by Christy Howard Parsons


Copyright WHR 2007


            The February Executive Committee meeting of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association promised to be a contentious one as the first 15 minutes were consumed by motions, contradicting motions and tabling of motions regarding the agenda.

            Marty Irby proposed moving agenda items regarding the National Futurity, the HIO Sanctioning Plan and personnel issues earlier so that they could be covered before some committee members had to leave. Charles Wharton had already made the motion that the planned agenda be approved. After Irby’s motion, he made a new motion that Irby’s motion be tabled.

            The motion to table Irby’s motion was approved 7-6, and the motion to approve the agenda as planned passed 8-5 with Marty Irby, Jamie Hankins, Wayne Dean, Bruce Vaughn and Kathy Zeis dissenting.

            Due to the difficult nature and intense discussions in prior TWHBEA meetings, Sharon Brandon requested that a court reporter begin taking minutes of the meetings. The court reporter began her duties this meeting.

            The TWHBEA Executive Committee was all in attendance although Jane Meredith’s attendance was via a conference call. In addition to Deputy Executive Director Kristi Lane, new Executive Director Chuck Cadle was in attendance for his first Executive Committee meeting. Visitors attending included Report Publisher Christy Howard Parsons, Voice Editor Stan Butt, Craig Evans, Donna Benefield, Joey Manos, Harolene Willis and Mary Mack Hall. Mike Civils joined as a guest later.

            After approving minutes and financial statements, Executive Director Chuck Cadle made his first address to the committee.

            “I am honored to be here,” said Cadle. “I recognize that this is a time of transition for this industry. I realize that there is a lot of emotion involved in the issues we are facing. I am encouraged by the number of people who want to do the right thing and to make the necessary changes. To a lot of people change is a threat,” said Cadle.

            “Last week I immersed myself in the culture of this industry - in Washington and right here. What we do is so important to the local area and to the walking horse industry as a whole. I was in Shoney’s the other day and a woman came up to me and asked me ‘to make them quit hurting horses.’ In the real estate office I was trying to buy some land, and I was told that the walking horse had a $40 million economic impact on the local area. Everywhere I go there are walking horse tags on cars, pictures in local businesses. You are so close to it, you don’t really see how important the business is,” said Cadle.

            “I am excited to be here and know we are going in the right direction. I learned a lot last week. I have a lot of ideas to take the industry to the next level. You can count on me to give 150 percent,” concluded Cadle.

            Deputy Executive Director Kristi Lane then gave her presentation. She updated the committee on the fourth academy show held this weekend with 74 entries. She gave the upcoming dates for academy shows - March 17 and March 31 - before the championship is held April 13.

            Lane also updated the committee on the successful judges applicant clinic that was held this weekend. One hundred and six applicants signed up and 78 completed the two day comprehensive class. The applicants had hands on training with classes in five divisions including performance, plantation, versatility, equitation and halter. All participants had to attend all sessions, although they were allowed to test in selected divisions. The event concluded with testing which will be evaluated by Dr. Meadows who will determine which level of judge’s license each applicant will receive.

            Joey Manos, Holly Reynolds, Sid Baucom and Donna Benefield all gave testimonies of the positive feedback that was received from the applicants, many of whom had attended many different judges clinics for different breeds or 4H clinics.

            Holly Reynolds said she received many compliments on the new TWH Rulebook. “They said it was easy to use and cross reference. Many of them wish their breed would do what we have done and start fresh from a new rulebook.”

            Joey Manos was an applicant at the clinic and he said, “I went in to it tentatively, but it was one of the most well organized, professional events. I think it is a very positive step in promoting the Tennessee Walking Horse in the future.”

            Cadle discussed how important judges’ training is to the future of the breed. “We have to take the right steps to remove the reward that is inherent in our current judging system,” he said.

            Lane also updated the committee on the Best of America by Horseback program. She encouraged people to bring forth good quality Tennessee Walking Horses for the dignitaries to ride on the organized trail ride. While Tennessee is not one of the 15 states on the itinerary for 2007, TWHBEA has sent out postcards to members in the 15 participating states to encourage walking horse participation.

            Darren Gray concurred, “This is how I got started in the business, by trail riding. It’s a great way to introduce people to our breed.”

            Committee reports followed.

            Kathy Zeis reported that the DNA conversions were happening slower than expected. It is clear that TWHBEA has process ahead to educate members as to the benefits of switching to DNA.

            Zeis has a busy committee and she announced the subcommittees formed for the Breeders’ committee. The subcommittees have the following missions: (1) to improve communications with breeders of the Tennessee Walking Horse, both members and nonmembers; (2) to review and simply the registration procedures; (3) to study holdover colt registration dates; (4) to establish a lifetime breeders award; (5) to pursue having all show records on IPEDs; (6) to implement the GO! (Gelding Opportunities) program; and (7) to implement the DNA conversion.

            Zeis is very distressed by the lackluster response to TWHBEA programs like GO!, the Youth Medallion and others due to the fact that TWHBEA is no longer getting show records from the NHSC and other HIOs.

            “The Association has no way to keep up with points for any horse,” stressed Zeis. She asked that TWHBEA consider making an exception to allow all show results to count for points in these programs.

            Craig Evans explained the position of TWHBEA as legal counsel, “Anyone who wants to ‘reap the reward’ to use Chuck’s words, must come under the Sanctioning Plan and use the TWHBEA Rulebook. If you carve out enough exceptions, you no longer have a plan.”

            Sid Baucom made a motion to urge the HIO Committee to do everything they could to allow all show results for the GO! Program. Darren Gray made a motion that the same consideration be given to the versatility program. And Bruce Vaughn asked for the same consideration for the Youth Medallion program. All three motions passed unanimously.

            Pat Stout reported as horse shows vice president that she was having some problems with horse shows not understanding the breakdown of various classes in the Rulebook compared to how they title their classes now.

            “It is hard to get everyone together and on the same page. Change is okay, but it is hard. We also need a breed standard for all divisions. My group is working on this now. We are getting a little further along. We are getting a lot of interest in sound horse shows. People really do want sound horse shows,” she explained.

            She also announced that Sue Scott had indicated that all five of Michigan’s horse shows said they would affiliate with TWHBEA once they got a commitment that TWHBEA supports sound shows.

            Craig Evans indicated that there was to be a chart explaining the new class names in the rulebook. “Our discussion was we would take everyone’s rule book and simply list the classes, then take their class breakdown and do a chart so they can see what it should be called now under our rule book. We can publish it in the Voice so people can see and know what to call their classes now.”

            Marty Irby gave his marketing report and indicated that two more horses were needed at Opryland. He also discussed the Walk This Way tour and getting its calendar on the Web site as well as including additional clinicians.

            Irby is working with Voice Editor Stan Butt to begin doing articles each month on the Executive Committee members beginning in April. He said they were also looking at current and past celebrity owners of walking horses to consider using their testimony in brochures and/or the Voice.

            Irby also recommended that the gift shop be closed as a physical location and only a few items maintained in a case at TWHBEA and on the road with Nicole Carswell. Jane Meredith suggested that an outside vendor might better meet the need for promotional items for members and make a small profit rather than TWHBEA having to invest in the inventory. Charles Wharton concurred that the gift shop had been in a downward spiral for many years, however he suggested giving the new executive director time to review the issue before making a decision.

            “This is trial by fire. Last Monday I came in and met with staff. I started a little program called Operation Inform the Executive Director. What I asked everyone to do is to see Monday as a new beginning. We are going to take a breath and look at everything we are doing. We have to go forward as a team. I need everyone’s thoughts and recommendations to make this a better place. We divided into five teams - team senior (nine years of experience and up), team middle aged (four-nine years), team Sharon Brandon (she is a team unto herself), team IT and team up and coming. We are going to take a fresh look at everything we do,” said Cadle.

            “I do want to look at the gift shop. I want to have not only the gift shop people’s ideas, but everyone’s thoughts on it. Let’s look at it overall and see how it fits into our brand. Maybe it’s important to the whole, even if it’s not important to the piece. Let me get through March 12, and let’s go through our business processes, our items of expense, and our presentations of suggestions. We’ll look at how we’re organized, how we do business, how we relate to the executive committee - what works and what doesn’t. I’d really appreciate the chance to look at the gift shop as a part of this process.”

            Irby also discussed his committee’s review of the public relations firm hired by TWHBEA. “They were hired for 90 days to promote the sanctioning plan. In my opinion they did not do a very good job promoting that plan. Our contract is up with them.”

            There were strong opinions on both sides, but it was decided that the executive director should review the matter and that perhaps there was a need for both an in-house public relations person as well as an outside firm.

            Irby said his committee was also reviewing all the promotional brochures available through the Association.

            Bruce Vaughn brought up the issue of the current clinician and who determined where she went. He felt there were many more “how to” clinics that could be offered across the country.

            Jack Haefling answered these concerns. “We are experiencing growing pains. Nicole has done a wonderful job. We have to ask ourselves who is our best person to attract crowds at these public events. She is the best by far to go to some of these tough areas where the walking horse has collapsed or areas where we want to develop. She is more of an ambassador for the breed. She is so good in these areas, I think that is where we need to use her. In terms of true clinics, I think this is a waste of her talent.”

            Lane explained the riding instructor certification procedure that allows clinicians to develop through the levels of the certification process.

            “We are working to develop four additional clinicians at least on a part time basis. We want Nicole at all major venues. She has the opportunity to present the Tennessee Walking Horse on our behalf. Specifically we want her at locales with 10,000 people or more. We are working with other people around the country to become clinicians to go into individual barns and smaller events.

            Jack Haefling reported on a trip he made to Washington with Chuck Cadle to “work the Hill and talk to the Tennessee delegation.” He said the highlight of the trip was meeting with the European Union at their embassy to discuss an international expansion strategy.

            Haefling said they also had lunch with Dr. Chester Gipson of the USDA and that he was “very impressed with him.”

            “He is in support of cleaning up this industry for sure,” said Haefling. Haefling suggested that all of the Executive Committee should consider a trip to Washington. “As issues of importance come up in Washington, maybe we should organize a trip to Washington where Executive Committee members and maybe even some National Directors could get a feel for what is going on. We could take a bus or something and work the Hill. Not many people have the opportunity to go to Washington and see their government in action. We are one of the few organizations that don’t do this.”

            Haefling also reported his progress on planning a board development retreat. He is considering various locations in middle Tennessee, potentially as early as March, utilizing a professional facilitator at a cost of approximately $7,500 to $9,000. He will continue working with the Executive Director to plan this event.

            A discussion about a conference call prior to the National Trainers’ Show to discuss the performance horse section of the Rulebook prompted a discussion about whether horse shows were going on as scheduled.

            “There has been some conversation about whether we are going to have horse shows this year,” remarked Charles Wharton. “If we don’t have them, we’re going to lose padded horse shows altogether. They’ll have tractor pulls or something else. Owners who have padded horses want to be able to show them.”

            Jamie Hankins said, “We will have a Trainers’ Show. We haven’t discussed anything officially about not having a show season.”

            The committee also discussed how few performance horses were participating in academy shows currently. They said that even academy performance horses were usually accompanied by trainers and that trainers had been threatened not to bring their horses to a TWHBEA show. It was claimed that Ronnie Campbell was paid $1,000 not to bring his horses to a TWHBEA show.

            Pedigo read two letters from the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, one to show managers and one public release, which prohibited trainers from participating in TWHBEA judges seminars and training clinics.

            There was heated discussion throughout the meeting and in the aisles regarding these letters and the WHTA’s resolution which prohibited TWHBEA Executive Committee member Wayne Dean from participating. As a result of this resolution, both Jamie Hankins and Wayne Dean are prohibited from voting as members of the Executive Committee on issues relative to these issues.

            Wayne Dean addressed the group as part of his report as training vice president. “Our industry right now is in pretty bad turmoil. It’s not the trainers, the breeders, the owners, it’s everybody. I’m a person who does what I think is right. We all need to give up our agendas and get in one room. I’m sorry. That’s my personal opinion.

            “I don’t know of any horse show that has been cancelled yet. Some have been rescheduled; the operating plan doesn’t have a date to be signed yet. Due to the events of this morning, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to report on. I’ve read what’s in here. I’ve listened to what I was told. I’m not too big a person to say show me on paper what you want and I’ll take care of it.”

            When asked what the events of this morning referred to, Holly Reynolds asked for this to be discussed later in the meeting. It was discussed later in an executive session.

            Sid Baucom reported on the bylaws. He said that the bylaw committee would meet the week preceding the National Trainers’ Show. He reminded everyone that for a by law change to be considered, a written request must be made by April 1.

            Holly Reynolds reported on the youth. She indicated that she felt the Web site was critical to the future development of the youth.

            “We have got to get our Web site going and up to snuff. We do not have time to waste. Kids won’t read a packet. They go to the Web site. They want to see pictures, video, educational things as quickly as possible,” said Reynolds.

            She also asked the committee to consider an international exchange program and she proposed a mentoring program.

            “In five or 10 years they will be sitting here. They will be our leaders. Perhaps we should let a student leader listen in on our conference calls, even actively or silently include them in your committees.”

            This idea met with universal acceptance from the committee.

            After committee reports, Niels Holch was the first item on the agenda. Niels gave a detailed presentation of the proposed Operating Plan received from the USDA. (See separate story in this issue)

            When the discussion turned to old business, Marty Irby brought up the National Futurity issue again. Sid Baucom addressed the committee.

            “The Sanctioning Plan group including our Executive Director need to meet with the Celebration to go over this issue from start to finish. The Celebration could serve as some kind of mediator and I urge them to try to pull this thing together. Everyone has to make compromises. What we have at stake is the performance horse and thus the economics of our whole industry. Compromise has to occur. We don’t have time to wait for people to change their whole philosophies. This has to happen now,” pleaded Baucom.

            “Keith Dane has the ability to shut this year’s Celebration down. You are not dealing with a penny ante group here. You are in a political game and a power struggle. Even we have to compromise,” said Baucom.

            Marty Irby said, “I spoke to David Howard about his Saturday and he indicated he is very willing to work with this Association. This Futurity is important to the breeders. The trainers may not really care about it, but I talk to breeders every day and it is critical to them.”

            Pedigo indicated that he had talked to Celebration Chairman David L. Howard on Friday about using Calsonic Arena and making it a qualifying event even if the Futurity was affiliated with a different organization. “He indicated it might take some doing, but he is willing to work with TWHBEA. We need constant ongoing dialog.”

            The next item on the agenda was a request from Keith Dane for TWHBEA to rescind their position in opposition of the Horse Slaughter Act. After discussions on both sides of the issue, it was decided that Jack Haefling would have someone in opposition to the bill at next month’s Executive Committee meeting. Dane presented his side at January’s meeting. After considering both sides, then TWHBEA is in a better position to take a side. TWHBEA had taken a position in October of 2006 in opposition of the bill.

            The remaining issues in the lawsuit with the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) are still to be resolved despite a summary judgment on some issues of the case. The trial date for these remaining issues was postponed until October of 2007.

            In new business, Marty Irby asked Pedigo to distribute letters which were received Friday from three HIOs, Kentucky, Heart of America and the Commission which asked TWHBEA to dissolve the Sanctioning Plan and to join with them in negotiations with the USDA.

            “I was elected on a platform of being in opposition to the Sanctioning Plan,” said Irby, “and so I’m bringing it up again.”

            Some discussion ensued, but no action was taken.