Dire Circumstances Necessitate Need for Action by New Executive Committee

LEWISBURG, Tenn. - The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) held its International Board of Directors meeting on May 24, 2014 at its headquarters in Lewisburg.  The leadership at TWHBEA was turned over at the election held last December and those now in charge have worked hard on the financial position of the association.

President Steve Smith highlighted those achievements made to date by announcing a $357,341 annual improvement in the performance of TWHBEA.  The improvement was brought about by a savings of $293,341 annually and $64,000 in new revenue.  The new revenue will come about from the sale of Tennessee Walking Horse license plates and TWHBEA receiving a portion of the revenue from the state.  This will first be enacted starting July 1, 2014 and be paid in July of 2015 but is an annual source of revenue.

The savings came with the removal of free services, a savings of $84,000, the majority of which is the removal of the free foal registration or transfer.  Another substantial savings is the removal of the Voice magazine from the operations of TWHBEA, a move which will save $163,341 annually.  TWHBEA has outsourced the Voice and will receive 50% of any profit.  TWHBEA shut the gift shop down which saved $26,000 and other miscellaneous savings of $20,000 approximately.

The moves were necessitated by the fact that TWHBEA lost $116,573 in fiscal year 2013 and had only $240,000 cash on hand as of December 5, 2013.  Further the association’s revenues are tied to registrations, memberships and transfers and those three figures are at alarmingly low levels and could continue to decline.  Year-to-date in 2014 the association has lost $78,797.02.  

Since 2004, registrations have dropped from just over 15,000 to 4,000 in 2013.  Since 2004 mares bred has dropped from just over 26,000 to approximately 5,500 in 2013.  Membership has declined from 18,543 in 2005 to 7,189 in 2013.  In 2004 the revenue of TWHBEA was 4,691,917, today that revenue total sits at 1,319,208, a staggering change in a 10 year period.

Needless to say the changes highlighted by Smith come at a time of glaring need and the hope of everyone at TWHBEA is to stabilize those three categories of revenue such that further changes are not necessary.

TWHBEA also put in place a new fee structure at the semi-annual meeting.  Members will now pay $25 for filing a stallion breeding report and non-members will pay $100 per stallion.  DNA conversion kit fees for non-members will be $100, raised from $40 and DNA replacement kit fees will be $10 for members, up from $5.  Same day service will be a $50 fee and TWHBEA has eliminated associate membership and first time membership categories.  The new fees will go into effect on August 1, 2014.  The full listing of the fee change will be on the TWHBEA web site.

Keith Dane, a director from Maryland asked of Smith and the executive committee who authorized the action that TWHBEA not accept an ad from HSUS nor a sponsorship of the upcoming World Versatility Show.  Smith plainly stated to Dane that the executive committee made the decision not to accept any money from the Humane Society of the United States.  Dane made a motion to overturn that action of the executive committee however is motions was soundly defeated.

A motion was also made to reinstate the member privileges of Pat Stout, Clant Seay and Fran Cole.  This motion was also soundly defeated by the International board.

Highlights from the committee reports are below:

Breeders Division:  David Williams commented on the move of the Futurity back to the Celebration, the allowance for late buy-ins for the Futurity and his hope to expand the show ring “pond” through a futurity high point program that can be presented at the December meeting.

Administrative/Fiscal/Audit:  Christy Lantis pointed out her committee’s efforts to reduce the $27,000 annual property tax burden on TWHBEA and feels confident a $5,000-$10,000 reduction will come about from those efforts.  TWHBEA changed accounting firms to Winnett & Associates from Cook & Co. and will save $7,000 annually.

Youth:  Sherry White highlighted the initiative to expand the youth participation outside of Tennessee through planned events in other states.  The mission statement was also presented which reads:  To enhance the leadership skills of our youth members while developing their equine skills in an educational environment.  We will provide a positive approach to assist TWHYA youth to graduate from our program into areas of importance in fields of their choice.

Bylaws/Enforcement:  Tom Kakassy highlighted the many hours of work by his committee to come up with a comprehensive change to the bylaws of the association.  Those changes center around how members are categorized, the number of directors and how they are elected and the relationship of the executive committee and board of directors in making policy for the association.  The complete set of bylaws was included for every director and will be mailed to the members for a December vote.

Performance Horse Division:  Denise Rowland, standing in for Ford Gates mentioned the importance the Performance Committee felt to place on youth programs, the support of all disciplines and to reaffirm the committee’s endorsement of the Blackburn and Alexander legislation.

Pleasure Horse Division:  Jessica Hlebek highlighted the two important summer events and spoke to the need for sponsorship of both events.  The first, the National Trail Ride in June which is coordinated mainly by Gary Holt will be held in several states this year.  The second, the World Versatility Show in July in Murfreesboro which will feature changes to the class sheet in 2014 (available at TWHBEA web site).

Marketing:  Ashley Wadsworth enthusiastically reported several marketing initiatives including a new web site banner program, social media presence, the return of a walking horse to the Kentucky Horse Park thanks to the generosity of the David Landrum Family and the inclusion of booths, clinics and demonstrations at the Wilson County Fair and Tennessee State Fair.  TWHBEA will also feature a program, “TWHBEA – Outside The Ring” at the Celebration where a stall will be provided to have an exhibitor and horse each evening to allow kids and fans the opportunity to see up close the Tennessee Walking Horse.