Dear Editor,

As the current President of the Mid Ohio Walking Horse Association, I feel that I must respond to the recent letter to the editor from Roxanne Bennett Nelson.

This association started in 1974. At that time most of the members owned and showed padded horses and most show classes were for padded horses. As we all know, the industry has changed a lot over the years. Presently, most of our members own flat shod horses and, in this area, most show classes are for flat shod horses. However, until recently, our shows included a full complement of classes for padded horses.

In the early 1990’s, we moved our shows to a new facility in Wilmington, Ohio, and made a big push to attract performance Walking and Racking Horses. For several years, these shows were very successful and both the performance and pleasure divisions were full. The Bennett family was very instrumental in that success, and we certainly appreciated their efforts. However, one fact of show life in Ohio is that since there are so few shows for Walking Horses, the USDA will show up at most of them, especially the big ones. Trainers would leave the show when the USDA arrived and were reluctant to return for future shows. Our padded classes were getting smaller and smaller while our pleasure horse entries were growing and asking for more classes. As anyone who runs a business or puts on a show knows, you have to meet the demands of your market. Furthermore, if you try to cut too many classes from a division, you effectively kill the division. So, a few years ago, the decision was made by our Show Committee and the Board of the MOWHA to change our show format to all Pleasure Walking Horse classes. As with any difficult decision, some members were pleased and some were not, however, the decision was made for financial reasons. All pleasure shows are very common and very well supported in this area.

However, I can’t understand why someone in Ohio who wants to support the performance horse would change breeds just because one of the Walking Horse clubs chooses an all pleasure format. There are three other clubs based in Ohio that have shows with padded classes. I know through my involvement in some of those shows that they would welcome additional entries, especially in the performance classes, which rarely have more than three entries and too often have no entries.

In regard to Equine Affaire, we feel that promotion must be tailored to the intended audience. At any promotional event, the target market is not existing Walking Horse owners, it is horse lovers who may not know anything about the breed. In the past, we have presented padded horses at Equine Affaire only to be besieged with complaints which forced us to spend all our time explaining and defending unnatural looking pads and action devices. It was negative promotion. We decided several years ago to focus on top quality pleasure and versatility horses in order to appeal to most of the attendees at this event. Videos and literature featuring performance horses have always been used but it is the pleasure horse that will bring the most people into the breed. Once they are sold on the Tennessee Walking Horse, they may decide that a performance horse is very appealing to them. But you have to get them interested first, and around here, it is the pleasure horse and the versatility horse that will get them interested in our horses.

As to Mrs. Nelson’s suggestion that we change our name...gosh, it’s hard to change a name after more than 25 years. At one point we considered it, but the acronym for Mid Ohio Pleasure Walking Horse Association would be MOPWHA and we thought that sounded like an association for fastidious house keepers, which most of us are not, so we just left our name alone. I can think of quite a few Walking Horse clubs that have experienced the same sort of metamorphosis over the years and have not felt it necessary to change their name. Our organization works very hard to promote the Tennessee Walking Horse. We feel no need to apologize for business decisions that were made in the best interests of our club and our breed.


Mag Ranft