By Sadie Fowler

The general membership of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association gathered at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Blue Ribbon Circle on the grounds of the Celebration, a tradition that takes place each year before the National Trainers’ Show. 

Several people addressed the crowd including Bernadette Juarez, Deputy Administrator for APHIS, who set her expectations, and the USDA’s expectations, for the industry moving ahead this show season. 

The Trainers’ Show takes place Thursday March 22 through 24, kicking off at 6 p.m. nightly. Show manager Dean Byard also addressed the crowd, in addition to WHTA president Bill Cantrell, Head SHOW DQP John Paul Riner and Billy Young. 

Juarez mainly highlighted items she’s previously addressed in correspondences and training opportunities she’s overseen within the industry.

“You need to think about compliance before, during and after the show,” she said, “As I said in my letter, ‘you should not have to hope and pray to pass inspection. If that’s your strategy you’ll be in big trouble this year.”

Juarez applauded efforts by trainers in establishing a penalty structure, which Young further outlined later in the meeting. 

“This is the first time the walking horse community has said they will hold trainers accountable,” she said. “It’s important for the horse and the American public to build trust (with the industry).”

She said she appreciated the brave leadership among the industry to get these protocols in place. 

“I know it has not been easy … I appreciate their commitment to working with the USDA,” she said, expressing appreciation to SHOW officials as well. “I want to continue the positive trend this year.”

Young followed Juarez’s comments and spoke briefly about the penalty structure recently and unanimously adopted via vote by the board of the Trainers’ Association. 

“I think we all realize it’s better for us to implement a penalty structure than for someone else to do it for us,” he said. 

Following this topic, Byard shared some positive thoughts regarding this year’s show. He said they have more than 300 sponsors, more than double the normal. The association has raised $113,000 with this year’s efforts so far, having collected more than $50,000 already. 

“It looks like it’s going to be a really good show,” he said. “And that’s good because a lot of people have worked hard … There’s a lot of people who’ve never given who are giving a lot this year.”

Byard also announced the WHTA will host a fall show on Nov. 9 this year, which is a Friday night. 

A lot of excitement is in the air surrounding the giveaways that will take place at this year’s show. Saturday night, all the amateurs’ names will be thrown back in the pot for a chance to win the grand prize Saturday night, a riding suit valued at $1900 from Marsha’s on the Shelbyville square. 

In other business, Wayne Dean announced dates have been secured for the 2018 WHTA banquet, which will take place at the Cool Springs Marriott Dec. 14 and 15, a week later than normal, which was required to get the special rate of $139 a night. Reservations must be made by Nov. 14 to get that rate. 

Riner, who opened the meeting, also shared brief comments, saying he was hopeful and encouraged about the season ahead, not anticipating anything from being that different from last year in terms of the inspection arena.