The Walking Horse Equestrian Federation (WHEF) Horse Industry Organization (HIO) received its formal letter of certification from the United States Department of Agriculture on November 4, 2015. The WHEF HIO applied for certification in February 2015 and has been waiting on the formal letter from USDA prior to implementing any of its programs.

In its application, the stated mission of the Walking Horse Equestrian Federation is to utilize highly skilled, non-conflicted decision makers advised by highly trained and knowledgeable professionals to enact programs and procedures which are in compliance with the Horse Protection Act and its Regulations and such additional standards which place the welfare of the Tennessee Walking Horse as a priority.

Further the mission of the new HIO is to eliminate the uncertainty of pre-show inspection.  In order to do so, WHEF will utilize professional, non-conflicted, trained individuals, blood testing and other objective testing rules and standards which are consistent with generally accepted veterinarian principals.  These standards will exceed the requirements of the HPA and enhance the welfare of the Tennessee Walking Horse in shows, sales and exhibitions.

The board of directors of the Walking Horse Equestrian Federation will approve and appoint a Veterinary Advisory Committee. The purpose of the Veterinary Advisory Committee will be to develop and recommend to the HIO board rules and protocols to insure the HIO operates in accordance with all requirements of the HPA.

The Veterinary Advisory Committee is expected to recommend, among other things, the adoption of a drug testing and substance policy with the help of leading organizations and laboratories.  The VAC will work with experienced professionals in the field similar to the work they did with Dr. Scott Stanley from UC-Davis on the Celebration drug testing program.  The WHEF will also look at other objective testing methods to insure the non-conflicted determination of compliance, professional training, education and strict rules of ethics and oversight of all persons acting under the direction of the Walking Horse Equestrian Federation.

The structure of the Walking Horse Equestrian Federation follows closely the legislation currently introduced by Senator Lamar Alexander and last year by Rep. Marsha Blackburn that seeks independent leadership, objective, science-based inspections and professional veterinarian oversight.

Implementation of the new HIO and its concepts will take additional time and work between all parties involved to fulfill the mission of the WHEF HIO.  The previously formed Veterinary Advisory Committee, which has implemented objective testing procedures at the previous two Celebration’s, is the formal applicant on the new WHEF HIO however an independent board will be put in place prior to the activation of the WHEF HIO in the field.