In a head-bobbing finish, Maryland’s horsemen today voted for change at the group that represents them, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
The vote, after a somewhat acrimonious campaign, was close: 126-115 to adopt the bylaws amendments.
The amendments themselves were narrow in scope. The most consequential — and most contentious — of them alters the manner in which the President and Vice President of the Board are chosen. Currently, the Board itself chooses them; the amendments would vest that power with all of the members of the organization.
Both sides had reason to be proud of the way in which the organization handled the voting process. Though the proposals had to some extent splintered the Board — with a volley of letters back and forth putting the exclamation point on a process kicked off by a contentious February meeting — the process for conducting and counting the vote was beyond reproach.
A majority of the Board had opposed the changes as “detrimental to and contrary to the best interests of the MTHA and its membership.” President Richard Hoffberger and former longtime Board member Jerry Robb were among those who spoke in opposition to the proposal.
The leading proponent of the changes, Board member R. Larry Johnson, served as the lead speaker in favor of them. Board member Mike Horning joined in supporting them.
The 243 horsemen in attendance — two votes were not counted because of irregularities in their ballots — demonstrated the passion that horsemen feel for the sport and the concern that many hold for its future. One challenge for future leadership will be to harness that passion, rather than letting it dissipate.
“This is an important first step, and it clearly sends a message,” Mr. Johnson told me. “The message is that the status quo isn’t acceptable, that we need more openness and better relationships among all constituent groups. It’s that we need to do a better job promoting our product, as well as ownership.
“Although it’s only a first step, it is an important step,” he added.
The passage of these amendments starts the clock on the election process. According to the amendments, elections for President and Vice-President must take place by July 1 of each calendar year, with nominations due by May 15.