by Jeffrey Howard

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) held its semi-annual International Board of Director’s meeting on Saturday, May 25, 2024, at its headquarters in Lewisburg. The Executive Committee met the day before, as did many of the committees represented by the TWHBEA Vice Presidents.

The meeting focuses on the progress of the association at the midpoint of the year and always includes an update on the TWHBEA financials. TWHBEA continues to have positive trends in its financial stability. TWHBEA posted a $75,000 profit through the end of April, which is a $61,000 improvement over the same period last year. In addition, TWHBEA now has just over $500,000 in operating reserves.

Improvement over last year and the budget clearly means membership numbers and registrations are also doing well. Currently, TWHBEA has 4,963 members which is an 8% increase over the number of 4,581 at this time last year. There have been 846 new registrations year-to-date, which is a 5% increase over 2023. TWHBEA posted a 3% increase in transfers up to 1,351 transfers thus far. Leases are also growing in popularity with 54 leases already completed this year compared to 30 at this time last year.

TWHBEA is the entity that is responsible for collecting the horse card monies which go to support the industry legal fund. Over 2,500 horse cards have been sold thus far which has contributed over $250,000 to the legal fund. Horse cards continue to come in as show season heats up and budgeted numbers for horse and exhibitor card funds were approximately $420,000 for the 2024 show season.

TWHBEA CEO Mark Farrar gave an update on the upcoming election at TWHBEA and highlighted that Tennessee picked up three seats for a total of 21 directors, Kentucky gained one seat for a total of nine and Region 1 (completely international region) also gained one seat for total of two directors. The recommended changes to the regions will bring the total directors at TWHBEA to 68, meaning Tennessee makes up 31% of the total directors.

During his Membership & Registry report, Vice President David Sisk made a motion which was seconded and approved, with a dissenting vote from Walt Chism, that adopted a new fee structure for stallion breeding reports. The changes will be implemented January 1, 2025. The old fee structure was the following:

1-10 Mares - $25
11-25 Mares - $50
26-50 Mares - $75
Over 50 Mares - $100
The new fee structure will also incorporate a late fee which is double the initial on-time fee. The new structure is tiered this way:
1-2 Mares - $25
3-10 Mares - $35
11-25 Mares - $60
26-50 Mares - $85
51-100 Mares - $150
Over 100 Mares - $200

Also, as part of his report, Sisk made a motion that was also approved creating a “Fan” membership of TWHBEA. The fan membership would be $50 annually and would include a subscription to the Voice, other communications and member discounts. This membership would not provide that member with the opportunity to participate in programs, vote or conduct registry business at the member rate.

Sisk’s committee also proposed offering a discounted “clean up” fee for owners to get horses out of their name that they no longer own. This would be offered through the end of the year and would be $75 for five or fewer, or $150 for unlimited acknowledgements through the end of the year. Currently this costs $20 to file an “Acknowledgement of a Sold Horse” and have it transferred to an unknown owner account.

During his Show Horse committee report Vice President Lance Meisenheimer informed the directors of the intention to move the Summer Sizzler to Nearest Green Distillery in 2024, and to keep the show an In-Hand only class offering. Meisenheimer’s committee is also working with the Trainers’ Auxiliary to update the Equitation Medal Class and to revitalize the Certified Riding Instructor Program.

Trainers’ Vice President Dee Cantrell has made it well known that a goal of hers and her committee is to increase the number of licensed Walking Horse trainers that are members of TWHBEA. Cantrell has been very successful as only 34 of the 250 licensed trainers were members as of January 1, 2024, and that number currently stands at 95 trainers that are TWHBEA members. Cantrell also reported on the new Amateur & Youth Jamboree which will be held June 7, 2024, at Champions Arena on the showgrounds of the Tennessee Walking Horse Naitonal Celebration. The new show is also a new idea and continues to show the commitment to the legal fund as all proceeds from the show will go to the industry’s legal efforts.

As part of new business, Mississippi Director Bradley Prewitt introduced a resolution for TWHBEA to create a Continuity of Show Operations Task Force. This resolution calls for the TWHBEA Executive Committee to appoint a 12-person task force made up of representatives from the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and TWHBEA.

The goal of the task force would be to come up with potential actionable items for the full International Board of Directors to consider if such action become necessary. The resolution states that TWHBEA will fully support the current legal efforts with regards to the recently printed Rulemaking by USDA and acknowledges those changes are not in the best interest of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

TWHBEA’s board unanimously approved the creation of the task force with an understanding that until more is known and decisions are handed down in the courts that no action may need to be taken, but in the case of the worst-case scenario, horse shows don’t need to have interruptions due to those decisions in the court.

The current rulemaking does not eliminate the HIOs, which has caused some confusion, but rather takes away the regulatory responsibilities of the HIOs thus eliminating the DQPs and inspections conducted by the HIOs. The rulemaking does not take away an HIO or other organization from having a show rulebook, judges or helping with other responsibilities for horse shows.