"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, October 9, 2008


Okay, folks, I need to do some rumor control.

I heard a rumor that some tickets were handed out at the NWHA Nationals, so I did some digging. This is what I've found out.

One owner and their trainer were ticketed for two separate horses, one horse for bilateral and one horse for one foot. The horses were ticketed based on their reaction to palpation. A different owner was ticketed for having tungsten shoes on their horse.* That's just low--kudos to the DQP who caught that person in trying to get tungsten shoes past them.

I know the owner who was ticketed for two horses. Honestly, I believe her horses are sound. The thing is that the owner is very upset and claims that NWHA is "out to get" them and "set them up" because they were winning. This person seems to believe that the DQP did not perform a proper inspection and they palpated way too hard. The problem is that an algometry study was done in Feb 2008 to address this particular claim, which is common among the sore horse industry--they say that the DQPs press too hard to force their horses to react (click here for the presentation of the study). This study found that the average pressure a DQP or VMO is required to use--where it blanches the nail and flattens the thumb--is about 0.5 lbs. The algometry study used a measuring device that presses against the horse's legs and measures how many lbs are being exherted. The horse was fine with the pressure up to about 40 to 50 lbs, some as high as 70 lbs. This shows that it is physically impossible for a person, when using their thumb, to exert enough pressure on the horse to make it react unless the horse has a pre-existing condition, such as chemical soring OR an injury that isn't related to soring.

I myself have tried this on my sound horses. I have pressed as hard as I can with the fat of my thumb. I have even dug my nail in, which is what the sore horse industry is saying the USDA VMOs are doing when they inspect their horses. I have NEVER had an adverse reaction in my horses.

MY THOUGHTS: Some trainers use rollers or heavy chains on a horse to condition them to carrying weight. Personally, I have no problem with this--the horses are NOT sore. When you add some weight to the horse's legs, it's similar to cyclists adding weight to their shoes when they are training. They do this so when the compete without the weight, they are conditioned for the weight, so without it they pedal faster and harder. If you use rollers and other weighted devices properly, you won't hurt the horse. I was taught to only ride in them for about 15 minutes at at time to avoid this and hair loss. I have used them myself, before I knew what soring was and before I found out that we can get the gait naturally and gimmicks aren't necessary. I don't use them myself anymore, but I don't really care if others use them, as long as the horse is not in any pain.

However, I have accidentally bruised a horse when I kept the rollers on for too long. I didn't know she was bruised until I was putting linament on her after we rode to loosen her muscles, and when I went over her pasterns she picked up her feet, which she hadn't done before. When I pressed on the area she reacted, so I'm sure she was bruised. That was MY fault for leaving the rollers on for too long.

So, my speculation is that it's possible that the trainer kept rollers or heavy chains on the horses for too long and they developed bruises. The reason I think this is because if it were something as simple as the horse bonking his pastern as he got in the trailer or some kind of pasture injury, it wouldn't be on two different horses and on both legs of one of the horses. I believe that the person who was ticketed needs to do some work with their trainer to see what he/she was doing to train the horses and if that could have contributed.

>Overall, I would like for everyone to keep in mind that this is a positive incident for NWHA. First, they caught a person who was obviously trying to cheat. Second, they have a no-tolerance policy, and they must enforce it no matter what. If they're lenient for one person, then they have to do it for everyone.

I support the NWHA DQPs decision and will continue to do so.


*Tungsten is a heavier metal than steel. Tungsten horseshoes have the same appearance as regular steel shoes, but they weigh considerably more and are not allowed per the weight requirements for most show venues. Using tungsten shoes creates an unfair advantage as the horse has to step higher to carry the weight, and therefore he will have more lift and be a fancier mount in the show ring. Tungsten shoes do not sore a horse--they are just beyond the regulations for the amount of weight allowed to be put on a horse's feet.

From the 2005 WHOA Convention News (click here for the article): "Regular steel shoes weigh a little less than half the weight of tungsten shoes of the same measurement. A pair of tungsten shoes generally costs around $1500 and they must be made specifically for the horse because tungsten cannot be re-shaped. Shoes that are partially tungsten cost about $750 a pair and can undergo a small degree of re-shaping."

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