By Jeffrey Howard

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – In what has been a whirlwind first half of the year for the new executive committee at TWHBEA, the June meeting brought an opportunity for the group to focus on the second half of the year. The second half of the year includes the Futurity, World Versatility Show and December annual meeting. The staff at the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) is in a transition mode and new and old faces have joined the team led by this new executive committee.

Both President David Pruett and Executive Director Stan Butt praised the efforts of not only the executive committee but the staff at TWHBEA. Pruett described the many compliments he received from the semi-annual meeting and summed them up with an overall theme of “informative and positive.”

In Butt’s remarks he touched on the National Youth Trails Day on June 7 as well as his visit to the American Horse Council meeting. At the meeting Butt remarked that much of the attention was focused on the Thoroughbred industry. Butt also addressed the final application submitted by TWHBEA to become a breed partner with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) which will be reviewed and decided on at the July 29 meeting of the AAEP. Bob Ramsbottom said that Bill Hawks will also help with the application and review process.

Finances have dominated the discussion of most every TWHBEA function over the past seven months and nothing changed at the June meeting, other than the length of the report. Admin/Fiscal Vice-President Mike Inman has focused all of his time on the stabilization of the finances of the association. As compared to budget, May proved to be a good month as TWHBEA posted a profit of $20,997 versus a projected loss of $16,385. Year-to-date versus budget, the association is $238,727 better than forecasted, posting a $116,989 profit as opposed to the budgeted loss of $121,738.

The cash position has also increased greatly since December of 2007. The current cash position of $604,622 is an increase of close to $330,000. However, Inman pointed out that hard times are not over and that the next couple of months are those that have the lowest revenue based on past trends.

Inman also pointed out that first time foal registrations are up 20 percent year-to-date which is impressive considering breeding is down 23 percent in the 2007 year (10/1/06 – 9/30/07). It should be noted here that all registrations received during the amnesty period were classified as first time so this number is deceiving to a certain degree. A disturbing trend is the decrease in breeding and membership at TWHBEA. Membership is down 1,800 from this period in 2007 from 16,711 to 14,913. The number of mares bred in 2003 was 27,493 and has decreased each year falling to the low of 16,170 in 2007.

When committee reports started, Pruett asked each member to focus on the projects that were a priority for the remainder of 2008. Dee Dee Sale began with a Breeders’ report, which focused in improving customer service, a theme for the day, as well as updating iPeds to become more user-friendly.

Bill Stricklend was unable to attend but sent his priorities over via email and clearly the 2008 Futurity is at the top of the list. It was reported that an anonymous $25,000 sponsor has come forward for the Futurity. This will greatly help with the expense of putting on the show. Other priorities for Stricklend included the “true” futurity, a stand-alone National Futurity and a TWHBEA sponsored futurity sale.

With regards to the replenishment of the futurity fund, which had monies previously removed from it for use in the general fund, the $15,000 has been transferred back to make whole the nomination part of the account. The remaining monies due to the account were for use in the operation of the show itself and will only be replenished if needed this year.

Stan Butt said that on average the show costs $22,625, of which $9,400 goes to the Celebration for their help and use of the facility. It was his opinion that sponsorships and other funds allocated should be enough to cover the expenses of putting on the show.

Joyce Moyer began her marketing report with a reemphasis on the importance of the Best of America By Horseback program as well as the National Parks Services program. Both of these programs are a way to continue to promote the Tennessee Walking Horse across not only the United States but internationally, and are very important to Moyer. Moyer hosted one of the June 7 rides and was impressed with the thousands of kids who joined across the United States for the ride.

Moyer did raise a concern with the Certified Riding Instructor program and how it is being implemented, marketed and monitored. Moyer stated, “We need to be careful who is representing us.” Moyer comments focused on instructors, some of which have made negative comments about the industry as a whole.

Moyer recommended that a protocol be developed for the CRI program, with a code of conduct developed, annual renewals and continuing education requirements. Moyer also had concerns over the level two certification as well as the tests that have been administered internationally versus those administered here in the United States. Diane McMurtrey agreed stating, “We need to revisit this program, address the errors in the promotion of it and look at the incentive to go to level two and three.”

Moyer is asking the executive committee to look at ways to find funding to continue the sponsorship of the Best of America By Horseback, as it will begin airing in Europe this summer and reaches 10 million households in the United States.

Darren Gray put his emphasis on the Celebration clinics and the importance of improving these in coming years. He also feels strongly that they need to be filmed and archived on the TWHBEA site for members to learn from.

McMurtrey’s Pleasure Horse Committee will focus on the World Versatility Show in August and then continue to emphasize the Gaited Experience and Host a Trail Ride program. Also they will look at expanding the National Parks Program.

Jamie Hankins addressed a couple of major things with regards to the Trainers’ Committee. First, the CRI program is now in his court so he has formed a committee to look at the problems with the program as well as forming some guidelines for its future. Members of the committee will include Hankins, Sale, Christy Lantis, Moyer, McMurtrey and Chris Bobo.

Another focus for Hankins is specialized judging and continuing to focus on all aspects of judging. Also Hankins will inquire with the National Horse Show Commission (NHSC) about potentially issuing special licenses to certain previous TWHBEA HIO judges.

Debra Jack had nothing more to report in addition to the semi-annual meeting but did address the formation of the special committee to look as the suspension issue with regards to National Board qualification. Members of the committee will include Lori Northrup, Donna Benefield, Wayne Dean, Tracy Boyd, Mike Inman, Chris Bobo and potentially others.

Christy Lantis will focus her Youths’ efforts on the scholarship program, Celebration Youth Day and TWYA/Voice Golf Scramble. The scholarship program has 20 applicants currently and usually awards eight scholarships, yet the funding this year may limit the program. The golf scramble, which has traditionally been a Voice sponsored tournament, will now be a youth fundraiser.

Also, Lantis reported that the championships of the WHOA/TWHBEA Youth Challenge will be held at the International Championships later this fall. The points for this program will be available on the WHOA and TWHBEA web sites.

Other actions taken by the executive committee included an approval of a $100,000 Gold Sponsorship of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. This sponsorship level allows TWHBEA a 400 square foot exhibit space, preferred use of designated hospitality for hosting private receptions, 64 one-day passes to the Main VIP Hospitality Pavilion, a $1,250 ticket allowance and designation as “Official Equine Exhibitor Partner.” The most important opportunity to come with the sponsorship is the opportunity to host a special breed/discipline/organization day in the Equine Pavilion.

Also, the University of Kentucky asked the executive committee to sign a statement of acknowledgement for the shortfall in the DNA program with the university. The shortfall over the past year versus the contracted amount was $53,000, attributable to the less than expected number of new foal registrations from July 2007 through June 2008.

Also, TWHBEA will continue its $25,000 sponsorship of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, however, this sponsorship will require no cash outlay in 2008 for TWHBEA. After meeting with Dr. Doyle Meadows, Pruett was able to announce the trade in sponsorships of the Opryland Walking Horses and World Versatility Show for the sponsorship of the TWHNC. Pruett acknowledged, “We appreciate the Celebration working with us.”

Butt gave some alarming news that 748 of the DNA conversions had not been released due to no DNA on the sire or dam. TWHBEA is working through this now but was not aware of the holding of this information until just recently.

The executive committee also heard from board member Don Beatty, who introduced Robin Hood. Hood has published many books about the state of Tennessee and some of its favorite pastimes including University of Tennessee football. He is interested in doing a book on the Tennessee Walking Horse and titling it An American Icon. Funding for the book would come through TWHBEA, getting eight $25,500 sponsors, who would receive their value in sponsorship through donated books (500 books). The initial press run would be 12,000 books with 4,000 going to the sponsors and then 8,000 for sale by TWHBEA with all proceeds going to TWHBEA. The plan is under review by the executive committee.

The meeting ended earlier than most but after lunch the meeting was reconvened under executive session. Action taken during this executive session will be released by TWHBEA at a later time.