By Sadie Fowler

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association’s annual meetings were held last weekend in Lewisburg, Tennessee with two new faces joining the Executive Committee (EC) following the annual elections, held Saturday.

President David Williams presided over both meetings; the general membership meeting took place Friday with the directors converging the following day. 

In addition to committee reports, the most anticipated part of the meetings closed out the Saturday session with the election of the TWHBEA Executive Committee officers. Russ Thompson and Bobby Beech were elected to serve the Trainers and Equine Welfare positions, respectively.
Charles Glegorn holds the only outgoing position of the board.

The 2018 TWHBEA Executive Committee now includes, in addition to Thompson and Beech: David Williams (president), Stephen Smith (senior vice president), Jim Heiting, Keegan Meadows, Robin Webb, Ashley Wadsworth, Nancy Lynn Greene, Allison Thorson, Carrie Benedict, Ford Gates, and Margaret Urad.
Beech was the only nomination to come from the floor Saturday morning and Williams recommended that the new slate of officers be elected via acclamation, of which the majority agreed. 

Thompson’s nomination did not come from the floor; rather, he was nominated prior to the meeting.
The bulk of both meetings included standing committee reports, given both Friday to general membership and Saturday to directors, from the following Executive Committee officers: Keegan Meadows (owner/exhibitors/international division), Robin Webb (bylaws/enforcement), Ashley Wadsworth (marketing), Nancy Lynn Green (administrative/fiscal/audit division), Allison Thorson (youth), Carrie Benedict (breeders’), Ford Gates (performance horse) and Stephen B. Smith (training/equine welfare). Margo Urad was not present due to illness, thus Ashley Wadsworth reported on her behalf for updates on the pleasure horse division. 

Letter to membership

Williams’ and the EC’s recommendation to divide the training/equine welfare position into two, which was sent to members prior to the meeting via email, and also included in the meeting packet, said the following;  

“On 12/1/2017 at its year-end EC meeting it was brought before the EC by president David Williams to reestablish the Equine Welfare Committee that has been combined with the Training Committee since 2014. 

“From David Williams, ‘The Equine Welfare Committee including its VP of Equine Welfare was combined with the Trainers Committee during the tenure of the 2014 TWHBEA Executive Committee. During this time, Wayne Dean (TN) had won the position over the nominated candidate Sherri Szucs (OH). Dr. Linda Montgomery (AL) was the elected Equine Welfare VP without opposition. 

“During that 2014 year Wayne Dean had to resign from his position due to a USDA disqualification that began in January of 2014. The TWHBEA EC at the time, which consisted of president Tracy Boyd, sr., VP Buster Black, Rob Cornelius, Pat Stout, Rick Wies, Christy Lantis, Denise Bader-Keyser, Dr. David Mullis, Mike Hicks, Dr. Linda Montgomery, Joyce Moyer, Jason Bachert and secretary Dee Dee Sale decided to just combine the two divisions to allow Dr. Linda Montgomery to oversee both Equine Welfare and Training divisions.

“Since that time, we have lost a valued connection with the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association by not having a licensed WHTA trainer sitting on the TWHBEA EC. This year we do have a fine nominated candidate that can fill that void (presumed to have meant Thompson)…

“The other side of that coin is we need a strong presence as an organization in regard to Equine Welfare. For horses that end up in dire situations from lack of knowledge by their owners or lack of funds TWHBEA has been instrumental in networking and providing feed and care for horses in these situations. 

“In 2017, we had a couple of instances where I personally worked close with Billy Young of the WHTA and Lou Nave of the Farm Animal Care Coalition of Tennessee (FACCT) to provide for a group of horses that by our actions kept the horses from being seized by the court of their county of residence and the situation being sensationalized by the news media. 

“More often than not in instances we have no connection the news media will refer to a group of seized horses as Tennessee Walking Horses and go into their negative fact sheet about our breed. FACCT is a partner with TWHBEA as well as the TN Farm Bureau and many other pro agriculture entities in Tennessee.

“We also need a spokesperson that touts the many efforts TWHBEA has made to ensure our show rings are where our most well-treated horses get to enter and not the opposite as the media wants to portray at times … To these measures is why I suggested and the TWHBEA EC voted to reestablish the Equine Welfare Committee. In accordance with TWHBEA Bylaws, nominations will be taken from the floor for his position and a new vice president of Equine Welfare will be elected. His or her duties will be to continue TWHBEA’s role of aiding in situations of which are a concern to TWHBEA in regard to Equine Welfare.”

Response from the floor

Prior to the election of officers, there was a question Saturday morning, prior to the group breaking for lunch, from member Denise Rowland regarding Williams’ and the EC’s recommendation to reestablish the Equine Welfare Committee as a separate operating division. Rowland said the recommendation came as a surprise and at short notice to many members who would have liked more time to consider the best persons to potentially nominate for the two positions. 

Williams responded to Rowland by stating the last-minute recommendation was made with good intentions and that his schedule and priorities at the office (he cited a project updating the Voice magazine archives as being an example of something that’s taken up a lot of his time lately) distracted him from sending the email sooner.

Member Sheryl Crawford, who states she’s a good friend of Rowland’s, respectfully backed Williams’ recommendation for the split, stating the need and resources were both there thus members should take advantage of the opportunity.

Russ Thompson had been nominated to fill the Training/Equine Welfare division prior to the meeting. When it came time for the elections Saturday and upon learning of Williams’ recommendation to split the position into two, Thompson withdrew his name for the Equine Welfare portion but left his name on the board for the Training division slot. 

This left an opening for the Equine Welfare spot which therefore required a nomination from the floor. 
Nancy Lynn Green nominated Bobby Beech from the floor to fill that vacancy with no one contesting her. 
Once this matter was settled, the election moved swiftly with no positions contested. 

The approval of the agenda as well as the minutes from the previous international meetings from May were approved earlier in the meeting Saturday, as was the proposed budget for the upcoming year. 

Opportunities to discuss old and new business were made available, with little discussion taking place. Member Rick Weiss from Montana stepped up to the podium in an attempt to bring up another topic, however, Williams said his remarks were not in line with “new” business.

The next meeting of the TWHBEA general membership and directors takes place the Saturday before Memorial Day. 

Committee Reports

 Committee reports were given in duplicate fashion both Friday and Saturday.

Keegan Meadows walked members through his year overseeing the Owners/Exhibitors division, which started last February at the USLGE Annual Meeting and Species Workshop. He highlighted new technology he found interesting about a semen selection program.

Meadows explained his division had applied for $68,000 in grant funds but was only awarded $20,000, so his challenge has been to determine best allocation of those funds among countries throughout the world showing the most growth as it relates to the Tennessee Walking Horse.

The most growth has been seen in Mexico and Meadows explained the goal is to keep the standards and value of the horse high in the fast-growing area. 

Keegan spoke about various clinics he and Margo Urad had attended and hosted. 

Robin Webb reported little from the Bylaws/Enforcement division, which she said is a good thing. There were no enforcement actions to take place this year according to bylaws. 

Ashley Wadsworth reporting from the Marketing division, which includes the TWHBEA Gift Shop and social media. Total sales from the retail portion, highlighted by an increased amount of traffic at the Celebration, was $15,052.

“Our Celebration satellite office is great,” she said. “People from all over the country are exposed to our breed and this gives a good image of the association.”

Regarding social media, traffic is also way up. The association’s new website has almost 100,000 views, banners for advertisement on that website are now for sale. Facebook has received almost 60,000 likes and Instagram has 1,020 followers, up from a mere 200 two years ago. 

Subhead-financial report

Good news came from the financial report as well, given by Nancy Lynn Greene. Green reported on the 2017 Yearly Audit/Review and offered to entertain any questions. Her report included valuation of assets, retained earnnigs, reserves, receivables, and net income. She also commented on the numbers reported compared to last year.

Greene said operating cash increased year to date, at $75,896.81. She reviewed the Futurity and said final reconciliation will be completed with Nov. 30 balances, but the October balance includes accrual to estimate ending balance after all stud fees collected and prize money distributed. 

Just under $34,000 was paid in prize money in 2017 and $44,606.25 is reserved for prize money in 2018-2020. Fewer nominations were received in 2017 as a result of breeding patters of 2015 and 2016. She said the stud fee auction was successful with over $20,000 in bids. 

An increase in accounts receivable is primarily due to pending USLGE reimbursement and a decrease in property and equipment assets is a result of normal depreciation. 

The report shows an increase in prepaid dues liability due to members taking advantage of the three and five-year membership plans. 

Greene said the YTD net income is $22,003.63, with a budgeted amount of $18,334.55, thus a variance of $3,669.08. 

Notes payable, which showed a figure on the report of $19,640.33, will increase when Nov. 30 balances are finalized to reflect the total capitalized expenditure of $75,000 (for building renovations). 

The net registry and membership numbers are better than budget by about $13,000, Greene explained, as a result of total membership exceeding plan offset by necessary increase in salary expense due to employee medical leave. 

The TWHBEA office welcomed back Christie Stephens who she said quickly resumed her role as DNA specialist and eagerly took on horse show records while learning other registry duties. 

G&A expense is over budget by about $9,600 as a result of exceeding budget in supplies related to revamping registry filing system and computer server upgrades. These expenses were offset by being under budget in building maintenance. 

The budget as it relates to marketing is under budget by about $9,700, and Greene also outlined numbers for The Voice magazine and the Gift Shop.

The pleasure horse was profitable, youth is on track and the performance division is better than budget due to no program spending. She said the horse show was profitable and exceeded budget. (The pleasure, youth and performance are each allocated 25 percent of profit to offset their budgets but are recorded separately for better visibility.)

Greene reported on assumptions for the 2018 proposed budget with members projected at 5,770 (4,025 new plus existing lifetime and prepaid), registrations at 2,450, and transfers at 3,950. 
The balance budget assumes the gross revenue and expense of $1,270,800.79. 

More committee reports

Carrie Benedict gave a report on the Breeders’ division, stating the search options had become much more detailed on the website. She discussed the 2017 Futurity results, stating a new class (model) was offered this year and was a huge success.

She said nominations were down this year but that was reflective of the breeding seasons from 2015 and 2016. The percentage of nominations based on numbers of registrants was actually up.  

Allison Thorson reported from her first year overseeing the Youth division. Her primary goal had been outreach and getting to know younger folks interested or involved in the horse. She cited various clinics, fundraisers and promotional efforts that allowed her to connect with kids. She wants to bring in new faces to the breed and in turn offer the many “life lessons” available to youth via the horse. 

Ford Gates reported on the Performance group, touching on highlights from the Belfast Show where total net profit this year was $10,810.89, total expense was $18,416.11 (Total revenue was $29,227.) 

He reported on the International High Point Program; 58 affiliated shows affiliated with the program in 2017. All shows were entered into the IPEDS and there were four different regions with winners. 
Coming in 2018: Gates said there would be online access to individual point standings. 

Margo Urad was sick, so Ashley Wadsworth reported on her behalf for the Pleasure division, giving a good report.  She said her three-day versatility show, held at the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, made a profit.
Stephen Smith, who oversaw the Equine Welfare and Training divisions (now split) closed out the committee reports. He said his primary mission has been focused on helping the industry achieve predictable pre-show inspections. 

“A few years ago, I was focused on finances,” he said. “I think our industry is gone with the wind without these (predictable pre-show inspections).”

  On the welfare side, there’s been three big breakthroughs in the last 18 months, he said. Next year, Stephens will be serving in capacity as vice president to the Executive Committee.

“One year ago, there was a pending rule that would have put us out of business,” he said. “Today that’s dead. To get any action with the Department of Agriculture takes a lot of support and we’ve been able to achieve that.”

He thanked industry veterinarians who’d helped achieve this goal. Last February, he said the association had organized and pushed these expert vets to meet with the USDA to “hold out an olive branch and work together” on things like blood testing, swabbing, pressure shoeing, etc. and then compare notes.
“Then you had an election,” he said. “A huge dialogue with decision makers has started.”

“There’s been a dramatic difference in the way USDA speaks with us, addresses us and inspects our horses,” he said. “…I think we are within reach of consistent, predictable pre-show inspections.”
He closed with encouraging words, reminding members of how far the industry had come from three years ago. “We were losing $10,000 a month and thought we needed to liquidate our building, go into a bunker and give up … we had at least three law suits we thought were going to break us … Today we have a near-balanced budget.”

Law suits are settled and the main object is to promote the breed. Confidence is, indeed, up, he said.