The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) held their annual general membership meeting on December 4, 2020, via zoom due to the conditions surrounding the surge in Covid19 cases. The International Board of Directors will convene briefly on December 5, 2020, however the full meeting and election will resume on February 6, 2021.

Margo Urad, the Association’s first female President opened the meeting with a welcome and expressed her appreciation for everyone in the association making due during such a tumultuous year.  Urad also recognized the wonderful work done by her late friend Christy Kakassy, who passed during the year.  Kakassy was the Admin/Fiscal Vice President and the executive committee appointed committee member Joyce Moyer to Kakassy’s role to finish out the year.

Urad talked about a couple of ideas meant to generate revenue during the Covid year which were the online version of the Voice magazine and waiving all late fees on transactions. TWHBEA’s move resulted in some slightly positive news with a positive year-over-year increase in memberships, registrations and transfers.

In Moyer’s report she led with this positive news. The current member count is 5,363 which is 91 more members than this time last year. There were 2,987 registrations which is 468 more than last year and 4,313 transfers, an increase of 304 over last year.  The association’s cash as of 11/30 was $628,343 which is an increase of $277,165 over 2019.  Some of this was due to the PPP loan and SBA disaster loans which totaled $109,060.  If those are forgiven, which is the expectation, that will become income to the association.  Revenue in 2020 was basically flat while expenses were reduced $68,716 to $1,217,625.

Moyer also presented a breakeven budget of $1,214,224.  Moyer described the budget as “conservative, yet optimistic.”  As with all entities in the industry there is uncertainty with how 2021 will begin with the pandemic still surging in America.

Dee Cantrell gave the Breeders’ division report which included a positive report on the 2020 Futurity. The show made a net profit of $22,512 and achieved the 20% increase in entry goal that the TWHBEA had for the show.  The silent auction netted $5,122 and the online stud auction profited $15,925 with 50% earmarked for the 2021 Futurity.  The 2021 Futurity was left with $15,000 seed money.

Cantrell spoke to the goals for 2021 as well.  The TWHBEA would like to increase jackpot entries 20% as well as increase the futurity entries by 20%. They would like to increase by 20% the master judged broodmare class and revamp the coordination of the class and look at the judge’s selection process. The committee would also like to advertise more the money designated for the futurity classes as it could be a good benefit for those entries. There was $31,386 up for grabs for the 38 futurity entries in 2020.

Also, Cantrell spoke to wanting to have a “maiden” Two-Year-Old Mare class at the 2021 Futurity. Cantrell is hopeful of additional sponsorships for this class which would make it an outstanding annual Futurity event.
Chris Hazelwood spoke to the accomplishments of the youth in 2020 which was highlighted by the TWHYA Summer Splash horse show.  All functions of the show were conducted by the youth and the show profited over $6,000 in 2020.  In addition, TWHBEA is pushing horse shows to have youth canter classes and 16 shows took part in 2020 with 34 individual riders. TWHBEA provides for all of the costs of the class for horse shows making it a free class for horse shows to offer.

Denise Rowland gave the performance horse report.  Rowland led with the successful Summer Sizzler show which had 249 entries this year. Rowland also spoke to the challenges facing the industry not only due to Covid but also as a result of impending rulemaking and the potential for the Senate to flip to democrat leadership in the new Congress.

Rowland also made mention of a “new, independent group” that is seeking to hire a crisis management firm.  The group would do marketing and lobbying on behalf of the performance horse. The group would build an “overall website,” place ads in DC publications and attempt to “re-image” the performance horse. The needed monies have not been raised to this point to hire the firm, who was not mentioned by name.  Rowland did point out that TWHBEA was not involved with the new group in any way at this point.

Thom Meek has been successful in his role in charge of the training division getting 33 trainers to sign up as part of a promotion that Meek put together.  Meek offered the first 25 trainers that became members of  TWHBEA the opportunity for a private tasting and tour of Uncle Nearest distillery in Shelbyville. Meek also made mention of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Blue Ribbon sale during the Celebration where 68% of the 51 colts sold.

Jim Heiting gave a report on Equine Welfare during the Zoom. Heiting mentioned two proposals that he brought to the executive committee for action. The first concerned a policy that no person then pending, or on suspension should receive an award or be recognized for an award or accomplishment by TWHBEA. This action was agreed to by the executive committee per Heiting. Heiting also proposed that anyone found guilty of pressure shoeing would forever lose rights to any and all services and opportunities provided by TWHBEA. Heiting made mention of strong opposition to the proposal by two members of the executive committee which led to the executive committee not agreeing to this proposal.

Brad Woodruff gave the Owners/International report.  Woodruff’s committee and division oversees the USLGE funding. The TWHBEA has asked for approximately $125,000 the last two years but received $20,000 each year. The previous year’s funding was allocated $10,000 to Poland for the European championships and $10,000 toward efforts in Mexico.

In the current year, 2021 will be allocated to Germany for the European championships and $5,000 each for marketing and clinics in Mexico and Israel. International membership stands at 206 members with 57 members coming from Germany, 54 in Canada, 37 in Mexico and 26 in Israel.

Frances Bates has been instrumental in reenergizing the gift shop. TWHBEA has mobilized the gift shop to take to horse shows and had sales of over $10,000 at the Celebration. Columbia, Belfast and Wartrace brought in sales of $2,660.

In a year unlike any we have seen, TWHBEA is doing its best to forge ahead and provide the services that are so vital to those breeders. There won’t be a banquet this year but it is the hope of everyone that things get back to some sense of normal in the early parts of 2021.