By Jeffrey Howard

LEWISBURG, Tenn. — The annual general membership meeting of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) was held Nov. 30 at the TWHBEA headquarters with approximately 40 members in attendance. President David Williams opened the meeting by personally walking the room and having each person in attendance introduce themselves.  

Williams then addressed the association and talked about the recent uptick in business, not only at TWHBEA but across the industry.  

“We have bred more mares, breeders are getting a good value for their offspring and horse shows have seen an uptick as well,” Williams said.

Executive Director Rory Williams provided a little more clarity to the upward trend informing the membership that both registrations and transfers were up over last year and had exceeded the budgeted figures for 2018. Mares bred were up 258 over last year and registrations were at the highest level since 2015. The only negative trend is the continued decline in membership at TWHBEA.

During the admin/fiscal report, given by Nancy Lynn Greene, she pointed out that TWHBEA had a net loss of $24,000 through October. Revenue at TWHBEA is heavily dependent on membership and the registry. Through 11 months, membership revenue is $282,950 while registry revenue is $564,966. Those two figures combined are approximately $95,000 below the YTD budgeted figures. 

Greene did state that she expected TWHBEA to be close to a breakeven point by the end of the fiscal year, which is Nov. 30. 

During the cash on hand report, Greene reported that TWHBEA has $150,000 in a CD, $51,000 in membership reserve account, $43,000 in the Futurity account and $129,000 in the operating account.  
The executive committee recently decided to take $15,000 from the membership reserve account to apply to the loan taken for the foundation repair. The original $70,000 loan has a current balance of just under $45,000 according to Greene.

Greene urged members from Tennessee to continue to order the Walking Horse license plates. TWHBEA budgets for $60,000 in revenue from the license plates and has collected just over $66,000 this year according to Greene’s report. 

Greene also informed the membership that the World Versatility Show made $7,600 in net profit this year and the Belfast show cleared $4,300 to the association.  

Greene updated the recent staff changes stating that TWHBEA currently has 11 employees, six full-time and five part-time staff members.

During her Breeders’ report, Carrie Benedict updated the membership on the changes to the Futurity moving forward.  TWHBEA put together a roundtable to discuss ideas in October and the decision was made to keep the Futurity on the Wednesday night before Celebration, for it to continue to qualify for the Celebration World Grand Championship classes and to use the Celebration judges. 

The 2019 Futurity will look much like the 2018 Futurity but starting in 2020 the futurity will be only for weanlings and yearlings, which will allow the monies to be spread out over two years instead of the current four years.

In 2020, the Futurity will still have the two and three-year-old divisions competing but those will compete in sweepstakes or jackpot payouts. In these divisions, entry fees for those horses nominated will be reduced.  
In 2020 , the Futurity will be a “true” futurity for the weanlings and yearlings and beginning in 2020 you will not be able to buy in any longer. 

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, TWHBEA pointed out that all current contracts will be completed. Benedict mentioned an auction during the Celebration on Sunday as a possible way to increase the revenue for the Futurity.

Robin Webb gave her bylaws report, which was a very quiet report this year. She said there were no major complaints or needs for any hearing during the year.  

During Webb’s report, both Joyce Moyer and Denise Rowland asked for TWHBEA to consider allowing streaming or zoom video conferencing for both the annual meetings as well as the executive committee meetings. Moyer cited the cost to attend, the increased attendance and participation via this method and transparency as reasons for the board to consider. Webb cautioned privacy as a factor to consider but agreed to look into the feasibility of the request.

During his Owners/Exhibitors/International report, Keegan Meadows updated the membership on the USLGE funding and referenced the $20,000 received last year when TWHBEA requested over $60,000. He told the membership that this year’s request was $86,000 with the hope to receive more.

Meadows also referenced the decision of the executive committee to remove the requirement for horse shows to be affiliated with an HIO to receive international high points, citing the challenge for international shows and members. There will also be a new European High Point award each year given out by TWHBEA.

Ashley Wadsworth updated the membership on the increased effort for TWHBEA to participate in the local Lewisburg and Marshall County communities. TWHBEA participated in the Goats Music & More festival in 2018. 

Wadsworth has been an advocate of the gift shop and exceeded her goal of sales of $20,000 in 2019. She said TWHBEA is looking at hosting a new show as well as repeating the TWHBEA Wine & Cheese reception at The Celebration, where invitees include legislators, members of USDA and the agriculture department in Tennessee.

Allison Thorson has a passion for the youth in TWHBEA and her report highlighted the many efforts made by the association in 2018 to include the youth in the industry. Thorson highlighted the Equine Education Day, All Youth Day at The Celebration, getting to know the youth profiles and the clothing drive as ways the youth have participated this year. 

Thorson also uses her facility, ThorSport Farm, as a venue to host many visitors including colleges, the American Farm Bureau and other groups wanting to get a closer look at the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Thorson mentioned the need for quality instruction and education for youth coming into the business. Thorson is an advocate for the Academy Program but also for more instructors to help youth get the proper instruction needed to begin their riding careers.

Russ Thompson gave the Trainers’ report and continued to emphasize the need for trainers to join TWHBEA. Currently 141 licensed trainers are members of TWHBEA and Thompson stated there is a goal for 80 percent of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association to be members of TWHBEA in 2019.

Thompson also highlighted the accomplishments of the new Horse of the Year method, which is based 50 percent on voting and 50 percent on earned points during competition, working with the USDA on shoeing compliance, a new Trainers penalty protocol and the addition to the Riders’ Cup program of new divisions now totaling 23 categories.

Long-time breed enthusiast Bobby Beech wrapped up the meeting with his Equine Welfare report. Beech highlighted the work of the Farm Animal Care Coalition of Tennessee (FACCT), whose executive director is Lou Nave. Beech pointed out the two goals of FACCT are to be first responders to animal care situations and to educate law enforcement on how to identify animal abuse.

Beech explained that animal abuse complaints are to be made with the state of Tennessee, not TWHBEA; however TWHBEA answers many calls and often refers those making complaints on to the state of Tennessee. 

There were 665 complaints of animal abuse in Tennessee this year, and 435 involved horses. Only one of those complaints involved a Tennessee Walking Horse. In this case, the violators were sentenced and are not allowed to own horses for one year and must petition the judge after their sentence for permission to own in the future.

The annual International Board of Directors meeting will be held on Dec. 1 where many of the executive committee members stated they would expand on the reports given today.  The meeting will also include the election for the 2019 TWHBEA executive committee.