By Jeffrey Howard

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association found itself once again creating controversy among its members.  A poll sent out by Vice President of Horse Shows Pat Stout is the source of the controversy and bewilderment of the executive committee and membership.  Stout did not seek input or approval from the executive committee in her polling of the membership with a misleading piece that asked the membership to vote a specific way.

Whether the reason is the misleading graphics, coercive text or fact that President Loyd Black told the membership it was not a TWHBEA poll and they could throw it away, the poll will not represent any truth as to what the membership of TWHBEA as a whole represents.  “Given what has happened now (with regards to the poll and letter from Black) the membership is confused and this won’t represent how our members feel,” said Marketing Vice President Joyce Moyer.

The September 27, 2013 executive committee meeting had increased interest with Stout’s actions.  Questions were everywhere regarding who sent the poll, who developed the promotional piece, how did Stout obtain approval, was the TWHBEA logo used incorrectly, who paid for the project and so forth.  Answers were few and far between as Stout deferred most of her answers to attorney Clant Seay, who according to sources operates the chat site  Seay did confirm that he wrote the text, developed the promotional piece and sent the TWHBEA membership list to Modern Postcard in Carlsbad, CA for distribution, without approval from TWHBEA.  TWHBEA requires approval for the membership list to be sent to any third party.

Stout contacted Executive Director Tracy Boyd for the membership list and informed Boyd that Clant Seay would be assisting her in its use.  The list arrived to Stout on September 10, 2013 however she left for Germany on September 11.  Although Seay created the mailer, Stout did see a copy of it prior to its final approval.  Stout returned from Germany on the 23rd of September and according to Seay didn’t think the piece would arrive in members’ mail until the 25th of September.  According to Seay, she was going to email everyone on the 24th to explain what was happening but the mailer got to members before the anticipated date of delivery.

When asked to speak herself, instead of through attorney Seay, Stout commented, “I honestly never thought this would cause any controversy.  I am the Horse Shows Vice President and assumed I could address membership with any type of communication.  I assumed I could use the logo in conjunction with my name because our business cards have the TWHBEA logo next to our name.  The issues (regarding the Whitfield Amendment) are the biggest things to face our industry and I thought it was worthwhile to poll the membership.”

“It is a simple yes or no vote and because I couldn’t send the results to me that is why I contacted Cook & Co. and paid the $1200 deposit to contract with them to count the results.  I know you want to know who paid for the material but I can’t tell you that, but it was not the Humane Society of the United States.  I don’t even know who the anonymous donor is,” said Stout.

Although Stout has many friends on the executive committee, all of them seemed extremely frustrated by the actions of Stout.  “Pat I love you like a sister but I feel like you made a mistake,” said Dr. Linda Montgomery.  “I wish this could have been handled differently,” said Moyer.  Both Wayne Dean and Rob Cornelius questioned the executive committee, “How would this have been different if there were performance horses on the card and we asked the membership to vote in favor of the performance horse.  I keep coming back to this in my mind,” said Cornelius.  “And the reaction would be far different in this room.”

During the course of the meeting multiple motions were made ranging from Stout’s removal from the committee (motion made by Mike Hicks) to her suspension from the committee pending the completion of the investigation (motion made by Rob Cornelius).  Ultimately those motions were withdrawn and the matter was resolved in executive session.  The move to go under executive session was questioned by Christy Lantis.  Lantis had previously given the executive committee a list of possible violations committed by Stout and her actions.

Prior to going into executive session, President Black urged Seay to inform the committee as to the intended use of the results.  “We plan to make them known to the world,” said Seay.  Seay had previously argued that Stout’s affiliation with TWHBEA as its Vice President of Horse Shows gave her the right to poll the membership.  Upon Black continuing to push Seay for more specific details on the intended use of the results, Seay commented, “If what you are getting at is TWHBEA will have control of the results and how they are used, you would be wrong.  We own the results.”  Stout did speak up at this time and reiterate, “I own the results.”

After the executive session it was announced that the matter would be turned over to the enforcement committee and that committee would make a recommendation to the executive committee on the matter within 60 days.  It is unclear what will happen to the results of the poll which are due on October 15, 2013 as this falls within the 60 day window.

Before the executive committee handled the matter they allowed members in attendance to address the committee.  Tom Kakassy passed out a formal complaint regarding the actions of Stout and urged the executive committee to deal with the issue expeditiously.  Denise Rowland addressed the committee, “This is a clear misuse of the TWHBEA logo.  The issue is as simple as that.  Her actions will cause intentional damage and I urge you to hand out punishment accordingly and to make an example of unauthorized use of the TWHBEA logo.”

Kentucky State Senator and TWHBEA member Robin Webb also addressed the committee.  “Another issue (in addition to the unauthorized use of TWHBEA logo) is the content.  This is a manipulation of the language.  This is a push poll which is designed to get a desired result.  It is intentionally biased and is not an accurate representation of the (Whitfield) bill.  There is no objectivity to this and we deserve to know who paid for this and for there to be a further investigation.”

Webb continued, “Our members do have a voice, it is you.  You were all elected in good faith to represent your constituents.”  Linda Starnes added, “Most of the people who have contacted me thought the poll came from TWHBEA.  I am very concerned about the use of the TWHBEA logo.”  Moyer agreed that most of her calls and emails from members assumed the poll was from TWHBEA.

Donna Benefield urged the committee, “The public is watching us and they are watching how you vote.  Our members have a right to be heard and this association has stifled the truth for far too long.  People will no longer register until this trash is gone.”  Benefield went on to say that she has had meetings with celebrities in Nashville and that they will soon come out and make their feelings known which will in turn get additional media attention.