The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association held a general membership meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The meeting, traditionally held prior to the Spring Fun Show, followed the board meeting.
Mickey McCormick opened with an update on several items. The USDA has given 166 letters of warning for foreign substance violations concerning their swabs last year. McCormick stated that he had researched those substances found in the swabs and many are not indicative of any soring agent or masking agent. The USDA has a zero tolerance on foreign substances.
McCormick said that the minimum penalty protocol lawsuit could be ruled on at any time. There is no definitive timeline for a decision but one is expected soon given that the judge has had it for close to five months. Regardless of the decision, either side is expected to appeal the decision. 
The trainers next gave Marcia Allison a standing ovation for her 21st anniversary with the association. McCormick informed the membership that the Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA) on which the trainers have representation at the board level has retained lobbyists, a law firm and public relations firm Purple Strategies. 
PHSA has hired Kathleen Spears as the new Executive Director. She has an extensive and impressive resume with tremendous amounts of equine experience. Spears served in an executive role at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington and has past thoroughbred experience. McCormick encouraged everyone to attend the PSHA Meet and Greet on Saturday, May 26, at 4:30 p.m. at the Blue Ribbon Circle Club to meet her. 
McCormick also said that the swabbing would continue as it has. He said, “We want objective scientific inspections and we need our swabbing program improved. The government has zero tolerance and there is always contamination present. We need to find a realistic level.” 
A DQP clinic was held May 18-19, 2013, for new DQPs and those that were transferring licenses from other HIOs under the guidance of VMOs Dr. Johnson and Dr. Southerland. These new DQPs will make it possible to get ones closer to shows so that expenses will be kept at a minimum for show management. McCormick felt that shows had gone reasonably well this year with the government at the shows and said that, hopefully, headway is being made. 
McCormick informed the membership of the Tennessee Governor’s veto of the “Ag-Gag” bill, however, it is expected to be reintroduced with revisions and pass.
Marcia Allison reported that the Panama City Show made $25,000 and that the Trainers’ Show cleared $58,000. 
McCormick reported that PRIDE did not leave PSHA but Heart Of America did. McCormick then opened the floor for questions. A member asked what the penalty was for showing under an HIO that was not part of PSHA. McCormick answered that it was six months trainers’ license removal. This only applies to performance horses, not pleasure horses, Racking Horses or Spotted Saddle Horses.
Jeff Givens spoke up, “It’s a real problem when we are told where to go and show yet still make a living.” 
Dale Watts then came up to the front and spoke on the advantages of showing under the PSHA umbrella of shows. Watts stated, “This was a hard issue and the board didn’t want to do it but we have to stand behind what we voted to do.” Watts emphasized the need to support PSHA which included effective lobbying efforts, legal challenges to ensure their rights as professional horse trainers, positive public relations regarding the industry and horse as well as the need for objective, science-based inspections. Watts concluded with, “The board thinks this is the best move to save our industry.”
David Latham asked if the WHTA could re-evaluate this decision in the fall after seeing its effects on this show season.  Watts replied, “We should be smart enough to see if it’s detrimental and then we can change if we need to.”
Sonny Holt asked about the cost of swabbing last year. McCormick said that it had cost approximately $300,000 to do the swabbing in 2012. Although not reported by the USDA, McCormick felt the program had been successful in areas as evidenced by the drastic reduction in “masking agents” on the USDA swab analysis from 2011 to 2012. The USDA swabs only showed one positive result for a “masking agent” in 2012 at The Celebration after a much higher figure in 2011.