By Jeffrey Howard


Opening remarks by Jerrold Pedigo began the much anticipated TWHBEA annual membership meeting on Saturday, December 1.  He began by recognizing the membership for their involvement in the association and stated “Your membership is an indication of your interest in the Tennessee Walking Horse and what is best for the horse and this association.”  Pedigo continued that his presidency in 2007 was “a richly rewarding experience.”

Pedigo said that 2007 was a year that presented the association with many challenges including but not limited to the oversupply of horses compared to demand and the economy.  Pedigo stated that he and the Executive Committee were committed to providing the greatest return for the association and have addressed budgetary concerns with the reformatting of the Voice and staffing cuts.  He stressed the importance of keeping expenses in line with 2007 revenue and projected 2008 revenues.

He commended the Executive Committee for “setting aside personal wants for the betterment of the Association.”  He also asked the entire membership to join him in recognizing the hard-working staff of TWHBEA.  He also commended the Executive Committee and stated, “After a long year with many disagreements, they (Executive Committee) do appreciate their differences and friendships.”  He concluded with a thank you to the membership and Executive Committee and reiterated his earlier comments “It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as your president.”

Before the agenda could begin a motion was made by Ronnie Vincent to limit the committee reports to 5 minutes.  Before this motion could be voted upon Charles Wharton made a motion to table the existing motion and allow the committee reports to exceed the 5 minute limit.  Wharton later explained why he made his motion “We have serious financial information to present and a strategic plan to address our financial concerns and we simply can’t communicate this information in 5 minutes.”  Virginia Stewart then commented that “we have some important issues to vote on and don’t want this meeting to drag on.  Some of the directors have other obligations to attend later this evening and want the opportunity to vote.”  Pedigo addressed Stewart by stating there was no intentional effort to delay or postpone those afternoon meetings.  After other discussion was completed the motion to table the existing motion passed by the vote of 124 to 70 enabling the agenda to be completed as given.

Pedigo next introduced outgoing Executive Director, Chuck Cadle and commended him for his work during the last year.  Pedigo praised Cadle for his unselfishness and making the recommendation that led to his resignation because of the financial constraints TWHBEA is currently facing.  Pedigo read a letter that Cadle wrote to the Executive Committee giving his reasons for the recommendation (Click here for Cadle letter).

Cadle then addressed the membership and gave his remarks summarizing the accomplishments during his tenure with TWHBEA.  He stressed the importance of TWHBEA as a tourist attraction and that people as far away as Belgium have visited the headquarters this year.  He continued “There is so much we can learn from each other and we are all here because you have a love for the Tennessee Walking Horse.”  He continued “We can all agree that a healthy and growing industry is good for all of us.”  He highlighted the accomplishments of the Walk This Way tour which had 286,000 participants in the previous year.  “We licensed 73 judges and doubled our entries at the 2007 World Show and the Futurity was managed by TWHBEA and volunteer staff for the first time.”

Cadle is very astute with regards to technology in the workplace and highlighted that the Voice magazine is now online for viewing, the monthly traffic on the web site topped out at 2.4 million hits in August and the reports for the Executive Committee can now be viewed online.  He also made mention to the major staffing changes made during the year and highlighted the recruitment of Nancy Lynn Green to TWHBEA.  “Nancy Lynn has initiated several process changes and is working on a new registration form to reduce processing time.”  Cadle made mention of the deterioration of the financial position over 2007 and attributed much of this to the reduction of revenue from the Voice (reduction in ad revenues) and registrations (# of new registrations).  He concluded his remarks by asking a favor of everyone “Stop the unproductive politics and the leaders of this industry should come together in a summit to work on the problems in the industry.”  He encouraged everyone to work together.

The committee reports began with the Administrative/Financial/Audit division by Charles Wharton.  Wharton began his report by cutting right to the chase “It has not been a good year for us.”  Wharton let the membership know that his committee has been working on a strategy and plan not to allow the continued bad performance in 2008.  Wharton pointed out that the revenue in 2007 was $1.1M less than projected.  He outlined that the revenues from membership/registrations were $300,000 less, Voice revenue was $500,000 less than budgeted and other revenues including the gift shop and performance horse revenues were down $200,000.  Expenses were in line with budgeted expenses for the year but not as they related to levels of revenue.

Kristi Lane, new Executive Director, gave an extensive presentation regarding the financial position of TWHBEA.  She highlighted the declining registration rate as well as the reduction in the total number of registrations in 2007 from what was expected.  Based on previous levels averaging approximately a 50% registration rate TWHBEA expected 13,000 registrations in 2007 and are currently reporting slightly over 9,000 actual registrations.  This reduction in the rate of registrations and total number of registrations were not able to be forecasted by the staff or Executive Committee reported Lane.  In TWHBEA’s new plan for 2008 a restructuring of the Voice magazine is one strategy to reduce expenses within the association.  $180,000 of the total dues taken in by TWHBEA are allocated to the Voice and without this subsidy the Voice would have shown a $300,000 loss in 2007.  Lane outlined that the plan for the Voice included going to 10 magazines instead of 12 and it would consist of a bi-monthly membership magazine highlighting feature articles, stallions/breeding, corporate advertising and classifieds and horse advertisements.  There would also be 3 to 4 “coffee table” editions that would highlight the following:  Sire Summary, Pre-Season, Pre-Celebration and Season Highlights.  With this plan Lane reported that TWHBEA could expect a gain of $73,000 associated with the Voice in 2008.  As Virginia Stewart pointed out that many in the membership wanted to see the “old” Voice back and not a conversion to this plan, Mark Mattson countered with “80% of the membership don’t show horses and don’t read the Voice because of the current format and our dues are still allocated to the magazine.”

Kathy Zeis followed the extensive financial report with a Breeders’ Division report.  She began her remarks “I want to remind every member you have a right to work on a committee and I urge you to do so.”  She highlighted the DNA conversion process and commended the Association on completing this task.  She did also point out that the DNA conversion did go over budget and that TWHBEA is under budget on foal registrations but attributed some of this to the fact of change and its associated reductions.  She also pointed out the acceptance of a future Lifetime Breeders’ Award which will not be an annual award but one given upon being deserved.

Jamie Hankins kept the crowd entertained during his remarks regarding his Enforcement committee.  He mentioned that his committee was not required to meet much which is a good thing.  He urged the entire membership to treat each other with respect and increase communication.  He continued “There is nothing wrong with the horse; it’s the people in it that have to work it out.  All the organizations in this industry, WHOA, WHTA, TWHBEA, etc. all have an “H” in them which is for the horse.”

The Horse Show report was given by director Pat Stout.  She pointed out that nominations for the 2007 National Futurity stayed consistent with previous years, 555 in 2006 and 521 in 2007.  TWHBEA affiliated 39 shows in 2007.  She also highlighted a new futurity plan for the stallion owners (details in previous Executive Committee story) and stated that in 2008 the futurity will become a true futurity and not a sweepstakes.  This means beginning in 2008 only weanlings will be allowed to be registered during that year moving forward.  This plan would allow for a true futurity in 4 years for the Association.

Marty Irby presented the marketing report .  His committee initiated a membership drive through a Lifetime Membership program which brought the Association $160,000.  He also pointed out the success of the Walk This Way tour, “Nicole Carswell is one of the best things going for us in this industry.”  Irby is going off the Executive Committee in 2008 and left his report with the several sentiments for the membership to consider.  “The Horse will go on and the question before us today and this afternoon is will TWHBEA go on.  We have to expand this breed,” commented Irby.  He pointed out that international growth is needed but right now the money is not there to do it.  He concluded by restating an earlier comment made by Mark Mattson “you are correct, 80% of the people in this business do not show horses and that is why the horse show and HIO business should not be the priority of TWHBEA.”

At this point in the long morning meeting a motion was made by Denise Rowland to amend the agenda after the Committee Reports, comments by Jane Meredith and the results of the 2007 International Board of Directors election that the meeting be postponed until after the afternoon National Board of Directors meeting.  This motion passed and the plan for the remainder of the day was set into motion.

Jack Haefling gave his Owners/Exhibitors report and stated that the committee had been very busy throughout the year.  He also stated that he had worked extensively with Chuck Cadle on the National Parks initiative.  He also pointed out the commitment to educational clinics and gave a list of owners’ responsibilities which included education, research and being a resource.

Bruce Vaughn gave his Performance Horse report next and focused primarily on the Academy program and its success along with the success of the Certified Riding Instructors Program.  He presented the forecast for the 2008 Academy program which included 35 projected shows, a new rulebook, division expansion and instructor incentives.  He also mentioned that the Association had to have a reason for people to keep their membership and also to become new members.  “Horse show development is not going to attract new members.  We need to focus our efforts on initiatives to grow membership,” concluded Vaughn.

Darren Gray reported on the Pleasure Division.  He gave a review of the World Show which was held in early August and pointed out the added rail classes and added day to the show.  He mentioned that the show had approximately 500 entries.  He also made the membership aware of the 12 rides held as part of the Host A Ride program.  He also highlighted some promotional intentions which included participation in the 2010 Olympic Games.

The Training report was given by Wayne Dean.  He began, “I am a competitor and enjoy a good fight and that is what I feel like I have been in since December.  I want to commend the trainers that have put compliant horses in the ring in 2007.”  He also mentioned the goal was to protect the horse and he closed by wanting to talk to the membership as a believer in the horse and stated “I don’t believe in dwelling on the past, we need to put personal agendas aside and we can turn this thing around.”

Sidney Baucom gave his Member-at-Large-By Laws report and summarized by saying “all amendments were consistently received, they failed 100%.”  After this initial statement Baucom gave a rousing report on how he currently sees the fate of the industry.  “I am less optimistic today than ever before about achieving unity in the industry.  We have to promote and protect all facets of the industry.”  He made mention that currently the performance horse is under attack and we need to come to its defense.  “Economics will control over politics,” concluded Baucom and “the economic backbone of the industry is the performance horse.”

Holly Reynolds gave the Member-At-Large-Youth report and highlighted the many youth initiatives going on within the Association.  The All Youth Week, All Youth Day and over $20,000 in scholarships were key initiatives throughout 2007.

Senior Vice-President Jane Meredith wrapped up the morning session of reports by thanking the membership for giving her the opportunity to serve over the years.  She also commended the staff which she had worked closely with over the past several years.  She also commended the integrity of the members of the current Executive Committee.  Meredith was very passionate in her remarks and pointed out that she has been a part of the industry for 43 years.  She pointed out that many things are tearing down the industry but a major force doing so now is the rumor mongering.   She denounced the industry’s chat rooms that allow anonymity to the persons trashing industry leaders without fact.  She encouraged her fellow participants in the industry to step up and say “shame on you” for saying such things and spreading false information.  She asked the attendees, “ Stand up and hold people accountable.  Negativity begets negativity.”  She put to rest one such rumor by stating it was “absolutely false” that 4 people from TWHBEA tried to buy WHOA.  “Discourse is good and we should be able to argue but still be friends,” remarked Meredith.   “I am most proud of the relationships formed during my service.”  She concluded her remarks by issuing a warning to the membership, “Whether we have a future is what will be decided today.”

The end to a long, contentious morning was followed by a lunch provided by the TWHBEA and a break for the staff to get the conference room ready for what was believed to be a long, hard National Board of Directors meeting to follow.