The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) held their International Board of Directors’ meeting via Zoom on Saturday, May 23, 2020. The meeting is on the same date on the calendar each year which in normal times coincides with the Spring Fun Show in Shelbyville. As everyone in the world now knows, these are not normal times. The Fun Show will be held in late June and horse show season is just about to start, three months delayed.


Although not the traditional method of hosting the meeting, TWHBEA did have good attendance with 44 directors connecting for the meeting. Many of the plans and programs at TWHBEA have been delayed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However in her opening remarks, President Margo Urad thanked everyone for their hard work during the trying times and for keeping TWHBEA members and directors connected. TWHBEA has made upgrades to iPeds and their web site which have allowed members free access to some of TWHBEA’s most valuable tools. 

iPeds is free until June 20th and TWHBEA has waived late fees on registrations as well. Urad also commented on the horse show protocols and recommendations that TWHBEA and the WHTA worked on jointly after studying the guidelines from the state of Tennessee, United States Equestrian Federation and other breeds. Many of these protocols will be implemented at the industry’s first shows which will emphasize the need for limiting contact and practicing social distancing.

Executive Director Rory Williams hit the high points of where TWHBEA stands as of now and much of his report was complemented by Christy Kakassy and her admin/fiscal report. For what is going on in the world and the industry TWHBEA is actually doing remarkably well. Since December 1, 2019 memberships sold are only down 179 versus the prior year and the total member count of 4,087 is only down 338 from the previous year.
Registrations, one of the most important measures at TWHBEA, stand at 1,195 since December 2019 which is nine more than the previous year. Transfers, as expected with no shows, are down 355 year over year but should come back with the restart to the show season. TWHBEA’s revenue of 458,075 is down just under $15,000 from previous year.

In Kakassy’s report she highlighted that through April 30th TWHBEA had a net loss of $82,082 but didn’t account for the PPP loan TWHBEA received. TWHBEA received $89,060 from the SBA program and has the funds in a separate account and they are only being used for payroll purposes. TWHBEA also received a $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan on May 11, 2020 which will function as a grant and not have to be repaid. Brad Woodruff, Owners, Exhibitors, International Vice President, updated the directors on several projects. TWHBEA received $18,000 in USLGE funding which was allocated in equal $9,000 increments to Poland and Mexico. The TWHBEA Championship Title proposal is on hold at the current time but the program would award a TWHBEA Champion title to deserving horses who have successfully competed and met established win criteria. The title would be permanent, and like HOF appear on the horse’s registration paper and iPeds in front of their name.
Chris Hazelwood has been keeping the youth as busy as he can and they completed a very impressive TWHBEA clean-up project that helped the look of the headquarters in Lewisburg, especially the monuments and granite in the front lawn. Hazelwood reported that 20 shows have affiliated in the Medallion program, which costs horse shows nothing as TWHBEA reimburses the shows for offering the classes. The 2nd Annual TWHYA Summer Splash horse show will be held in Belfast on August 8th. The youth of TWHBEA will also be working on cataloging all articles, horses and advertisements in back issues of the Voice from 1982 to present.

Denise Rowland, Performance Horse Vice President is ready to get back to full swing and is prepping for the upcoming TWHBEA Summer Sizzler on July 23, 2020 in Calsonic Arena at The Celebration. There will be an 18-class afternoon session focusing on the halter division and 36 classes in the evening schedule. Rowland is also working to put together a Zoom conference in September or October to review/critique the season to that point and help plan for the future.

Kristen Reichard, Pleasure Horse Vice President, did have some unfortunate news with the cancelation of the World Versatility Show. The move came as a result of a survey taken by Reichard where 57% of the responses were to cancel the show. The show had to be moved because of the change of dates for the International.
In his trainers’ report, Thom Meek had some good news. Meek challenged the trainers at their annual meeting in December to join TWHBEA. Meek offered the first 25 trainers to join a private tasting at the Uncle Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville. To date, 33 trainers have joined TWHBEA and when the distillery opens after July 4th the private tasting will be scheduled. Meek also got a great response via social media to his “Trainers’ Seclusion Showcase” which featured videos on different aspects of training.

During Jim Heiting’s Equine Welfare Report he informed the directors of his committee’s proposal to ban for life anyone found guilty of pressure shoeing and for those serving suspensions from either an HIO or USDA to not be eligible for TWHBEA awards. There was no vote due to the Zoom method of meeting but the proposal will be something to watch at the December annual meeting. The proposed policy on awards reads:  It is the policy of the TWHBEA that no award from the TWHBEA or any of its committees or bodies shall be given or announced to any person(s) serving or ordered to serve a USDA-initiated and finally adjudicated or agreed upon HPA suspension of thirty (30) days or longer, nor be serving or ordered to serve any HPA suspension of thirty (30) days or longer from any USDA certified HIO.

Dee Cantrell, Breeders’ Division Vice President, gave an update on the Futurity. The Futurity will feature 23 classes, all but four of which will be jackpot classes. Cantrell stated that her committee’s goal was to double the 86 entries from 2019. The show will remain on the first Wednesday night of The Celebration and has been moved up to start at 5:30PM. Cantrell also submitted a recommended change to Corporate Rule 1.04 which would limit the name of horses to 25 characters which includes all alpha-numeric characters, punctuation marks and spaces.

As does everyone in the industry, the TWHBEA directors were excited to get the show season started back and for things to begin their return to normal. The Walking Horse industry is as much about camaraderie as anything so it has been hard for people not to get to see their horse show friends and spend that valuable time together and for many to be removed from their horses they love so much.