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NWHA Completes Investigation Into Alleged HPA Violations



Copyright WHR 2012

By Jeffrey Howard

The National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) recently completed its investigation into alleged improper conduct and HPA violations at the 2011 National Show held September 26 – October 1, 2011 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  During the show several NWHA Board and Executive Committee members allegedly instructed Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) to target certain exhibitors and check those exhibitors more stringently.



President Jason Crawhorn assured his members that he would initiate an independent investigation that would include consultations with “former law enforcement officials, the USDA and NWHA members.”  As part of the findings of the investigation, Dr. Gordon Lawler issued an apology to NWHA through its Board of Directors and received a letter of censure for “conduct unbecoming a Director and for violation of NWHA rules.”



Connie Holbrook, National Show Secretary, was issued a letter informing her to refrain from such statements that are subjective in nature regarding persons to a DQP.  DQP David Scott, in his interview with board member Linda Ivins alleged Holbrook of instructing him, “He is a bad man and we know he pressure shoes his horses and we want him out of here.”  Since that person was not showing at this year’s National, Holbrook was cleared of this action during the investigation.



Rumors concerning undue influence were propounded against Lori Snyder-Lowe however no evidence was presented or found to substantiate those rumors and thus Lowe was cleared.  Several DQPs produced interviews as well as DQP Coordinator Martha Day that directly accused Lowe of influencing their inspections, yet Crawhorn decided to believe Lowe over these multiple accusations by NWHA DQPs and Day.  The Walking Horse Report is seeking to obtain the interview of Martha Day but has not been successful thus far. 



A source within NWHA has confirmed to the Walking Horse Report that Crawhorn was the sole person that conducted the investigation.  When the Walking Horse Report attempted to contact Crawhorn, he issued the following email statement, “A statement will be released tomorrow (Wednesday January 25, 2012).  Sorry but I’m not going to grant an interview.”  The sources also confirmed that the DQP statements taken contradict this statement from the Board of Directors.



The NWHA statement did not address and findings from the investigation did not address any punishment for DQP Coordinator/Director Martha Day.  Sources within NWHA have confirmed to Walking Horse Report that NWHA is going to address Day’s conduct in the near future.



 Below is the statement issued by NWHA on their web site today.

To: NWHA Members



From: NWHA Board of Directors



Date: January 25, 2012



 Re: Issues Arising From the 2011 National Show



The NWHA Board of Directors takes seriously circumstances or events that impact the integrity of NWHA and credibility of its mission, that of gait keeper for the sound horse. Therefore, it is imperative that any procedural or substantive shortcomings within NWHA (whether real or perceived) are identified and addressed so these problems do not occur again and NWHA can move forward in its mission.



The Board has used due diligence and exercised its fiduciary duties investigating, finding facts, and working to both resolve issues and ensure the problems will not be re-occurring. In the spirit of transparency and the genuine desire for an outstanding 2012 show season, we share with our members, by way of the attached report, the resolution of this matter. It is our desire that evaluation, admission of problems, and awareness of need will result in positive change and growth.



Thank you for seeing this through with us . . . it IS about the Horse!



Findings of Facts & Resolutions of Issues Arising from the 2011 NWHA National Championship Show



 



I. SHOE MEASUREMENT WITH GO/NO-GO TOOL

A. Findings of Fact



1. It became evident at the 2011 National Show that NWHA’s Designated Qualified Persons (DQP’s) have been taught two different methods of shoe measurement using the Go/No-Go Tool.



2. Tickets were written at the 2011 National based on measuring the shoe “all the way around” with the Go/No-Go Tool.



3. Currently, the procedure for measuring a shoe with the Go/No-Go Tool is neither standardized or in writing.



4. At the 2011 National, a DQP used the procedure he had been taught to measure shoes.



5. Tickets were written based on the measurement procedure the DQP had been taught.



6. When Jim Potter received a ticket, he questioned the procedure in order to understand and brought the shoes, in question, into compliance.



7. Mr. Potter did not protest or question the ticket. He did question the DQP Director about the correct procedure.



8. In compliance with NWHA rules, all tickets stood as written.



9. The DQP Director was called and asked what was the correct procedure.



10. Dr. Gordon Lawler questioned the DQP’s knowledge of the procedure and use of the tool. This action is in violation of NWHA Rule 2.2 E. Dr. Lawler has acknowledged the rule violation and has apologized to the NWHA through the Board of Directors.



 11. The DQP served out his shift in full authority as the Show DQP per the NWHA and HPA rules.



 12. The next day, the DQP, during his off duty hours, presented on the grounds with a Styrofoam model of a shoe and solicited conversation with exhibitors outside the DQP area.



 13. The DQP Director was called by Lori Snyder-Lowe to inform the DQP Director that the DQP was communicating with exhibitors.



 14. The DQP Director relieved the DQP of all further duties at the 2011 National for communicating with exhibitors in direct violation of NWHA Rule 11.4 D. This action is distinguishable from the HPA rule that a DQP may not be dismissed while performing his duties as a DQP. He was not on duty. Therefore, there was no violation of the HPA rule.



 15. Due to the discrepancy in shoe measurement using the Go/No-Go Tool, the NWHA Executive Committee determined an equitable approach to eligibility for championship classes as needed and provided the same.



 16. At no time did NWHA question the validity of the tickets written. None were rescinded.





 B. Resolutions





 1. Immediate suspension of use of the Go/No-Go Tool until a written protocol for measurement is developed and taught to all of the DQP’s. It is the goal of the Board to have this instruction take place at the February 2012 DQP Training Clinic.



 2. A policy and procedure manual for all DQP procedures shall be developed and maintained with updates as needed.



 3. The DQP Director shall be in attendance at the National Championship Show for all days that have rail classes. This requirement shall be a part of the DQP Director’s job description and in the DQP Director’s contract with NWHA.



 4. All DQP inspections at the National Show shall be videotaped. NWHA also reserves the right to video warm-up arenas.



 5. An Ethics Committee shall be established. The committee will consist of three (3) NWHA members, preferably with law enforcement or legal backgrounds. The single purpose of the committee shall be to field concerns from Judges or DQP’s who have either observed unethical behavior to or by a DQP or Judge, or have been the victim of unethical behavior. The DQP or Judge must contact all three committee members within 24 hours of a perceived issue to initiate an investigation. SOP’s for the committee shall be immediately promulgated.



 6. A DQP Committee shall be established. The committee will consist of three (3) NWHA DQP’s and the DQP Director. Duties will include: review of DQP applicants; review and revision of rules and regulations applicable to the DQP and DQP program; establishment of operating procedures; review and provide information to the Board, DQP’s, and members concerning USDA rules and regulations; review and evaluation of the DQP Training Clinic and refresher courses; and, review and evaluation of the DQP program.



 7. Clarify NWHA Rule 11.9 A which identifies the persons allowed in the DQP inspection area by revising Rule 11.9 A in this manner: the words “NWHA Officials” shall be changed to “Show Officials.”



 8. Dr. Gordon Lawler shall receive a letter of censure for conduct unbecoming a Director and for violation of NWHA rules.





II. COMMUNICATIONS WITH DQP’S CONCERNING PERSONS ON SHOW GROUNDS



 A. Findings of Fact



 1. Connie Holbrook, in her capacity as Show Secretary, confirmed she told the DQP at the 2011 National Show about a person on the show grounds who was not an exhibitor, trainer or owner of a horse that was entered in the show, but was on the grounds and in the arenas with bands and no Coggins. Ms. Holbrook requested assistance by the DQP to remove this person from the grounds.



 2. Connie Holbrook went with the DQP to deliver Jim Potter’s ticket. The DQP requested her assistance as show management in accompanying him into the barns.



 3. Connie Holbrook made the remark to DQP’s “Folks from the dark side are watching us” but did not target or name anyone.



 4. Connie Holbrook made the statement “He’s a bad dude” in answer to the DQP’s question, “Who’s the big man?” The person she was referring to was not an exhibitor, trainer or owner of a horse showing at the 2011 National.



 

B. Resolutions



1. Connie Holbrook was acting within her official duties to escort the DQP to the barns. This duty had been delegated by show management.



2. Connie Holbrook rightfully alerted the DQP to a person on the grounds with bands and in the arenas. While self-policing is a vital element of NWHA’s successful mission, it must be undertaken so as not to target or encourage wrongful communications between the DQP and management or exhibitors. Therefore, a protocol for communication with the DQP by an exhibitor or by show management relative to concerns of NWHA or HPA violations will be developed and implemented immediately. This protocol will require all communication be in writing, signed, and presented to show management. Show management will present it to the DQP. A paper trail for complaints will assist in decreasing inappropriate communication with DQP’s and/or unfounded targeting as well as identifying baseless rumors.



 3. Connie Holbrook used poor judgment in making subjective statements about a person to the DQP. She will be given a letter informing her to refrain from such statements in the future.



 4. A protocol for providing “self-policing” information to the DQP’s shall be established. The protocol shall require a written and signed information form in which complaints relating to another’s behavior or observations of horses with a bad image can be initiated. It shall be filed with the Show Manager, Office Manager, or Horse Show Committee Chair as is appropriate and shall be filed within six (6) hours of identifying a perceived problem or it will not be accepted. The Show Manager will present the written complaint to the DQP. No exhibitor, trainer or horse owner shall have a conversation or contact with the DQP other than when taking a horse through inspection. The Show Manager or designee shall be the ONLY person to present the written complaint to the DQP with regard to complaints by exhibitors, trainers or owners.



 

III. RUMORS CONCERNING UNDUE INFLUENCE



A. Findings of Fact



1. Rumors concerning undue influence were propounded against Lori Snyder-Lowe. However, no evidence was presented or found to substantiate these rumors. The Board of Directors, after careful inquiry, refuses to act on rumor and, therefore, finds this matter closed.



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