Copyright WHR 2007


Editor’s Note: Kasey Kesselring, as a member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, took advantage of the Executive Committee’s willingness to hear from any of its members at the beginning of its monthly meetings. Kesselring provided his comments to the Report for publication.



            During my tenure as the Assistant Head of School at The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, I had the opportunity to fulfill a personal interest of learning to ride horses. Being in the heart of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and having so many young people and families at Webb who were involved in the industry, it only seemed suitable to learn on a walking horse. And so my interest, or my disease, as my wife might classify it, began.

            In 1999, I moved to Florida to assume leadership of a similar private boarding and day school northwest of Orlando. It has long been a desire of mine to implement an equestrian program into the extracurricular programs of the school. There are very few such programs that exist in schools today, and I doubt any are dedicated to the walking horse. In 2003, following a successful capital campaign, we constructed an equestrian facility that serves some 40 children throughout the school year from beginner to advanced riders and from lessons to showing. At present there are more then 50 registered walking horses in our program.

            This past year, I agreed to serve as President of our state association and it seemed almost immediately that I was faced with the need to jump on a learning curve to understand the challenges facing our industry . . . first and foremost at my very first business meeting of the year in January 2007 was the question of who we will seek to affiliate our horse shows. Following discussion, it was unanimous that we would continue to affiliate our shows with the National Horse Show Commission. I articulated the sentiments of our membership in a letter to the breeders’ association in late January which was never responded to but subsequently was published in the Walking Horse Report.

            Having a program and a state association comprised large of flat shod horses, our membership had an interest in various programs offered by the breeders’ association and thus began phase two of my learning curve to understand what could or could not be presented to our membership based on who our shows would be affiliated with. I spent the better part of a day on the telephone seeking guidance and counsel to better understand the circumstances so that I could accurately report back to our membership. Following several phone calls to the breeders association, I received mixed messages but was ultimately transferred to Mrs. Lane [Kristi] for whom I left a telephone message but regrettably I was not afforded the opportunity to speak with her.

Shortly thereafter, I made a personal trip to Tennessee and had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Cadle [Chuck], who though only in his position for just a few days, was gracious enough to spend some time with me, and we engaged in a very candid conversation during which I shared with him much of the information that I had gathered during my fact finding missions to better educate myself and in turn, our membership in Florida.

Shortly thereafter, I recapped my conversation with Mr. Cadle in an email seeking some clarification on information I had received alleging that certain members of the breeders executive committee had formerly engaged in an attempt to dissolve the owners association and bring it under the breeders association umbrella followed shortly thereafter with leading the way to dissolve the breeders association’s involvement with the National Horse Show Commission and begin its own HIO. As of today, I have not yet received any response to those questions.

            Serving a clientele of largely educated professionals who have invested in their children’s education, I am often confronted with the embarrassing circumstances surrounding the industry. The age of ready access information via the internet has led to parents and students asking me about the conflict in our industry and “what is this HIO thing that seems to be the center of all the dissension?”

            I am too often in a position of not being able to provide an adequate response as to why certain programs are not available and the conversation invariably turns to “Why don’t we consider another breed to build our program, if this one is going to be so difficult to work with?” Selfishly, I have maintained this is the right breed of horse for our young people to learn to ride and to enjoy showing.

            So much time, too much time, has been spent discussing the TWHBEA HIO and its effect on the industry as a whole and on programs once enjoyed by a multitude of individuals now held hostage by the TWHBEA HIO. In my effort to educate myself, I learned that the breeders’ association is a 501(c)(5) organization and identified by the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities as a K26 – Livestock breeding, development and management.

Similarly, its mission is identified by the Internal Revenue Service as “Registration and promotion of the Tennessee Walking Horse.” By comparison, organizations that are recognized as Animal Protection and Welfare are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(3) organizations with a classification NTEE code of D20 as Animal Protection and Welfare organizations.

Concurrently, a section 501(c)(5) organization that engages in lobbying may be required to either provide notice to its members regarding the percentage of its dues that are applicable to lobbying activities or pay a proxy tax. In either regard, it may be prudent to examine whether the organization’s recent implementation of programs to include animal protection and welfare practices meets with its current status under the Internal Revenue Service code.

            Having read the sanctioning plan cover to cover, I am a supporter of it in theory and find the plan full of value. As an educator in the private sector, my clientele can be as fickle as the membership of this association. As such, any time we look to implement change or the addition of programming, it must be done with great thought and care prior to implementation. Most important is “How will we sell this change to achieve maximum success?”

            In this case, the strangulation of well-received programs to force the use of the HIO were tactics designed to receive negative feedback and reluctance from members that has led the way to a perpetuity of skepticism and cynicism generating rumors of credibility issues and conspiracies as absurd as some of you allowing the breeders association to fail financially so that it can be revived under private ownership or the membership filing an injunction against the governing body because of alleged fiduciary irresponsibility.

            Engaging in theoretical discussions over the value and purpose of the sanctioning plan was appropriate at the beginning of the calendar year, however, nearly 7 monthly later, one is able to step aside from theory and begin looking at tangible indicators . . . i.e., the evaluation and success of those things that contribute to the organization’s exempt status . . . membership programs, finances, registry, governance. As executive committee members representing the state of the industry, let’s conduct a report card of sorts, keeping in mind that anyone that serves as a public servant of a 501(c) organization should have a goal as to leave their post knowing that the organization is in a better condition than when they started.

            1. Membership programs/services . . . better or worse participation

            2. Finances . . . in a better or worse condition.

            3. Registry . . . in a better or worse condition.

            4. Governance . . . in a better or worse condition.


            Will your legacy be to have served in a leadership role while this association suffered measureable losses or will your legacy be to have refocused on the products and programs most commonly desired by the membership and make them the best they can be?