by Ann Bullard

An energetic optimist. That might be the best way to describe Charles R. “Chuck” Cadle, the new Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association. His first official full-time day in the office was March 12.
A successful businessman, Cadle’s horse experience is limited to having worked as vice-president of finance and treasurer of the DDMM (Quarter Horse) Ranch in Alpharetta, Ga., and pleasure riding. Elaine, his wife of 35 years, owned and trained Arabians. He plans to have pleasure horses on the farm he intends to purchase in the Shelbyville area.
“In my position, I don’t feel comfortable showing horses,” he explained.
Rather than having entrenched beliefs about the walking horse world, Cadle brings a fresh, less-emotional approach to the industry. Coming out of the private sector, he says he is excited to be working with something he can stand for.
“I see myself as a mediator,” he said. “I do believe that there are certain groups out there that win by everybody else losing.
“I see the situation in the industry as only temporary,” he continued. “I am confident that the issues facing us are not as difficult as everyone thinks they are. We need to get the focus off tangling with each other. I see where our common ground can be. As soon as I meet with the constituency, I think we can reach a compromise on what is best for the industry.
“In my mind, why make other groups an adversary? Why not come together as a unified group and work together with the USDA to do what is better for the industry? I can’t see any reason not to do it that way. We need to recognize that the USDA has congressional authority and we can’t fight Congress.
“The USDA was slack on enforcement [of the Horse Protection Act,]” he went on to say. “They are not now. We [at TWHBEA] want to put our energy into helping trainers come up with new methods to teach the horse to do its gait.”
Cadle was one of 900 candidates MJM Global Search, the firm retained by TWHBEA, reviewed. Jim Harlan, the company president, said they looked for someone outside the horse industry, a person whose strengths encompassed the fields of technology, accounting and treasury and education. With his proven entrepreneurial abilities, proven leadership of complex organizations and strong personal values, Cadle fit the bill.
The executive his wife calls ‘Chuckles’ grew up in Augusta, Ga., as part of what he calls “a poor family. My father was a disabled veteran. My yard cutting money went to help pay family bills and put food on the table. I paid my way through college by shooting pool.”
Being from a less-affluent family didn’t faze Cadle. It solidified his determination to succeed. He became fascinated with electronics, and particularly with HAM radio while still a boy.
“I got my first license at 11 and spent most of my teenage years in amateur radio activities,” he said. “I began to build my own radios, antennas, etc.”
His amateur radio activities opened the door for Cadle to work at Augusta’s most prestigious event: the Masters Golf Tournament. “Each year, the Club does a private movie. I worked to help provide communication to their sound crew. We’d tell the sound and camera men what to record, what to shoot.”
That HAM radio license came in handy shortly after he finished college. He began his professional career with a Richmond County, Ga., bank.
“My civic function was to serve as the Chief Operating Officer of the local Civil Defense group,” Cadle recalled. “We had a major ice storm that completely stopped traffic around the city. We ended up recruiting people with four-wheel drive vehicles and put a HAM operator in each vehicle. They took doctors, nurses and janitorial staff to the local hospitals. I actually ended up working 52 straight hours.”
He plans to construct a tower on the farm he and Elaine will buy.
While Cadle’s professional life doesn’t show a tendency to be impetuous, his being so on one occasion made a major impact on his life. It occurred at Six Flags Over Georgia.
“I was 16 years old and had just broken up with my girl,” Cadle said. “My cousin and I were walking around when I saw a very attractive lady walking by. I asked myself, ‘Why not go up and speak with her?’”
They have been married for more than 35 years.
Cadle received his BBA in accounting and finance from Augusta State University. A former certified financial planner, he is a licensed school superintendent in Massachusetts, a licensed education leader in Georgia and a licensed business teacher in both states.
His professional career has taken him from Georgia, to Colorado, to the Northeastern United States and as far away as Russia. Most recently, he served as managing partner for Enterprise Resource & Capital, an executive outsourcing firm focusing on the education industry.
A friend recruited Cadle to help launch a second telecommunications carrier in Russia. This experience coupled with the opportunity presented by deregulation in telecommunications industry led Cadle and his wife to form UtiliCom Networks, a Massachusetts integrated cable television, telecom and data services firm. The venture was quite successful, with the next owners selling it for a reputed $115 million.
“We had finished restoring a beautiful Victorian home in Massachusetts. I was semi-retired and did some consulting. After Elaine’s mother passed away in 2005, her father developed acute Alzheimers. We spent so much time in Georgia that we moved back here to take care of the estate,” he said, explaining he and his wife had done that for two years. “I decided to go back to school and complete my masters.”
In December, Cadle completed his graduate work. Elaine’s father entered a Georgia War Veterans Home and the Cadles began looking for new fields to conquer.
“I didn’t want to go into the technical field or international telecommunications,” he said. “I was looking for a cause-driven opportunity that would be a challenge. I began to research TWHBEA and got real excited. I thought my skills and experience would work. This is like a breath of fresh air for us.”
On Feb. 13, TWHBEA President Jerrold Pedigo introduced Cadle as the organization’s new executive director. To say the appointment came at a difficult time in the industry would be an understatement. Such causes strongly motivate the new director.
“To me, all we have here is a misunderstanding of what TWHBEA’s all about. Some people see it as a Registry and a magazine. I see TWHBEA as a cause-driven organization to promote and protect the horse,” he said. “We are not an active HIO out soliciting business. We want to set up an independent event standards board – a professional board (similar to the Bar Association) – for this industry. Once it gets in place, we will focus on helping trainers.
“One real value of the TWHBEA-sponsored sanctioning plan is there will be one rulebook, uniform standards for inspection and uniform standards for judging that are unbiased and fair to all competitors. It encourages judges to dismiss horses that are sore, even if they have passed inspection, thus removing the reward for soring a horse. Our plan puts in a director of DQPs to work with inspectors at an event. That gives an appeal right on the spot. I feel like anyone who gets in under the sanctioning plan is protected to the extent he can be.”
Cadle concedes it will “take the owners, breeders and trainers time. These won’t be the greatest two years of their lives. Our horses have a square gait and a swinging gait. To get into conformity takes training. TWHBEA’s focus now is to bring education and attention to helping trainers come up with new methods to teach the horse to do its gait. After that, we will have a standard that can be more global in nature. A horse that shows in Kentucky will have the same chance of winning in Germany. That would be awesome!”
Cadle already has visited Washington and met with Dr. Chester Gipson, who heads the government’s APHIS program.
“I asked him what’s going on here. He told me, ‘Chuck, you just have to look at the number of scarred two-year-olds to understand where we’re coming from.’ I do understand.
“I think APHIS probably is frustrated because so much that has gone on has not changed,” he said. “We’ve had 30 years to clean up our act. They’re getting serious about this. It’s time to quit talking and start walking the walk. As a signatory group to the operating plan, TWHBEA will work with all sides, will listen to what the problems are. The government agreed with FOSH [Friends of Sound Horses] that a six-ounce chain is not cruel.”
Cadle explained that the government and TWHBEA are looking at problems on a global basis; trainers look at them on an individual basis. For trainers and owners, much of the controversy is emotional.
“Anytime you speculate with emotion, I don’t see how you can win,” he said.
“The USDA has been given congressional authority to enforce the Horse Protection Act. HIOs have been given the privilege to have this initial enforcement authority. If we can work together with the USDA rather than fighting over the operating plan …” he paused “… and continued speaking on the question of subjectivity and the scar rule.”
“The subjectivity may be less [than people would like us to think,] because a lot of people are using that as the tail to wag the dog. If everyone is yelling subjectivity and there’s not so much in it … I’m not a vet, so I can’t judge it myself. All I can do is talk to the people considered experts. I don’t hear Gipson and Craig Evans say it is very subjective.
“If a horse isn’t scarred, the trainer has nothing to worry about,” he continued. “If the scar rule is subjectively and unfairly administered and enforced, we need to address each one of those issues. We have to find ways to take any sort of subjectivity or any question out of the process,” he continued. “As sponsor of the sanctioning plan, TWHBEA will invest in research to do that. If the FBI uses forensics, if they have that CSI kind of stuff, we should be able to determine if we have a scarred horse or not. That would add value to the industry.
“One way to get the USDA out of our events and shows is by removing rewards for hurting the horse. People are taking shortcuts. They have been reaping the rewards in the show ring or auction. The incentive for doing this is stud fees, re-sales, prize money, ribbons and things like that. If we put our best practices in place so there is a fair and level playing field, the person who tries to cheat won’t any longer. As long as there is a reward in place, people will try to get by as easy as they can. If conditions protect everyone so they have a fair chance that removes the reward for hurting the horse. That’s what the sanctioning plan does. It attacks the root cause, not just symptoms.
“I believe the industry is in transition. We have to have sound horse shows and sound judges. If we can get 80 to 90 percent to follow the rules, the industry will have won.”
Cadle considers himself just an individual who enjoys life. He and Elaine have three “wonderful” children and three “fantastic” grandchildren. They are looking forward to settling in Bedford County and to getting involved in the community. In Augusta, he worked with the Healing Hearts Council, in connection with the Medical College of Georgia. That group uses performing and visual arts in the healing process, especially when working with children and geriatric patients.
“I think citizenship is a primary part of what every employee should be,” he said. “I believe in the power of one. It takes one to do the right thing, to be bold and proactive. If we can do that, the quality of life in our walking horse community can always be improved.”
For now, involvement for Charles Cadle means working with all sides in the walking horse industry. That may leave little time for anything else.