"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, August 18, 2008

ARTICLE - Free the Tennessee Walking Horse: The truth of the struggle within TWHBEA

Again, backlog from my website, and a great article that really points out the truth of what's going on in TWHBEA. Honestly, I have no idea who wrote this, but it needs to be read by those of us who are fighting the good fight.

Received via email September 13, 2007

Please note: My apologies to whomever wrote this article, as I don’t know who wrote it or where it was originally posted. I am posting it here because it is an excellent narrative as to what’s going on within TWHBEA and the TWH industry in general. If you are a member of TWHBEA, PLEASE be sure to vote for the right people and save the sound TWH!

Free The Tennessee Walking Horse

If you want to understand both sides of the issue surrounding TWHBEA, please look at http://freethetwh.org.

Basically, some time ago, TWHBEA voted to not renew the contract with the NHSC, and that's what really started the ball moving for change. That move was made because the NHSC has for decades been nothing more than a tool to protect the guilty and the status quo. Before going on I want to repeat that I am not anti-padded. However, I am vehemently anti-sore, and although that makes me a tree-hugger to some, I do not equate sore and padded. That said, prior to about two years ago, virtually the entire industry was controlled for decades by the padded horse "old guard". The rest of the breed was treated like they didn't really count other than as an outlet for their culls. You don't have to go very far to find that that attitude still prevails with a lot of the old guard in the industry.

Free The Breeders (http://www.freethebreeders.org) represents that old guard in the industry. Like a lot of situations, the old guard is actually a relatively small clique within the breed, being major owners and trainers, that controlled the industry for their own purposes and benefit. Their primary purpose was to promote the padded horse and use their definition of a "unified industry" to fight in every way they could the USDA and anyone else who wanted to clean up the industry. Back at one time, back when the NHSC was virtually the only HIO, they even extracted $1/entry of every entry at every show that went into a fund that was used to defend those who had federal cases pending against them, brought by the USDA. If you think their mind-set has really changed from those days, think again.

As mentioned, they controlled the industry for their own benefit, and did so largely at everyone else's expense. How? First, they have done everything they could to keep the breed the way they wanted it, which at the same time kept it on a head-on collision course with the USDA and public opinion. You saw that happen in 2006 at the National Celebration. How has this cost the breed? First, it is a combination of the ongoing but more recently prominent public "black eye" the old guard has given the breed plus the fact that nobody knows for sure how long the battle will continue for the soul of the breed and the industry that is largely responsible for the TWH market tanking. Yes, horse values are down in general right now, but not nearly to the extent that they are in this breed. All of us are paying that price; not just in terms of the current market, but from the fact that the negative image this breed already had was magnified nationally by the publicity it received last year, and it will take years to overcome that damage even if we can manage to truly get the industry cleaned up. It is also hard to bring new people into the breed and showing with all of this mess going on. However, the old guard really couldn't care less about any of that except in one sense, and that is that it has put a spotlight on what they are doing with their horses, and they would like that spotlight to go away for obvious reasons.

Some visionary folks within TWHBEA - some of them having even been part of the old guard - were smart enough to see where things were headed, and realized the necessity of change. One of the first measurable effects of that realization came when the contract with the NHSC was not renewed. It largely went unnoticed until the then existing contract actually lapsed, and then the realization began to set in with the old guard that "things, they were a changin'". For a short time there was a mad scramble, as there was a question as to whether WHOA was going throw their lot in with TWHBEA or go with the old guard. The old guard managed to get enough folks on the WHOA board to keep that from happening, and WHTA and WHOA struck an agreement to contract the NHSC and keep it going. Bear in mind that the old guard had already suffered a major setback in the late 90's when the KWHA, NWHA HIOs were formed along with FOSH (affiliated with HPC and then HIT), the combination of which nearly cut in half the number of inspections performed by the NHSC. However, with TWHBEA's sanctioning plan introduced, they realized that their long held stranglehold on the industry was truly in permanent jeopardy. Further, their cash cow - being the registry itself - was no longer under their control or at their disposal.

True to form, the old guard has spent the past year circling the wagons in an effort to "reunify" the industry. TWHBEA also wants to unify the industry, but there is a key difference. The old guard, represented by Free The Breeders, wants to take things back to unify the industry with things back just like they were before, or as close to it as they can get. TWHBEA wants to unify the breed by providing a structure to move the breed forward toward a better relationship with the USDA, true enforcement of the HPA rather than lip service the old guard gives it, a better image for the breed with the public and the rest of the equine world, and to truly represent all facets of the breed rather than 95% of the emphasis being on the padded horse, as it had been for decades. The old guard has been fighting all of this, tooth and toenail. They have done everything they can to discredit TWHBEA. They have withdrawn advertising in the Voice, and then complain about the lack of advertising. They complain about the DNA conversion, when Dee Dee Sale (one of the Free The Breeders co-founders) and Kathy Zeis were largely responsible for those problems by insisting on doing it their way rather than other ways that could have avoided many of those problems. They even complain about the TWHBEA office building problems, as if they weren't the ones on whose watch that building was constructed. The fact is that the current staff and majority of the executive committee are dealing with the fallout from years and years of rule by the old guard, and they are doing so with the old guard fight them every step of the way.

So, if you want more of the past with control of the industry by a relatively small number of wealthy owners and their trainers, and all of the self-serving corruption that has existed with that, then support Free The Breeders, because the past is what they are all about. In spite of what they say, they have never had any desire to represent all facets of the breed until it became politically expedient for them to do so, and that has only been since they have been out of power at TWHBEA.

However, if you want this breed to move forward into a brighter future, please visit http://freethetwh.org, and vote for the candidates they endorse as well as for all of the bylaws amendments. Many of the current leadership at TWHBEA have taken great personal risk to move the breed forward. They have put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. They truly are about all aspects of the breed, including the padded horse, but they want a public image and relationship with the USDA that is worthy of the breed, and will actually do what it takes to achieve it. They took those steps when it was not personally expedient for them to do so, but did so in the interest of the breed and in the interest of the overall membership of TWHBEA.

A couple of final thoughts concern the bylaws changes. One of the bylaws changes helps ensure continuity of the executive committee by making it somewhat rotational in nature. It has always been elected each year prior to this. It was never an issue in the past when the old guard was in power because they controlled it every year anyway. However, it is a change that makes good business and organizational sense, regardless of which side of the fence you are on. Another change involving contract terms also makes sense, as most businesses today do business on a multi-year contract basis, and it is undesirable in many instances to have the kind of uncertainty that is inherent in a one-year contract. Rest assured that the old guard never dreamt that they would ever lose power, or they would have already had these provisions in place.

Another of the amendments makes ineligible to serve as a TWHBEA director anyone who in the prior three year has served or is serving an HPA suspension of longer than 30 days. Needless to say, the old guard would be opposed to that for obvious reasons. You need to know that the candidates endorsed by Free The Breeders have a combined total of 31 HPA violations, including bilateral sore, unilateral sore, scar rule, and foreign substance violations. Is that the quality of people we want in charge of the future of this breed? We can do much better.

This has been long, but I hope the historical perspective and information helps you make a more balanced and thoughtful decision. I would strongly encourage all of you to vote for the bylaws amendments and for the candidates listed on the Free The Tennessee Walking Horse website, link above. It is a vote for a positive future for our breed.

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