The Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization (TWSHO) sent the following letter to interested Walking Horse owners.  The letter is intended for all involved with the show horse and is visible on the preliminary TWSHO web site at  Below is a copy of the letter.

Dear Owners of Tennessee Walking Horses,

We want to thank everyone who participated at the Owner meeting on Friday afternoon May 25th and apologize to those of you who could not make it on such short notice. Overall, it was a great meeting and was evidence that there is a huge need for an organization that speaks for the show horse portion of this Industry, regardless of personalities, past history or preference for one division versus another. 

There is a large amount of information that is currently available by email, but this and additional information will soon be available once the new website is up and running. In the meantime if you have not received any of the information please let Mike Inman or Kathy Zies know and we’ll get it emailed to you.  We will notify everyone via email once the website is up.

The main focus of the meeting was to update the entire group on the recent events, our opinion as to the impact of the events on the Industry and identify what we as an Industry have done correctly and where we need to focus additional efforts going forward. We also discussed the failure of the Unity Committee and TWHBEA’s recent attempt to eliminate the Celebration, as evidence that after almost 6 months the key organizations in this Industry are incapable of putting aside their differences for the sake of the entire Industry. Other Industry organizations have been paralyzed, the reasons for which do not merit discussion at this time since the result is the same – there simply is no representations for the Tennessee Walking Show Horse.   That paralysis will be the death knell of the Industry as we know it and cannot be tolerated and so a change is needed. Continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity – and will kill the Industry.

We discussed with the group our belief that we need to start a new Organization focused on being the voice and action oriented entity for the Tennessee Walking Show Horse – or TWSHO. The immediate goals are to

1. Hire a professional PR firm to coordinate all of our communication efforts
2. Administer and implement the swabbing initiative approved by the Trainers association, and
3. Develop the stakeholder information program to politicians, Show Managers, and other interested or concerned Organizations.

It is an INCLUSIVE Organization – not exclusive, not based upon past history, and not owned by Celebration, TWHBEA, WHOA, WHTA, SHOW or any HIO. It will have a governing board which we will identify shortly.

We discussed the recent events of the three criminal indictments and pleas as well as the foreign substance information. Unfortunately, the combination of all of these has decimated the reputation of the Industry including those who are and have been doing everything correctly and in compliance with the Horse Protection Act and who treat their horses humanely, and in many respects, as a member of the family. As we all know, the actions of a few can undermine the good intentions and actions of the supermajority.

In any event, we also discussed recent meetings that have taken place with the AVMA, AAEP and Horse Council informing them about the results of SHOW, a proposed new entity Organization structure, the outline of a swabbing initiative and asking for their help in finalizing that initiative and possible participation on the Board of the new entity. The last of those meetings was finished Wednesday May 23rd and we will be following up with those groups in the next week to 10 days.

There was substantial discussion about the swabbing initiative. The technology is here and we need to embrace it. The Trainer’s Board has initiated the swabbing program, agreed to support it and work with all their members. The Owners must do their part to support this initiative as well. The Industry must prove that it is not soring and although our 98%+ compliance rate for the current subjective inspection protocol is impressive we need to do more. We need to embrace the concept that the current technology is objective, not subjective, and can go a long way toward establishing a more objective, reliable inspection process. We have identified a lab that will test for masking agents and caustic substances for a fairly reasonable price and will provide results within 7-10 days. We are working on the rest of the protocol and asked the other key HIOs that inspect performance and flat shod horses to join in discussing, finalizing, embracing and implementing the swabbing protocol. The PRIDE, KY and HOA HIOs have declined to participate in the swabbing initiative. The swabbing initiative will start June 15th with SHOW events and any Show Manager that requests or agrees to have it at their event. We are also working on a blood testing protocol which, hopefully, will be implemented in the near future, cost and time permitting. The HSUS last week requested the TN Attorney General begin investigating the role of Show Management in allowing sore horses to compete and we will be reaching out to Show Managers asking them to participate in the Swabbing Initiative regardless of HIO affiliation.  All inclusive.

In addition it is clear that we need to hire a professional PR firm. Jeffrey Howard is on point for that initiative and he has already talked to 2 firms and will talk to the Horse Council, AQHA and others and solicit names of firms they use. Our goal is to have a PR firm in place in the next week to 10 days.  The Industry has done a very poor job of getting our story out to the Associations named above but also to politicians, Show Managers and other stakeholders. Mike McGartland will head a group that will begin that process including working with the PR firm but also individual Owners in their respective states that can help. Our goal is to prove that this is a compliant, non-soring horse Industry and it would be inappropriate to eliminate this division of the TWH breed because of the actions of the very few. Too many jobs, livelihoods, charities, towns, and associated functions like veterinarians, feed store personnel etc are tied to and economically dependent on this Industry and we can’t let them down.

Of course all of the above will cost money. As we explained to the group which was present, we need initial “seed” money to move these initiatives into action. We also cannot, and will not, ask this same group over and over to support the entire Industry. As such, we need a sustainable funding model going forward which should be all inclusive. The following volunteers have agreed to work on the initial seed funding as well as a sustainable funding model going forward; Gail Walling, Virginia Stewart, Mike Inman, Bruce McDonald and Bob Medina (he was “volunteered” in absentia). They have been charged to raise $1M in total by the end of the year with $250K in the next 2 weeks, $500K within 3 months and the rest by the end of the year. To that end, Mr. Baskins issued a $100K matching challenge to the Trainers to raise the same amount. Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Baskins and go Trainers! If each trainer gave $200+ they will exceed their goal.

Part of the funding groups initial responsibility is also to reach out to the Celebration, TWHBEA, WHOA, the other HIOs, all Show Management, and others to request those groups participate in this fund raising, not to the detriment of their own Association but as a participant in a “fair” share of the costs.  Again, to reiterate this is an inclusive Organization for the Industry not exclusive. What will not happen is that the Celebration, TWHBEA, WHOA, WHTA, SHOW or any HIO will own, control or be on the Board. TWSHO is dedicated to the entire Show Horse Industry and will not report to or be owned by any of these groups and therefore will not allow paralysis to harm the Industry.

All information about the hiring of the PR firm, finances, key meetings, strategies and presentation materials will be fully transparent. A quarterly update letter and meeting will be established. Regular updates will be posted on the TWSHO website once it is up and running – expected in the next week or so. The initial Board is in the process of being finalized and we will provide their names after they have all agreed to serve. 

The Industry is in a crisis. We have overcome the criticism of the subjective sensitivity aspect inspections of our industry with a 98.5% compliance rate in the last 3 years. (As a matter of fact the Fun Show was a huge success – Total horses inspected pre and post show – 599, SHOW violations 16, USDA violations 0! For a 97.5% compliance rate.) Yes, the foreign substance information is very troubling. But once we were made aware of that information earlier this year, we immediately began working on and will implement a swabbing initiative that will also be successful and once and for all prove that, subjectively and objectively, we are not soring these wonderful horses. Now is the time to support this Industry and this new Organization. There are no guarantees but it is the best way to protect your investment and enjoyment in this Industry and prove that we are committed to ensuring that the sore horse has been eliminated from the show ring and our Industry.