By Jeffrey Howard

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization (TWSHO) hosted an industry presentation on Monday, October 15, 2012 at the Blue Ribbon Circle Club on the show grounds of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  The boards of directors of the Walking Horse Owners’ Association, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association, Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse, industry state association and donors to TWSHO were invited to attend.

Chris Mather from public affairs company Purple Strategies led the presentation and discussion which centered around the current state of the industry.  Mather facilitated discussion regarding H.R. 6388, a proposed amendment to the Horse Protection Act that would eliminate HIOs and ban weighted shoes and action devices, the lawsuit on mandatory penalties, the role of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Horse Council in the industry as well as the view of the industry of the public, press and elected officials.

Mather, along with TWSHO board members pointed to the internal challenges the industry has that make combating the external challenges so tough.  They included the splintered voice of the industry, the number of different positions within industry associations, limited resources and less interest in the Tennessee Walking Horse.

Given the current state of the industry, TWSHO board members presented a plan to consolidate the HIOs to ensure consistent application of inspections and one standard to be adhered to for all Tennessee Walking show horses.  Ideas about the structure were debated but the TWSHO board would be expanded to include representation from TWHBEA, WHOA, TWHNC and WHTA. Committees would be established under the board level to include state representation as well as outside expertise.

TWSHO continues to push reforms in the industry based upon objective, measurable, science-based testing.  Additional reforms would include blood testing as well as continued swabbing.  The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association expressed their desire to push forward and pursue the new structure that would standardize inspections across the industry.

TWSHO representatives will be at board meetings of WHOA, TWHBEA, TWHNC and WHTA in November to further explain the proposed plan as well as receive input to the final structure.  TWSHO officials also offered to come to any state associations to answer questions.