by Jeffrey Howard

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – With the recent National Board of Directors elections complete and the upcoming annual meetings and banquet a couple of weeks away, the current executive committee at the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) has turned its attention to preparing the association for 2009. The November meeting continued the budget preparation and served as an opportunity for nominating committee to make its recommendation for the slate of executive committee members.

Darren Gray served as chairman of the nominating committee and was assisted by members Kim Bennett, Darden Gladney, Tommy Hale and Joyce Moyer. The group looked over 21 applicants for the 13 positions on the executive committee. “We felt that the nine current executive committee members that wanted to stay should because of the hard work and dedication they have given,” said Gray.

“It fell into place really well and for those that didn’t make this slate, they can always run from the floor,” added Moyer.

Gray concluded, “As I am aware, experience serving on the executive committee is invaluable.”

The slate recommended by Gray’s committee is as follows:
  President – David Pruett, Tennessee*
  Senior Vice President – Robert Thomas, Mississippi
  VP Administrative/Fiscal – Mike Inman, Georgia*
  VP Breeders – Dee Dee Sale, Tennessee*
  VP Enforcement – Ricky Womack, Tennessee
  VP Horse Shows – Bill Stricklend, Alabama*
  VP Marketing – Kasey Kesselring, Florida
  VP Owners’/Exhibitors’ – Kathy Zeis, Georgia
  VP Performance Horse – Wayne Dean, Tennessee
  VP Pleasure Horse – Diane McMurtrey, Florida*
  VP Training – Chris Bobo, Tennessee*
  VP Member at Large Bylaws – Debra Jack, BC, Canada*
  VP Member at Large Youth – Christy Lantis, California*
  Secretary – Sharon Brandon*
  *Served on 2008 Executive Committee

David Pruett addressed the committee with good news regarding the 2010 Equestrian Games. Pruett had talked with United States Equestrian Federation President John Long and was assured that the Tennessee Walking Horse would be allowed to be a sponsor and exhibitor during the Games. Pruett mentioned that Long had talked with Janet Patton from the Lexington Herald-Leader and told her that after earlier reservations, he had met with Pruett and Stan Butt from TWHBEA and was sure that the Tennessee Walking Horse would be allowed.

Pruett stated, “Long told me that he thought the 2010 Games would be the positive promotion the walking horse needs to turn around its perception.” Pruett and the staff at TWHBEA previewed a video made for the Games that demonstrates the versatility of the breed. Hundreds of hours of tape were reviewed in order to put together the several minutes of video demonstrating the tremendous versatility of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

Bob Ramsbottom addressed the demonstration of the 2008 World Grand Champion Santana’s El Nino at the University of Tennessee Homecoming game. Ramsbottom was in attendance at Neyland Stadium and was amazed at the support and admiration the 100,000 fans had for Santana’s El Nino as he completed two rounds before kickoff. “The Tennessee Walking Horse is alive and well in East Tennessee,” said Ramsbottom.

Stan Butt also mentioned that Santana’s El Nino was on hand before 20,000 to 30,000 people at the Jack Daniel’s Barbecue. “El Nino was great and allowed kids to sit on him for pictures and pet him,” said Butt. “The World Grand Champion portrait is on order and near completion,” added Butt.

Butt was absent at the October meeting as his father died the morning of the meeting. He thanked the many members of the executive committee and TWHBEA members for their support and prayers during this difficult time.

Positive promotion of the Tennessee Walking Horse is a hot and heavily debated topic any time walking horse enthusiasts are together. TWHBEA is the group tasked with carrying out the promotion of the Tennessee Walking Horse. Mike Inman addressed this in his comments, “The overwhelming response is positive when people know the whole story (about the Tennessee Walking Horse). We need to aggressively promote and educate the public about the horse. The level of acceptance will be positive as people hear our story.”

Moyer added, “Our horse does it himself when put in the right venue.” The ability to be a sponsor and showcase breed at the 2010 Equestrian Games is a big step in that direction and was a major focus of the 2008 Executive Committee.

The future of any breed, activity or organization is its youth. Christy Lantis has taken that to heart in her role as VP Member at Large Youth and she asked the executive committee to change the requirements for youth board membership. Currently a region must have 25 members to have a spot on the youth board of directors and one spot was awarded for every 175 members. Lantis proposed, and it was passed, to change this to 20 members per region for a position to be granted and then one position for every 25 members in that region.

December will bring the annual general membership meeting and national board of directors meeting. A change in the schedule this year will have the general membership meeting on Friday, Dec. 5, 2008, and the national board of directors meeting on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008.