by Jeffrey Howard

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) met on Feb. 28, 2009, and looked back on a successful 2008 and prepared for a tough 2009. Mike Inman presented the 2008 year-end audit and highlighted two figures. The 2008 revenue was down $787,016 while expenses were down $1,764,050.

In extraordinary items, the auditors pointed out the following note. “The TWHBEA wrote off costs associated with a lawsuit last fiscal year, in the amount of $865,783. TWHBEA took a one-time write-off of unamortized organizational and development expense associated with the Sanctioning Plan in the amount of $87,631.”

Executive Vice-President Robert Thomas offered the following, “This audit should serve as a monument to the 2008 Executive Committee. You took us from the brink of bankruptcy to where we are today and we can’t thank you enough.”

Inman pointed out for 2009, “We need to seriously look at cutting our expenses. We know because of breedings that our revenues next year will be down. We have to see the writing on the wall.”

When David Pruett addressed the committee for the president’s remarks he echoed Inman’s comments. “It is going to be a difficult year, we know that. I challenge you to be creative and innovative in how you promote your programs,” said Pruett. “Each of you need to look at cutting back 10-15 percent of your budget.”

Stan Butt, executive director added to Pruett’s challenge. “If you don’t do it, we will do it for you,” said Butt.

The February meeting was the first for Bruce Vaughn who was asked to serve after the resignation of Bill Stricklend. “I would like to welcome Bruce Vaughn to the Executive Committee and appreciate his willingness to serve. I would like to thank Bill Stricklend for his service and dedication and he has offered to assist us and help Bruce out however he can,” added Pruett.

Other items discussed at the meeting included the committee reports. Committees are getting off the ground and preparing for their work in 2009. Highlights of those reports included the survey results of the membership being tabulated which afforded the association feedback and demographic information. The iPEDS updates are near completion with new test versions rolling out weekly.

Futurity nominations are up in 2009 as compared to 2008. At this time in 2008, 208 nominations had been received while this year the number is 277.

Kasey Kesselring reported on the Best Of America By Horseback sponsorship and notified the committee that the donations for sponsorships had come through and the sponsorship for 2009 was resolved. Kesselring also has started a logo redesign project for TWHBEA and that project could even include a contest for the public to submit designs to the association for their review.

Kesselring’s marketing committee also is looking at the World Equestrian Games and appointing a selection committee as well as a potential dropped member proposal with incentives to rejoin TWHBEA.

Wayne Dean addressed the performance horse division and expressed a concern over the participation in the WHOA/TWHBEA Youth Challenge and thus horse shows not offering the class in 2009. Dean also addressed the recent developments in USDA clinics and informed the group of the tough times. He also urged everyone to attend the upcoming scar rule clinic in Alabama on March 7, 2009.

Dean also asked TWHBEA to help fund the Bill Hawks contract along with WHTA and WHOA. Dean asked TWHBEA to consider donating $5,000 to help fund the Hawks contract, however, Pruett said the matter would be discussed in a later executive session.

Debra Jack brought a code of conduct to the attention of the executive committee that was written by previous executive committee member Sid Abernathy that required all management, employees and executive committee members to sign in order to serve. The motion was made and passed to rescind this code of conduct and develop a new one that was more applicable to current conditions.

Christy Lantis brought the group up to speed on the youth initiatives for the year. These include new officers, the awarding of youth high point awards at the Trainers’ Show (now to be rescheduled) and apprentice programs and mentorship programs she hopes to put in place in 2009.

Discussed at length during old business was the development of an Equine Welfare Committee. This committee would be at the forefront of TWHBEA’s activities to develop and administer programs directed towards the protection of the welfare of Tennessee Walking Horses. The hope of this executive committee is to add a vice president of Equine Welfare in 2010. In addition to the committee members, there is to be an oversight board comprised of five professional individuals with specialized skills, in particular veterinarian skills.

The outlook for 2009 and beyond at TWHBEA is a challenging one. Revenue projections are bleak and spending will need to be controlled even more in 2009 and beyond. This day’s meeting was dominated by three executive sessions to discuss the Horse Industry Organization report from Chuck Cheek, funding the contract of Bill Hawks and other matters faced by the executive committee.