By Christy Parsons

TWHBEA General Membership Meeting
Friday, December 4, 2009
9:00 A.M.

President David Pruett opened the annual membership meeting with brief comments. He explained that the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association’s financial situation continues to be challenging although with very careful budgeting and cost containment, TWHBEA is on stronger financial footing than it was at this same time last year. Pruett reminded everyone that while registration numbers and membership numbers are down and have been on a steady decline in recent years, these trends are indicative of the larger horse industry as a whole and are not specific to only the walking horse industry.

Executive Director Stan Butt followed Pruett with his personal comments. He thanked TWHBEA sponsors and staff for their support. Butt was pleased with the number of directors and members who came to the morning’s meeting and commented “interest in our horse is on the upswing.” Butt announced TWHBEA was recognized as Best of Lewisburg Business Award for 2009.

In highlighting the activities of TWHBEA in 2009, Butt recognized TWHBEA’s reach into international marketing and gave an update on TWHBEA’s participation in international events. He also highlighted TWHBEA’s participation in events such as the three Equine Affaires held in the United States and other venues including Road to the Horse and Mane Event.

TWHBEA sponsored the Sound Horse Conference again this year and has already committed to doing so again in 2010. Butt was pleased with the success of the National Futurity and the Celebration clinics. A video presentation highlighted the Celebration clinics courtesy of Nathan Jackson.  Butt also participated in the final leg of the America by Horseback ride across the United States on a Tennessee Walking Horse.

Stan Butt then made the admin/fiscal committee report in the absence of a VP on this committee. “My pleasure to report to you the financial condition of the association. Call your attention to our cash report. It hasn’t changed much from the time we began. That may be bad in some people’s eyes, but we have conducted business without compromising our cash.”

In May TWHBEA anticipated a $70,000 shortfall that has not materialized. $588,270 is currently in the cash account, including $100,000 certificate of deposit, $308,458 in the investment account with Morgan Keegan in money markets, $59,718 in the credit card clearing account, $81,792 in restricted Futurity account, the operating account, and set aside money for the Commemorative Garden of approximately $14,000. Some markers were placed in the garden in 2009 thus the decline in these reserved funds. “We are well on our way to salvaging our financial status, and should end the year in the black with approximately $58,000,” explained Butt.

Memberships, registrations, transfers, bloodtyping and DNA testing are the primary sources of revenue for the association and these are declining at a rate of 25 to 30%, but TWHBEA plans to announce an exciting new program to ask directors to solicit new interest in TWHBEA with rewards for their efforts including special award recognition and a special cruise for those people who get out and work to promote the association.

“Overall as for the budget, we will present to the National Board for approval tomorrow, a budget that represents $900,000 short of last year, with total budgeted expenses of $2, 175, 652 ending the year 2010 $6,500 in the black,” said Butt.

One of the ways TWHBEA saved money in 2009 was by the staff agreeing to take an 8 hour cut in their hours, saving a full time salary over the year. The staff has also taken on the responsibilities of cleaning the TWHBEA facility and the cleaning service was discontinued.

Dee Dee Sale presented the Breeders Committee report. The iPeds program was updated with Phase I being rolled out this summer, when TWHBEA members were all given a free week on iPeds. Phase II will happen in 2010. The new Master Breeders Award was established and the new recipients will be announced at tonight’s TWHBEA meeting. Classified listings are in development that will allow TWHBEA members to market their horses free of charge. The Accurate Identification subcommittee made advances to work with iPeds to include color, markings, etc.
Sale presented slides showing the registration trends for six major breeds of horses and illustrated their declines of 25 to 30%, similar to those being experienced by TWHBEA. She highlighted an article from Western Horseman that defined the problem as too many horses being produced and the slaughter legislation eliminating the outlet for unwanted horses, the loss of available land to house horses due to development, and the new generation of people that are not raised with livestock and therefore have very different views of horses. Sale suggested we repackage the horse industry and work harder with educating youth about the horse industry.

She also presented two awards during the meeting to two directors who worked very hard on the iPeds upgrade. Waterfall Farms and David Williams presented a free stud fee to Marsha Yzaguirre. Rising Star Ranch and Rick Womack presented a free stud fee to Ted Williams to Elsie Darrah.

Rick Womack informed everyone that the Enforcement Committee had fortunately not had any activity this year and that he hoped that continued in 2010.

Bruce Vaughn, Vice President of Horse Shows Committee, said that the attitude and working relationship between the government and the walking horse industry had been much better in 2009, despite what they might have read on the internet. He recognized the National Futurity winners. “Since we have closed the nominations, yearlings that sold at the sales have hopefully increased in value,” explained Vaughn. He also reported on the status of the regional futurities as well and those awards will be presented tonight at the TWHBEA banquet.

Marketing Vice President Kasey Kesselring explained that some of TWHBEA’s planned marketing activities had to be postponed due to budgetary constraints. The 2009 membership drive was a great success despite the decline in the economy and in the membership numbers. Kesselring expressed his gratitude to Waterfall Farms for providing a stud fee that was included in the membership drive as a prize. There was a 51% increase in new members as result of some of the new incentives. He explained that the membership drive targeted past or expired members who had been expired for a year or more by prompting them to renew and outlining the benefits of membership. Kesselring highlighted the group insurance rates as one of the most valuable of those benefits.

The 2009 Trade Fair booth was very successful as was the All Youth Day at this year’s Celebration. The Youth Day had the largest attendance to date.

Kesselring explained the new Futurity hip tag that was developed to identify the horses going through consignment sales that were futurity nominated thus raising the prices on these colts. This new program will continue in 2010.

Kesselring announced a new column in the Voice magazine called Ask the Vet. He explained the 2009 logo contest, that was not designed to replace the TWHBEA logo, but instead was a logo to be featured on some of the gift shop merchandise. The gift shop has been reopened via the website by working with vendors to provide merchandise as it is ordered, rather than having to stock any inventory.

TWHBEA sponsored the Best of America by Horseback and had two riders who made the entire ride across the United States on Tennessee Walking Horses, and Stan Butt joined them for the final leg of the trip.

The website now features a new Horses 101 page that is designed to educate people more about our horse.

Kesselring designed a new marketing piece for the association that will be available soon and is anticipated to have a shelf life of three to five years. TWHBEA also ran ads in Trail Rider magazine.
There was a question from the floor regarding the membership drive and how significant declines were deemed a success. Kesselring clarified that the new member initiative was what he considered successful as those numbers were up 51%. Chris Coffey added that additional information on declines in renewing members would be available in the membership drive packets.

Nathan Jackson brought up the World Equestrian Games issue from the floor. “This was a substantial hit we just took. I personally felt embarrassed at being rejected,” said Jackson. “We are not hiding, it has certainly been in our industry publications,” answered Kesselring. “They accepted our $20,000 deposit and they have not returned in at this time.” Kesselring asked David Pruett to address the issue and he said that this was not the time in the agenda for this issue to be addressed until Standing Committee Reports were completed.

Owners and Exhibitors Committee Vice President Kathy Zeis explained that the International Committee had been added to the Owners and Exhibitors Committee responsibilities. Zeis explained that the International initiatives were not funded out of TWHBEA funds but that they were funded instead by a grant type program that considered the hours of time spent on international initiatives. Zeis introduced the international directors who were present from Germany, Poland, Canada and the Netherlands.

The Walking Horse was introduced to about 150 people over ten days at the German Equitana. The Mane Event in Alberta, Canada also introduced thousands of people to the Walking Horse. The German Championships offered 74 classes of Walking Horses with over 300 entries. The Dutch Championships offered 54 classes and 300 entries of Walking Horses. There was a very successful international youth camp. The European Championships held in Germany featured 68 walking horse classes including versatility classes. Plans for 2010 include an expanded international budget and even more events and activities.

Zeis thanked the directors for volunteering for the 2009 Celebration clinics. None of the clinicians were paid in 2009 as the budget for the clinics was eliminated. Yet the education experience was better than ever according to Zeis.

Zeis gave the highlights of each of the clinics, thanking the clinicians, and giving the main purpose of each clinic. She also thanked her committee members for their significant contributions during the 2009 season.

Zeis announced and presented the divisional awards to the Go! Gelding program, and the Super Gelding winners will be announced at tonight’s banquet.

Rick Weis presented the Pleasure Horse division report. He thanked Diane McMurtrey for serving as the Pleasure Horse Vice President for most of the year. Weis reported on a very successful World Versatility Show, that was financially profitable in 2009. Plans are to expand to a three or four day show in 2010.

Debra Jack reported there was only one bylaw amendment made in 2009 which reflected a change in the election of international directors. Jack also chaired the Equine Welfare Committee in 2009 and plans for 2010 are to have a separate director for this committee. In 2009 this committee did establish an email blast program where members can elect to participate in email updates on any equine welfare issues.
Christy Lantis reported on the Youth committee and was delighted to report 408 members participating in the youth judging contest. She presented a video compliments of Nathan Jackson that highlighted the All Youth Day including the kids enjoying hands on time with 2008 World Grand Champion Santana’s El Nino and Link Webb.

After a brief recess for lunch, Wayne Dean reported on the Performance Horse Committee. “Being vice president of the performance horse in 2009 has been a roller coaster ride,” began Dean. “Despite the difficulties, we will survive. The performance Tennessee Walking Horse is still alive.”

This year FAST has generously agreed to fund the academy program for 2010. The Walking Horse Trainers Association has agreed to join with TWHBEA in assuming the administration of the youth challenge program. This program encourages the youth to learn all three gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse. The program will be reworked, and sponsors are being solicited to offer financial incentives through the program.

Dean also announced that SHOW applications for show horse cards are available on the tables in the hallway.

The results of the directors election were announced, and the only by law amendment passed.

No issues were addressed in old or new business. Members were allowed the opportunity to make any comments. Nancy Odell Plunkett, President of the Western International HIO, commented that Holly Reynolds conducted a two day judging seminar in Oregon with 175 people in attendance through the 4H program with very positive results.

Nathan Jackson again addressed the issue of the rejection of the Tennessee Walking Horse by the World Equestrian Games. David Pruett said “We are very interested in the World Games and we are planning on being there. Initially the Executive Committee wanted to be a $100,000 sponsor of the games and we sent in a part of the money up front, $20,000 as a downpayment. When the economy went south, we revisited the issue because we couldn’t afford $100,000 but we still wanted to participate,” explained Pruett.

“More than a year ago, we got a letter saying we were no longer in the World Equestrian Games. Stan and I made a trip to sit down with them and explain that we are a breed registry and that we have nothing to do with HIOs and regulation of HIOs. They responded that they would help us and allow us to come back into the 2010 games. Then in August of this year, we got an email stating that there was a problem and perhaps we wouldn’t be allowed to demo the horses but it didn’t say that we couldn’t attend. We did finally talk to Mr. Link and he said that we would not be able to attend the 2010 Games. They haven’t told us why and we haven’t been able to get any additional answers. We aren’t giving up. We are still going to be at the World Games. There is a venue outside the park where they are setting up booths. I’ve talked to the lady in charge and she welcomes us to come. She said they would accept us. We haven’t given up on being in the Park yet. We are the official registry of this breed,” explained Pruett.