by Jeffrey Howard

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The National Horse Show Commission (NHSC) held its last meeting before the “official” start to the show season on Feb. 23, 2009, in Shelbyville, Tenn. Andy Messick attended his first meeting in his new role of executive director and Link Webb took over the chairmanship for 2009. Messick informed the board that as of this time, 54 horse shows and sales have affiliated with the NHSC for 2009 compared to 61 at this time in 2008. Thus far in 2009 the NHSC has inspected 742 horses and issued four violations.

The upcoming show season is fast-approaching and the NHSC recently asked, along with Frank Neal, president of the Walking Horse Owners’ Association, the USDA to host a scar rule clinic. Messick and Neal asked for the clinic in conjunction with the Thermography Clinic to be held on Feb. 27, 2009, or the week after, however, Dr. Rachel Cezar declined their request and offered the weekends of March 28 or April 4, 2009. The concern of the NHSC is these dates are after the South Alabama Charity Horse Show and the Trainers’ Show and confusion over the enforcement of the “scar rule” still exists.

Bob Medina pointed out the need for veterinarians in the inspection station during the Trainers’ Show and read from the Horse Protection Act Regulations that any American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) veterinarian is qualified and can be issued a Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) license. This license can also be given to anyone who completes the DQP training, however, the AAEP veterinarian can be given the license without completing the training. “We should seek out veterinarians to fulfill this role at the Trainers’ Show,” said Medina.

The NHSC board directed Messick to have two veterinarians in inspection for the Trainers’ Show. Also, Medina pointed out the need for the DQP to stand behind his ruling and not write a ticket if he doesn’t think the horse is in violation. Medina’s point was to allow the conflict resolution process to work and allow the DQPs to do their job. Mark Farrar let Medina know that a letter had been sent out in the fall of 2008 stressing that point.

Obvious concerns with this policy are letters of warning that the USDA will have sent to the DQPs and the federal cases that can be levied by the USDA on those horses. It was agreed this was too dangerous a policy without veterinarians in inspection standing behind those rulings. Kim Bennett pointed out, “The White Paper recommended having veterinarians in inspection and in that spirit we should do it.”

The question always raised when veterinarians in inspections is recommended is funding. This meeting was no exception. “You have to charge more if you want more protection,” said Medina. He also raised the question, “Should we (NHSC) bill the trainer or owner for the DQPs instead of the show, thus allowing the show to keep what they collect on the entry fee?” Concerns over collections and more work for the NHSC were raised but the idea was at least considered and will be discussed further.

Dr. Mike Harry gave an update on the independent governing board and the drug testing. The independent governing board is seeking one position after Ewing Sellers declined the invitation to serve on the board. Also, the independent governing board will not set policy in 2009 for the NHSC but will function in this role in 2010. There still may be the option of an advisory role for this group in 2009.

As for drug-testing in 2009, this program will not be able to be administered by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) because of a lack of funding. USEF will either administer the tests to five percent of the entries or every other class. Their fee to attend the show, pull the samples and administer the analysis is $280 per test. Based upon approximately 50,000 entries in 2009, the tests would be administered to five percent or 2,500 entries, bringing the total cost to $700,000.

Less costly alternatives were discussed, however, with these options the NHSC would be responsible for hiring personnel at the shows to pull the blood samples. Medina requested the NHSC look into governmental grants to help fund the initiative.

Medina made a motion to add a licensed walking horse trainer to the independent governing board as a consultant with no voting rights. Dr. Harry agreed that a trainer could benefit the independent governing board as they set policy. It was also noted that the independent governing board should be just that, independent and not give the appearance of anything contrary to that. The matter was discussed at length with everyone in attendance considering both objectives.

The motion did pass with Jamie Hankins, Chris Bobo, Link Webb, Steve Hankins, Bob Medina and Ernest Burke voting for the role to be added. Frank Neal and David Pruett voted against the new position on the independent governing board. Neal and Pruett pointed out that they were in favor of trainer input, however, they felt the independent governing board should stay independent.

Webb made his appointments to the Pleasure and Performance Rules Committees. Joining the WHOA members announced previously at their convention will be Walking Horse Trainers’ Association members Dickie Scrivner, Bruce Hankins, Laurie Toone and Webby Burch on the pleasure committee. On the performance committee will be Rollie Beard, Chad Williams, Justin Harris and Bill Callaway.

The NHSC judges committee was also finalized with the four WHOA and WHTA members that comprise the NHSC also serving in that role. Those members are Webb, Steve Hankins, Jamie Hankins, David Landrum, Neal, Pruett, Farrar and Medina.