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NWHA Faces Scrutiny Over Improper Contact With DQPs



Copyright WHR 2012

By Jeffrey Howard

The National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) is under intense scrutiny over alleged improper contact with Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) at The National, the championship show of NWHA held September 26-October 1, 2011 at Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  The Walking Horse Report obtained copies of interviews of several DQPs assigned to The National that were conducted by Linda Ivins, a concerned board member. 

The contents of those interviews show members of show management and the executive committee allegedly ask DQP’s to “target” certain exhibitors and to check those horses more closely than other horses, which included entries owned and shown by members of the executive committee and/or their family.

When asked if they attempted to instruct you or influence you, a DQP working the show answered, “Yes…Ms. (Connie) Holbrook told us to look for different people on several occasions.  She really was talking more to David (Scott),” said the DQP.  Another DQP David Scott added when asked who tried to influence the DQP’s answered, “Gordon Lawler, I think that was his name, he came one time and Connie Holbrook, she came several times,” answered Scott.

Scott, who has been a DQP with NWHA for eight years and has never had a complaint or conduct violation, was terminated during the show.  A petition was passed around at the show and garnered about 60 signatures to reinstate Scott.  However NWHA refused to reinstate Scott.  When asked who he was to “target”, Scott stated, “The names that were given to check, Connie gave me one name which was Jeff Givens…Other board members that were at the show, and I can’t tell you which ones it was, but Martha Day (DQP Coordinator of NWHA) said they (board members) were calling and telling us to check Charlie Moore and his wife, I think and Jared Carrier’s horse.  And when they did that, they went out and bought us brand new rasps and magnets and wanted us to check for tungsten shoes.”

When the Walking Horse Report contacted Holbrook to ask if she attempted to influence DQP’s, she answered, “That did not happen and that is all I have to say at this time.” 

Scott also reported this conduct to the USDA.  When asked if he had heard from the USDA, he stated, “I have not heard from them, but Martha has and all I know is that she said they were going to investigate.”  Dr. Rachel Cezar, Horse Protection Coordinator with USDA confirmed to the Walking Horse Report that the department was looking into the matter.  “Yes we are aware of the allegations of misconduct at The National and the USDA is looking into those allegations and seeing where we need to be involved and if there have been any violations of the HPA,” said Cezar.

Scott stated he was asked during the show to measure shoes differently than had been done all year and when he explained what the change potentially meant on shoeing to a trainer, he was relieved of his duties.  “I got a phone call from Martha (Day) saying that Lori Lowe (then President of NWHA) had told her she wanted me to leave and not come back,” stated Scott in his interview.

Ivins stated her interviews were only done after Lowe refused to release to the NWHA board the statements taken from the DQPs by Day.  The Walking Horse Report contacted Lowe and she said she knew nothing of the interviews.  When asked if she knew of the statements taken by Day, she said “Yes I am aware of those statements.”  When asked the contents of those statements, Lowe answered, “I will not answer any more questions and you will need to contact Sheryle Long of Schenck & Long, legal counsel of NWHA for further questioning.”

The Walking Horse Report was able to contact Day and she confirmed the contents of the interviews of the DQPs.  “I have no reason to believe there is anything in those interviews that is not factual,” confirmed Day.  Ivins also questioned Day as part of the interviews but did not release that interview to the NWHA board.  When asked why that interview was not released Day commented, “I asked Linda not to release the interview to the board after I received an indirect threat from Lori (Lowe) that she would file a lawsuit against me if it was released.”  Lowe also did not allow Day to release the statements to the NWHA board of directors.  “Lori told me if I turned over the statements to the board that it would be considered insubordinate behavior and since I am an employee of NWHA I did not turn those over,” confirmed Day.

“I have been conflicted during this entire process because of what Lori told me to do yet I have a responsibility to the department and to NWHA,” continued Day.  Day did confirm that the interview and its contents have been turned over to the USDA and Day has asked the USDA if she is covered under the Whistle Blower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  To this point, Day has not heard back from the USDA on her protections.

Ivins interviewed David Scott, Polly Smith, Kathy and Emily Mortensen, all of whom worked as DQPs at The National.  Ivins turned the interviews over to Jason Crawhorn, new President of NWHA, and at this point said he had not done anything with them to her knowledge.  Crawhorn emailed a statement to the Walking Horse Report which stated, “I can not comment on the situation that occurred at The Nationals as it is currently under investigation.”  Crawhorn did not clarify who was investigating the matter.  Ivins stated her purpose for the interviews, “I did this out of the best interest of NWHA, not to prove any wrongdoing by anyone or to punish anyone.”

The allegations made by the DQP’s at The National would constitute a Horse Protection Act (HPA) violation by those executive committee members.  Section 11.20 (b) (1) of the HPA states, “Further, management shall not take any action which would interfere with or influence said DQP in carrying out his duties or making decisions concerning whether or not any horse is sore or otherwise in violation of the Act or regulations.” 

An online petition has been started by an advocate of NWHA which states the following, “In an effort to preserve the integrity and mission statement of the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA), this petition requests the NWHA to assign an Investigative Committee (IC) to investigate the alleged improprieties at the 2011 NWHA National Horse Show (Murfreesboro, TN).”  The petition asks for a five-member committee that would exclude any existing Executive Committee members or Director of DQPs.

The petition asks the committee to investigate alleged improprieties relating to influencing judging and/or DQPs and the committee should consider information from both 2010 and 2011.  It also asks the committee to consider unethical abuse of power, improper conduct and conflict-of-interests and requests that the information obtained through the investigation be published to the general membership of NWHA.

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