SHELBYVILLE, TN – A piercing analysis of the woes and travails of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in an article by Celebration Premier Sponsor, Mr. David Thomas, proprietor of Winner’s Circle Tack Shop, appeared yesterday in ShelbyvilleNOW, a community online publication.
MR. DAVID THOMAS, CELEBRATION PREMIER SPONSOR
Mr. Thomas’s article “Concerned Voices” raised questions about the competency of the Celebration leadership without specifically naming Celebration Chairman David L. Howard, and key board members John T. Bobo and Pat Marsh
By posing a series of questions. Mr. Thomas laid bare the basic flaws troubling the 76 year old Tennessee tradition which is managed, directed and controlled by the following three gentlemen:
CELEBRATION CHAIRMAN DAVID L. HOWARD
CELEBRATION BOARD MEMBER ATTORNEY JOHN T. BOBO
CELEBRATION BOARD MEMBER BUSINESSMAN PAT MARSH
Concerned Voices – Part 1
November 12, 2014 – by David Thomas
The title of this multi-part article was chosen because of the sources used for compiling the content. Concerned Voices have been communicating potential solutions to our issues revolving around the decline of the Celebration and the Tennessee Walking Horse breed.
In this edition we will examine the data received from many sources as to why the Celebration is where it is today as well as possible solutions to the problems that exist.
I received a large number of repsonses concerning the Celebration and I will list the top concerns as well as address some suggestions that were presented.
1. Nearly every response started with the current Celebration Leadership. Hardly anyone complained about specific individuals, but the general concensus was that leadership change is necessary.
As one respondent put it, “There needs to be a wholesale change for the Celebration to get back on track”.
2. The Celebration does not need to be involved in lawsuits against the USDA. One respondent stated, “The minute SHOW was involved in a lawsuit against the USDA, they painted a target on my back if I show horses at one of their shows.”
3. The Celebration needs to concentrate on putting on horse shows rather than try to control the entire Walking Horse breed. Nearly all responses expressed this concern. The Celebration and its leaders are perceived as “power hungry” as several respondents put it.
4. The Celebration needs to update its facilities with upgrades to the Calsonic arena. Specifically, several respondents pointed out that most other venues have Air Conditioning and that the Calsonic was very uncomfortable and at sometimes miserable during the day time performances.
5. The Celebration judging system needs to be changed to include new faces and different judges from year to year.
As one respondent expressed, “Its the same ones year after year, and you know who they are going to tie before you go into the ring”
6. The Celebration needs to decrease the number of duplicate classes to prevent the title “World Champion” from being watered down. This will produce larger classes and give more credence to the title “World Champion”.
7. The Celebration needs to pay out the winnings in a timely fashion. One respondent said “I’ll never be back! I have waited 6 weeks for my winnings and I’m tired of the run around.”
8. The Celebration needs to discontinue corporate sponsorships from anyone that is an exhibitor. Too many conflicts of interest.
9. The Celebration needs to work with the community more to involve more organizations rather than try to run them out. One civic club member said, “Our involvement is about over. Greed has taken over”.
10. The Celebration should hire a business consultant and then follow their suggestions. One comment received was, “To many people that think they are experts and have lost touch with its support base”.
It is obvious that the Celebration now has a public relations nightmare to deal with. The question is: Will they make positive steps in dealing with the issues at hand?
It is natural for we as human beings to go into defense mode when criticized. Sometimes we even go into a state of denial. Those that accept criticism and make changes end up stronger and usually have much success. Hopefully, the criticism in this article does not trigger a defense or denial response, but maybe it could lead to self evaluation and we can see changes for the positive. Isn’t everyone’s goal a Healthy and thriving Community Event…..The Celebration.
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The Celebration is built around the soring of Big Lick horses. Its inspection program, S.H.O.W. HIO, is being decertified by the USDA for its failure to enforce the Horse Protection Act.
The USDA conclusively proved, by publishing its 2014 Celebration “Horse Protection Activity Report”, and 2012-2013 data, that the 95% HPA compliance rate claimed by Celebration officials and TWHBEA President Steve Smith was a lie.
Also, the Celebration management was exposed lying to the public about the much publicized “VAC” Veterinary Advisory Committee when one of its members, Budweiser Clydesdale Vet Dr. Dallas O. Goble was discovered to not even be part of it while the Celebration Chairman David L. Howard and “VAC” Spokesperson Tom Blankenship were lying to the public that he was.
Dr. Goble said, “I wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole”.
And the Celebration featured Cock Fighter B.L. Cozad, Jr. as its Spokesperson in the Celebration’s Hall of Fame Club:
Mr. Thomas tiptoed around the tulips with “Concerned Voices”, but the gist of his article essentially suggested throwing David L. Howard’s sore Big Lick crowd out into the street and starting over.
Stay tuned for Part 2.