonic Arena, which is a change the WHTA hopes brings about some excitement. In terms of challenges, Young spoke to aging leadership at WHTA and overall membership. Over 50% of the licensed, active trainers are over 65 years of age.

Kasey Kesselring, President of FAST addressed the impending rulemaking facing the industry. FAST has in reserves and has allocated $200,000 to retain industry representation during the comment phase of the upcoming rulemaking. There is no set timeline for the new rule’s introduction but Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has expressed the department’s intent to initiate new rulemaking.

The groups will continue to monitor the events in the industry and keep their respective boards, members and interested parties informed about current events in the industry affecting each association.