By Jeffrey Howard

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) met on Monday March 9, 2009 and voted to support the recommendation of its board of directors.  The WHTA board of directors had unanimously passed a motion on March 2, 2009 to recommend to the National Horse Show Commission (NHSC) board of directors to remove their Horse Industry Organization (HIO) and ask SHOW, the HIO of the Celebration, Inc. to assume its function.

The meeting served as a forum for members of the WHTA to get clarity on the thoughts behind the board’s recommendation.  The vote today was taken in an effort for the membership to have its voice heard in the matter of trainer involvement in the HIO as it relates to compliance with inspections and judging. 

Other proposals were brought to the table.  Kim and Leigh Bennett made a proposal for the trainers to step down from the NHSC and ask members of SHOW to step in their place.  This proposal was discussed but in the end Joel Weaver summed up the board’s response with, “we need to remove ourselves from compliance and have a clean break from the NHSC in order for the new HIO to be successful.”

Although various opinions were expressed, the discussion centered on the best options to move the industry forward.  David Landrum stated, “We don’t need a fight and we don’t need a split.”  Kim Bennett agreed, “The trainers need to stick together.”  Landrum answered that in his opinion this would “bring the trainers together and make them stronger as an association.”

After over an hour of discussion both Layne Leverette and Dale Watts agreed that this type of decision was exactly why they had a board of directors and those were the guys they elected to make these types of decisions.  “You have been in the fire.  This vote we are about to take is us voting for you or against you and the confidence we have in you.  This is not a vote about what’s in black and white but a vote about blood and guts, the blood and guts of you guys on the board,” said Watts.

The motion was made and the vote to support the actions of the board was then taken and an overwhelming majority of those in attendance voted to support the recommendation of the board.  The meeting was standing room only and allowed a diverse group to unify in a decision to move forward.

In a separate action, the membership also discussed the operating plan and voted to recommend to the new HIO to opt out of the operating plan as it is currently written.

The stage is now set for the NHSC and Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) to vote on the continuation of the NHSC.  The Celebration board of directors met for an information session on Monday March 9, 2009 and will vote on the recommendation of the WHTA at a future meeting.