Copyright WHR 2012

By Jeffrey Howard

 The National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) recently completed an investigation into alleged misconduct by Board and Executive Committee members at the 2011 National Horse Show in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Allegedly, members of show management, the Executive Committee and Board of Director members improperly contacted Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) and urged those DQPs and DQP Coordinator Martha Day to check certain exhibitors more stringent and pull the shoes of certain exhibitors but not all exhibitors.  In an interview conducted November 28, 2011 Day confirms she knew the interference with the DQPs was an HPA violation.

As part of the incident at the 2011 National, DQP David Scott was relieved of his duties during the show and statements and interviews have taken place by NWHA and concerned members of the board.  The Walking Horse Report has previously obtained and printed the interview with Scott and has tried to obtain the interview conducted by Linda Ivins with Day.  A source within the NWHA board of directors recently sent the interview between Ivins and Day to Walking Horse Report. 

In that interview Day confirms the misconduct alleged by the DQPs at the show and speaks to the improper contact with both her and the DQPs during the show by Connie Holbrook, Lori Lowe and Dr. Gordon Lawler.  As part of the NWHA investigation conducted by President Jason Crawhorn, Lawler received a letter of censure, Holbrook was issued a letter asking her to refrain from subjective statements and Lowe was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Day, who currently is still employed by NWHA as its DQP Coordinator, clearly in her interview states that Lowe asked her to target certain exhibitors.  Crawhorn in his investigation referred to this as hearsay and rumor and cleared Lowe of wrongdoing.  Day also confirms that in 2009 and 2010 Lowe also instructed her to check certain exhibitors more closely than others.

Crawhorn has denied repeated requests from Walking Horse Report to answer questions about the alleged misconduct and just recently refused to comment on the investigation.  The Walking Horse Report has confirmed with USDA Horse Protection Coordinator Dr. Rachel Cezar that the USDA is still in discussion with NWHA over the concerns brought to their (USDA) attention.

Sources within NWHA have confirmed to Walking Horse Report that Crawhorn has informed the board that NWHA had been cleared by the USDA and that the USDA was comfortable with how Crawhorn handled the investigation.  Crawhorn and Cezar’s statements seem to contradict one another.  The complete interview conducted by Ivins with Day is below.  The interview was not a formal part of the investigation and thus much of the content is conversational in tone.

Dr. Martha Day, DQP Director, November 28, 2011

Martha, I have spoken with the DQPs and scribe who worked the National this year, and I would like to hear your perspective, as well.

Q - Will you share with me what happened in regard to the DQPs and their inspections?

A - The dqps got several emails in the week before the National and they were just details about their arrangements. I always prepare the dqps for the National by having a meeting before the show starts. That meeting was held at 6:00pm on Monday Sept 26. And that was held at Carraba's in Murfreesboro. We met for about 2 hours about the procedures for the National. And things we go over are inspection procedures. For example, if they are going to write a ticket at the National, the procedure is for 2 dqps to do the inspection and for the dqp that does the inspection first to write the ticket. We draw a diagram of the area, so everyone knows what it will look like. We talk about protocols and that everyone is to be treated equally. We decided that Emily would be lead dqp, since she has been at theNational before; well actually 2 dqps had been at National before, but Emily was head dqp, and that meant that she would be in charge, David was to be second in command, and Polly was third since this was her first National and she had only been a dqp for a year and a half. The dqps were instructed that I would check in with them at least once a day. We filled out a form, where we wrote all this down, and again, that is standard procedure. We made a schedule for the week, of when people would rotate off and on. I also let them know when I would be on the grounds. That they could expect to see me Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the show and that I would talk to them at least once a day. I was on grounds 3 days of the show, and that is pretty typical. The National runs 6 days and I am there about 1/2 the time watching the show, listening to people; they want to tell me about how the year has gone and all that. I was there Monday but there was mainly just dressage going on that day. The last thing I said to them is that they have our full support. The support of NWHA and me and they should just do their job, treat everybody the same and they would be supported. And the meeting concluded.

Q - To the best of your knowledge, were you or your DQPs contacted by anyone at the show who wanted to influence how horses were inspected?

A - Well, I received several calls from Lori Lowe through the course of the show. I would say I heard from her 3 times on Tuesday and 4 to 5 times on Wednesday the week of the horse show. Do you want me to give specifics on that?

Q - If you think it is pertinent.

A - Well, okay, well, I was directed by Lori to instruct the dqps to pay specific attention to certain people. She said that Charlie Moore's horses came in wearing leg wraps and she wanted the dqps to remove the wraps and check the horses. I had the dqps check on that, but I don't think she thought it was done fast enough. Then she called about tungsten shoes, and said she wanted some horses shoes pulled and checked. I told her that we could not pull shoes on specific horses, that we just can't do that. And I kept getting asked about shoes over and over. Then Lori asked well, what are we supposed to do about tungsten shoes? I said that we don't have protocol in place, but she could use a magnet and a file to check the shoes. I was trying to come up with a suggestion since there was so much concern about tungsten.

Q - Had you ever discussed with the EC any ways to check for tungsten shoes?

A - I had discussed that a thermograph would detect heat patterns, and that tungsten shoes, due to their weight would have an unusual reading on the thermograph. But Sheryle Long said that there was no precedence for using that machine, and they decided not to do it.

Q - When Lori was wanting shoes pulled to check for tungsten, did she give you specific names, or did she ask for random shoe pulling?

A - I was given names.

Q - What names were you given?

A - The Carriers.

Q - And you said you could not check people specifically?

A - I told her that I was not comfortable with the dqps doing that, and there was no written protocol.

Q - You said you were contacted on Tuesday and Wednesday several times.  Were all the contacts about the Tungstens shoes?

A – No, on Wednesday evening, the 28th, I probably spent 3 to 4 hours on the phone. Connie Holbrook called me to report that the dqps were measuring wrong and Jim Potter had been given a ticket for illegal shoes. She put Jim on the phone and we talked and I told him that I was happy to talk to him, but that I would have to support the dqps on this. I also got calls from Emily Mortensen and David Scott reporting that Gordon Lawler and Connie Holbrook and been in the dqp station and there had been an altercation between the 2 of them and David Scott, about a ticket he had written on a client of Jim Potter. Before the evening of the 28th, other tickets had been written on illegal shoes for people. But there was no problem regarding this until Jim Potter's customer was ticketed. I would like to point out that at no time did Jim act inappropriate with me. Any trainer would probably want to ask about the ticket if he had been put on the phone. In talking with my dqps, I did not hear that Jim ever acted rudely or inappropriately regarding this. It was Connie who called me and she put Jim on the phone.

Q - What did you tell the dqps about this incident with Gordon and Connie? What instructions did you give them?

A - I just told them that I was very sorry they were having trouble, and I would have to investigate. I told them to go ahead and to keep doing their job.

Q - When you investigated, did you talk to Connie and Gordon about what happened?

A - No. By the time I could have spoken to Connie and Gordon about what had happened, it had taken on a life of its own. No.

Q - Did anyone from the EC ask you about what happened as part of their investigation?

A - No, I talked to Lori on the phone and Jason, briefly, but from my understanding of the events that happened the executive committee met late in the evening on the 28th and they went around the show grounds and talked to people. They decided there was a discrepancy as to how shoes were being measured and that they should only be measured from the caulk to the first nail hole. I can tell you that I never told anyone to only measure a shoe in one place. It is also important for you to know that I talked to David at length and asked how he measured the shoe. He said, “Martha, if it was anywhere close, I would have let it go.” I asked him several questions, I asked if the shoe only did not fit around the nail holes, and he said, not in front of the holes or behind them or hardly anywhere on the shoe. He said he would have given the exhibitor the benefit of the doubt if it had. Based on that, I felt confident that David had done his job and the shoe was out. He said the only place he could get the shoe to measure was immediately in front of the caulk. It seems to me that if the shoe is correct, you should be able to slide the tool in that particular area of the shoe. But he said it would not slide at all. David has been a dqp for 10 years or so, and he was my apprentice. I have full confidence in his judgment. If he said it did not fit, then I accept his word.

Q - Were the dqps directly approached by people wanting them to check certain horses?

A - The dqps did report to me that they were contacted by people who were telling them to check certain horses more closely. I did report this to Lori and to Jason, since he was the new president. If you want to hear specifics about this, you should probably ask the dqps directly, since through an email to the BOD, I was directed by Sheryle Long not to report this. So I will not.

Q - In past years, has it been standard for you to get instructions from a president who is exhibiting in the show, about checking specific horses? Would you say that you were given more direct instruction this year than in previous years?

A - No, it is not standard for me to get instructions from the president about checking specific horses. But last year, 2010, and also in 2009, I was told by Lori that certain horses needed to be really checked closely by the dqps.

Q - Were you given instructions as a result of the EC meeting that you mentioned took place late Wednesday night?

A - Yes, I was instructed to tell the dqps to only measure shoes from the last nail hole to the caulk. I called David and also left a message for Emily. David was pretty unhappy with this and asked if I thought this was wrong. That if the shoe only measured in front of the caulk, that it should not be passed. I responded that I was not in private practice, and that I worked for the BOD and I have to do what they direct me to do. David was extremely upset by this time and felt that his authority had been usurped and he had been wrongly confronted in his dqp station by board members. I understood his feelings and told him that no matter what I felt, that I worked for the BOD and when the president tells me to do something, even if she is exhibiting in the show, that I have to do it.

Q - Looking back on what happened. Do you still feel the same way?

A - About what?

Q - About doing whatever the president tells you to do, no matter what.

A - No. In fact, I should have put a stop to the phone calls, but I think I would have been fired on the spot. There is a conflict of interest if someone who is showing in the show, is telling the dqps what to do in the dqp station. It was an interesting dichotomy, what was going on at the show. On the one hand, I was getting calls to check this one, check that one and soon, and I passed that along to the dqps. On the other hand, when the dqps do write a ticket, the EC says the dqps are not doing things correctly. It was just that the wrong person got ticketed. Lori told me to check specific people, but those people were not found to be noncompliant, and someone else was. And that is where the issue came from.

Q - You relieved David Scott of his duties on Thursday, the 29th, the morning after the altercation.

A - Yes, I received a call from Lori, and she was pretty animated, pretty upset and said that David Scott was on the grounds and had a styrofoam shoe, and was talking to Lyn McGreggor and Maria Redmond. She said he was making a mockery of NWHA and she wanted him fired. I asked her if she had statements documenting this and she said no. I said I usually get a statement in situations like this. She later had them email me their statements. I can't swear by this, but I think I talked to Connie and Maria about this at the time. Lori was very upset and said she wanted him fired and off the grounds.

Q - Did Lori or any other director ask if this action was appropriate, in your opinion?

A - I was not consulted in this decision, or asked if I thought this action was appropriate. I was given a directive by the president, and I followed it.

Q - Did you comply immediately?

A - Yes. Lori said she wanted him fired immediately and escorted off the grounds.

Q - How did you feel about doing this?

A - I was pretty upset.  Just by the EC going around the grounds and surveying the dqps about how to inspect a shoe was pretty upsetting. They didn't ask me. I have been directing the program for almost 6 years. The EC and a BOD member just went right in to the dqp station, directing their activities and yelling at dqps. It was demoralizing. My response to Lori was that I did not think David would have done anything like this if he had not been harassed by our BOD. I stated that I trained David as an apprentice and he had been a dqp for 10 years. He is a good dqp.

Q - It has been pointed out that firing a dqp in the performance of his duties is contrary to HPA guidelines. Were you aware of this at the time?

A - I was aware that interfering with a dqp in the course of his duties is against HPA regulations. I know it is wrong to influence dqps in the performance of their duties. According to the statements from the dqps, this happened throughout the entire show. At the time I was told to fire him, I didn't even know if I was supposed to follow HPA guidelines or Lori's guidelines as a representative of the EC. I had been so influenced and directed what to do, that I felt I had lost my authority. I was not consulted about what to do, I was told what to do.

Q - Is there anything else you would like to say?

A - When I called David, I explained to him that I had been directed to let him go. He wanted to know why, and I explained that it was because of his conversation in the stands about NWHA shoes. How is that different than surveying the dqps on the ground asking them about measuring shoes. I told him, David, that I don't get to work independently and that I have to work for the BOD and do what they tell me. I told him he could stay at the hotel that night, but he had to be off the grounds. He was not happy about this, but he was very professional. And that is what hurt me the most. He had been abused and mistreated, yet he was very polite and professional. I have never been so conflicted about personnel issues as I was at the National. I do not feel supported by the BOD.

Q - Has anyone contacted you to ask what happened at the National? Since there has been some significant member concern and letters to the directors, have any of them asked you about what happened?

A - No. I took it upon myself to get statements from the dqps, because that is my standard operating procedure in these situations. But no, I have not been contacted by anyone about my perception of what happened at the National, other than you. Not even Sheryle Long, the counsel that has been advising the president in this matter, has contacted me about what happened. My name, and my name alone, was used in the initial version of the statement that was issued by NWHA, and this lead me to believe I was being blamed for what happened. I asked to have my name removed, because I did not agree with much of what was in the statement.