SHELBYVILLE, TN – The Walking Horse Trainer BOYZ are in a “Bucking Buckaroo” frame of mind these days. The Trainer BOYZ started bucking at their Annual Meeting in Bell Buckle, Tennessee in early December 2014, and they have been bucking ever since.
This week the Walking Horse Trainers, under the leadership of new President Mr. Billy Young, started off 2015 by announcing they are moving the 47th National Walking Horse Trainers Show to the Morgan County Celebration Arena in Decatur, Alabama. This is also the home of the Annual Racking Horse Celebration. The new show dates are April 2 – 4.
The move is a slap in the face of Celebration Chairman David L. Howard who, during last year’s Trainers Show at the Calsonic Arena , took members of his family on an expensive spa vacation to Canyon Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
Mr. Howard left the Trainers back in Shelbyville to twist in the wind while the USDA came in and vigilantly enforced the Horse Protection Act.
VENUE FOR THE 2015 NATIONAL WALKING HORSE TRAINERS SHOW
At their annual meeting, the BOYZ were not happy with much of anything in 2014 (this was before the PAST ACT died on December 11, 2014). As they usually do, they held a raucous no holds barred let it all hang out knock down drag out session.
There was severe angst over the Celebration waiting 90 days to pay out the prize money, then withholding $150,000.00 of the Boyz money because allegedly some of the Trainer Boyz horses tested positive for banned substances in blood tests administered by the “VAC”. The “VAC” (Veterinary Advisory Committee) was a phony gimmick by Mr. Howard’s crowd which tried to give legitimacy to the illegitimate sore Big Lick.
The theme of the Trainers meeting was the usual “We Basically Have The Power To Control This Industry (Racket)”. A lot of venting was done toward the Celebration, blaming it for a lot of problems. Mr. Mickey McCormick, WHTA President for the past two tumultuous years, said he was “tired of dealing with the liars at the Celebration”, and he wasn’t running again for President. The tenor of the discussion became so heated that Walking Horse Report Editor Mr. Jeffrey Howard reportedly had all he could stand and left the meeting.
One of the things that the trainers were upset about is they were led to believe that they would have representation on a governing Board set out in Representative Marsha Blackburn’s Bill. but when Senator Alexander drafted his Bill, that provision was not included.
An independent lot, the Trainers have always thought they had some degree of “independence”. The truth is that Mr. David L. Howard has played the Trainers like a Stradivarius for over 40 years and become an extremely wealthy man in the process.
About all the Trainers can do is “strike”, but that has never really worked. It was tried one time in 1988 after the Trainers Show was stopped by court order. The next week Mr. David Landrum told Reese L. Smith, Jr. that they wouldn’t be going to the show that weekend because of a trainers strike. Mr. Smith told Mr. Landrum that he worked for him and to put his horse on the trailer and take him to the horse show. Mr. Landrum did as he was told.
The candidates for President to replace Mr. McCormick were long time Big Lick icon Mr. Benny Johnson from Bluemont, West Virginia. A quintessential good ole boy, Mr. Johnson has held various Trainer leadership positions for over 30 years. He now lives in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Here’s Mr. Jerry “WHATTAJAYROE” Harris and Mr. Benny Johnson “chewing the fat” at the 2013 National Walking Horse Trainers Show, each outdoing the other talking about how “good” things are in the horse business:
CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO:
The other candidate for WHTA President was Mr. Billy Young. A native of Kentucky and college educated, Mr. Young worked 16 years as Trainer for Floyd and Beverly Sherman’s Backward “S” Ranch in Texas. Mr. Young can go “button down” in a coat and tie, if necessary. Now living in Shelbyville, he is regarded as more of a Trainer/Advisor than a saddle time guy. With the Shermans, he would advise them on horse purchases and manage their equine interests. The Shermans were long time Jackie McConnell patrons, remaining with Mr. McConnell during his multiple USDA soring suspensions. Two of the Sherman horses were seized from McConnell’s barn in 2012 by the State of Tennessee. The matter is presently being litigated. The horses are now in the custody of The Humane Society Of The United States. The Shermans sued the State of Tennessee and the HSUS for return of their horses.
BACK TO THE WHTA PRESIDENT ELECTION
A powerful and persuasive presence, Mr Benny Johnson essentially ran on a “No Compromise” with the USDA platform, and “Hell No, we aren’t going to give an inch”.
Mr. Young said the Trainer BOYZ had $146,000.00 in the bank when he last served as WHTA President. Mr. Young pledged that if he was elected, the members of the Trainers Association would see how every dime of their money was spent, and all financial information would be made available to them at all times.
BILLY YOUNG – 2014 CELEBRATION – AK-47, KELLY AND BEVERLY SHERMAN
Mr. Billy Young was elected President of the WHTA.
In making the announcement this week to move the National Walking Horse Trainers Show from Shelbyville, TN to Decatur, AL, the WHTA also announced that Mr. Benny Johnson would no longer be National Trainer’s Show Chairman, a position he has held for over 30 years.
The Trainers Association is basically a trade union. It was formed in 1968 by a group of Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers who realized they were at the mercy of the wealthy horse owners who could fire them on the spot at any time. They figured they would do better if they had strength in numbers. Over the years, especially in the flush times, the Trainers were afforded celebrity status and carried prestige and status in the Tennessee Walking Horse world. Mr. S.W. Beech was the Godfather of the Trainers, and he acted as a one man commission settling all disputes. His word was law.
In 2014, the BOYZ:
- Lost their building in Shelbville, Tennessee;
- The USDA, using sound objective scientific inspection such as Thermography, disqualified over 50% of the horses it checked at the Celebration and destroyed the oft repeated 95% HPA Compliance rate.
- And right before the Trainers Meeting, the Celebration withheld approximately $150,000.00 of Celebration winnings due to Celebration class winners allegedly testing positive for banned substances in “VAC” administered blood tests. (The “VAC” was discredited when its most noted Veterinarian, Dr. Dallas O. Goble, when interviewed by the All American Walking Horse Alliance, said he was not part of the “VAC” and “wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole”. Dr. Goble at one time worked with the Budweiser Clydesdale herd.)
FROM THEN UNTIL NOW
2014 WHTA ANNUAL MEETING AND AWARDS BANQUET
In the flush days, the Trainers meetings and festivities were held in toney metro Nashville locations like the Franklin Marriott, but 2014 found them retreating down to the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall in Bell Buckle, Tennessee to hold their Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet.
ANNUAL MEETING AND AWARDS BANQUET VENUE IN THE GOOD OLE DAYS
Also, a sign of the time was the 40% decrease in the amount of the Rider’s Cup check. It is now $6,312.00 less than it was in 2012.
And here is the Stake Class of “WALKING FOR ANGELS” which was the last Horse Show of the 2014 Show season at Calsonic Arena on the Celebration grounds.
There is literally no one present to watch the Nine Horses receive their ribbons.
And so it goes.