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TWHBEA Performance Horse Summit, May 4, 2013



The Performance Horse Summit grew out of a concept initiated by Christy Lantis, Vice President of the Performance Horse Division of the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.

The concept of the Summit was to give busy and informed performance industry stakeholders an opportunity to compare ideas, develop and advance a plan for effective self-regulation, scientific analysis, communication and education.
 
The Summit was hosted by TWHBEA at its headquarters in Lewisburg, and welcomed 35 attendees which included 12 speakers. The conference was divided into four sections relating to the performance show horse:

 1. Defining the problem – Where are we now?
 
2. Informational presentations.
             a. Position of AAEP, AVMA and AHC.
             b. What’s the science – proving solutions are safe.
 
3. Finding the solution.
 
4. Selling and financing the solution.

In the first section, “defining the problem”, Duane Rector, former head of the DQP program for PRIDE HIO, took the group step-by-step through the procedure of having a DQP at a horse show, from the DQP’s point of view. He explained the cost to a small horse show to have one or more DQPs (based on 1:150 DQP/entries) and recommended more cooperative educational programs for DQPs, horse show management, and trainers, owners and exhibitors.
 
Next, Celebration CEO Mike Inman and WHTA President Mickey McCormick addressed the status of the Performance Horse Council which is working toward one voice for the performance horse which would include one rulebook, one roster of judges and one set of breed standards. McCormick stressed that trainers are ready to accept a scientific inspection process.
 
Also as part of the first section, Tom Kakassy gave an update on the current status of the Whitfield amendment to the HPA. He advised that there are three ways this amendment could pass, with the first being the regular process of passing the subcommittee, the committee, and then to the floor of the House. A second means of passage would be if the amendment were placed on the Consent Calendar. And the third means of passage would be for the amendment to pass the committee and be attached to a “moving bill”. Kakassy expressed his feeling that if the amendment makes it to the floor of the House, the chances of it being passed are good. But, he pointed out that it would have to go through an identical process in the Senate.
 
Kakassy proposed that an “alternate bill”, introduced by a member of the House, would be a very constructive way to fight this legislation.
 
The second section of the Summit was an informational session with presentations made by Dr. Ray Miller and Dr. Jim Baum.
 
Dr. Ray Miller of Murfreesboro, Tenn., now retired from his veterinary practice, shared much of the history of the evolution of the DQP program. Dr. Miller participated in the first Stewardship Program in 1972, and was the first steward at the Celebration and carried out his duties from center ring. Originally, DQPs were called Stewards.
 
Dr. Miller discussed the Atlanta Protocol of 1991 which was a step by step instruction on how to check a horse against the HPA. He reported that it was quite an illustrious group that came together to formulate the Atlanta Protocol including Dr. D.L. Proctor, founder of the AAEP; Dr. J.T. Vaughn, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn; Dr. Dewitt Owens, Franklin, Tenn., practitioner and  veterinarian of the Kentucky Derby; and Dr. Ram Piruhit, author of the Auburn Study; along with the USDA’s head of enforcement of the HPA, Dr. Henson.
 
Dr. Miller went on to report that pads and action devices when applied properly do not harm the horse. He commended walking horse trainers as being the most adaptable of all trainers and commended them for having the cleanest-footed horses of any breed of performance horse.
 Dr. Miller did go on to say that most breeds have only one governing body but that the Tennessee Walking Horse has four. He expressed the opinion that jockeying for power among the four is a detriment to the breed.
 
Dr. Jim Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn., has been involved in the walking horse industry all of his life. His concern is that our industry has become more reactive than proactive.
 
Dr. Baum reported that the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) was formed in 1954 with its focus being to stop the illegal drugging of race horses. Its membership has grown from the original 12 to over 8000, and its focus has changed to be an educational source for all breeds. Dr. Baum addressed the AAEP’s White Paper which was a protocol for ridding the industry of the sore horse. Dr. Baum reported that the industry has implemented most of the procedures of the white paper study.
 
It was Dr. Baum’s opinion that the majority of trainers and owners are goal-directed toward the well-being of the horse.
 
In the third section of the Summit, a panel addressed realistic solutions to the problems of the industry and a comprehensive plan of self-regulation. The panel’s participants were varied in background, but united in finding a common purpose. They were: Duane Rector, Kim Widner, Dr. Ray Miller, Wayne Dean, Mike Inman, R.B. Parker, and Woody Woodruff. 
 
Woody Woodruff, distinguished walking horse farrier,  discussed that when the HPA became law there was only one shoeing regulation and that was the heel/toe ratio. He discussed the evolution of shoeing since then. He stressed that properly applied pads and wedges do no harm, and in many cases help, the horse.
 
Mr. R. B. Parker, an attorney from west Tennessee, told the group about the first indictments under the HPA in which 21 trainers were indicted and he personally represented Joe Webb and one of his customers. Eventually, all of the indictments were dismissed by a Federal judge.
 
Mike Inman again addressed the group and reported on the strictest inspection process in Celebration history which was carried out at the 2012 Celebration with every horse being swabbed. The swabbing was a WHTA initiative but the Celebration funded the expedition of the results.
 
Summit moderator, Christy Lantis, read a letter from Sheryl Crawford who was unable to attend in which Crawford stressed the need for good relationships with industry regulators (USDA).
 
Kim Widner, an owner from the northwest, addressed the need for all divisions and factions of the performance horse to stop judging each other and work toward a common goal.
 Wayne Dean, Vice President of the Trainers’ Division of the Executive Committee of TWHBEA, reiterated the need for unity.
 
The fourth and final section of the Summit was an overview presentation by Mrs. Lantis on the HPA and the current regulations, the protocols the industry has formulated and how they can be funded, and the political solutions to the current problem.

        

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