Copyright WHR 2007
by Linda Scrivner


         NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jerrold Pedigo, President of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, conducted a meeting with industry HIOs at the Radisson Hotel Nashville Airport from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday, Jan. 15, 2007.

         Those present were Jerrold Pedigo, Craig Evans and Kristi Lane, representing TWHBEA; David Swingley and Linda Arnold, representing the Western International Walking Horse Association; Keith Dane and Randy Ripley, representing Friends of Sound Horses, Inc.; Donna Benefield and Carol Smithson, representing the Horse Protection Commission and Kim Bennett and Frank Neal, representing the National Horse Show Commission.

         Pedigo thanked each one for attending and said this was the second attempt to get all the HIOs to unify the industry.  He felt that the Dec. 17, 2006 meeting had been very productive.

         Pedigo stated that Heart Of America Walking Horse Association representatives Dr. Glenn DeGraffenreid and President Ted Nichols had planned on attending but due to the ice storm it was impossible for them to be there.

         Pedigo also related that they had sent an invitation to the Kentucky Walking Horse Association who emailed Mrs. Lane that the invitation should be sent to the Kentucky HIO instead. Lane responded to their HIO but had not heard back from them.

         Pedigo then told the group that there were two individuals that were not part of those invited- Linda Scrivner, representing the Walking Horse Report, and Pat Stout. Pedigo said that he had no problem with them being present, but since it was a closed meeting they would vote by secret ballot and if one person objected they would be asked to leave.

         Donna Benefield said that she wanted to go on record as HPC being in favor of them being there. FOSH also welcomed the press. NHSC and Western International all felt their presence was acceptable.

         Pedigo explained that the purpose of the meeting was not to sell their sanctioning plan. “At the last meeting, we talked about the purposes and objectives of each HIO.” Pedigo stated that TWHBEA’s membership was from everywhere and they wanted to be of service and benefit to everyone, as well as all of the HIOs. “At the last meeting we discussed how we could improve the industry and its problems. If we work collectively, we can do it. Our sanctioning plan is one way to do this.”

         Lane passed out a news release announcing that the Horse Protection Commission became the first Horse Industry Organization (HIO) in the walking horse industry to become sanctioned under the TWHBEA Sanctioning Plan.

         Those present at the last meeting recapped Dr. Chester Gipson’s comments to the HIOs. Benefield stated that Gipson said this was the last chance for the industry to step up. He said, “You’ve lost public support, the gig is up.” David Swingley also related that Gipson said that we were about to get hit by a train and that we could get off the track or get hit.

         Donna Benefield stated that Deputy Under Secretary Burton Eller concluded, “Legislation is dead. The act has not been opened or changed. For the first time in a lot of years, you’ve lost public support. The politics are dead and there’s no political cover for you. You need to be showing actual signs of improving. You need to work on how to do things better with strong emphasis on you need to do it right. It’s up to the industry and you now have a chance. You have the opportunity to grab your destiny.”

         At this time Benefield passed around a photo and quoted Gipson as saying, “This is what horses should look like. This is the gold standard. We expect them to look like this.”

         Evans said that Eller stated that they were strongly committed to the HIO process. The Operating Plan that was sent to the USDA will be put on line Monday for a two-week public comment. “We hope to have the document back from the USDA with their changes sometime in February. The problem is that it may come after the joint DQP/VMO training clinic set for February.” Evans reported that the February clinic would be more hands-on with discussions.

         Both Dane and Benefield felt that the USDA would make changes in the plan. Benefield thought the owner liability might be changed. Benefield stated that it was part of the process that once the plan was submitted, it goes to the VMO advisory group. “It next goes to the Office of the General Council (OGC) for the USDA for review and possible changes. Then they take their recommendations, make changes and it comes back to us.”

         Benefield explained that she was not against the pads and chains, as some had said. She said that until science showed that they hurt the horse, she was concerned only with the sore horse, not the type shoes the horse was wearing.  “There are sore horses in every area of our industry.”

         Pedigo stressed that we must recognize the public demand for sound horses. “We need to provide the same level of commitment to members everywhere. We must build up public conception of our horse with consistent system procedures and a mechanism to insure the best we can. We must reach a level that is acceptable. Our responsibility is to bring HIOs to the level that the USDA accepts our inspections. We’ve got to rise to that level. Every HIO must reach that point. It’s the only way our industry can prosper and grow.”

         Benefield stated, “We keep hearing about perceptions about us. Perceptions become reality.”

         Pedigo added, “We need to plan as a group. We can’t do it individually. Working together everywhere is a necessity. The entire industry needs dialogue and communication to cover the entire industry. We don’t want segmented rules. Our plan may need to be modified. It allows us to work as a group. It’s the right thing to do.”

         Benefield continued, “The HPC realizes we need one list of judges, one rulebook and they should be under the breed registry. This division of my gang against your gang is wrong. The first step is communication. When people refuse to discuss, they can’t solve problems. We must benefit our industry and our breed. Give up differences and let’s try to solve our problems. Life’s a compromise. We need to understand each other and find a compromise workable for both sides. The problem is we’re so divided, but we’re still the walking horse industry. Our groups are so exclusive instead of inclusive. We need to look at the whole process: 1) Identify, 2) Set goals and 3) Decide how to get there.” Benefield added, “We need to look at groups that addressed their issues, such as the Quarter Horses. How they solve problems, their processes and their policies to see if they fit our goals. Those that fight are not being productive.”

         Pedigo spoke next, “We need to work as an industry. We don’t need it for just certain markets; we need impact for our whole industry. We need unified effort. TWHBEA doesn’t need to be in the inspection process. We may have to do that but we’re there to help the industry work together.”

         David Swingley commented, “The commission has a large number of shows they must deal with. Western International is smaller with 100 percent compliance. This did not solve our problems, probably not even close to solving them. No matter how good the government sees us, if we can’t solve our problems we’ll lose our shows. It should not come out as certain HIO’s faults. We need to let the public know we’re solving our problems, no matter how we get there. A sore horse ticket means we’re not in compliance as an industry.”

         Pedigo continued, “No matter how good we do, public perception is that we’re not getting it done. Trainers’ President Wink Groover and I met. I told him we must raise the image. We must do better. We must develop a mechanism to help each other do a better job. The public cares only about the horse’s condition and inspection. The industry is suffering because of the perceptions.”

         Carol Smithson replied, “The public you’ve got to fix is the show horse people. At the Celebration, the numbers in violation were not that bad. The mob made things worse. They made it sound really bad. Back in the barn area, the rumors started. With mob-rule, the leaders can’t rule. Many people left because the mob said things were bad and you can’t get in. Because of the lack of confidence, some perfectly good horses left the Celebration.“

         Frank Neal stated, “I’m only one spokesman for NHSC. I don’t see any effort to fix what’s wrong with us. We’ve tried to fix it internally. There are allegations of favoritism toward certain trainers. We’re on the same pages about fixing problems. There are problems with horses leaving the grounds. Laymen and others' actions were taken; meetings took place. You asked for inspectors on the grounds and we did that. You asked for veterinarians in the inspection areas and we did that. We try to make sure that things were done properly. The NHSC has put forth a large effort. We’re the largest HIO. It’s puzzling why we can’t get together. Why can’t we go under NHSC?”

         Benefield then asked, “Do you still want TWHBEA in NHSC?”

         Neal replied, “Yes.”

         Kim Bennett added, “We all want to get to Heaven. Different churches have different ways to get there. What works in Shelbyville may not work elsewhere. Trainers put their livelihood on the line every time they go up to the inspection station. Horses react differently. We all want the same things. We want horses in compliance.”

         Benefield asked, “What can we do to help the trainers?”

         Bennett replied, “Better communication. Address the trainers’ association.”

         Pedigo said that TWHBEA was providing money for research and a Director Of Animal Welfare. The Commission would get the largest share because of its size. It must be collective for all to get the same benefits. “Everything we put in the commission didn’t help the other HIOs. That being said, we must establish equal standards and equal benefits. We can’t get to the point unless we work together. If we need to tweak our plan, we will. THWBEA is anxious to raise the level of our inspectors.”

         Linda Arnold then commented, “All want to defend what’s going on. If we make it work, we all must come to the same page and make it work. It’s hard. Everyone wants to justify what we’re doing wrong.”

         Pedigo said that we need to put our previous problems behind us. “We must go forward. Forget my mistakes. All must be forgiven and let’s go forward.”

         Craig Evans continued, “When something goes bad, another group is formed and it’s someone else’s fault. We need one body, one voice and one umbrella so that everyone agrees. Everyone wants everyone else to come to their HIO.”

         Neal responded, “As long as we give everyone equal representation, it’s fine. One person blamed won’t work. Jerrold has more money. Just because he has money doesn’t mean TWHBEA has it all. All HIOs should have the same vote. Only one or two things were brought to the Commission that wasn’t approved. Trying to reinvent the wheel because you have more money is wrong.”

         Craig replied, “TWHBEA’s money makes more things available. Money is not the issue. TWHBEA has more opportunity. We have members outside the show community. There’s an impact on the value of their horses. We must have a market. That’s the reason for moving under our umbrella. We don’t anticipate TWHBEA affiliating any other shows.”

         Pedigo added, “We don’t want to inspect shows, except where no one else will.”

         Neal then said, “NHSC doesn’t have a problem with TWHBEA affiliating with other HIOs. That’s fine. Perhaps, however, TWHBEA should subsidize the HIOs with their money.”

         Craig added, “To keep the pads and chains, we must fix inspections to meet public opinion. If we don’t quit soring, the public will blame it on the pads and chains. To keep them, we must fix inspections to meet public opinion. We need new ideas to show the world that we’re doing something different. We’re willing to take the heat to make the difference we need. As Gipson said, ‘The gig is up, the time is now!’ This is our last chance.”

         Benefield then said, “Gipson also stated that his department has support all the way to the top.”

         Craig stated, “The heat is on you. All groups will be taking a closer look at you. You need to be ever vigilant.”

         Benefield was concerned. “The first trainer to quit soring is the first trainer out of business. What can we do to get all done at the same time.”

         Bennett replied, “It’s hard to educate the public about the best horse. There’s no perfect horse. In the pleasure divisions, some want no action while others want high action. Our horses are bred better. They’re much better. There are more problems than the VMOs and DQPs that affect all the HIOs.”

         Benefield also claimed, “ We need to stop using leg wraps in photos. Promote the horse without wraps. Public has misconceptions.” 

         Smithson also added, “Don’t keep things hidden. Put your horse right out there for everyone to see. Promote what the audience wants. Change little things for the better. We’re still getting bad press.”

         Swingley put forth his statement, “ Don’t point fingers at HIOs. We must stop that. We’re here working together and that makes a great statement. HIOs can request now this is what we want and TWHBEA can come to it. HIOs need to make a statement. WHOA, the trainers and TWHBEA are all tied in. We’re all TWHBEA members; we’re all the same people.”

         Craig also added, “Accurate information is important. If we all have the same information, the underlying issue is that soring creates a cloud. The rest of the world doesn’t care about rules and other things. They just care about hurting the horse. We understand that, but the question is how do we solve this. Change your mind or open your mind so that we can market the horse and save the pads.”

         Pedigo said, “The sound trained horse is the only salvation for this industry.”

         Benefield also stated, “We have a misconception problem when a horse jerks his leg out of your hand. This is not a sign of a sore horse. When you get a pain response, you must get a repeatable response. Leave the spot and come back to it. The horse is sore if you get three reactions to the same spot.”

         Swingley said, ”This is a no-win situation. The horse jerks and the crowd felt that you let a sore horse in.”

         Benefield asked Bennett, “Will it help if trainers meet with the HIOs?”

         Bennett replied, “Yes, I think it would help. One problem is trust. There is a lack of trust of inspections. We’re 98 percent in compliance. One is too many. We hope the day is coming that we are 100 percent in compliance. We live in the real world, however.”

          Productive discussion between all HIO representatives went on all day. After lunch, Lane put up objections to the Sanctioning Plan that had been mentioned. They were: 1) The representation and voting structure, 2) Individual HIOs do not want to take a stand by themselves, they want everyone to come together with one, 3) the DQP fee structure, 4) NHSC feels like they have a plan that will work and 5) What’s in it for FOSH?.

         FOSH commends TWHBEA, however. FOSH said that now they are a big fish in a small pond and expressed concern over it. FOSH believes they have the right standard for the flat-shod horses.

         Lane’s list of what TWHBEA can do included: 1) TWHBEA will support new and existing shows, 2) TWHBEA will accommodate “special affiliation” fee requirements, 3) No additional DQP expenses, or few outside of per horse inspection fee, 4) List of experienced judges with Judges’ Clinics in February, 5) Role of HIO Committee is to make decisions regarding the Director of DQPs/Animal Welfare and Director of Judges, not the TWHBEA executive committee, 6) TWHBEA rulebook incorporates all the present structure from the Operating Plan. It is not a requirement from TWHBEA Sanctioning Plan to sign on the Operating Plan. 7) HIOs will not have as many liabilities if they sign on to the Sanctioning Plan. 8) The Sanctioning Plan brings everyone together and allows everybody to have influence in driving the change. 9) If you’re doing the right things, the Sanctioning Plan only benefits you. There is no downside. 10) TWHBEA does not have control over the HIOs. The HIO Committee has the jurisdiction. The HIO Committee is comprised of representatives of all HIOs, 11) Allows for significant dollars to reward participants (exhibitors) that show their horses at the regional and national level. 12) Must have standards that all HIOs must meet. 13) TWHBEA Bylaws were created to serve first and foremost the horse, and secondly, the members.

         Pedigo concluded with, “In the next two or three weeks, we would like to meet again. Increased communication will help us resolve our problems. We need to learn from past experience, both good and bad.”

         Benefield added, “We need to look for reform rather than extermination.”

         Bennett ended his session with, “We don’t breed for the same thing. We still can have a horse that excites the crowd. The Commission is trying their best to figure out what needs to be done to help the judging and inspections.”

         With a final statement, the meeting was ended. Pedigo stated, “I appreciate everything and everybody. I encourage you to think about our industry and how we can best improve it.”