"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

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!!!!

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