Copyright WHR 2006

Editor's Note: The following is a letter received from Tom Blankenship which he requested that we print.

In response to the allegations of unprofessional conduct and of creating security issues by the Walking Horse Trainers Association membership during the 2006 Celebration, I feel compelled to document my personal observations.

I witnessed the trainers' conduct, the quality of horses they presented for inspection, the unfathomable inspection procedures and numerous disqualifications. These men and women conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion despite the knowledge of potential onerous penalities based upon subjective standards of compliance.

During the 8 days which I observed the trainers' activity in the inspection arena, there was no unprofessional behavior by any trainer towards any official in the inspection area. Was the situation tense? Absolutely. Were nerves on edge? Absolutely. Were there instances of horses being disqualified for seemingly inexplicable reasons? Absolutely. Was there disagreement within the WHTA itself - - the key being within their association? Absolutely.

Why did the WHTA members continue to show under these circumstances? It is my opinion that it was the trainers' intent to do the very best for the good of the industry. Trainers presented compliant horses and provided the best possible show for the owners and spectators under uncertain circumstances.

I have concerned myself with issues and facts, and specifically avoided all press accounts and rumors. The observations I share are based upon facts I personally witnessed and in some instances issues in which I was directly involved.

By their conduct, the WHTA has unequivocally demonstrated that their input, advice, and involvement are appropriate and necessary to move this industry forward in a responsible fashion.

Had it not been for WHTA leaders and their members' decision to continue showing, the discussion would not be the failure to crown the 2006 World Grand Champion, but rather about:

a) the closing of the Celebration; b) the financial devastation of all the charitable groups and organizations involved at the show; c) the impact on 250,000 spectators who love this breed; d) the negative impact of the previously positive economic benefit to Bedford County; e) the irreparable damage to the reputation of the Tennessee Walking Horse and its supporters; f) the list is virtually limitless.

I would like to express my gratitude to the leadership and the members of the WHTA for their professionalism during the 2006 Celebration.

Thank You Trainers.

Sincerely, Tom Blankenship

I would also like to commend the Tennessee Highway Patrol and specifically Lt. Johnny Hunter. Their diplomacy skills - - of which I personally observed - - demonstrated a level of professionalism which must be acknowledged and appreciated.