"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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

NEWS - Wayne Abee Indefinitely Suspended from the Celebration

Click here for the article. Kudos to the people in the stands who reported this guy. I'm glad to see that conduct violations are still being considered. If they act like an ass in the stands, then they probably do the same at home and have no respect for their clients or customers.

NEWS - Attendance at the Celebration

Here is some information I was given this afternoon from the National Celebration website. Click here for the article.

"Paid attendance on Saturday was 23,829 while actual attendance was 22,156. The Celebration posted a paid attendance of 216,253 for the ten-night event."

The reason why this is interesting is because it points out that the paid figure is not a body count. For most of the week, the Celebration were sevearl thousand people below their paid attendance amount. Figures in the past have ranged from 27,000 to 35,000. Less attendance means a lot of things, but mostly it means that the industry is continuing to not do as well as it has in the past.

NEWS - It's All About the Money

Click here for the article detailing how Senator Mitch McConnell has continued to threaten the USDA and urge self-inspections at TWH shows. From the article:

"McConnell backed the industry's demand for its own inspectors — paid by the industry, drawn from the ranks of horse owners and trainers — to have a greater role in soring inspections, rather than the independent USDA veterinarians who uncover and report soring more frequently.

"At the same time, the industry gave McConnell tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations and hired his Senate chief of staff, Niels Holch, as its Washington lobbyist and attorney."

Ladies and gentlemen: SOLID PROOF that it's all about the money.

NEWS - Gary Oliver Freely Admits that Chemicals on a Horse is the Norm

Click here for the article about how Gary Oliver intentially put chemicals on a man's horse to "train" it and the colt ended up having to be euthanized. In the article, Gary Oliver freely admits that soring is the norm.

He testified that he regularly put kerosene and motor oil, mixed with sulfur and alum, on Martin's horse and all of his own horses' feet. All are illegal, considered methods of soring. "That's what any normal trainer would have done if they're going to put chains on a horse," Oliver testified.

The most shocking part: "'I felt real bad this horse got hurt while we were down there,' Oliver testified. 'I treated this man's horse just like I would treat my own horse.'" So that means that all your horses are suffering just as badly as this horse was.

Be sure to watch the video of the testimonies. The lawyer asks Oliver what he used on the horse, and he says what he used (the mix of new motor oil, sulphur, kerosene, and alum). He says it's called "working grease" and everyone uses it--it's to protect the horses' legs. Of course, I question how do caustic substances like kerosene and motor oil protect a horse's legs when they are known to burn skin? The lawyer says that none of those are allowed substances under the HPA; the only allowed substances are mineral oil, glycerin and petrolatum. Oliver has no answer for that. Then the lawyer points out how he used his working grease at the sale that he took the colt to. Now, the law says the show or sale management must provide the grease for the people at the show/sale. Oliver says this, and he says that the sale management didn't have any, so he used his own grease, which at this point is determined to be illegal grease and is illegal on show grounds. This means sale management wasn't even bothering to have the correct grease onsite! See how this industry continues to allow this to happen? It's all right here.

AMAZING. This is amazing to me. "ANY NORMAL TRAINER." Folks, if that's not proof that soring is still rampant, I don't know what is.

So, vetman, what do you have to say now?

NEWS - Industry says it is addressing issues

Here we go--the first of many new articles that are out since the Celebration finished. This is a good one--points out the important statistics that the sore horse industry continues to ignore and tells us what went on during the inspections. I know some people have started cleaning up their act, but we know it's not all.

Click here for the article from the Kentucky Herald.

THOUGHTS - vetman's comments: Oh boy! Ammunition!

Someone claiming to be vetman made a comment on my last two posts. Hello, vetman. Oooooo, you've given me ammunition! Let's have some fun, shall we???? All of vetman's quotes are as written.

"I am saddeneded at your lack of truthfulness and use of 1/2 truths and one-sided commentary to push your anti padded agenda.,"

What are half-truths? Either something is true or it's not. Plus, one-sided commentary is what a blog is. If people want to find HARD, CONCRETE evidence that soring no longer exists, not just someone on the sidelines saying nah, we’re 98% compliant, they can go look for it. Problem is they won't find it. Believe me, I didn’t want to believe that these horses are being abused. I wanted to believe the lies. But after witnessing it first hand and from the hard evidence that is out there, including the formerly sore mare in my backyard who can hardly walk from the abuse she endured, I find that it’s absolutely true that these horses are still sore.

"For example. your comment about NYPD getting a scar rule in 2006. The thing you didnt mention is the ticket being thrown out of court due to lack of evidence."

Well, since no one bothered to make that information public, how was I supposed to know? Please, please, PLEASE find me the court ruling on this and I will believe you. I hear these kinds of stories all the time, but when I ask for the text of the judge’s ruling, wow, no one knows where it is!

Plus, do you know NYPD personally, did you see his legs that day? And are you a trained DQP? Who are you to judge whether he was sound or not?

"you see, the USDA likes to make up"scar rules infractions" when they cannot get a ticket on a horse for anything else. TYhery call a scar anything that MIGHT imply some form of soring. Whether it be some thin hair, dandruff in the hair, etc, etc."

You know, this scar rule crap has got me riled. THE SCAR RULE IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO DETERMINE IF A HORSE IS SORE OR NOT. It is so stupid how the sore horse industry continues to use this as an excuse for their horse being sore or not. If the horse has granulations indicative of a scar and abnormal waves in the skin, then it has been sored. Don't give me the crap that all TWHs have these waves--EVERY SOUND TWH I KNOW INCLUDING THE ONES IN MY BACKYARD DOES NOT HAVE THESE WAVES. Or the garbage of how young horses in the field all have this pattern, or that it's because of the hard work these horses go through because they are "athletes." BULLSHIT. Take a look at the USDA presentation to the public about how horses in all other fields that wear things on their legs DO NOT show this wavy pattern. It is only in the TWH, and only in the horses on pads that wear chains. THIS IS A PROBLEM.

"Also the numbers were rght in line with where they should be. There is ALWAYS more entered than what usually enters the ring in EVERY CLASS."

I agree that there are always a lot more horses in class than what place. But the TWH show industry gives ribbons up to 10th place, so if there were only 5 places tied, then there were only 5 horses in the class. I think I know simple math.

"Thje USDa beefed up their harassment this year...No doubt. They were pilfering thru tack oxes, pulling trailers over on the highways, etc. The funny thing is the compliancy rate is very near where it has been everyyear before."

Harassment? How is it harassment when the Celebration officials said it was okay for them to search the show grounds for evidence? When the Celebration released that big giant list of things they said will be enforced this year? And how do you know this, since the numbers haven’t been released yet? It sounds like you weren't there, since you were online looking for videos of Santana's El Nino. So I assume you heard this through the grapevine.

As to the searching procedures, REALLY? Do you have some video evidence of this, or did you get this hearsay?

This is my thing, people. I hear TONS AND TONS AND TONS of people continuing to say that the USDA is going through people’s tack boxes, pilfering through this and that, YET NO ONE CAN GIVE US FIRM EVIDENCE OF THIS. No videos, NOTHING. Besides, NO CHEMICALS ARE ALLOWED ON THE SHOW GROUNDS, PERIOD. This is in the rule books and the HPA. What the hell? If they find you have tons of lydocaine (SP) in your tack box or green stuff on your horse’s pasterns, then guess what? You’re using something that’s not allowed per HPA law, and you will get ticketed. Simple as that!

BTW, don’t tell me that Kopertox and other green substances are used as lubricants when it says on the bottle NOT to get the stuff on a horse’s skin or it will cause hair loss. When hair loss is indicative of soring, why would you use Kopertox as a lubricant??? Plus, I just used that shit on my horse who is thrushy because we’ve had a ton of rain out here, and I got it all over my legs (I’m a klutz, what can I say). That shit is STICKY. Why would it be used as a lubricant when it’s sticky?????

Then there’s the claim of using their fingernails and pushing them into the horse’s pasterns for 2 to 3 minutes to get a response. I tried this myself—I pushed my fingernail into my horse’s skin, who is not sore, and he never flinched. I pushed as hard as I could with my thumb to get him to flinch, and he didn’t. Hmmmmmm....

"The dirty little secret the USDa wont tell is that this industry is, for the most part, clean and sound."

WHAT???? Then why it is all over the TWH chat boards that horses were being pulled from their stalls at the show grounds (which is allowed per the HPA and show rules) and found to have plastic wrap, chemicals, and all kinds of evidence indicative of soring? Why did Scott Benham get ticketed for his horses? That doesn’t sound clean and sound to me.

"Their bloated budget has been on the chopping block for 2 years now ever since their sniffer machine was proven to be a dismal failure when all it proved was 99% of the horses are chemical free."

Um, no. Let's take a look at the 2007 statistics that were gathered, shall we? Let's see: of 353 horses tested at 14 different events, 175 were found positive for foreign chemicals. That's 49.5%! WOW, that's a lot more than only 1% of the horses having chemicals! In 2005 at the Kentucky Celebration, 25 horses were randomly selected to use the sniffer on. ALL 25 HORSES WERE FOUND TO HAVE CHEMICALS. The sniffer just isn’t being used as heavily anymore because now the “trainers” have switched to pressure shoeing because it’s harder to detect.

"They have to try and jsutify their $500,000 dollar a year budget. And they are creating hype and tickets to make them seem worth their pay.“yet, they failed again."

Justify? No they don’t. $500,000 is not nearly enough for them to get to all the shows they need to get to. They are spending money on research and development, so they can continue to give all the bad guys a "chance" to clean this up (which of course none of them deserve). Just go to the USDA APHIS website and see where the money is going. Besides, the HPA was supposed to get a $2 million budget when the anti-slaughter bill passed. Why hasn’t that money been handed down? If the gov’t were really trying to sabotage what you call a “clean” industry, then wouldn’t the money be there to do it?

"All these changes proves just what the USDA didnt want them to prove. th hroses are overwhelmingly sound. They rarely can get a horse for being sensitive and have to resort to falisfying or stretching the "scar" rule guidelines to get a ticket to make it seem some horse sarent compliant."

OH WHATEVER. See my above comments on this garbage. I again ask: why were horses found sore in the barns if it's so compliant?

"The truth is most scar rules violations come after the class when the horse was re-checked. jsut like a man who works with his hands strenuosly for a period of time, he wil develop some raised, thickened skin from repeated , repetitivit actions.these "scars" the USDA like to write ticjets on are nothing more than thickened skin, just like a callous or rough skin you get on your hands from a few minutes of slingong horse manure with a pitch fork while cleaning a stall."

Well, guess what, kiddies, ANY KIND OF CHANGE IN THE SKIN IS CONSIDERED A SCAR PER THE SCAR RULE. So if that's happening, then obviously something is wrong. Um, I don't know about any of you, but I don't get a callous or rough skin from scooping manure after just a few minutes. If I did, something would seriously be wrong.

"Tjhe sad part is, most people, like yourself and the followers of your blogs, are so ignorant and gullible about this industry that you believe anything you are told and take it as gospel.Likek the pics you have posted that show abuse..WHERE IS THE ABUSE??"

I can go on and on with that one. For detailed information on those photos, click here.

"One of the horses you say is being abused has protective sticking on it;s feet to keep its hair and skin in good shape, and has lubricant grease and kopertox to help keep anything from starting that the USDA could fabricate as being a scar."

See above my comments on Kopertox: WHY WOULD YOU USE THIS AS A LUBRICANT WHEN IT CAUSES HAIR LOSS PER THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE BOTTLE? Click here for the label for Kopertox. If it doesn't work, click here then scroll down to Manufacturer/Label Information.

"Yo folks realy need to get out and do some persoanl, realy life, research and quit being a mouthpiece for some ignorant, demonizing anti padded horse website that likes to use pics from 20 years ago and fool people with lies and innuendoes. "

The pictures were taken in 2002. Can't you read? Oh wait, you can't spell, so how could you possibly know how to read? Also, please guide me in this real-life research you talk about. I can't find any solid evidence that horses AREN'T being sored, just hearsay and the usual crap that you're spewing out. If someone can provide it, please do so! And don't quote me that 1982 study done on the whether or not pads hurt horses. That study was bought and paid for by the sore horse industry when horses were going around the ring with their legs BLEEDING, and it hasn't been repeated since. Plus, the study showed a higher incidence of thrush and laminitis in TWHs than any other breed. Gee, do ya think that's a problem?

Now, vetman, please, please, PLEASE answer me this question. I pose this of every person who tells me the same crap you're saying, yet no one has so far bothered to answer it. Let me challenge you to do so. You will probably agree that the TWH industry is 98% compliant since you think horses are 99% chemical free, etc. I ask you this: Why not 100% compliant? Why can't the industry be 100% compliant like all other sound horse venues are? I'm sure I can answer why, but really it's not that hard to figure out: MONEY. Why change what works to continue to put money in their pockets?

Good luck trying to convince those of us who know the truth and giving us crap about this. And I am sorry if you do believe the industry is sound. I also am sorry if you truly are a vet because you can't spell.

THOUGHTS - In the Meantime....

I just went on the TWH National Celebration website and discovered that Santana's El Nino won the WGC. So it means the show wasn't shut down. Bad news. Good news is that the results for the classes that were in today show somewhat low numbers in the entries. The WGC class only had 8 entries, and usually it has around 12 to 14. (TWH shows give ribbons up to 10th place--it's why I can tell there are low entries.) This MIGHT mean that the sore horses are actually being found to be sore or the "trainers" are seeing the work that's going on and they are turnin' tail and runnin'.

I also notice that Russ Thompson didn't have his horse I'm Billy the Kid in the WGC class, when he's been in it for the past four years or so--I couldn't give you the exact years off the top of my head. Don't know if that means he was disqualified or if he just decided not to show him, but it does seem weird for his horse not to be in that class when it has been several years running.

Another note: the A/O WGC class had only 5 entries. However, the sad part is that NYPD won the class, and he was one of the five horses found sore at the Celebration in 2006 when it was shut down. I just checked the HPA violations list, and NYPD was ticketed for the scar rule on 9/17/2007 with a two-week suspension. Hmm, that's just enough time to burn those scars off! It's AMAZING how the scars can MAGICALLY disappear so horses can be in future classes!

Overall, it's been quiet all evening--I've been watching the newspapers and just doing general Googling to see what I can find. Info may be up and flooding in tomorrow. In the meantime, I can say that I know the USDA was working hard. Let's hope they were able to stop most of the sore horses from being allowed to show.

Perhaps next year the sound horse will get lucky....

Friday, August 29, 2008

ARTICLE - "Okay, let's talk about the TWH show industry...."

From Fugly Horse of the Day, the information from a person who experienced soring first hand, and within the past couple of years. Click here. Excellent representation of what's going on in the industry!

NEWS and THOUGHTS - Bits & Pieces from the Celebration: GO USDA!!!!!!!

I have a friend who calls it the UNCelebration. She's really right.

Anyway, here are the bits I've gotten about what's going on out there. My comments are in italics

A post received via email 8-22-08 from a sore horse chat room (the incident happened on 8-21-08): "The horses that were taken out from the barn and taken to the inspection area should have never happened!!! Exactly right, BECAUSE THEY SHOULDN'T BE SORE!!!! That was pure ignorance on the trainer's behalf. Everyone knows that plastic wrap is banned from the show grounds, which means that it is not allowed to be on the horse's legs when they are in the barns at the Celebration. {insert sarcasm here} Oh yes, he should have kept that plastic wrap at home. Way to ruin it for those of us who are more covertly soring our horses through pressure shoeing and using eyedrops! No one can be mad at the VMOs for doing this. Rules are rules, and with something so blantely clear, this insident[sic] shouldn't have had to take place. It was just a case where someone thought that it wouldn't matter, and that no one would be checking for this and that they could get away with having illegal wrapping on the horse. Actually, this hits the nail on the head. This is how it has gone on for the past 30 years--no one will catch me, no one is serious about the threats. Now this trainer and the sore horse community are learning that yes, the threats are very serious. Guess they know better now. It's the stupid little mistakes MISTAKE? MISTAKE? How is this a mistake? Oops! I didn't mean to put that plastic wrap on the horse to cook those chemicals in. Silly me! To coin a term from Fugly Horse of the Day, that asshat knew EXACTLY what he was doing! which are killing us in the eyes of the media. My dear, you are killing yourself. The media and the rest of the world knows about what is going on, and the lies and trying to cover it up are not working anymore. I'm sure they will make a big story out of this!" YOU BET YOUR ASS WE WILL! Even if the media doesn't act on it, the word will spread!!!!!

Received via email 8-26-08 from an online chat (not sure which one): "USDA is cracking down on them. Going into barns and pulling horses out of stalls and taking them back to inspection and inspecting. They wrote up Scott Benham and Golden West Farms the other night for a horse in their barn. Horses are still sore in the ring, but the numbers are down."

YYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Scott Benham is a usual out here in AZ at the Carousel Charity Horse Show that is held every March. It is our only A-listed gaited horse show in AZ. It used to be an NHSC affiliated show up until 2006, when they decided to go sound and be affiliated with FOSH. Scott always came with Russ Thompson (I have seen his grooms soring horses right in front of me). There is a worry that the Carousel will go back to being a NHSC show due to the fact that they want more money (OF COURSE), and we all know Thompson is willing to dole it out. So I made sure those at the Carousel know about this.

From the Walking Horse Chat (known sore horse online chat group), 8-28-08: "Latest news on the grounds is....Golden West Farms [Scott Benham] has left the Celebration due to numerous barn inspections by the USDA. This is unfortunate. Save the breed before it's too late!"

Did you ever watch "Ren and Stimpy"? They used to have this song on there called "Happy Happy Joy Joy." That's all they said over and over again. I AM SCREAMING THAT SONG FROM THE TOP OF THE ROOFTOPS! Way to go, Benham--THANK YOU for proving to us that you are a sore horse trainer! Now we definitely know to avoid you!

Overall, it's been quiet about the show. I keep checking information from newspapers and other sources, and not much is being said. The USDA and other groups are out there in force, including the HSUS, monitoring things and carrying on spot inspections in the barns per the Celebration's new rules.

I am praying every night that the USDA will take over the inspections tonight and tomorrow night for the big WGC classes. PLEASE, let's pull shoes, use radiology, ANYTHING that needs to be done to make changes. I am hoping these messages are loud and clear to the UNCelebration and the sore horse trainers. Please, please, PLEASE let us end this atrocity this year by getting it shut down again!

Monday, August 25, 2008

NEWS - VIDEO: Changes to Be Enforced At Annual Celebration

Sounds like the vet might be serious.... I really like the changes and I just hope against hope that they are really carrying them out.

Click here for the article and video.

NEWS - Show, industry set course to halt abuse of horses

My first thought: let's just hope this is true. My second thought: YEAH, RIGHT.

This article talks about the new rules the Celebration officials have put into place at this year's 2008 Celebration to help end soring. Click here for the article. Be sure to read the comments, especially the one about how Howard Hamilton, who is in the photo for the article, received a ticket on August 21 at the Celebration. Well Mr. Hamilton, you say "I hate that there is so much bad publicity," you certainly aren't doing anything to help stop that bad publicity, are you?

I'm just waiting for Friday and Saturday night of this week--that's when we'll see the truth come out. Let's hope the USDA comes in and it leads to shutting down the show once again!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ARTICLES - The Upcoming TWH Celebration: Bonnie Erbe of USNWR Hits the Nail on the Head

Bonnie Erbe should receive accolades for her blog on the U.S. News & World Report website. She continues to report on the problem and give us important, reliable information about what continues to happen.

Click here for her blog entry Celebration Not So Celebratory for Tennessee Walking Horses

Click here for her blog entry The Torture Litany: Horrors Visited Upon Tennessee Walking Horses

We cannot thank you enough, Bonnie! Great job, and keep up the good work!

Monday, August 18, 2008

NEWS - USDA Clarifies Horse Protection Stance

More backlog of excellent information.

USDA Clarifies Horse Protection Stance
Sunday, June 24, 2007
By Christy Howard Parsons
Copyright Walking Horse Report 2007

Editor’s Note: The Walking Horse Report has been provided a copy of a letter from the United States Department of Agriculture to all Horse Industry Organizations. The purpose of the letter is to clarify any misconceptions about the regulatory responsibility and penalties associated with the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.

To: All HIOs
June 22, 2007

The purpose of this letter is to clarify any misconceptions about the regulatory responsibility and penalties associated with the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The roles and responsibilities for signatory and non signatory Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs) have not changed. However, due to some misunderstanding within the industry, I find it important to clarify the expectations of the USDA for the enforcement of penalties within the industry.

When a horse is found in violation of the HPA, HIOs that are signatories to the Horse Protection Operating Plan (OP) may impose penalties as outlined in that plan, and USDA will not initiate a Federal Case against the owner, trainer and exhibitor except under very exceptional circumstances. For purposes of HPA enforcement, a horse with a scar is a sore horse. As a signatory to the OP, HIOs have voluntarily agreed to the duties and responsibilities defined in the OP.

Under the OP, APHIS agrees to sub-delegate to the signatory HIOs the initial enforcement responsibility for affiliated shows, exhibitions, sales, and auction. This means the USDA has allowed the signatory HIOs to employ uniform and effective inspection procedures and to penalize conduct violative of the HPA and regulations and has decided that it will not institute enforcement under the HPA if a signatory HIO's enforcement actions satisfy the requirements of the OP and fulfill the purposes of the HPA. The USDA maintains authority to enforce the HPA when a signatory HIO fails to properly enforce violations of the HPA or apply the appropriate penalty.

HIOs that are not signatories to the OP, must solely fall under the purview of the HPA and Regulations. Without the OP, the USDA maintains the primary role for the enforcement of the HPA and will initiate Federal Cases against owners, trainers and exhibitors associated with any horse found not to be in compliance with the HPA and the Regulations. This is regardless of any industry penalty imposed by the HIO.

I applaud those in the industry that have worked hard to end the cruel and inhumane practice of soring. It is my hope that the industry will continue this effort.

Chester A Gipson Deputy Administrator

HSUS Applauds USDA - The following news release was provided to the Walking Horse Report by the Humane Society of the United States. Bear in mind that this release was sent to publications across the country and will be printed in many local newspapers and magazines.

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.

NEWS - NWHA Tracking Registry Prevails

As is the last two posts, here's some more backlog. I have a lot to say about this one--I'll have to talk about it in a future post....

Click here for the press release from NWHA’s website

TWHBEA had instigated a lawsuit against NWHA, stating that NWHA was infringing on TWHBEA’s copyright by asking for pedigree information on horses registered with the TWHBEA. TWHBEA claimed trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and intentional interference with business relations, and copyright infringement. Of the five claims, the court ruled in favor of NWHA of the first four claims. The court ruled in favor of TWHBEA on the copyright infringement in that NWHA asked for copies of TWHBEA paperwork on the horse to prove its pedigree. However, The court ruled that pedigree information is property of the owner, now of TWHBEA. Therefore, the pedigree information can still be provided to NWHA by the owner if the owner so chooses to do so.

For reference information, I have included the press release from the TWHBEA website. It is important to note that TWHBEA has not provided the level of detail that NWHA provided in their press release. They only provide information on the single ruling in their favor. Click here for the press release.

NEWS - HPA Suspension List Now Online

ere it is! The perfect way to avoid those who sore their horses. Click here for the HPA Suspension List.

If we do not buy from these farms and people or send our horses to be "trained" by them, then it sends a message that we do not tolerate what they do. It's taken a lot of work for this list to finally become public due to lots of the sore horse people making sure that it does not get published. Hooray to FOSH and all those who made it possible for the public to see this list on a regular basis!

NEWS - HSUS Offers $10,000 Reward For Information About Soring

Click here for the article. Posted on the HSUS website on March 18, 2008. It's important to note that Keith Dane, the current president of the HSUS, is the former president of FOSH before Lori Northrup was elected.

NEWS - Lawsuit against USDA and APHIS Concerning HPA Dismissed

This is some backlog from my website so I can do some cleanup. It's very important information, however, because it's proof of the kind of jerks and bullies those who continue to sore their horses really are.

Lawsuit against USDA and APHIS Concerning HPA Dismissed

Received via email April 23, 2008

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division -
Donald HENDRICK and Concerned Citizens for True Horse Protection, Plaintiffs v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ("USDA"), and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ("Aphis"), Defendants.
United States - Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2900526 (W.D.Ky.)

Summary: This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant United States Department of Agriculture's Motion to Dismiss. The Horse Protection Act (HPA) is federal legislation which outlaws the practice of "soring" (harm to the feet or limbs of horses in order to enhance the attractiveness of a light-stepped or high-stepping gait during horse-show performances), which is a particular concern for the breed of Tennessee Walking Horses. The Plaintiffs have filed suit, requesting a declaration of rights. Plaintiffs seek to have the Court define "sore" and "scar" beyond the definitions provided in the regulations (specifically the "scar rule"). The court found, however, that any alleged or threatened injury based on the HPA or the Scar Rule has not yet occurred. Mere uncertainty about the HPA and Scar Rule alone does not create an injury in fact. The USDA's motion to dismiss was granted based on a lack of jurisdiction.

Judge JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, JR., Unites States District Judge delivered the opinion of the court.

Opinion of the Court:
*1 This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendant United States Department of Agriculture's Motion to Dismiss. This matter is fully briefed and ripe for decision. Attachments to the briefs have not been considered, and this matter is considered only as a motion to dismiss, without conversion to a motion for summary judgment.

The Horse Protection Act (HPA) is federal legislation which outlaws the practice of "soring." 15 U.S.C. § 1821, et seq.FN1 Soring involves harm to the feet or limbs of horses in order to enhance the attractiveness of a light-stepped or high-stepping gait during horse-show performances. This is a particular concern for the breed of Tennessee Walking Horses. Under the HPA, horses are examined for soring prior to shows. If it is determined that a horse has been subjected to soring, the horse is excluded from the show.

FN1. The Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1821(3), defines "sore" in the following manner:
(3) The term "sore" when used to describe a horse means that-
(A) an irritating or blistering agent has been applied, internally or externally, by a person to any limb of a horse,
(B) any burn, cut, or laceration has been inflicted by a person on any limb of a horse,
(C) any tack, nail, screw, or chemical agent has been injected by a person into or used by a person on any limb of a horse, or
(D) any other substance or device has been used by a person on any limb of a horse or a person has engaged in a practice involving a horse, and, as a result of such application, infliction, injection, use, or practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer, physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving, except that such term does not include such an application, infliction, injection, use, or practice in connection with the therapeutic treatment of a horse by or under the supervision of a person licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the State in which such treatment was given.

Congress enacted the HPA in 1970. Since then, controversy has ensued over the interpretation and application of the HPA, and a related regulation known as the "Scar Rule" which is codified at 9 C.F.R. § 11.3. The Plaintiffs have filed suit, requesting a declaration of rights. Plaintiffs seek to have the Court define "sore" and "scar" beyond the definitions provided in the regulations. Plaintiffs assert that a case and controversy exists based on the inconsistent enforcement of the HPA and Scar Rule and the inconsistent method of inspections. In addition to providing definitions, the Plaintiffs request the Court to establish uniform policies and procedures that relate to the HPA and Scar Rule.

The USDA asserts that this case should be dismissed based on a lack of jurisdiction, a failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and a failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

The Plaintiffs assert that jurisdiction exists pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, et seq. But "[i]t is well established that the Declaratory Judgment Act ... is not an independent source of federal jurisdiction." Louisville and Nashville R. Co. v. Donovan, 713 F.2d 1243, 1245 (6th Cir.1983). "[B]efore invoking the Act, the court must have jurisdiction already." Heydon v. MediaOne of Southeast Mich., Inc., 327 F.3d 466, 470 (6th Cir.2003). The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), provides that federal courts "may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought." With the Declaratory Judgment Act, Congress created an opportunity, not a duty, to grant relief to qualifying litigants. Westfield Ins. Corp. v. Mainstream Capital Corp., 366 F.Supp.2d 519, 521 (E.D.Mich.2005) (quoting Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. Roumph, 211 F.3d 964, 969 (6th Cir.2000). "[T]he exercise of jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), is not mandatory, and at times the better exercise of discretion favors abstention." Westfield Ins. Corp., 366 F.Supp.2d at 521, citing Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co. of America, 316 U.S. 491, 494 (1942).

*2 Thus, the Court must consider whether there is independent federal jurisdiction over this matter. The Plaintiff has the burden to establish jurisdiction. Courtney v. Smith, 297 F.3d 455, 459 (6th Cir.2002). For the Court to have jurisdiction, the Plaintiffs must establish that they have standing. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); Airline Prof'ls Ass'n of the Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters v. Airborne, Inc., 332 F.3d 983, 987-88 (6th Cir.2003).

While the Defendants in this case did not specifically address the matter of standing in their briefing, "federal Courts have an independent obligation to investigate and police the boundaries of their own jurisdiction." Douglas v. E.G. Baldwin & Assocs., Inc., 150 F.3d 604, 607 (6th Cir.1998)(overruled on other grounds); S.E.C. v. Basic Energy & Affiliated Resources, Inc. 273 F.3d 657, 665 (6th Cir.2001)(the court has "an independent obligation to police [its] own jurisdiction."); Ebrahimi v. City of Huntsville Bd. of Educ., 114 F.3d 162, 165 (11th Cir.1997); Minority Police Offiers Ass'n v. City of South Bend, 721 F.2d 197, 199 (7th Cir.1983). "The existence of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, by any party, or even sua sponte by the court itself." In re Lewis, 398 F.3d 735, 739 (6th Cir.2005).

"[C]onstitutional standing is always a threshold inquiry that a court must consider before exercising jurisdiction." In re Cannon, 277 F.3d 838, 852 (6th Cir.2002)(internal citation omitted). "[S]tanding is perhaps the most important of the jurisdictional doctrines." FW/PBS, Inc. v. City of Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990)(internal citations omitted). "In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). In light of the importance that Sixth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent places upon standing, this Court would be remiss if it did not address Plaintiffs' standing in this case.

To satisfy the standards for constitutional standing, "a plaintiff must establish three elements: (1) an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized; (2) a connection between the injury and the conduct at issue-the injury must be fairly traceable to the defendant's action; and (3)[a] likelihood that the injury would be redressed by a favorable decision of the Court." Blachy v. Butcher, 221 F.3d 896, 909 (6th Cir.2000).

An injury in fact is an injury that has been sustained or is presently causing an immediate danger of injury. O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493-94 (1974). Without evidence that an injury is "actual or imminent," the injury is only "conjectural or hypothetical" and therefore does not establish standing. Mich. Gas Co. v. Fed. Energy Regulatory Comm'n, 115 F.3d 1266, 1270 (6th Cir.1997). In this case, it is unclear what injury the Plaintiffs allege. The Plaintiffs' Complaint alleged that federal legislation and regulation in the form of the HPA and the Scar Rule are unclear and arbitrarily enforced. But the Complaint does not allege that this has caused harm, either to the Plaintiffs themselves or to anyone else. The complaint submits that there is "an actual case and controversy between the parties ... in that USDA and APHIS have acted arbitrarily, inconsistently and unfairly in the process of their inspection (pre- and post show), interpretation and enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, the Scar Rule and other implementing federal regulations." But this is the type of injury that is "conjectural or hypothetical." See Mich. Gas Co., 115 F.3d at 1270. The complaint has not alleged any instances of the inconsistencies or unfairness relating to the HPA, only generalized complaints. There is no "concrete and particularized" injury in this case. See Blachy, 221 F.3d at 909. Because the Plaintiffs lack a concrete injury, the Court cannot examine whether such an injury is fairly traceable to the defendant's action or whether an injury could be redressed by this court. Absent a showing of harm or injury in fact, the Plaintiffs have failed to establish standing.

*3 Here, any alleged or threatened injury based on the HPA or the Scar Rule has not yet occurred. The Plaintiffs have not shown that a judicial decision in this case is needed, or that any hardship will ensue if the case is not litigated at this time. It was the duty of the Plaintiffs to more completely allege that the USDA has caused harm or that it imminently will cause harm. Mere uncertainty about the HPA and Scar Rule alone does not create an injury in fact. See Airline Professionals Association, 332 F.3d at 988 (uncertainty about whether an agreement was binding did not alone create an injury in fact).

In the case of Fleming v. USDA, 713 F.2d 179 (1983), the Court found that the HPA prohibitions on soring were not unconstitutionally vague, and further, there was not a denial of due process in the alleged lack of uniformity in determining soreness. Id. Thus, the Sixth Circuit has previously determined that the definitions of soring provided in the HPA are sufficient. Id. The Plaintiffs' bare assertions of a lack of clarity in the law do not demonstrate an injury, particularly when the Sixth Circuit has previously pronounced the legislation's definitions as sufficient. In this case, the Plaintiffs lack standing and this Court lacks jurisdiction.

In the alternative, even if the Plaintiffs were to establish standing, this court would not find it appropriate to exercise jurisdiction. See Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co., 316 U.S. at 494 (the exercise of jurisdiction is not mandatory and the court may use its discretion). Section (b) of the HPA provides for judicial review in the circuit court after a person has been cited for violating the HPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1825(b). The Sixth Circuit has previously found the language and implementation of the HPA to be constitutional. Fleming, 713 F.2d 179; see also Gray v. Madigan, 796 F.Supp. 1093 (M.D.Tenn.1992). In light of Fleming and the statutorily prescribed method of review contained in the HPA, this Court does not find this to be an appropriate situation in which to exercise its discretion under the Declaratory Judgment Act. See Scottsdale Ins., 211 F.3d at 969 (the Declaratory Judgment Act gives the court "an opportunity, rather than a duty" to exercise jurisdiction). The Court does not find that the alleged lack of clarity in the HPA will result in irreparable harm, and thus, this Court will not exercise jurisdiction.

For all the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ordered that USDA's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED based on a lack of jurisdiction [DN 16].


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THOUGHTS - Responses to the White Paper

So of course, there are responses to the White Paper. The HSUS applauded the TWH Task Force for their efforts--the article is located on The Horse.com (Click here). This response is especially poignent because Keith Dane, the president of the HSUS, was at the 2007 Celebration and he saw no changes in efforts to stop soring in the full year it had been since the 2006 Celebration shut down.

Of course, we also got some negative responses, which really is not unexpected. The entire article is on The Horse.com (Click here). I have some comments on their comments, which I want to share here.

In regards to having veterinarians as the new inspectors instead of DQPs:
"'That's an impossibility,' said Earl Rogers, president of the Kentucky Walking Horse Association. 'Out here in the country, (Rogers lives in Bath County in northeastern Kentucky) we can't even get a large animal vet to treat our animals, let alone have one at every show.'" OF COURSE you can't have a vet at every show because you're not serious about stopping soring. If you were serious, you'd foot the costs for flying one in. Last time I heard there were airplanes that go to Kentucky. (The KWHA is known for having violations, BTW.)

"'National Walking Horse Association Executive Director Don Vizi worries that implementing the AAEP plan will burden association and horse industry organizations financially. 'We do 60 shows a year, not counting our national show,' Vizi said. 'I don't think they've even thought about cost yet.'" Okay, first off, I am a HUGE supporter of NWHA and I actually like their show venue better than FOSH. Don, I definitely don't disagree with you as far as cost is concerned. I don't think the AAEP thought about costs--they were asked to look at solutions to the problem. With NWHA being serious about sound horses, though, I am sure we would find a way to put this in place. People already fly out DQPs and judges to shows, and those people are paid for their efforts (sound horse show or not)--why can't they do this for veterinarians?

Honestly, we have GOT to find a solution to this, and in my opinion, a drastic change is what is needed. I completely agree with Ms. Leitch: "Task Force Chairman Midge Leitch, VMD, Dipl. ACVS, of Cochranville, Pa., admits the recommendations represent a financial commitment. But the investment is necessary to abolish a long-standing 'culture of abuse' reflected in 103 HPA competitor violations at TWH shows in 2007, and the failure to crown a 2006 World [Grand]Champion due to the high volume of disqualifications at the TWH National Celebration that year. 'Exhibitors, owners and trainers are going to have to pay a lot of money to clean this up,' she said."

Folks, the deal is this: soring continues, period. It is more rampant than the industry makes it out to be, period. Solid evidence tells us this; end of story. Therefore, you jerkoffs who continue to sore horses need to be shut down because you aren't going to change, and we know it. Why would you stop a system that continues to make you money?

This means that serious and strong implementations need to be put in place. The AAEP has it exactly right: get rid of DQPs, get rid of HIOs, and start hiring vets to do this job. We also need to put in more serious consequences for soring, such as banning someone FOR LIFE from owning, training, and showing when they are found pressure shoeing (the best part of the HPA Operating Plan, but it was taken out--UGH!). STOP PUSSY-FOOTING AROUND, USDA! GROW SOME BALLS AND GET THIS DONE! We don't have to change the HPA to make these changes.

So, financially, that means that us exhibitors and owners that are sound need to pony up and play the game for awhile. We need to accept that money will be tight in the show world for a while, but it will get better over time. People complain about show prices in the gaited horse world, but have you ever seen show prices in high-end shows in the QH world or the Arabian horse world? They are nearly triple what we pay now at our high-end shows. So perhaps only the rich sound horse owners are going to be able to show for a while. FINE. If it ends this problem, then we should all see that it's worth it.

I was at a sound horse show several years ago where an exhibitor who was also part of the show management team got a ticket for not bringing her horse back to the DQP after winning 1st place in a class. She made a mistake, but the DQP wasn't yielding. I AGREED WITH THIS DECISION. OMG, you crazy woman, Andrea! Why would you do that? Because if we don't play the game, then we are just as bad as the bad guys. We MUST follow the rules to a "T" to show that we are serious about ending this problem. Luckily there are no hard feelings and the DQP and the exhibitor made up. Which is another good point: yes, everyone was mad, but they talked it over and made up anyway because they saw the importance of the situation.

My advice is to support the AAEP in pushing for implementation of the White Paper. We have to make a stand and let the bad guys know that enough is enough!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

HOW YOU CAN HELP - Letter Writing Campaign to the USDA

This is probably one the most important actions we can take to help end the horrible practice of soring. I received this email from a FOSH member, but it applies to ALL of us who are fighting for the sound horse. We must let the USDA know that we need them to be at the Celebration this year to enforce the HPA and let exhibitors know we do not tolerate their actions.

Please be sure to read all of the post for important directions and contact information. I know I'll be faxing my letter tomorrow! And feel free to contact me if you need help writing your letter!

We are asking for your help. Letters and emails have always had the most impact on the USDA. We are now less than two weeks before the Celebration and we want to flood the USDA with letters asking that the Horse Protect Act be enforced. There is a good chance the other side is also writing the USDA for leniency and of course, we know their lobbyist is doing likwise.

Here is a sample letter. I hate to ask this, but it is truly better that each letter be individualized with your own language. I know that is not always easy as some of us are not that comfortable writing; however, if that is your expertise, please go for it.

FAXes are best and emails are second best. Mr. Shea's email is: kevin.a.shea@usda.gov Dr. Gibson (HPA department head) reports to Mr. Shea. The drawback to the U.S. Postal service is that the anthrax attack several years ago means your letter may not be received for awhile, a long while...so a fax or email is best.

If your spouses, parents, children, friends and club are on board, please have them also send a letter.


Your Name
City, State ZIP


Mr. Kevin A. Shea
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Jamie l. Whitten Building, Room 312-E
Washington, D.C. 20250-3432
FAX: 301-734-4978

Dear Mr. Shea:

I am writing to request that the United States Department of Agriculture strongly enforce the Horse Protection Act for the remainder of the Tennessee Walking Horse show season.

During the 2008 show season, thousands of horses have been subject to being pressure shod, and trainers are continuing to leave the show grounds in droves. The recent report from the American Association of Equine Practitioners independently confirms that DQPs are not performing the inspections appropriately. As a result, it is up to the USDA to protect these gentle and wonderful horses by enforcing the Horse Protection Act to the fullest extent.

Tennessee Walking Horse industry lobbyists may request leniency during this critical show season time; however, now is the time to exert the authority of the USDA and demonstrate to trainers and owners that HPA law breakers will not be allowed to show and will receive tickets for violations. Simply designating a horse as "bad image" and not allowing it to show doesn't protect these horses. It merely protects those that continue to cruelly abuse Tennessee Walking Horses.


Your Name

Friday, August 8, 2008

NEWS - The HSUS applauds the AAEP White Paper on Horse Soring

The press releases are coming out! Thanks to Keith Dane and the HSUS for their press release on the White Paper issue. And don't forget: the HSUS still has their $10,000 reward for info leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who sores horses!


The Humane Society of the United States applauds AAEP White Paper on Horse Soring

Urges Tennessee Walking Horse industry to adopt recommendations

WASHINGTON (Aug. 8, 2008)— The Humane Society of the United States applauded recommendations set out in the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ newly released white paper, “Putting the Horse First: Veterinary Recommendations for Ending the Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses.”

The Association’s recommendations include: immediate implementation of a drug testing program at horse shows; the abolishment of the industry-run Designated Qualified Persons self-regulation program, turning inspection duties over to qualified veterinarians; 24-hour security personnel and inspectors in the stabling areas of show grounds where violations are known to occur; and the establishment of much more severe penalties for Horse Protection Act violations than in the past.

“The soring of Tennessee Walking Horses is one of the most egregious forms of equine abuse and it is time for it to be brought to an end”, said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States. “Ending soring is a top priority of The HSUS and the AAEP paper echoes many of the same concerns we’ve raised and the changes we’ve been recommending. We are very pleased that AAEP has taken a stand for the welfare of the horse and believe its influence will be a valuable asset in the continued fight to end soring. We urge the Walking Horse industry to immediately end the cruel treatment of its horses.”

Soring involves the use of caustic chemicals, chains and other irritants on the legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and other gaited breeds, causing severe pain and forcing an exaggerated, high stepping gait. Soring is considered so cruel that, in 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act giving the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to inspect horses at shows and other venues for signs of soring. While the HPA was intended to eliminate soring, inadequate funding and spotty enforcement of the law has allowed widespread soring to continue.

Because USDA does not have the funding to attend every show, the agency created the Horse Industry Organization program of self-regulation, which allows trained civilians, known as Designated Qualified Persons, to conduct inspections at shows. Many of the DQPs are directly involved in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and The HSUS has long criticized the effectiveness of the HIO program, calling it a case of “the fox watching the henhouse.” The AAEP white paper cites similar concerns with the DQP program and calls for its abolishment.

In addition to the Horse Protection Act, there are several state laws that prohibit soring. Currently, The HSUS is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction under Tennessee’s anti-soring statute. Earlier this year, The HSUS and other horse industry groups formed The Alliance to End Soring to work with the USDA, Congress and Tennessee Walking Horse industry stakeholders to advocate for increased enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and raise public awareness of the pervasive use of soring in the industry.

In 2006, the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., failed to name a World Grand Champion when most of the finalists were disqualified for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act.

Media contact:
Heather Sullivan: 301.548.7778; hsullivan@humanesociety.org

Thursday, August 7, 2008

THOUGHTS - Why the White Paper Will Yet Won't Work


This is an amazing task on the part of the AAEP. I am thrilled with their evaluation of what's really happening in this industry. They are openly acknowledging the following, in green text (my comments afterwards).

1. Stewarding is a common practice. "...the current practice of conditioning a horse to tolerate pressure applied to the limbs." Stewarding is exactly defined here. During the inspection, a horse cannot show signs of flinching or pain when being palpated or it will be disqualified. So the idea is that if they make the consequences of flinching worse than the pain of being sored, then they won't flinch.

Horses are stewarded at at home or on the show grounds before being inspected. Someone stands to the side while another person palpates the horse. That person has something REALLY brutal--such as a baseball bat--to hit the horse with as hard as they can when it flinches. The horse has to be hit really hard but not so hard that it damages the horse. Some "trainers" will steward by burning the inside of their nostrils with a lit cigarette or hot farrier's tool. It's a scar that isn't visible. At the shows, DQPs will even tell exhibitors that their horse is showing too much pain and they need to go steward him some more and come back for re-inspection (re-inspection is not allowed per the DQP Program rules). It's yet another horribly painful practice, all in the name of money.

2. DQPs are useless. "The abolishment of the DQP Program and the establishment of a corps of independent veterinarians to conduct horse inspections and impose sanctions for violations of the HPA." The problem with the DQP program is that it is self-policing. DQPs are vets, farriers, trainers, and owners that go through a training program to become a DQP with an HIO (Horse Industry Organization). However, the majority of DQPs are TWH industry people, and they have their own sore horses back home. So if they pass their buddy's horses through this week, then since he's the DQP at next week's show, he'll pass the current DQP's horses. It is absolutely not working. When DQPs from the USDA show up, the amount of violations go up anywhere from 14 to 28 times the amount of violations found when a regular DQP is there.

Now, we do know that sound horse organizations such as NWHA and FOSH have well-trained and honest DQPs. USDA inspectors show up at their shows and they are consistently 100% in compliance. Problem is there are way more crooked DQPs than there are honest ones.

3. HIOs are useless. "Establishment of a single industry organization that has governance responsibilities and sets and enforces uniform standards and regulations." After the HPA went into effect, people in the TWH industry went to the USDA and asked if they could self-police themselves. So the USDA agreed that HIOs could be established to train and monitor the DQPs and keep up to date on all the HPA information and necessary work. Sadly, we have the same problem with the DQPs, the wolf guarding the hen house.

4. The judges are wrong. "Reevaluation of judging standards so that the innate grace and beauty of the breed are valued instead of rewarding the currently manufactured exaggerated gait." There is a saying: the sorest horse wins. I have watched this happen with my own eyes way too often to count. Horses that crouch behind with straining hocks and and flail in front are sore, period. It is the ONLY way to get that kind of action, you cannot do it naturally. I know many, many people who have tried. If the judges stopped rewarding the crouching horses and rewarded the horses that are moving with fluidity and grace, whether on stacks or not, then people would certainly be more apt to reproduce it.

5. The Big Lick and high-stepping Plantation-type horses MUST go away. "Reevaluation of judging standards so that the innate grace and beauty of the breed are valued instead of rewarding the currently manufactured exaggerated gait." If we value the innate grace and beauty of the breed, then guess what? Goose-stepping, long-toed, tortured horses will go away. Not a hard concept to grasp, really.

So I hear you saying to yourself: what's the problem here? This is great--this text is exactly what this industry needs. There are two problems.

1. If the USDA does not adopt these standards and put them into practice (they don't have to revise the HPA to do it), then nothing will change. Drastic measures are needed at this point to stop this, and the USDA has GOT to take them.

2. The sore horse industry will NEVER adopt these practices unless they are forced to. They haven't adopted the sound horse principles of other groups, nor have they shown they can be 100% compliant, and there are millions tied up in this industry. So why in the world would they bother with this? So we're back to number 1.

So, as I said before, I urge all of you to email, call, and/or write letters to the USDA and beg them to adopt the AAEP's suggestions. Things are not going to change in this industry until some drastic legal measures are taken. The USDA has got to stop trying to pacify an industry that is perfectly happy with what they're currently doing. Set a precident, for crying out loud! MAKE A REAL CHANGE!!!!

NEWS - AAEP Issues White Paper on Ending the Soring of TWHs

I want to publicly commend the Amercian Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) for taking the time to research and work on ideas for a solution to this problem. I absolutely agree with every single word in this paper.

Click here for the AAEP News Room release

Click here for the White Paper: "Putting the Horse First: Veterinary Recommendations for Ending the Soring of Tennessee Walking Horses"

An excerpt from their introduction:

"The true measure of success will be that soring no longer exists because the Tennessee Walking Horse industry itself brought it to an abrupt end."

Key points in the white paper include:

Immediate institution of drug testing at every competition.

The abolishment of the Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) Program and the establishment of a corps of independent veterinarians to conduct horse inspections and impose sanctions for violations of the Horse Protection Act.

The development of objective methods to detect soring in order to eliminate the current practice of conditioning horses to tolerate pressure applied to the limbs. [aka, stewarding, a VERY violent practice.]

Establishment of a single industry organization that has governance responsibilities and sets and enforces uniform standards and regulations.

Reevaluation of judging standards so that the innate grace and beauty of the breed are valued instead of rewarding the currently manufactured exaggerated gait.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

THOUGHTS - Feined Ignorance of What's Really Going On, Part 2

So what's wrong with Part 1? The information the person (let's call that person "X") is saying is very positive in so many ways. However, I have heard this response time and time again from sources too many to count. What I see is a typical response from someone who knows darn well what's going on yet is pretended that nothing is happening. Let's break down these emails and address each item one by one.

1. First, let's point out that X was not able to back up any of their claims with any actual facts when the responder was. This is also extremely typical of this attitude--no facts to back up false information.

2. X keeps saying the same thing over and over again. "98% compliant," "USDA has handled it," etc. Rhetoric studies tell us that people who can't think of anything better to say merely repeat exactly what they've said over and over again.

3. Direct quote: "The matter has been dealt with." How? Why are we continuing to see exhibitors scatter when the USDA inspectors show up at shows, why are we continuing to see photographs and x-rays of sore horses (see SHC), why are tickets still being issued and violations being found? If it had been dealt with, then why is the evidence still piling up?

4. Direct quote: "The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is 98% better than it was 20 years ago...." First, I have asked this question time and time again of obvious violators and people who obviously support them: WHY NOT 100% BETTER? Why has it not ended? Second, why only within the past 20 years? Why didn't it clean up when the HPA went into effect in 1970?

5. Direct quote: "I remember when the horses' feet were bloody and the horse could not even walk without someone walking behind it and beating the horse. Last year at the Celebration the horses were walking to the DQP...feet as clean as a whistel [sic]..." So no blood means the horse isn't sore? So we have to physically see the blood and pain in order to know if a horse is sore? How come we are finding evidence of horses having doorstops, golf balls, and other foreign objects wedged between the package and the horse's foot, which has been filed down so the horse is standing on its sole to make it painful?

6. Direct quote: "Yesterday we made a young girl with bone cancer very happy - the Make A Wish Foundation is buying her a Tennessee Walking Horse to ride and to love." So why aren't you donating the horse? Why is it being bought? I'm not impressed by this act--I've seen it hundreds of times on known sore horse barn websites. I know many sound horse barns that have sold or donated horses to people with handicaps. They have not advertised it nor have they made a big deal about it. I find that people who do advertise it are looking for attention and for subconsious forgiveness for their horrible deeds.

7. Direct quote: "...and then when they won, they had to go back through the very strict inspection system and there were very few failures, so to speak." First, what do you mean by "so to speak?" Second, so you're saying that there WERE failures, even if there were just a few. Continued failures only show that the problem is still going on.

8. Probably the biggest one of all: "98% compliant." Where do you get this number from? Did someone just tell you this? We have proof that actual numbers of horses at shows are kept a carefully defended secret so the sore horse industry can compare the violation tickets to the number of entries, not the number of horses. Example: A show has 100 horses that are exhibited. Each horse enters 5 classes. That's 500 total entries. If 10 different horses are ticketed, that means 10 different horses are denied showing. 10 horses divided by 500 entries means 2% of the horses were not compliant. However, 10 horses divided by 100 horses total means 10% of the horses weren't compliant. That's a lot different than only 2% non-compliance.

Look at it on a smaller scale. A show has 50 horses that are exhibited. Each horse enters 5 classes. That's 250 total entries. 10 different horses are ticketed and denied showing. 10 / 250 = 4% non-compliance. 10 / 50 = 20% non-compliance. The difference between entries and horses becomes larger and larger.

Overall, I personally am unable to see any merit in one person saying that the problem is solved when we have so much physical and mathematical evidence that says it's not.

So, try it yourself. The next time someone tells you that the industry is 98% complaint, ask where they got the number, and if they say TWHBEA or NHSC says so, ask them how the number was calculated. Then ask the big question: why not 100% compliance? I bet you will either receive a roundabout answer that doesn't address the question, or more likely, no answer at all.

THOUGHTS - Feined Ignorance of What's Really Going On, Part 1

This is some text forwarded to me written by a prominent TWH seller in the U.S. MANY of you would know who this is if I told you, but I can't, only to protect myself and the people who emailed this person. The people who emailed the seller asked for their help in spreading the word about the plight of the TWH. This was the response.


I am 100% opposed to soring. That being said, I love the Tennessee Walking Horse breed and have been actively involved in the breed for over 40 years.... The USDA was brought in to deal with the matter. The matter has been dealt with. Let it go. For as long as people make a living off of training horses, there is always going to be some kind of abuse, regardless of the breed. The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is 98% better than it was 20 years ago in this regard. You are "beating a dead horse" by spending all of your energy in this direction. Do something positive for the breed. Promote the greatness of the breed - for it is the most wonderful breed of horse out there. New people are getting involved in this breed every day -- they don't do abusive things - they love their horses. Yesterday we made a young girl with bone cancer very happy - the Make A Wish Foundation is buying her a Tennessee Walking Horse to ride and to love. This will make a wonderful difference in this girl's life....you can spend your life beating a dead issue or you can go out there and promote the breed in a positive way and make a positive difference for the horses and for other people who are learning about this great breed. Make a positive difference with your life......


The response to her response:


I am sorry to hear of your feelings about our involvement and passion on the soring issue. I think that many people feel this has been dealt with by the USDA, but it is a very sad fact that it hasn't. The law passed in 1970 making soring illegal. The USDA is funded with $500,000 per year to enforce this law. This is a proverbial drop in the bucket. They are only able to attend less than 10% of shows and exhibits, but still over 1000 citations were issued last year. I would not call this "dealt with". As recently as early July, USDA inspectors arrived at the KWHA show in Owingsville for inspections. Almost 500 horses were entered. When the owners found the inspectors there, all but 40 horses were removed from the show. The trainers and owners with citations are still allowed to show by the TWHBEA and KWHA. The FOSH site (Friends of Sound Horses) has excellent references for education on soring. They also have the up-to-date list of persons receiving citations.

As a lover of the TWH breed, you are well aware of the gentle and personable nature of this horse. I don't believe any other breed could be so abused in this fashion, and still try so hard to please their owner. We are only trying to bring the public spotlight to this horrendous practice. Many people are unaware that the practice continues. These horses are suffering every day, in dark barns and crowded arenas. Until the USDA is funded adequately, the practice does, and will, continue. Thank you for your time.


And the subsequent response....


The USDA has done a wonderful job in cleaning up the TWH industry. I remember when the horses' feet were bloody and the horse could not even walk without someone walking behind it and beating the horse. Last year at the Celebration the horses were walking to the DQP, looking all around, perfectly happy, feet as clean as a whistel [sic] - in the show ring the horses were the best I've ever seen - and I have been attending the Celebration since 1971 - in fact, they were so good you could not pick a winner - and then when they won, they had to go back through the very strict inspection system and there were very few failures, so to speak.

Yes, I know it isn't a perfect world - but it is 98% better than it used to be. It seems to me that rather than throwing a "wet blanket" on the entire TWH industry because it is not 100% perfect yet does more harm, overall, to the breed.

I would rather see your efforts spent promoting the greatness of the breed as it has certainly had much more than its share of bad publicity.

The only thing that I can see that would make it a 100% compliance is if the owners of the horses with bad trainers were convinced that by allowing trainers to do bad things they are reinforcing bad training techniques that are injuious to the animals. If the owners failed to support those trainers, they would be forced to comply.

But to bring bad publicity to an entire breed because of the few "bad apples" in the breed is not fair.

I am thrilled with how the horses are looking that are going to DQP and if a horse cannot pass inspection then the trainers are not going to be able to stay in business - so they have a choice - comply or get out. And the USDA is handling that. I don't think there is anything positive that you can add to that.



Sunday, August 3, 2008

THOUGHTS - Organizing My Blog

Hey all. I wanted to post that I'm trying my best to organize my blog so it's easier to read and so you can find information quickly. I have developed several "catagories" that will be included in the title of the post.

NEWS - News from press releases and newspaper articles dealing with TWHs and soring information.

ARTICLES - The direct text of an article or a link to an article about TWHs or soring information.

PRESENTATIONS - Presentations designed by various sound-horse advocates and influential people in the industry that talk about soring and what is going on.

TRUE STORIES - Direct accounts of people talking about soring and stories about soring.

HOW YOU CAN HELP - Information on how you can help take action to end this horrible practice.

THOUGHTS - My personal thoughts about subjects that come to mind. Maybe not what everyone will agree with, but just things that come up for me from time to time.

RESEARCH - Research that I've done on whatever subject I'm covering.*

I hope these titles help you better sort through the information and find what you're looking for!

*added 8/8/11

ARTICLE - Pressure Shoeing: Another Form of Soring

This article was published in the Steppin' Out magazine in 1999 or 2000. The author, Bob Blackwell, FOSH VP of HIO Administration, sent it to me to post here. Again, another great addition from those who are fighting the good fight! Thanks, Bob!

It is important to note that pressure shoeing IS a form of soring per the definition of soring in the HPA: "(D) Any other substance or device has been used by a person on any limb of a horse or a person has engaged in a practice involving a horse, and, as a result of such application, infliction, injection, use, or practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer, physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving..."


Pressure shoeing is a method of shoeing that utilizes the sole, most often the portion between the frog and the white line. Since the sole is NOT a primary weight bearing structure, this causes increased sensitivity (pain!) at the toe and often results in the horse having exaggerated action. In other words, the horse is purposely made sore in order to achieve a more "animated" gait.

This shoeing method is one of the favorite methods of torture in plantation and lite shod Tennessee Walker show horses.

Why do some of the TWH show element abuse their horses with pressure shoeing? Simple: a horses foot will move TOWARD weight and length and AWAY from pain. Hence a higher more animated action.

Pressure shoeing can be accomplished by several means. First, the sole is removed to the point just before the horse starts to bleed, (or just after, a little blood doesn't hurt anything) usually to a degree that the horse's>pulse can be felt through the sole at the toe. Next, the wall is trimmed at an angle, so it's slightly shorter than the sole at the toe. This allows the shoe's web (or nail pad) to exert pressure on the sole when the shoe is nailed on. (many over the counter plantation shoes are made higher on the inside than the outside) The pressure is constant and there's no way for the horse to get away from it, other than to lie down. Pressured horses lay down a lot.

In the non-padded sector of TWH show horses, the more imaginative "show shoers" catering to the win-at-all-cost "trainers" sometimes run a bead of weld on the foot surface of the inner web of the shoe which puts pressure on the sensitized area without the necessity of lowering the wall. Some have also been known to weld a matrix on the inner web of the shoe, although the matrix can cause a bit of external bleeding which might get a DQP's attention.

The padded folks sometimes concentrate pressure on a sensitized portion of the sole by inserting something hard in the nail pad next to the frog. Golf balls, ball bearings, marbles, and even rocks have been used. (they can always say that the rock got in there by "accident.")

Another method I have been told about on lite shod and plantation horses is to shoe the horse in the traditional manner, then take a large pair of channel lock pliers, or a small vice and squeeze the heels together 3/16" - 5/16" And yet another method is to use a V shaped heel-spreading spring. Wrap a big wad of black electrical tape around the V part, Position this wad about 1/2" in front of the frog. Work the horse in this contraption on firm footing until just before show time, then remove it. The only way to tell this from a stone bruise is that it is bi-lateral!

If the horse is unpadded, a credit card or metal feeler gauge or something similar can be used to test the clearance between shoe and sole. If your gauge bumps against resistance you might have a problem. Obviously, if the TWH show folks really wanted to stop the abuse, they'd start pulling shoes.

The following is a note that I received from a respected farrier about the effects of heel calks. I agree with him completely.

Assuming a short, balanced foot, at any established gait, the front foot of a sound horse will land flat on a level surface at the first phase of motion, impact. Barefoot or shod with a flat shoe, at liberty, under saddle or being driven, the foot will still land flat. The foot lands flat because that's anatomically the most efficient way for the horse's foot to deal with stress.

As you know, the bones within the hoof capsule are attached to the wall by means of laminae which arise from the coronary and dermal coriums of the coronary band and third phalanx respectively. Not only to the laminae serve as a means of attachment, they also provide the horse with a hydraulic means of dealing with the stress inherent to the loading of the hoof capsule on impact.

The blood within the laminae and the incompressibility of fluids provide the hoof capsule with a means of lateral dispersal of shock. Simply put, when the hoof lands flat, the blood trapped between the hard structures of the hoof capsule presses against the elastic structures which, in turn, causes some of the shock of loading to be dispersed laterally instead of being sent to the bony column and suspensory apparatus. Because the most elastic structures of the foot are the heel quarters and bulbs of the heel, this phenomenon is manifested by an elongation of the hoof capsule which is inexplicably called, "expansion."

When heel calks are added to a front shoe, the foot can no longer land flat, it must land heel first. Landing heel first causes the primary stress of loading to be received by the most elastic portion of the hoof capsule instead of the entire hoof capsule, obviously circumventing the horse's primary anatomical defenses against shock. Because the horse's ability to use its entire hoof capsule to deal with stress has been circumvented by the addition of heel calks, the localized stress causes>some of the capillaries within the involved structures to rupture, resulting in capillarial bleeding, which in turn causes the tissues to become less elastic, even less able to deal with stress, and eventually causes a pain response to be evident when the foot is loaded.

At any gait, the foot normally makes the transition between loaded and unloaded in the third phase of motion (fetlock ascending), shortly after the shoulder has passed over the loaded hoof capsule. However, a sore horse will attempt to unload the foot prematurely simply because the longer it's loaded, the more it hurts. Because the horse unloads the hoof capsule prematurely, the timing of the fourth and fifth phases of motion (turnover, extension) are affected and the phenomenon is characterized by an exaggerated motion of the carpus and a shortened anterior phase of stride: more knee, less extension.

If one foot is affected, the horse will be what is usually termed, "head bobbing lame." Unfortunately, when both fronts are affected, the horse's bilateral pain response may be termed "desirable" by certain unscrupulous elements within the gaited community because of the horse's exaggerated action and increased animation.

In my professional opinion, since purposeful soring of the horse can be readily accomplished by concentrating the stress inherent to impact and loading by means of heel calks, any horse exhibiting a pain response on palpation of the heel bulbs should be disqualified from competition and appropriate measures taken to insure that the horse is not further abused.

The above is made more clear when you use the formula Force = Mass X Speed. A 1000 lb horse moving 10 mph landing on one foot at a time would exert 10,000 psi on the heel calks.

This is the reason that heel calks on racing TB's are ONLY used on muddy track conditions. Heel calks on a fast, hard track would cause the rear quarters of the foot to blow out!

PRESENTATION - Evidence of Non-Compliance by Dr. Rachel Cezar

This presentation was emailed to me by the VP of the HIO Administration for a sound horse organization. Thank you immensely for your addition to this blog!

This presentation covers a detailed defnition of a sore horse, the responsibilities of HIOs, DQPs, and show management, and the continued violations that are going on. These voilations don't just involve soring--they involve the DQPs not following the established rules for inspections, show management not provided the proper information, etc. While we unfortunately don't know what speech goes along with this blog, we can get a lot of good information about what is happening behind the scenes by studying the images and facts herein. CLICK HERE

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