Copyright WHR 2006

By Christy Howard Parsons

The Executive Committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association met today at their headquarters in Lewisburg, Tenn., in an all day meeting to handle many areas of business, most notably moving forward with their plans for the Tennessee Walking Horse Invitational Horse Show. Iris Schumann was not present at the meeting and Larry Lowman participated via a conference call from out of town.

Besides committee reports and personnel issues which were handled in Executive Session, the majority of discussion throughout the day centered on the newly formed Horse Show. The two-day event is planned for Thanksgiving weekend at Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Over $150,000 in prize money will be awarded in the 53 classes including $53,300 in the final class where TWHBEA plans to crown their 2006 World Grand Champion.

The chairman of the horse show is Edie Wittenmyer. The mission statement of the horse show begins, “to develop a world class show that has permanence and presence . . . “

Originally TWHBEA hired judges Allen Forman, Brian Martin and Nicole Carswell to judge. Both Allen Forman and Brian Martin have since declined to judge the show despite signing contracts, reportedly because they did not want to lose their NHSC judges license by judging a horse show affiliated with another HIO.

Ann Kuykendall, a TWHBEA Executive Committee member, lost her NHSC judges license previously this year when she judged a TWHBEA HIO Sanctioned event.

Nicole Carswell works for TWHBEA as a resident instructor hosting the Walk This Way tour which showcases the Tennessee Walking Horse across the country.

New judges are being solicited currently. Reportedly Barry Horenbein, a former TWH owner and licensed judge, has accepted the position. Ann Kuykendall and Paige Gamble are being asked to judge pleasure classes.

DQPs have also been hired but names have not yet been released.

A list of 53 classes has been formed, but the order of classes has yet to be finalized. There will be 24 plantation classes and 29 performance classes. Pleasure classes will pay out $400 for first, and will pay a total of seven places, with seventh receiving $50, which is twice the entry fee of $25. Performance classes will require an entry fee of $75, but will payout $500 for first with seventh receiving $150.

The final class will payout $53,300 with $15,000 going to the winner with an entry fee of $2000. Currently TWHBEA expects for the show to cost a net $87,000 although with some changes in gate estimates, that expenditure may shrink to $50,000. TWHBEA plans to sell sponsorships to its top five vendors including the local bank, the bloodtyping vendor, and the printing company that prints the Voice magazine to maximize the revenue for the horse show. Tickets will be $5 and will go on sale as early as next week.

“We tried to put in every conceivable class,” said Rhonda Martocci. “There is trail, country, plantation, two park classes, four park performance classes, amateur and open 15.2, two-year-old, three-year-old, four-year-old, and youth pony. A lot of thought went into it in a very short time.”

One of the major points of discussion was TWHBEA's plan to crown the winner of the final class the 2006 World Grand Champion. Jamie Hankins, TWHBEA Vice President Training division repeatedly expressed his concerns that the Walking Horse Trainers Association and Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration had not been involved in the decision to host the show.

“Crowning the World Grand Champion is a moment in time, and that moment has passed,” said Hankins. “But if you are going to try to recreate that moment in time, then you have to involve the major players - by that I mean the trainers, the Commission, and the Celebration. If you don't have the players, you don't have a game,” insisted Hankins.

Sid Baucom expressed his concerns. “We should have asked the trainers if they would participate. We should have asked the NHSC whether we could use their judges. We need to be careful or we could end up with a third rate horse as our World Grand Champion, and none of us want that,” said Baucom.

Baucom also later suggested “I'm in favor of compulsory arbitration. We need a mediator to work things out. We've got to have these trainers there for the show to be a success.”

Rhonda Martocci commented, “It was never our intention to take over crowning of the World Grand Champion from the Celebration. But to have a World Grand Champion this year, time is of the essence.” “I love the Celebration. I have supported the Celebration wholeheartedly. But there is a great deal of interest in having a World Grand Champion. From my perspective, we only recognize one World Grand Champion each year. But I also feel that we have a responsibility to crown a World Grand Champion each year,” said Martocci. “We have a responsibility to move this breed forward.”

When discussion began about whether this was a one-time plan to crown a World Grand Champion, or a more permanent plan, President Jerrold Pedigo stepped in.

“No decision has been made [for TWHBEA} to crown a World Grand Champion each year. But we had no idea whether more shows would cancel, so it was good that we stepped up and offered a show. Our membership wanted to have a world grand champion. This decision may not be received by everyone favorably, but we have to do what is best for the breed,” said Jerrold Pedigo.

“What we are doing is not best for the breed,” responded Hankins.

Lowman responded to the requests to involve the Celebration. “The Celebration doesn't care about us,” said Larry Lowman. “We asked for six things with the Futurity and they dropped us like a hot potato. All they care about is how many come through the gates.”

Heated discussions continued regarding whether trainers were intimidating other trainers into refusing to judge or show at the horse show, whether trainers were going to show or not at the horse show, and whether TWHBEA has a legal ability to crown a World Grand Champion.

After a great deal of discussion and a unanimous vote, Rhonda Martocci and Jamie Hankins will meet with Celebration officials to ask the Celebration to sponsor, cosponsor, or partner in some way with TWHBEA in the final class to crown a 2006 World Grand Champion.

The TWHBEA Executive Committee also addressed at their meeting a request made by Marty Irby of Waterfall Farms to allow all HIOs show results to be tabulated to calculate the Sire and Dam of the Year Awards and to produce the Sire Summary, published annually by the TWHBEA.

“I am here to ask your approval for Stan Butt and the Voice magazine to have permission to use all HIO results to figure the Sire and Dam of the Year awards. The Sire Summary is very important and I don't want the magazine to fall by the wayside,” said Irby. “Without all of the show results, the points are not an accurate picture of what a horse has produced. Stan informed me that the Sire Summary brings in $85,000 in revenue.”

“If you need help getting the results, I and other members of the Sire Steering Committee will help you get the results,” said Irby.

After Irby's request, the Executive Committee discussed the issue at length and decided to accept all HIO show results for purposes of tabulating the awards. They did acknowledge that they would have to ask each HIO for permission to use their results in the tabulations.

In other business, the TWHBEA Executive Committee met in Executive Session (where this reporter was excused) regarding personnel issues. TWHBEA Executive Director Charles Hulsey resigned effective immediately. In a press release later that day, Jerrold Pedigo said, "All of us appreciate Mr. Hulsey's many contributions here over the last four years and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

TWHBEA also considered in Executive Session their professional relationship with Craig Evans. After some discussion and two dissenting votes, it was decided to raise Craig Evans by $12,000 for him to continue as TWHBEA's USDA liaison. Evans will now be paid $78,000 by TWHBEA.

Committee reports also yielded information. Charles Wharton gave the financial report where he said that revenues for August were down $36,000 and expenses were up $25,000.

“I am less optimistic that we'll break even,” said Wharton. The differences in the planned expenses and actual expenses included the legal fees related to the suit against the National Walking Horse Association, the Sanctioning Plan expenses, and two new staff members.

“We will have to scale back in the next budget,” said Wharton.

Kathy Zeis introduced a new program called the Gelding Opportunities Program, or GO! This program will be effective for the year 2007 and will be an incentive program designed to foster an increased interest in owning and showing geldings. Monetary awards will be given at the end of the year including to the Super Gelding in both performance and pleasure categories. Look for complete details of the Go! Program in an upcoming Report.

Kristi Lane gave Larry Lowman's marketing report which showcased some impressive statistics. At the 2006 National Futurity, there were 555 nominations in 2006 compared to 521 in 2005. Of those 555 nominations, 222 came in the gate. Twelve stallions exhibited of the fifteen stallions who sponsored the classes. The show was webcast for the first time, and TWHBEA staff handed out fans, water, and thousands of copies of the Sanctioning Plan.

Lane reported that 547 memberships were sold during the Celebration including 145 first time members.

The 2006 nominating committee and election committee were elected. The 2006 nominating committee is Edie Wittenmyer, Melvin Belcher, Leslie Perry, Beverly Greenup and Bud Thomas, with Don Beatty serving as an alternate. The election committee is Grover Blaylock, Martha Branson, and Dr. Donald Longest with Wayne Dean and Larry Arvin serving as alternates.