By Linda Scrivner

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Walking Horse Trainers Association (WHTA) held its annual election in Franklin, TN. Friday morning, Dec. 4, 2009. For the second time in history there was a tie in the presidential race between Mickey McCormick and Winky Groover, both of Shelbyville, TN. The board decided that the appropriate way to break the tie was to send out ballots to the entire membership with votes to be returned to Winnett Associates.
First Vice President Chad Williams and Second Vice President David Landrum were voted in by acclimation. Six new board of directors were elected. They were Jamie Hankins, Bill Cantrell, Dale Watts, Jamie Bradshaw, Philip Trimble and Jeff Green.
2008 and 2009 President Link Webb conducted the meeting. Following approval of the minutes and the financial report by Wayne Dean, Webb turned the floor over to Dr. Stephen Mullins, SHOW President. Dr. Mullins related that he had been working with the trainers’ board and met with them yesterday. He said that he would be glad to answer what questions he could.

Dr. Mullins stated, “We are continuing to work with the scar rule. We’re trying to help you. The scar rule and the shoeing are two things that the industry is working with.” He said that the heel to toe ratio was in the law and it would not change. The length of the pad to the toe is an industry rule and that it was something that they were looking at. They are working with Dr. Turner . They felt that if it were possible to have a 3 ½” Toe and up to a 2 ¼” package, it would be better for the health of the horses. The 3 ½’ foot looks better.
Carl Johnson asked if there were any guidelines drawn on the scar rule. Mullins felt that the trainers have done a great job on cleaning up the feet. The USDA have pictures on their website from The Celebration that make things look bad concerning the scar rule.

Mullins said that the people above them were continually changing things as far as the scar rule guidelines. Someone asked if these photos were preshow or post-show and were told that they were post-show photos. Mullins said that it was hard to argue with post-show pictures because if they were great going in and bad coming out, some felt that the problem was the action device.
Russ Thompson asked if the trainers had input into the shoeing rule. Dr. Mullins replied that the trainers would have lots of input. He said that SHOW would set up three committees: a Vet Committee comprised of veterinarians around the country, an Owners’ Committee with a diverse group of owners and a Trainers’ Committee to assist them in decision making.  He stated that SHOW was open to any suggestions. As of January 1, 2010, the Task Force will no longer exist. 
Dr. Mullins said that Dr. Cezar agreed that it was an industry rule concerning the heel to toe ratio and that it could be done away with. He said that they would measure from the bottom of the hair line. “We’re trying to open up the pastern area to keep the feet clean. Some horses can’t carry a 3” foot and keep the heels spread. There would be no maximum on the length of toe,” Mullins explained.

Thompson asked about other shoeing rules. Mullins said that it would be a long time before we could get heel springs back but that hoof padding was fine. Thompson also said that it was his understanding that some congressmen were for opening up the law and making changes in it. Mullins said that it would be hard to stay as we are now.
Thompson asked, “As a trainer working in our world to improve the public image, what are three things that would help us?” Mullins replied,”1-2-3 scars.” Mullins  said that after viewing the USDA photos that he felt that the Celebration shouldn’t be held in August. “Photos on the website of some horses looked completely different compared to the same horses at Tunica and Perry,” he commented.

There were five scar rules at these two show that had 800 entries. The trainers didn’t change, the methods were the same, the USDA inspectors were the same, so it must have been the time of the year. That’s my opinion and I talked to the trainers’ board about it yesterday. We can’t show these horses in the middle of the summer. The pictures show that it doesn’t work,” he concluded.
Mack Motes said that our biggest problems  is our people calling the government. He said, “Quit telling on people. Don’t tell on people getting in. Just clean yours up too.” Dr. Mullins agreed and said that when Rachel said that the pictures went up, she had calls coming in about who’s causing the problems.
The nominating committee consisted of Benny Johnson, Bill Cantrell and Sonny Holt. During the election portion of the meeting, Johnson said that the ones that were elected need to go and take part in the meetings. The trainers don’t have much say so and we need to elect someone that will go, commented Johnson.

He continued, “If you miss two meetings, the president can replace you. This has only been done once or twice. If you run, take part and speak up. Give your honest opinions and talk about it. Make sure our association is taking part. Middle Tennessee decides what’s happening,” he continued.
Each of the two candidates for president were given five minutes to talk to those members present. Winky  Groover spoke first, “We need to thank Link for his two years of hard work. If I’m elected I would try to open communication with each and every one of you. I would set up emails and send them bi-monthly to each and every one of you. I would want you to communicate with me and give me suggestions. I would use committees. I would start a new Regional Committee with one person in each area reporting back to the board.

I would set up a Clinic Committee that would have instructional clinics within our group. I would have an Image Committee. We tried to implement a steward program but we need to do it within ourselves. We know what to do and we need to make it a positive thing. We need to penalize the bad horses, not the good horse. We can’t have mediocre horses become great ones. “
“Our Licensing and Enforcement Committee needs to work out the problem of ‘ticket takers’. We need to work with all HIOs. Communicate with them and find out what is compliant. We need a level playing field. We’ve got to get back to showing horses. If they’re compliant they should get to show.
Our judges need to go in a new direction. We must insure honest judges that will tie compliant horses. We need to communicate with the USDA. In closing, we need to find out what compliant is and get there. We need to start now. I want to get an update out before Christmas. We need to change our image and be proud we show walking horses.”
Mickey McCormick spoke next, “First of all, I’ve served on the board under three different presidents. I’ve got the experience needed. I want committees to meet with SHOW on a regular basis and input on rules coming out. We need good working conditions with SHOW and the other HIOs.

We need to continue to deal with the USDA. We need to communicate and promote the trainers and the trainers’ association. We need to promote the good things we ‘ve accomplished. We need to communicate and promote our breed. We’ve got the best product. If we let someone ride one, they will buy one.
The board and the association need to work hard. We need a trainer’s letter monthly. Let everyone know what’s happening. The communication factor is so important. Everyone needs to know what’s going on and everybody needs to be involved. It needs to be us, the USDA and SHOW. We must stay on ourselves to do our best. We need to start meeting monthly and communicate and report to all members by e-mail or regular mail. Our doors are open and everyone knows my number.”
Herbert Derickson gave an update on the Youth Council and talked about the Trainers’ Basketball draft coming up. The Youth have given $30,000 to different charities.  Bill Cantrell spoke about the upcoming events for the evening and the GMC truck drawing.  
Link Webb stated that the group needs to look at the Horse of the Year and work on changing it for the better. He then asked for Old or New Business. Leigh Bennett said that the Academy program was in its’ sixth year and that they were going to revamp the program. For the five winter programs in Tennessee and Kentucky the first half of the show would be Academy classes and the second half would be 18 classes open for anyone. There would be no bracing or braids, and informal clothing. There would be open flat-shod classes and novice classes. This would be a great way to ready horses and riders for the Trainers’ Show.
Anyone with a trainers’ license can bring juveniles to the Academy part of the show. Amy Nesius came through the Academy Program and it’s a great way to get new interest. Trainers and instructors can go in the ring with the riders. Bennett asked for input for what classes they wanted. They are trying to cater to the trainers and they hope to see them at the five shows. There will be a monetary program for the trainer that brings the most horses.
Wayne Dean reported that WHOA had dropped the Youth Challenge classes. He said that they had asked TWHBEA to continue it with the WHTA and they agreed. He said that there would be an incentive for the trainers and the riders at the end of the year.
Paul Livingston commented that we need to work with the policy makers in Washington. Educate our congressmen as to what we’re doing to clean things up. He suggested a committee to educate officials with what we have done.

Mack Motes suggested that the WHTA website be utilized more and that good pictures of clean horses be put there. Webb spoke about the Riders’ Cup and said that they needed to keep the program but they should rework it so that it would be less expensive to the shows and the trainers so that more would participate. Webb stated that the trainers were the bigger part of the industry and with our technology we could really broaden our base.
Thompson thanked the board for their hard work and would like to see the new board work hard and help with the outlying areas. Webb concluded by thanking the board for all the time that they have spent and said he couldn’t have done his job without them.