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Put Your Focus On The Celebration



By Jeffrey Howard

It is that time of year when the Walking Horse world focuses on Shelbyville and The Tennessee  Walking Horse National Celebration.  The next 11 days are when lifetime memories are made.  It won’t take long for the first tears of joy to be shed by someone coming out with their first Celebration blue as they hug their loved ones.  It is truly one of my favorite things about The Celebration.

The show season has gone well with entries at shows increasing, including the preliminary entries at The Celebration.  More importantly, the competition and camaraderie have been back at shows as friends have battled it out in the ring and then enjoyed a time of fellowship.  The Tennessee Walking Horse in all its diversity offers each and every person the chance to experience both competition and friendship.  

I received a call this week from Ed Cotter, a man who loves the Tennessee Walking Horse and the people that make up this great industry.  His call is the motivation for this article as he shared with me his thoughts on the upcoming Celebration.  If you haven’t had a chance to get to know Ed or talk with him I would highly encourage you to do so.  He and his wife Shannon have meant a lot to the industry and especially the Mid-South Horse Show Association, where they have donated countless hours of their time.

Although this is a time of “Celebration” in our industry, we will also be faced with potential protests organized by the radical animal rights groups and bitter former industry participants.  It is important to remember that they have the right to protest and demonstrate, whether their protest is legitimate or not.

All of us are irritated by the false personal attacks, embellishment of the truth, and outright lies used to advance their agenda.  The failure to get the PAST Act through Congress in 2014, despite the support generated by the Humane Society of the United States, has only led to more of the same.

One of the most disturbing items is how the press relies solely on information provided by HSUS and other fake organizations, yet facts exist that completely refute their statements.  We have been dealing with this for years and the reality is we will continue to deal with it.

But as Ed reminded me, the only thing we can control is our response to these protests.  It is important that we don’t react in a way that reflects poorly on the industry, yet respond in a way that exemplifies the values that are so prevalent in the industry and the people that make it up.

In our conversation, Ed reminded me of the principle of “Don’t criticize, complain or condemn” in Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  As I thought about that, two thoughts came to mind.  First, the HSUS basically violate this principle on a daily basis in their total condemnation of the industry.  Secondly, we need to be cognizant of this principle as we deal with the protests, unfair treatment and personal attacks.

No protester, statement or attack is going to affect one thing that happens inside the Calsonic Arena or the big oval at The Celebration this next two weeks.  No demonstration is going to take away from the competition and camaraderie that we all value so much.

So in the face of criticism, I challenge everyone to respond in a professional, courteous manner, focus on the reason we are at The Celebration in the first place and enjoy our time with friends and family, some of which we only see once a year here in Shelbyville.

Welcome to The Celebration, enjoy your time, and good luck to you as you make your memory in 2015.  
 

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