The first Annual TWHBEA Youth Leadership Conference was held in conjunction with the TWHBEA and WHTATrainer’s Banquet. Twenty-two youth showed up at the conference Friday night, timid and shy, but by the time nationally renowned motivational speaker Matt Lohr was through with them on Saturday afternoon, you could tell that some new friendships had already started.

The TWHBEA Youth Group currently has 840 youth members for the 2005 season. These members are from all over the country and even a few from Canada and Europe. Any youth who is under the age of 17 is eligible to be a member, and you don’t even have to own a Tennessee Walking Horse. All that is asked of the members is that they have an interest in the breed. The 2005 TWHBEA Youth Council consists of five energetic individuals who love everything about the walking horse industry. Matthew McMurtrey is the entering president, MiKenzie Brown will take the role of vice president, Mary Jo Williams gets the privilege of being secretary, Hali Stokes gets to handle the money as the new treasurer, and Jamie Waddell receives the honor of being the parliamentarian.

This great program has activities that kids can participate in no matter where they live. Photo, art, and essay contests are just to name a few. This group also hosts events at major shows so members from that area can join in. The last youth event that TWHBEA sponsored was held in Sparta, Tenn., in October with approximately 180 kids attending.

Matt Lohr seemed to know all the right moves to get this groups attention and hold it. Lohr has been all over the country including Alaska and Hawaii energizing, encouraging, teaching and at the same time entertaining people. His travels lately have been to many breeders, conventions and farm bureau conferences. With all the new knowledge that he obtained, combined with his already outstanding experience, Lohr personalized a program specifically to meet the needs of the walking horse youth. Lohr managed to keep the youth entertained, busy and learning new leadership skills throughout the entire conference. He has a great way with kids and people in general. He offers fantastic crowd interaction and even talks a lot about his own hilarious adventures.

“It was a real honor to present the first ever TWHBEA Youth Leadership Conference. The students were very eager, enthusiastic and excited about the association and developing their leadership skills,” said Matt Lohr. “After spending the weekend with such a great group of students, I know the future of TWHBEA looks very bright.”

The activities that the youth had to accomplish included a scavenger hunt, creating an image out of foam that represented their group, and many other activities that made each of them work together as a group. While doing these projects, the students did not realize that they were learning leadership skills at the same time. Each task that they were asked to complete made them think a little more and differently than they normally would have. Toward the end of the session, you could see youth tackling the final task differently than they would have in the beginning.

Capping off the youth session was a concert Saturday night by The Karg Boys and Chris Cavanaugh. The concert allowed the youth a chance to have some entertainment while the Trainer’s Banquet was going on. Miller Sale even accepted the opportunity to sing “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” with Chris Cavanaugh. The Karg Boys are brothers from Nashville, Tenn. and currently attend Middle Tennessee State University. Chris Cavanaugh is originally from Springfield, MO., who recently signed a publishing deal with Midas Music of Nashville, Tenn.