Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association President Jerrold Pedigo. As President of TWHBEA, Pedigo has expressed a willingness to share his thoughts regarding TWHBEA’s vision for the future of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Future interviews will expand upon some of these ideas. Readers who have questions they would like to see addressed should send those to cparsons@horseworld.net for possible inclusion in future interviews.


United We Stand

An Interview with Jerrold Pedigo

By Christy Howard Parsons

Also attended by Voice Editor Stan Butt and Dabora President David L. Howard

            At first blush, there seems to be a great deal of irony to TWHBEA withdrawing from the National Horse Show Commission and forming its own Horse Industry Organization in the name of “unifying the industry.” However, if you get past the rhetoric and past the personalities of the people espousing the cases for each side of this issue, you are left with a common goal – to grow the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

            Jerrold Pedigo believes that if the Tennessee Walking Horse industry is to grow and prosper, then the various segments of this industry must work together and provide a system that will provide stability and minimum standards for our entire industry. Specifically, he believes there are three basic components that are necessary to providing this stability. First, we must have one rulebook that applies to all Tennessee Walking Horse shows, regardless of where they are held. Second, we must have trained and educated judges, who judge honestly and fairly according to one rulebook, who are accountable and available to the entire industry. Finally, we must have consistent, fair and equitable inspections of all entries at all Tennessee Walking Horse shows that only permit the showing of sound horses.

            “This all began five years ago or so with an effort to unify the various segments of the industry when Robert Thomas was president of TWHBEA,” explains Pedigo. “Robert Smith, a director from Washington state, made a motion at a semiannual meeting to form a committee to investigate what could be done to unify the HIOs.”

            “In some cases, different types of horses were being tied in different states based on regional preferences as opposed to a set of breed standards,” said Pedigo. “That is certainly not productive for the growth or prosperity of our breed.”

            At that time, a five-person committee was formed. Pedigo served as its chairperson. Other committee members were Jane Meredith, Charles Wharton, Ann Kuykendall and Charles Hulsey (current TWHBEA Executive Director, who was on the Executive Committee at that time).

            This group met with all of the Horse Industry Organizations, who had been certified by the USDA, including the NHSC; and met individually with the Walking Horse Owners Association and Walking Horse Trainers Association, as member organizations of the NHSC. All of these organizations agreed in principle that the industry would be well served by having one rulebook, better-educated judges with minimum judging standards, and the showing of only sound horses that comply with the Horse Protection Act. There were other minor issues where the organizations disagreed, but by in large, each HIO agreed with these three main principles.

            That committee presented its findings to the National Board of TWHBEA but without a clear solution to bring the various organizations together, no action was taken. Prior to and since this committee’s effort, others have made attempts to unify the industry but to no avail. It is difficult to find anyone who does not want unity or believe it is in the best interest of the industry; however it is very difficult to find organizations within the industry to agree on the path to unity.

            The issues were revived however, in June of 2005, when TWHBEA gave the required six-month notice that they were not renewing the current NHSC contract.

            The seed that started that ball rolling (as to giving notice to the NHSC), actually occurred two or three years earlier when a director on TWHBEA’s National Board made a motion requiring TWHBEA to accept and add to TWHBEA’s show records all show records from shows affiliated with any HIO, not just the NHSC. The motion passed without much fanfare, and perhaps without an understanding that it violated the current NHSC contract, which prohibits its members from doing business with any other HIO.

            Pedigo, as chairman of the NHSC, understood the NHSC contract and it came to his attention that TWHBEA could not meet the mandates of its national board and the terms of the NHSC contract as it was currently written. Thus, he forwarded copies of that contract and other pertinent documents to the members of the Executive Committee for review.

            “We started out addressing that one issue,” said Pedigo. “That led to questions about exactly what was in that contract. The then current NHSC contract allowed for automatic one-year renewals, and it had not been reviewed in detail in a number of years. However, by not taking action, you were taking an action and the board members were responsible for that action. The contract needed further review.”

            Other pressing matters came before the TWHBEA Executive Committee in July, and they did not meet in August. Again in September and October other business of the Association left limited time to discuss the NHSC contract.

            During this time industry issues were also raising concerns among Executive Committee members about their participation in the NHSC. The USDA stepped up enforcement efforts. Specifically at Fayetteville, Belfast and Wartrace, horse shows were seriously affected by the presence of the USDA and the perceived or apparent difference between the VMOs and the DQPs. While some owners railed against the government actions, others were dismayed by pictures that were shown by the USDA of serious violations of the Horse Protection Act. Some board members began to question whether the NHSC DQPs were doing an adequate job of enforcing the Horse Protection Act.

            “The Executive Committee began to feel a need to distance ourselves from the inspection process overall. For a host of reasons, we felt we could not remain in the current NHSC structure. We were being called upon to defend negative attacks like the recent Equus article,” explained Pedigo.

            “When the original Regulatory (NHSC’s predecessor organization) was formed, it made sense for TWHBEA to be involved,” said Pedigo. [Originally the NHSC was formed by TWHBEA, WHTA and the Celebration. The Celebration later gave their position on the NHSC to WHOA.]

            “At that time there were no other HIOs. The NHSC serviced all of the TWHBEA members involved in the show horse market. But over the last ten years, our membership has splintered into many different directions. Our committee felt that the NHSC was no longer servicing all of our members,” explained Pedigo.

            Thus, TWHBEA did not sign a new NHSC contract, and instead began developing a plan to unify the show horse industry. That plan was officially presented to the board of directors of WHTA and WHOA during the annual meetings in December. Informal discussions with some other HIOs have taken place, including Kentucky’s HIO, but no other formal proposals have been made.

            “We felt we had an obligation first to our former partners in the NHSC,” explained Pedigo.

            That original proposal presented to WHTA and WHOA was printed in the Walking Horse Report dated December 12, 2005, and can be read in the archives at www.walkinghorsereport.com, entitled ‘TWHBEA HIO Sanctioning Plan’.

            Since that time, TWHBEA has continued to coordinate a more detailed, developed plan. TWHBEA’s own HIO has officially been certified. And the more detailed program has been printed in the Walking Horse Report dated March 6, 2006, and in the archives at www.walkinghorsereport.com, entitled ‘TWHBEA HIO Sanctioning Plan’.

            When asked whether the WHTA and WHOA had said no to the proposed plan, Pedigo answered, “They haven’t said YES.

            “They indicated they have some concerns, but we don’t have formal communication, or written specifics about what those concerns are. I would be happy to talk to them or to any other HIO about the plan. This is still tweakable. Tell us what you don’t like about it,” implored Pedigo.

            I asked Pedigo if he felt that the split between TWHBEA and the NHSC would hamper industry negotiations with the USDA for the new Operating Plan.

            “I don’t know of any issue we are in conflict on with the NHSC as far as the Operating Plan. If we were, I think one of the three [TWHBEA, WHTA, or WHOA] would say so, and we would not be continuing to use the same Washington legal counsel [Niels Holch],” said Pedigo.

            I asked Pedigo if he felt the organizations would ever come back together under one umbrella. He clarified as to whether there was a timetable to my question, and I answered no.

            “Yes, I do. The principles of one rulebook, honest judging and fair inspections are important for our horse to prosper and grow. This will lead us back together. I just don’t know how long this will take to happen,” answered Pedigo.

            We talked at length about the original SHOW anachronism, Sound Horses, Honest Judging, Objective Inspections, and Winning Fairly, which has been previously adopted by industry organizations, chiefly the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

Pedigo answered, “The principles are primarily the same. The questions arise in the implementation of these concepts.”

            “We are trying to address these principles fairly, by creating a director of judges and giving them the authority to train and to educate our judges. It’s a difficult job, but we’ve got to try,” said Pedigo.

            As far as inspections, Pedigo was distressed by recent comments by NHSC DQP Director Lonnie Messick in the Walking Horse Report where Messick indicated that the NHSC DQPs didn’t do a good enough job last year.

            “As a board member, you have to rely on the staff. [As chairman of the NHSC] I was told we were writing the violations that were there. I can only assume that upon reflection, Lonnie sees things differently now,” said Pedigo.

            Pedigo addressed his opinions of the concepts put forth by Tom Blankenship and the National Horse Protection Society.

            “I have talked with Tom Blankenship twice to discuss the concepts and points within the Society’s plan. There was no written plan when we talked; it was still evolving as a plan. Much of their concept is similar to our plan. The biggest difference I saw is the manner in which it is operated. My understanding is that its board is a selected board that is self-perpetuating. That would be different than what we have proposed,” explained Pedigo.

            “Also my understanding is that there would be no other HIOs but the Society’s versus TWHBEA’s plan where all the HIOs retain their status as HIOs. I don’t know if the other organizations have considered how that affects them,” furthered Pedigo.

            Pedigo was asked to serve on the Advisory Council to the National Horse Protection Society and declined to do so, for which he has received some criticism. “I went to my [TWHBEA] Executive Committee and asked them if they wanted to waive any perceived conflict of interest to have me serve on the Council. There was not enough support to do that,” explained Pedigo. Pedigo offered to attend the next National Horse Protection Society meeting as a guest to explain why he is not going to participate on that Council.

            However, Pedigo was anxious to get interested parties from all the HIOs, the National Horse Protection Society, and the Celebration together to work out a common solution for the future of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

            “We are going to try to better educate our membership with what we hope to accomplish,” said Pedigo. “I am hopeful we can work together to find the answers.”

            As publisher of the Report and an industry advocate, I hope that representatives from each of the organizations can set aside personal feelings and agendas and do just that before time runs out on show season 2006.