by Christy Howard Parsons

Copyright 2005 WHR

TWHBEA President Jerrold Pedigo and his TWHBEA committee of Larry Lowman, Jane Meredith, Charles Wharton and Craig Evans presented their plan for the new TWHBEA HIO sanctioning program to members of the WHOA Board of Directors.

            Complete with a PowerPoint presentation, the TWHBEA committee presented their goal as “A Stronger United Industry. We want to protect and grow our show industry.”

            Before Pedigo presented the plan, he addressed the reasons that the Executive Committee of TWHBEA voted not to renew the current National Horse Show Commission contract. Originally TWHBEA gave the NHSC notice in June of this year due to the fact that the Board of Directors voted to accept show records from all HIOs. The current NHSC contract prevented that, which set the discussions in motion to revise a new contract.

            During these discussions the following concerns developed:

            The current NHSC structure did service all of WHOAs members, but did not service all TWHBEAs members. Some TWHBEA members had no choice but to work with other HIOs although their funds to TWHBEA went to support the NHSC.

            Another concern was that because judges cannot judge shows for other HIOs, the “best and brightest” judges were not available to all HIOs. On some occasions, judges could not judge horse shows that were nearby because the show was affiliated with another HIO.

            TWHBEA also expressed concern about WHOA’s ability to meet their financial commitment to the NHSC. According to Pedigo, there has been some concern that WHOA would have to raise dues just to meet the current NHSC commitments. This could impact their membership numbers as well as the NHSC’s ability to do what is needed to be done.

            Multiple rule books, and/or no rule books at some HIOs, was another concern of TWHBEA and a desire to operate the industry under one rule book is a cornerstone of the plan.

            Serious concerns were discussed by TWHBEA regarding Don Bell’s HIO, NWHA. NWHA has developed and is promoting their own registry. TWHBEA sees this as a serious challenge and intends to go after NWHA shows to attract them to their HIO and its sanctioned members. There have also been reports from members of the United States Equestrian Federation that NWHA has attempted to become recognized by the USEF as the TWH industry representative. (USEF was formerly the American Horse Shows Association, of which the TWH was once a member.)

            Committee members all expressed serious concerns that in the absence of some material change, that the USDA would shut down the Walking Horse industry. Charles Wharton related conversations he had had with Dr. Todd Behre of the USDA as a concerned walking horse owner. “Without a major change, we will die the death of a thousand cuts. We will have many more shows like Fayetteville, Belfast and Wartrace this year," said Wharton.
            Larry Lowman also expressed his concern about an industry in decline. “To see this business go under would be a great loss,” said Lowman. “This is not a concrete plan. It’s a suggestion. A place to start to work together to save our breed.”

            Pedigo also expressed concerns about skyrocketing costs at the NHSC. “These costs should be paid by the entire industry as a whole,” said Pedigo.

            The committee also expressed concerns that the NHSC had picked up a lot of negative baggage over the years. Recent unfavorable media stories all cast a very unfavorable look on the NHSC. TWHBEA then bears the brunt of the negative media coverage as participants in the NHSC.

            Finally, Pedigo explained that in January 2005, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors voted unanimously to develop an industry wide National High Point program.  To do so would require one uniform rule book, a standard judges program and a standard DQP program to level the playing field.

            Once the reasons for change were set out, Pedigo presented their plan for a more cost efficient, effective program. The TWHBEA has worked with a unity committee for as many as nine years. “We may never be able to overcome some of the obstacles to working with one voice on all issues. But this gives us the opportunity to bring all of us to the table on some issues,” explained Pedigo.

            A complete copy of the proposed plan was posted earlier today from the WHTA Board of Directors meeting.

            Pedigo also outlined the costs of this proposed plan. The estimates for 2006 would show total expenses to TWHBEA of $664,000. They would also gain revenue from the plan of $338,000 for a net cost to TWHBEA of $326,000 for 2006. Charles Wharton fielded the question about whether this would increase TWHBEA dues to which he responded that he personally would be opposed to any change in dues.

            TWHBEA also projected the costs for WHOA to become their own HIO under this program. They estimated revenue of $160,000 (based upon the WHOA HIO picking up half of the current NHSC shows), and expenses of $60,000 for a net profit of $100,000. Of course, WHOA would also save $85,000 by not having to fund the NHSC ($60,000 budgeted for 2006) and to fund their <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 /><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 /><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Washington attorney Niels Holch (budgeted for $25,000 for 2006 from WHOA).

            Rhonda Martocci opened the question and answer portion of the program by asking why it was necessary for TWHBEA to be an HIO if WHOA and the other organizations in the program were HIOs. Larry Lowman explained that this was to be used in an emergency situation only. Jane Meredith further explained that TWHBEAs HIO would not be in competition with its own HIOs and would be contractually obligated not to compete.

            Craig Evans went on further to say that TWHBEA did not want to compete with it’s participating HIOs but they did intend to compete for the horse shows of non-participating HIOs (NWHA, for example, it is believed will not participate) even if necessary by not charging for affiliation services. Other HIOs might not be in a financial situation to make such accommodations.

            The DQP program was discussed at length and there are still two schools of thought on whether each HIO would have their own DQPs or whether they would all merely choose from the same pool. But either way, all DQPs would be certified by the TWHBEA HIO and trained under the same rule book.

            Under the program, judges would not be specific to any one HIO.

            There was some discussion on the floor about the performance horse market versus the plantation market and which HIOs would be best suited to serve the different markets.

            Pedigo disagreed, “We have one horse. We all have to come together.”

            Martha Childs expressed her viewpoints from the floor, “I think you are over emphasizing NWHA. They are already beginning to fall apart.”

            Charles Wharton explained that regardless of how many horses they are registering, “one horse registered is too many. They are a challenge to our registry.”

            Craig Evans elaborated, “We can’t sit idly by while they continue to exist. This could happen on a grander scale.”

            Evans also explained that there is no downside to the current proposal. “We can try it for one year. If you don’t like it, then you can opt out.”

            There was a great deal of discussion about which HIOs could participate. It was discussed that the WHTA had suggested that there be a minimum number of horse shows that an HIO affiliate before they got a vote on the board. The voting procedure was described on the board. TWHBEA’s vote would be a consistent 1/3. The remaining affiliated HIOs would get the remaining 2/3 vote on a pro rata basis based upon the number of horse shows they affiliated in the prior year. Any decisions would only be approved with a 70% vote of the board.

            Questions about how quickly WHOA could become an HIO were answered by Craig Evans who indicated that technically WHOA was already an HIO. To be certified by the USDA, they merely needed a basis DQP program which could be set up in as little as 10 days. Evans expressed that he would be willing to set up such a DQP program for WHOA or the WHTA. Technically, there is then a 6 month probationary period, but practically that did not affect the HIO.

            “With joint DQP training, it would be pretty easy to become a certified HIO,” said Evans.

            Frank Neal expressed interest in the objectives of the TWHBEA committee, but encouraged the committee to consider attaining these objectives within the current NHSC structure. “You can modify the existing contract to address your concerns, without destroying what is already there,” said Neal.

            The question then surfaced about what happens if no organizations participate in the program. Craig Evans answered, “TWHBEA adopted a plan to become our own HIO.”

            Rhonda Martocci expressed concerns as WHOA’s president. “I am looking at the monetary issues on behalf of WHOA. We might lose all our WHOA show card revenue. People might choose to give their other half to other HIOs. We could have only $2/horse for the 3500 horses we had entered at shows last year. That puts us on a budget of only $7000 in revenue.”

            Larry Lowman answered by saying WHOA would have to go after shows to affiliate.

            Tommy Hall did not like the sound of that. “That’s not unity. WHOA will have to compete for horse shows with Kentucky and Heart of America. That does not improve unity in our breed,” Hall said.

            Debra Coleman asked if there would be new faces in the key positions at the HIO. Jerrold Pedigo said he personally did see Lonnie Messick as the DQP director, but that yes there would be consideration of new faces in the various positions.

            When there were no more questions, the group disbanded. Because it was not an official board meeting, the decision was made to table official discussions until the next meeting of the board.