Copyright WHR 2007

By Christy Howard Parsons

A twelve-hour meeting of the newly elected Executive Committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association resulted in a unanimous decision upon a candidate for the position of Executive Director, however that decision won’t be announced until negotiations for the employment of the candidate are finalized.

After being chastised about executive session and a duty of loyalty to TWHBEA by TWHBEA attorney John T. Bobo, the Executive Committee went into executive session to conduct four hours of interviews of the three finalists for the position. No action was taken in this executive session.

After the rest of the regular meeting was held, the committee returned to executive session to negotiate and make a decision about the Executive Director. The Walking Horse Report will report upon that decision and interview the new Executive Director as soon as that person is announced.

Other action taken in the meeting regarded the 2007 National Futurity. Marty Irby initiated a discussion regarding the 2007 National Futurity, which is off to a slow start this year. At this same point last year, 140 nominations had been received by the office, compared to only 91 in 2007.

“The deadline for the Futurity is coming up and I don’t want to see us kill it,” said Irby.

Irby asked the group to consider affiliated with NHSC or with whatever organization the Celebration affiliates with in order to make it a qualifying event for the Celebration.

Acting Executive Director Kristi Lane reported that only 19 horses could have used the National Futurity as a qualifying class in 2005, and it appeared that only 5 had actually done so.

Jerrold Pedigo expressed concerns that the HIO Sanctioning Plan had already been entered into by Donna Benefield’s Horse Protection Commission and that contractually they would be unable to affiliate with any other organization that was not under the Sanctioning Plan.

“Part of the guarantees we’ve made is not to steal shows from one another,” said Pedigo. “If we could work it out with the NHSC to be in the HIO Sanctioning Plan, then we would definitely affiliate with the NHSC,” said Pedigo.

The Horse Protection Commission signed onto the HIO Sanctioning Plan with TWHBEA last week and immediately took over the inspection responsibilities at TWHBEA’s academy show held this past weekend.

After much discussion, Sid Baucom made the motion that subject to meeting with the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s Chairman David L. Howard and receiving a legal opinion from John T. Bobo, that TWHBEA would have the National Futurity in conjunction with the Celebration and affiliate with an HIO acceptable to the Celebration.

Heated discussion continued before Irby called for a roll call vote. The motion passed 7-6 with Kathy Zeis, Jamie Hankins, Marty Irby, Bruce Vaughn, Darren Gray, Wayne Dean, and Sid Baucom voting for the motion. Charles Wharton, Pat Stout, Jack Haefling, Holly Reynolds, Jane Meredith and Jerrold Pedigo voted against the motion.

As a result of this decision, Marty Irby made the motion to extend the January $50 deadline to March 1, when the original fee structure would take over. This motion passed 12-1, also on a roll call vote, and Holly Reynolds was the only dissenter.

Kathy Zeis initiated a discussion about the horse show development funds. She claimed that Georgia was excluded from being able to participate in much needed horse show development funds because under the plan, a new or struggling horse show, had to affiliate with an HIO sanctioned by TWHBEA to receive assistance.

Discussion centered around the fact that Georgia shows did have a choice to participate by affiliating with HPC or any other HIOs which sign on with TWHBEA, and to receive funds from TWHBEA that they would have to use TWHBEA judges, TWHBEA DQPs, etc.

Discussions were heated, but no motions were made and thus no votes taken.

Committee appointments were also made in the meeting, which surprisingly also elicited contention among the group. Pat Stout was upset that Marty Irby, Jamie Hankins, Bruce Vaughn and Darren Gray had met the night prior to the meeting, apparently to discuss the issues related to the Futurity and the horse show development fund without including her as the Vice President of Horse Shows.

“Please don’t do this anymore,” said Stout. “Include me, don’t exclude me,” she pleaded. All four men had asked to be on Pat Stout’s committee. She did include them in the list of names she submitted, but added, “I’ll accept them if they’ll accept me.”

In items of new business, Marty Irby passed around a copy of the Walking Horse Report story on the Wink Groover’s WHTA meeting held the prior Friday. After some discussion, it was decided that Jerrold Pedigo would send Groover a letter commending his actions and on his commitment to change in the Walking Horse industry. Pedigo added that he and Groover had already had several phone calls and meetings face to face and been to dinner.

“I believe him to be totally committed to making improvements,” said Pedigo.

There were suggestions that the new Executive Committee needed to get to know one another better in order to be more effective. Both dinner before the next meeting and a more extended 2-3 day retreat were discussed as ideas to accomplish this.

Most day to day business was postponed until the next meeting due to the late hour, but Pedigo did announce that Rae Martin had resigned as a National Director and that Dr. John Martin would take his place.

There were two special guests who spoke at the meeting. First, Keith Dane, Director of Equine Protection of the Humane Society of the United States and former Executive Director of Friends of Sound Horses spoke to TWHBEA. Dane outlined the many ways that HSUS was monitoring the developments within the TWH industry.

“We are engaged. We see some positive progress from this organization. We think the HIO Sanctioning Plan is a positive step in ensuring that horses are showing sound,” said Dane. He was encouraged that the Horse Protection Commission signed onto the plan and felt that showed a “real intent to show sound horses.”

He was also encouraged by recent cries from within the industry to stop soring. “The leadership seems to be saying ‘we have to stop soring.’ This is important but we have to say it and then put it into practice.”

“If we can achieve sound shows – that is, no chemicals, no GoJo, no pressure shoeing, then we will achieve a level playing field.”

He urged TWHBEA to “stay the course” with their DQP program and to work to ensure not only the sound presentation but the sound training of our horses.

Dane then asked TWHBEA to consider supporting the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act which TWHBEA and other industry organizations have previously opposed.

He put forth a detailed PowerPoint presentation presenting the cruelty of horse slaughter methods and alternatives for dealing with unwanted horses. He asked TWHBEA to educate its members about the responsibilities of horse ownership which include providing lifelong quality care and planning and budgeting for the end of a horse’s life via humane euthanasia.

HSUS is currently compiling a master list of humane shelters for unwanted horses and implementing a certification procedure to ensure such shelters are regulated.

Larry Studdard and Dr. Linda Garrard from the Facilitation Group were the other special guests at the meeting. This was the first time that the facilitation group had met with the Executive Committee although they had had individual conversations with Jerrold Pedigo and Jane Meredith.

They presented a poll from the public forums they held in November which indicated that the first issue of importance for these approximately 100 people was to improve the public image of the TWH. The second item on the list of 15 items was the elimination of the sore horse.

Larry Studdard presented that WHTA President Wink Groover had said, “I would argue that if you accomplish B, you’ll take care of A, and that those two items should be reversed.”

The last item on the list of 15 was TWHBEA’s HIO program. “Our research is clear,” said Studdard, “They want this body in the National Horse Show Commission. They support many of the same issues that are in the plan. If the TWHBEA plan didn’t include TWHBEA, they would support it.”

Studdard stressed that the WHTA and WHOA were willing to listen to TWHBEA’s concerns, but he suggested on behalf of the Facilitation Group that TWHBEA rejoin the NHSC.

After much discussion, Studdard asked TWHBEA to enter into one more round of negotiations with a professional faclitator other than this group.

“It’s not about TWHBEA, it’s not about the plan. It’s about the industry. It’s about the horse,” he said.

He asked the group, “Would TWHBEA come back into the NHSC if all HIOs had a vote and came inside.”

Pedigo responded, “Do you mean we would all be under one super HIO?” asked Pedigo.

Studdard said yes and Pedigo agreed, speaking only for himself.

Sid Baucom suggested that if each HIO were limited in their rule making to their own areas of interest and concern, that he thought it could work.

“There is an inherent fear that one group will do away with another,” said Baucom.

Charles Wharton pointed out that TWHBEA had been ineffective as part of the NHSC because a vote in a committee such as the pleasure committee at TWHBEA might be 22-0, but that TWHBEA would still lose the vote in the NHSC 2-1.

“Our industry needs to be composed of all facets of the industry,” concluded Studdard.

“Give it at least one full weekend. Let’s get the personalities to step back. We’ve created wounds that have not healed,” said Studdard. “But let’s not give up. We have too much to gain not to try one more time.”

“It is clear from our discussions that no one is more willing to compromise than you. We have to not only get the bad image horse, but also the sore horse, taken out of the ring,” said Studdard.

Sid Baucom, often the voice of reason in these discussions, concluded the discussion by clarifying that they were willing to renegotiate and or mediate as long as all avenues were open, and not only just rejoining the NHSC.

The Facilitation Group has a planned February 17 public forum, and will attempt to schedule the next round of negotiations in the next three weeks.

Donna Benefield of the Horse Protection Commission was not on the agenda but was present at the meeting. During Executive Sessions, she was excused from the room along with this reporter and all other guests. During this time, she committed to working with the Walking Horse Trainers Association and Wink Groover to assist the trainers in their plan to effect change in the industry. As a part of that pledge, she worked with EC members Wayne Dean and Jamie Hankins to be appointed to their committees to work toward positive change.