Copyright WHR 2007

By Christy Howard Parsons

Wink Groover called a general membership meeting of the Walking Horse Trainers Association on Thursday, September 27, 2007, in an attempt to avoid the complacency that sometimes follows the furor of the Celebration.

Groover praised the trainers for their performance at the Celebration and the condition of the horses that were presented for inspection at the show.

“We got through the Celebration great because of everyone working together,” said Groover. The trainers did a great job of putting good quality horses in the ring. The credit belongs to everyone. To the Celebration. To the National Horse Show Commission. It was a real joint effort,” he said.

Link Webb provided more specific praise. “We had 127 less tickets than last year and there were only two bilateral sore violations in the entire show.”

Groover was disappointed in the comments Keith Dane of the Humane Society of the United States has made publicly following the Celebration. “It burns me up. The Celebration worked hard to comply with what Keith Dane asked them to do. This industry tried to comply with the changes made by the Celebration related to his requests. Yet Keith Dane wrote this letter, and there’s not a positive comment in the whole letter. We’ve tried working with him, but we’ve got nothing but grief from it,” expressed Groover.

All in all, however, Groover was pleased. “We can build on what we did this year,” said Groover. “Please don’t tear down what we’ve accomplished during these fall shows. We proved one thing – we’ve got the horse – but we’ve got to keep proving it,” stressed Groover.

He also complimented the USDA and specifically Dr. Chester Gipson. According to Bill Hawks, Groover said, Dr. Gipson made a statement at the recent HIO meeting indicating that the Walking Horse industry had made “more progress in the last eight months than in the last ten years.”

Groover attributes much of the success of the relationship with the USDA to Bill Hawks. The WHTA has contracted with Hawks to work five major fall shows – the International, Asheville, Decatur, Perry, and Tunica – for $50,000. The WHTA had previously paid Hawks $30,000 for his work at the Celebration, Fayetteville, Belfast and Wartrace.

In an effort to raise funds for the $50,000 contract, the Walking Horse Trainers Association is holding a 50/50 raffle, the Cash N Carry. Professional trainers will be selling one thousand tickets at $100 each. The drawing will be held on Saturday, December 1, at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs, and will be conducted by the Shelbyville, Tenn., CPA firm, Winnett Associates. Winnett Associates is also conducting the end of the year WHTA election.

The winner will receive half of the proceeds of the raffle, which could be $50,000, if all tickets are sold. The other half of the proceeds will go towards paying Hawks.

Trainers who sell ten tickets will receive one ticket to the drawing at no charge.

Tickets can be purchased from any professional trainer, from the WHTA Office at 931-684-5866, or at the Walking Horse Report at 931-684-8123.

Obviously, continued involvement in 2008 by Hawks will call for more fundraisers. It is estimated that $100,000 may be needed for 2008. Groover compared this to the $60,000 per year that was paid to Niels Holch (which was split by the WHTA, WHOA and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association).

“When you start splitting the bill, you lose the ability to determine what gets done,” explained Groover in asking the WHTA to step forward to pay the full cost of Hawks contract.

“We should be the ones that direct the mechanics of this industry,” said Groover. He illustrated a possible option of increased dues to the WHTA of $50 per month. “We need to run this Association like a business,” explained Groover. He suggested that even if trainers added $5 per month to their training bill, that they could cover the additional expense and could then be invested in the decisions being made by the Association.

“We need to find a way to fund this Association so that it can be a large enough organization to truly run the Walking Horse business. We need to get together with the Breeders. We need to stay connected with the Owners. But in the end, we need to make this a larger, more professional organization,” said Groover.

The reception to Groover’s suggestions were positive from the small group of trainers that were represented at the meeting.