By Jeffrey Howard

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association held their International Board of Directors meeting on Saturday December 4, 2010.  The major order of business at the annual meeting is the election of the upcoming year’s executive committee. 

The nominating committee, chaired by Brenda Carlon, presented a slate to the directors previously that included the following recommendations:

President: Kasey Kesselring
Senior Vice President: Margo Urad
Administrative/Fiscal/Audit: Rob Cornelius
Breeders Vice President: Kathy Zeis
Enforcement Vice President: Marty Irby
Equine Welfare Vice President: Dr. Jim Baum
Horse Show Vice President: Tracy Boyd
Marketing Vice President: Joyce Moyer
Owners/Exhibitors/International VP: Stephen Brown
Performance Show Horse Vice President: Tom Kakassy
Pleasure Horse Vice President: Rick Wies
Training Division Vice President: Wayne Dean
Member at Large/By Laws Vice President: Lloyd Hall Black, Jr.
Member at Large/Youth: Deborah Locke
Secretary: Sharon Brandon

Marty Irby declined the nomination for Enforcement and was later nominated from the floor for President.  Other nominations from the floor came for Equine Welfare, Dr. Linda Montgomery and in Member at Large/Youth, Lisa Bowman Anderson and Leslie Topham.  Mike Hicks was nominated for enforcement vice-president and ran unopposed and will have that seat in 2011.  All other nominations from the committee were approved by acclamation.
In contested races, TWHBEA bylaws allow each candidate three minutes to address the board members.  Irby was first to speak, “I appreciate the nomination and am grateful for the opportunity.  I believe we have accomplished a lot this year,” began Irby.  “I am a product of this industry and am very willing to dedicate my time and feel it is the right time.”
“As vice president of marketing this year we had a record increase in new members in the association and that created a faith and belief in me about our breed,” said Irby.  He concluded, “There is a lot of negativity out there, but we need to stay positive and grow our breed.”
Kesselring was next to address the directors.  “First I would like to say that I think choice is a good thing and I know Marty and he is a good guy,” began Kesselring.  He went on to say that his goal as President was to leave the association in better shape than when he got it.
Kesselring went through a list of objectives that he previously laid out in a letter sent to board members and posted in industry publications.  “We need to go through a strategic planning process and develop our mission statement and core belief and then be mindful of those as we make decisions for each division,” said Kesselring.
He continued, “We must recognize and support all disciplines of the breed.”  Kesselring also touched on the importance of technology and making sure the registry was taking advantage of those advancements that can help the association attract and retain membership and registrations.  He concluded, “I will also make it a point to keep an open dialogue with industry leaders as we move forward.”
After the votes were counted, Irby edged Kesselring 34 votes to 30 votes and will serve as the President of TWHBEA in 2011.  In the other contested elections Dr. Linda Montgomery beat Jim Baum 53 votes to 11 votes to retain her seat as Vice-President Equine Welfare.  Lisa Bowman Anderson collected 36 votes, Leslie Topham 26 votes and Deborah Locke 2 votes in the election for Member At-Large/Youth.
TWHBEA has survived a drastic reductions in revenues because of the decline in the number of registrations, transfers and membership in the last several years.  They have done a good job by also cutting expenses, however with this necessary strategy moves many of the programs and areas that need focus in the registry have not been able to materialize.
As the budgeting process for 2011 happened, Admin/Fiscal Vice President Rob Cornelius took into account some of the disturbing trends for these areas.  In the fiscal year ending November 2006 TWHBEA had 18,044 members totaling $1,040,990.  The actual number in the current fiscal year that just ended in November was 9,538 members for a total of $457,847.  Cornelius budgeted for membership to be 9,423 in 2011.
In registrations the numbers are even worse.  In the fiscal year 2006, 13,366 foals were registered for a total of $546,920.  In fiscal year 2010, 4,812 foals were registered for a total of $227,694.  Cornelius has budgeted  a slight increase in registrations for 2011.
Transfers continue the trend of a negative slide.  In 2006, 16,703 horses were transferred at TWHBEA bringing in $762,610.  In 2010 those numbers fell to 8,012 and $260,099 respectively.  Cornelius budgeted for a slight decline in this area as well.
Overall the budget for 2011 has revenues of $1,988,233 and expenses of $1,934,669 for a profit of $53,564.  The day before Stan Butt reported the Association posted an approximate $80,000 profit in 2010.
If you take the areas of membership, registrations and transfers, those three areas brought revenue in 2006 of $2,350,520 to TWHBEA.  In 2010 those three areas brought in $945,640, a decline of $1,404,880 or approximately 60%.  Stallion nominations reports show in 2010 7,934 mares were bred.  The historic high record was 27,493 mares bred in 2003.  That is a 71% decline in 7 years.
In 2010, an International focus was placed on the Owners/Exhibitors Vice President Stephen Brown and he spoke to the importance of international marketing of the breed.  Brown spoke of the possibilities that exist in Mexico and praised Russ Keyser for his role in promoting the breed in Europe and most recently in Italy. 
Lloyd “Buster” Black, Vice President Bylaws talked of the many things that will be addressed in 2011 with regards to the TWHBEA bylaws.  One significant area that will receive attention is the rights of  director who receives a Horse Protection Act violation from the USDA.  Black stressed that they will seek to assure each committee member has full right to appeals before any action is taken by TWHBEA with regards to that director being able to serve.  Also, Black will look into staggered terms of directors that are longer than the current one year terms.
Other committee reports were also given and reported on in the TWHBEA General Membership Meeting story (Click Here To Read).
Under new business, Heffington brought a motion to increase the fees for registration for those members who wait to register foals after 12 months have expired.  Under his motion, the fees would stay the same for foals registered in the first 6 months and from 7-12 months.  However for those registered from 12 months to 24 months to $250 instead of the current $130.  For foals registered from 24 months to 36 months the fee would increase from $230 to $350.  After 36 months the fee would go to $500.  Heffington’s motion had this fee structure taking effect January 1, 2012.
Also, it was somewhat confusing to the directors whether his motion called for the difference in the fees, the increased amounts, to be earmarked for promotion and horse show development.  At times, that was included in the motion on the floor and then a motion to have hardships to be exempt from the increase to be decided on a case-by-case basis was introduced.  At the end of a lengthy discussion, it was finally decided that the issue would be sent back to the Executive Committee to research and analyze prior to the May 2011 meeting.
Heffington’s Breeders’ Committee wanted to raise the fees to punish those breeders that are waiting a period of time to register their colts after they see if they will make in the show ring.  On the flip side, many directors acknowledged this intent but said that for smaller breeders this would be detrimental as the Association needs to encourage horses out there that are not currently registered to be registered and with the increase in fees this would be less likely to happen.
The discussion was a lively one and a good one and the ultimate result that the executive committee would revisit the issue was probably the most appropriate one given the opinions expressed.
As Irby took office he promised, “Thank you for your confidence and I promise to further the association under my watch.”  A bold promise given the historic decline TWHBEA has endured over the last 4 years but Irby also stated earlier he was an “optimistic” person and his responsibility will require it.
But as Irby also pointed out, TWHBEA gained over 1,900 new members in the association in 2010 so there are new people out there interested in Tennessee Walking Horses and that is a very positive sign for upcoming years.  Maybe it was best pointed out by Cornelius, “We have a long road to hoe to get back to the 2006 numbers.”