The Generation of Change

My Fellow Members:

Today represents the fourth of six such letters during my final week in service as your President. I have been truly blessed to have had the honor of leading this organization and serving the horse we all love so much for the past two years. When I was first elected to the International Board of Directors in 2005, I asked Mrs. Sharon Brandon for her advice and she said “always put the horse first, and the rest will take care of itself.” When I was first elected as President I recall Mrs. Brandon advising me that this post was “not for the weary or faint hearted.” She was right, and her advice over the past decade has meant the world to me. She is a first class lady, and one who has more knowledge than my generation may ever forget.

 I have missed Mrs. Brandon tremendously this year, but am thankful that a great friend and able young attorney named Miss Alie Napier stepped in to fill her position as Secretary on the Executive Committee during my final year as President. This seemed to be a very honorable changing of the guard, and I appreciate both Mrs. Brandon’s and Miss Napier’s willingness to work together preparing for the 2012 EC, for betterment of our great horse, and for our great association. Miss Napier is just one of a number of individuals from “the next generation” who have become actively involved at TWHBEA over the past decade or so. I can never thank both of these two ladies enough for all they have done.

Seven years ago during my first meeting as a director, I remember looking around the room and seeing very few if any other individuals from my generation or age group other than our current Horse Shows Vice-President, Mr. Tracy Boyd who this year, had the foresight to pair our National Futurity with our World Versatility Show for the first time since their inception. I later remember seeing a young Colonel Dan Starnes attend as a director from Kentucky, and our current Enforcement Vice-President: Mrs. Christy Lantis come to represent the State of California. Over the next few years, we began to see more and more individuals from our generation step forward in leadership positions and overall active involvement at TWHBEA. In December of 2006, I ran from the floor for the position of Marketing Vice-President, and won by a small margin. Newly elected, I entered the board room at our first meeting and noticed I was the youngest by at least twenty years. That was a hard group to gain respect from, and a tremendous learning experience, but nevertheless an experience I would never trade. The 2007 EC was a diverse but dedicated group, who today I have great respect for. They taught a young EC member a lot, and helped prepare me for future leadership.

During the past three years I have been fortunate enough to work with more and more individuals from our generation such as our current Admin/Fiscal Vice-President: Mr. Rob Cornelius from Alabama, current Performance Horse Vice-President: Mike Hicks from Tennessee, and our tremendously dedicated International Director from Germany, Mrs. Denise Bader-Keyser. Each of these individuals has contributed countless hours and days of service to our great horse and to our association. Time well spent, and time that will help move our breed forward for the next generation and for generations to come.

Today we see highly qualified individuals such as Mr. Jason Bachert and Mrs. Caroline Hoffman serving on our International Board from Missouri, and both nominated for the 2013 Executive Committee. We have been afforded the talents of Director from Tennessee, Ms. Leah Boyd and now see young Dr. Brian Wright representing the Wright Family on the TWHBEA Master Breeders’ Award Committee. Most recently we welcome the addition of Miss Jessica Hlebak from the State of North Carolina to our International Board.

More and more young individuals are becoming involved at TWHBEA and it is very exciting to see this. I believe more and more young people have stepped forward because they care about the longevity of this breed and welfare of our horse. They, along with others can see the significant shift in today’s society, and recognize that change within our breed must occur, or we will have little future for the generations that follow. Now is the time for change and now is the time for more individuals from our generation to step forward and work to help support our horse, and association. YOU are the ones that can change things; YOU are the ones our great horse is waiting on. There are thousands of you out there, and I encourage each of you to become involved. From someone who first became involved in service at TWHBEA seven years ago this week, at the age of 26, I can promise that in a short period of time you can have a long term, lasting impact on our breed, and you can make a difference. Our horse is waiting on the generation of change to move full speed ahead into the twenty-first century.

Please know that as members you can become involved by serving on a committee under the Vice-Presidents and Members At Large on the Executive Committee, you can volunteer time at our association, you can help start new horse shows and trail rides, you can represent our breed and TWHBEA at trade shows and fairs around the world, and you can serve our horse in many other areas. All you have to do is contact our International Board Members, TWHBEA staff, or Executive Committee Members, and we will help point you in the direction your talents may be best utilized. We welcome your help and support, and we at TWHBEA need each and every one of you all over the world. We are the generation who can spread the positive aspects of our horse and plant the seeds for the growth of our breed in every country on planet earth.

From the generational perspective, I present these thoughts with no disrespect to any other generation, and thank those who have come before us, and those who continue to serve today for the time, efforts, dedication, and talents that have served our horse well. I believe our generation can combine the wisdom of the past, with the knowledge of today, to create a bright tomorrow that our horse has never seen. I can see our horse in every country, I can see our horse being loved by millions, I can see our horse as more than just the number one breed in America; I can see it as the number one breed on earth. How long will it take? It will only take as long as we imagine it will. If we all open up our minds to change and look forward to a new tomorrow then the reality of today will show us the next steps we must take, and give us the vision and imagination to see our great horse move into the future.

If it seems hard to imagine such a feat, then I remind you our breed registry, The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association was the only equine breed registry in the United States of America to show membership growth in 2011, and our association showed membership growth for the first time in nearly a decade by nearly 1,000. This feat is one I am very proud to have been a part of, and one most would have said seemed unlikely to have been accomplished. It occurred because we decided to just make a few changes. We decided to pick up the phone and begin calling our members. We decided that what we were doing wasn’t working and we had to do something different.

In closing I ask you please consider one question: What were AT&T and Apple’s primary products, and primary source of revenue thirty years ago, and what are they today? The answer was once something that is now obsolete, and today is most likely in the palm of your hand. One of the Fathers of our Country, Benjamin Franklin once said “When you are done changing, you are done.”

For generations to come,

Marty Irby, President


The Breed Registry Since 1935





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