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TWHBEA: The State of the Association



Editor's Note:  The following letter from TWHBEA President was posted to the TWHBEA web site

In reporting the State of your Association I want to be optimistic but at the same time realistic. I was hoping to report to you sooner, but sometimes things don’t go as fast as we would like. Since being elected, your Executive Committee has been seeking information, evaluating operations and trying to stabilize a very difficult situation. To be honest, the situation was worse than any of us expected.  The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association is going through one of the toughest periods it has ever faced. It is going to take each of YOU, its members, to help revive it. In a separate article, Mr. Mike Inman, VP of Admin/Fiscal, is outlining the financial state of the association. Briefly, the magnitude of the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) lawsuit has depleted our reserves to a point that our outstanding expenses are greater than our reserves.
 
Earlier this month, John T. Bobo, Mike Inman and I met with Mr. Charles Bone, Mr. Stephen Zralick and Ms. Natalya Rose of Bone, McAllister & Norton, the law firm representing TWHBEA in the NWHA copyright lawsuit, to start negotiations on payments owed to the firm. As most of you know by now, TWHBEA was awarded $31,000 as a result of the action from the judge in the trial that ruled in TWHBEA’s favor on direct copyright infringement by the National Walking Horse Association.  After receiving the ruling, our lawyers sought attorney’s fees and recently received an additional $150,000 for a total of $181,000. At this time our current outstanding debt to Bone, McAllister, and Norton is $216,000 and the firm refuses to release the assets to TWHBEA until their debt is settled. We have paid the firm approximately $740,000 to date and are trying to negotiate a payment schedule at this time.
 
TWHBEA’s Sanctioning Plan, like it or not, has cost the association over $235,000 since its inception. This Executive Committee has had to stop the bleeding. We are considering everything possible to reduce operating cost.   We have discontinued the 1-800 service, we have discontinued our trash service for a cheaper one, we have terminated service contracts, all in the name of doing the necessary things to save money and being fiscally responsible to our members.
 
TWHBEA’s reserves have fallen from $1.5 million to $150,000.  It costs our association $150,000 a month just to operate.  As you can see, there is reason for concern. Unfortunately, tough decisions have to be made as a result of the financial crunch. Staff reductions are the hardest decisions of all to make and please know that we don’t make them lightly. TWHBEA programs, that are so important to our members and our youth, are in jeopardy of being lost due to lack of funds. We are fortunate in the fact that we are partnering with our friends, the Walking Horse Owners’ Association, in several programs to benefit our membership.
 
We, the Walking Horse industry, are in hard times right now. But we aren’t alone. The equine industry, as a whole, has fallen on hard times. All breeds are feeling the wrath of the difficult economic downturn that we are experiencing nationally. Ours is hurting worse because we have spent all of our money. We do not have our reserves to fall back on any longer. However, now is not the time to blame the decisions of the past, but to make wise decisions, that we will be proud of, in the future. We must decide what can we do as stewards of our association to rebuild it back to its once proud place of prominence. I am confident that we can stand, as our founders did many years ago, and dedicate ourselves to this task. I ask each of you, as your president, to help in rebuilding the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association back to its financial strength, which has been its foundation for the past 73years.
 
On a good note, our members are as optimistic as ever.  It's great to see members with so much interest in their association.  We've had people volunteer to help at the headquarters; donations are coming in at all levels - from $5 to $1,000. Trust me, every dollar helps.  We have focused our staff on customer service issues and they've done a phenomenal job.  The TWHBEA staff tries to answer every phone call that comes in, our registration backlog has gone from 45 days to less than seven, and we're doing a better job of keeping our directors and members informed.
 
The executive committee has mended some fences in the industry.  In the past couple of months we have partnered with WHOA on the Tennessee Walking Horse Academy Program and the Youth Challenge. We have reached an agreement with NWHA where we will honor each other's versatility rules for versatility point calculations. The details of our National Futurity are being worked out now.  We have met with Celebration officials and are renewing our long-standing tradition with our World Championship show.  It will be held on the Wednesday night before the Celebration begins, use the Celebration judges and serve as a qualifying event for Celebration championships once again.
 
We have a great horse, and fortunately a horse that is very marketable to the masses. Right now our budget does not allow for marketing programs we would like to have.  This means our marketing is going to largely come from the grass roots levels.  We are depending on our members and our state associations to help spread the word.  Horse fairs, exhibitions, parades and visits to schools are just some of the things our members are doing to market our breed.  Please, let us know what you are doing and how we can support you.
 
We all care deeply about our horse, no matter the discipline we favor. The Tennessee Walking Horse.  The Ride of Your Life.  Ride One Today, Own One Tomorrow. We all grew up or got involved in this breed because we have the faith that this is undoubtedly the greatest, most versatile horse of any breed in existence today. There’s not one of us that can wait to tell someone what our horse, our breed, can do! I ask that we all come together for our horse, and help save his home, the breed registry. I am asking on your behalf, that all members, rally to save TWHBEA! It’s YOUR association – you own it. We need your donations. We need your ideas. We need your help.
 

David Pruett
President


 
 
 

THE GOOD

  • Our members are optimistic and more involved than ever and are generously contributing to restore depleted reserves.
  • We have mended fences with other organizations.
  • Our staff is focused on customer service and is operating very efficiently.
  • The Tennessee Walking Horse is very marketable to the masses.
  • We have partnered with WHOA for the academy program and have had record numbers at the shows.
  • A resolution has been signed with the NWHA that will help our members who compete in versatility events.
  • An agreement has been signed with the National Park Service, which will help promote our trail and pleasure horse and will help expand our youth programs.
  • We will have the Futurity back at the Celebration with it being a qualifying event once again.


THE BAD

  • We have had to make staff reductions; always a difficult decision
  • Cutbacks include discontinuing the 800 service, discontinuing the trash service and service contracts.
  • The Sanctioning Plan cost us over $235,000.
  • It cost us $150,000 to operate each month.  We are living month to month.


THE UGLY

  • We have paid a total of over $740,000 to the firm who represented us in the NWHA lawsuit and still owe them $216,000.
  • If we paid all of our current obligations, including those for the lawsuit, we would have to shut our doors.
  • Our reserves have gone from $1.5 million to having less than $150,000 on hand.


WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

  • Help us increase membership.  If every current member would recruit two new members we would make a huge jump.  (http://www.twhbea.com/membership.htm)
  • Donate money to TWHBEA to help with operating expenses. (Call Lisa, 931-359-0581)
  • State associations challenge each other to donate to TWHBEA. Your national association needs YOUR help.
  • Purchase a lifetime membership.  Beginning March 1st they are$695.
  • Make a donation to the Tennessee Walking Horse Foundation, a 501c)3 charitable foundation.  Gifts are tax deductible and will be used for promotional, charitable, historical and educational projects for the welfare and interest of the Tennessee Walking Horse. These donations cannot be used for TWHBEA operating expenses. (http://www.tennesseewalkinghorsefoundation.org)
  • Find ways to promote our breed in your community.  Let us know what you're doing and how we can assist you. (lpuckett@twhbea.com)
  • Register your foals and file your transfers in a timely manner. (http://www.twhbea.com/registration.htm)

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