SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The National Horse Show Commission (NHSC) met for the final time of 2008 and laid out plans for the 2009 show season.  Final inspection numbers were given by Lonnie Messick for 2008 and included 74 more horses inspected in 2008 than in 2007, 50,694 in 2008 versus 50,620 in 2007. 

On a positive note, 24 fewer violations were written, 481 in 2008 as compared to 505 in 2007.  The numbers were comprised over 269 shows in 2008 with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) present at 17 shows.  The 17 shows with the USDA present are about average year over year according to Messick.

The NHSC received appeals from three Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) regarding letters of warning they received for their role in inspections at shows.  The USDA had previously asked the NHSC to issue the letters of warning which they did at that time. 

The severity of the letter of warning concerned several of the board members, yet the failure to follow protocol by the three DQPs also concerned the NHSC board.  “In the future, there has to be something we can issue or allow before a letter of warning is required,” said Mark Farrar, Chairman.  Farrar also pointed out, “part of our training of the DQPs needs to include how to handle disagreements with USDA Veterinary Medical Officers (VMO).”

After a lengthy discussion the appeals were denied in all three cases, thus all three DQPs have letters of warning in their files.  Upon the issuance of a second letter of warning a DQP loses his license.

Dr. Mike Harry, special consultant to the NHSC, gave an update on the restructuring of the NHSC and its progress.  “I have tentatively got a board put together that I am hopeful can put forth a policy for 2009,” said Harry.  Hurdles still exist to the implementation of the restructuring of the NHSC, which according to Dr. Harry include hiring a chief executive officer and finding veterinarians to get involved with the inspection. 

Harry did inform the board they are moving forward with hiring the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) to administer the drug testing for the NHSC in 2009.  Harry had also recently attended the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) annual conference and attended a forum on thermography.  It was Harry’s opinion that the thermography technology would be used a screening test to see if further inspection would be needed.

“On a positive, thermography allows the inspection process to get more objective which is something we would like to see,” said Harry.  He continued, “They are looking for normal versus abnormal patterns, which doesn’t necessarily mean something bad has happened, but does allow them to research why it is abnormal.”

David Landrum pled, “Dr. Harry we have to have something out there for our owners and fellow trainers that lets them know we are moving forward with this restructuring and how we are going to get through 2009.”  Harry agreed and said they would do a better job of communicating the progress across the industry.

The contract with the Kentucky Horse Industry Organization (HIO) has expired.  For the previous three years, the NHSC and Kentucky HIO have agreed to share judges’ lists and engage in a DQP swap at major shows in exchange for $2 per entry from the Kentucky HIO to the NHSC.  In 2008 this figure was roughly $31,000 which payment has been received by the NHSC. 

Moving forward the Kentucky HIO would like to go to $1 per entry and end the DQP sharing and simply share the judges’ lists.  “I worry that our judges’ list is worth more than just $1 per entry,” said a concerned Landrum.  “I would hate to see us lose affiliations because of a judges list that you can buy for a $1,” continued Landrum.  The group agreed to allow Landrum to negotiate the NHSC position on the issue with the Kentucky HIO and formalize an agreement for 2009 with Messick, the NHSC and Kentucky HIO.  The contract, if agreed upon, does include a clause that does not allow a show to change affiliations between the NHSC and Kentucky HIO without approval from both organizations.

The NHSC received a letter from the TWHNC regarding the activities of one of its licensed judges at the 2008 Celebration.  Nathan Clark was contacted inappropriately by Tommy Stewart regarding his judging and failed to immediately report the contact to the Celebration and NHSC.  The Celebration commended Clark for his honesty but decided not to consider Clark for any Celebration shows in 2009 as punishment for not immediately reporting the violation.

The NHSC agreed with the punishment of the Celebration and also applauded Clark’s character and judging.  In response to the notification of the violation the NHSC put Clark on one-year probation.  If no other instance with Clark occurs during that one-year, the violation will be removed from his record.

The executive director position was discussed in executive session.  Lonnie Messick is retiring from the NHSC and will turn over his duties to the new executive director upon his/her hiring.  The NHSC has interviewed several candidates already and informed the Walking Horse Report that the deadline for applications will be extended to January 15, 2009.

Farrar, serving as Chairman for the last meeting, commended the other members.  “I am impressed with how you handle your business and the diligence you use regarding matters brought before you.  I think if more people could see these meetings they would leave impressed as I have been,” said Farrar.  Farrar became the chairman after Frank Neal resigned in August.  In 2009 the chairman will be appointed by the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, a 50% member of the NHSC with the Walking Horse Owners’ Association.

Before leaving Farrar did summarize the NHSC objectives for 2009 which were voted on and approved by the board.  Here is a copy of the letter Farrar distributed summarizing those objectives.

NHSC Initiatives for 2009

Establish Pleasure Horse Rules Committee
• 4 Pleasure Horse Trainers – Appointed by the WHTA president
• 4 Pleasure Horse Owners – Appointed by the WHOA president
• Committee Chairman (NHSC board member or alternate) – appointed by NHSC chairman
Establish a written policy that any proposed Pleasure rule changes be sent to this committee before being voted on by the NHSC board

Establish Performance Horse Rules Committee
• 4 Performance Horse Trainers – appointed by the WHTA president
• 4 Performance Horse Owners – appointed by the WHOA president
• Committee Chairman (NHSC board member or alternate) – appointed by NHSC chairman

Establish a written policy that any proposed Performance rule changes be sent to this committee before being voted on by the NHSC board

Establish a Veterinary Board
• 10-12 veterinarians; 3 will be randomly asked to attend meetings

This board will serve as a resource for the NHSC for animal welfare issues.  Initially they will provide input and research on sniffer results and implementation of a drug testing program.  Any hearings on drug violations will be heard by this board as opposed to the independent hearing committee or NHSC board.

Update the NHSC Rule Book and put on web site
• The rule book should be searchable, i.e., type in “western” and see all rules that mention “western.”

Concentrate on the following initiatives that are suggested in the AAEP White Paper

Implement a Drug Testing Program
• Ask the Trainers’ Show, International, Futurity and Celebration to fund random drug testing at their shows
• Apply for a grant from the Walking Horse Foundation’s Animal Welfare Fund to have drug testing at 10-20 random shows
• Ask Veterinary Board to suggest prohibited drugs and penalties
• Veterinary Board will oversee implementation and enforcement

Develop an X-Ray Testing Program
• Ask the Veterinary Board to randomly select shows in the coming year to test X-Ray technology
• After testing, ask the Veterinary Board to suggest testing procedures and develop penalties
• Apply for a grant from the Walking Horse Foundation’s Animal Welfare Fund to cover the cost of testing this technology

Pull Shoes at Random Shows
• Pull shoes on flat shod horses at 10-15 random shows to check hoof and shoe weight
• Ask Veterinary Board to randomly select the shows and inform the Executive Vice President
• Cost associated with this will be paying a farrier and veterinarian to attend the shows
• Apply for a grant from the Walking Horse Foundation’s Animal Welfare Fund to cover the cost of this program