"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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NEWS and ARTICLES - New Bill for State of KY to Help End Soring

The State of KY is trying to pass a bill where State Department of Agriculture inspectors would be required at EVERY TWH show in KY. They would supercede local HIOs and DQPs, and the horse industry would no longer be policing itself in the State of KY. Click here for the bill, and click here for the article in the Kentucky Herald.

There is talk that this is already receiving overwhelming support in the KY Senate, especially in light of the fact that the World Equestrian Games will be held in KY this year and they have a zero tolerance of abuse. I think it's also in light of the problems the KWHA has caused against the USDA and that their VP Gary Oliver was in court last year after having been sued for putting acid on a horse's leg that ate through the animal's pastern. He directly admitted that his actions were what any normal TWH trainer would have done (i.e., put acid on the horse's legs to get the show gait).

I urge everyone, even if you don't live in KY, to take time to write to the KY State Legislature and let them know your support. There are still going to be those who will fight this, but we must prevail and make sure the support that is already there stays there. It may take a while to send out emails and letters, but it will be worth it when we speak for the horse when it cannot and ask them to support this bill to save the TWH.

Click here for the list of Senate members. Click on the person's name and there is a link to their physical address and email address.

Click here for the list of House members. Again, click on the person's name and there is a link to their physical address and email address.

If you live in KY, click here to find out who is your direct legislator.

Thanks for the support!

ARTICLE - Repost: Court of Appeals Denies Dericksons' Petition for Review

I accidentally deleted my original post about this, so I'm reposting it now. Sorry for any confusion!

On November 10, 2008, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied the Dericksons' petition to review the results of their case. Click here for the link directly to the docket as posted on the USDA's website.

Direct quote from the conclusion of the docket:

"Because we conclude that the JO [Judicial Officer] had substantial evidence to support his findings that: (1) the Dericksons are liable for transporting Just American Magic; (2) J. Derickson is liable for entering Just American Magic; and (3) the Operating Plan does not limit APHIS’s ability to impose legal sanctions on H. Derickson, we DENY the Dericksons’ petition for review."

There we have it, folks. They sored their horse and they are now paying for it. The sad part is that Herbert Derickson's father, H.T. Derickson, used to sore his horses, but he changed his ways and now shows only sound horses. It's really too bad that his son did not follow in his footsteps. Perhaps this will make him rethink his decision to do what he's done. We can only hope.

NEWS and ARTICLE - Repost: HSUS Applauds Court of Appeals Decision on Derickson Case

I accidentally deleted my original post about this article, so I'm reposting it. Sorry for any confusion!

Click here for the press release as posted on the HSUS website on November 17, 2008.

Direct quotes from the article:

"The Humane Society of the United States applauds a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding a U.S. Department of Agriculture ruling that Herbert and Jill Derickson of Tennessee violated the Horse Protection Act when they transported and entered a sored Tennessee Walking Horse, Just American Magic, in a 2002 horse show.

"Soring involves the deliberate infliction of pain on the legs and feet of a horse, creating severe pain and forcing an exaggerated, high-stepping gait.

" 'This decision sends a clear message to anyone who abuses a Tennessee Walking Horse that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can and will strictly enforce the Horse Protection Act,' said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. 'We commend the court for its decision and hope this case signals a renewed USDA resolve to protect Tennessee Walking Horses and other victims of soring.' "

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NEWS - Kentucky Horse Racing Commission decides to withhold breeders' incentive from KWHA

The Kentucky Race Horse Commission (KRHC) has made a tremendous stand and has decided not to award any more of the breeders' incentive taxes to the KWHA.

Click here for the article.

Click here for the editorial.

This is an amazing step in the history of the TWH. These monsters who torture horses are finally getting what they deserve.

Please see my Catagory concerning the KWHA* to read more about this organization and its continued abuse of the TWH. *Coming soon--I need to go through the posts first! :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

HOW YOU CAN HELP - Writing Letters, Part 2: Format

So after discussing word use, those words have to go on paper or email. There is a proper format to writing letters and emails, and if your documents follow this format, you'll have a better chance to get your point across.

When you write your letter, it's best that it's typed so it is legible. Computers have plenty of word processing programs out there, and sometimes they are even programmed to help you write the letter. Even dusting off the old typewriter is appropriate.

To save time and space, I'm not going to go over how to use different kinds of computer programs. If you have trouble, head on over to your local library or college and ask for help in the computer department. There are always plenty of people out to help.

Research who should receive the letter. Before even starting your letter, research exactly who you need to send it to. For example, in the case of
Cleve Wells, many people are writing to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to reconsider his association with him. It's best to not only write to the president of the AQHA, but also to other influential positions in the association. The vice president and members of the board of directors should also be carbon copied (cced) on the letter. Your letter will not only be read by multiple people, but it will also better your chances of the letter getting to someone who will take action on your request.

Font style and size. The font is the type of lettering you use. Choose a font style that is easy to read, such as Arial, Times New Roman, Courier, or Verdana. Don't make your font size any larger than 12 point and no smaller than 11 point. Many fonts can be read in 10 point, but it's best to avoid this size as some people may have a hard time with it.

Check your references. If you're going to quote references in your article, be sure you include where you got the reference from and give exact webpages, magazine issue numbers, etc. These can be included at the end of the letter if you'd like.

Keep your letter at one page. Remember that these are people who receive a lot of mail, so you have to be able to keep it short and sweet. Avoid a lot of descriptive words and run-on sentences. If you can't tell how many pages your email is, print it out.

Always include your contact information. Of course it's okay to be annonymous if you believe you are alerting them to a sensitive issue that you don't want to come back to you. However, association officers and board members should follow basic ethics and not pass around your name if you're writing them about a sensitive issue.

Proper letter format. The following is the proper letter format for a regular letter that you're sending in the mail. The information in the brackets are instructions to be used when writing the letter. An email will have the same format, only without the address block, date, and signature block--that is already included with your email.

Your Name
City, State, Zip

[insert four blank lines]


[insert four blank lines]

Recipient's Name
Company or Association
City, State, Zip

[insert one blank line between paragraphs from here on out]

Re: Reason for your letter [use bold text]

Dear Recipient's Name:

[Include body text here]

[Include one space between each paragraph]


[insert four blank lines, include your signature here]

Your Name
Your Contact Information [include phone number and/or email]

cc: Additional Names, with titles, one name per line.

The following links are for more information on writing a letter or an email.

The OWL at Purdue: Writing the Basic Business Letter

Read Write Think: The Letter Generator

Using English.com: Formal Letter Writing

Write Express: Letter Writing Catagories

PRESENTATIONS - USDA January 2009 Thermography Seminar Available on DVD FOR FREE!

A few days ago, a video was posted online on the Walking Horse Chat detailing the thermography seminar that the USDA held following their DQP training sessions. Since I am not a member of WHC, I can't view the video. So I asked around, and I found out from a friend that the USDA is giving out this video for free!

This video detailed how thermography is going to be used at horse shows and how it's a fool-proof way to detect soring. Thermography shows via the amount of heat whether or not the horse is in pain. The USDA has conducted studies on themography for several years now, and they have determined that there is a difference between the heat signature of having been worked versus the legs being inflammed from pain.

If you want to see it, email Dr. Cezar, the head of the HPA program, at rachel.cezar@aphis.usda.gov. Please send her your physical address (no P.O. boxes, please) to receive the DVD. I am going to find out if I can post it, but I'm not sure if it'll be allowed or not, so if not, then perhaps I can transcribe it. Either way, I'll report on it more once I receive it from Dr. Cezar.

A very happy THANK YOU goes out to the USDA for making this information available to the public. This is key in the work being done to stop soring: the information has to be out there so both sorers and non-sorers alike understand why the problem needs to end. This change should really make a dent in saving the horse we all so love.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

HOW YOU CAN HELP - Writing Letters, Part 1: Language Use

It seems that horse abuse cases abound, and that even though we're making progress and helping animals, there always seems to be someone out there who is going to continue to abuse them in another horrific way.

However, because of the World Wide Web, we can now learn more about what's going on much quicker than we ever could with magazines, books and newspapers. We are also given more resources so we are able to express our opinion to those who have the power to stop such criminals, or at least keep them from having venues where they can continue to commit such horrible acts.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a letter she wrote to the judge presiding over the
Cleve Wells case that I commented on a few posts ago. She asked for our opinion on what it said. So, being the English major that I am, I kicked into technical editing gear and edited her letter. She suggested I help explain to people how to write effective letters to get the message across as a guest blogger on some other horse blogs I read. But I thought heck, I've got my own blog--I'll post it here!

So, I'm writing this three-part series to help everyone out there write a proper letter and/or email to authorities about abuse cases and other important ethics of society that anyone may feel compelled to write about. While there is no guarantee that your letter will be followed or even read, there are certain steps you can take in your letter to make it more likely that the authority you send your letter to will listen and even be prompted to act.

Writing Letters, Part 1: Language Use

As an English major and a technical editor, I have learned that words are powerful. They can help, hurt, educate, and decimate just about anything. I'm not just talking about the occassional potatoe misspelling, either. Think about amazing speeches that people have made, how contracts and documents can change the shape of the world, or even how your parents talked with you when you did something wrong. All of these can create a lasting impression, whether positive, negative, funny, or sad. It's up to us and how we use those words as to how our point will be viewed.

So, it's important to remember that words do have power, so how you use them is extremely important. In my experience in dealing with soring, I have learned that screaming at people that they are wrong and they don't know what they're talking about gets me nowhere. That person is either going to fight back or they are just going to walk away, thinking you don't know what you're talking about. Instead, I found that being calm and rational helps others to feel the same, and suddenly their ears are open. I have gotten to talk with people high up in horse organizations and they have listened, and I have even had a famous trainer call me personally to ask me for advice--ME! I was shocked! But this communicated to me that the way I was expressing my feelings and attacking the problem was the right way to go.

The following tips relate to how best to use words when you are writing your letter.

Tip #1: Avoid malicious language. Accusing people directly, calling them names, or using language that can make them angry or upset ("Are you blind?" "What are you, an idiot?") is not productive. In fact, it can quickly turn someone off to your cause. I have physically deleted emails that were written that way toward me. It didn't matter what the point was--I wasn't going to take that written verbal abuse. The same can happen to you.

Tip #2: Avoid dramatic language. We are all passionate about horses, of course. However, our passion needs to be kept in check. Avoid language like "this absolutely must stop right now" or "think about how the horses feel." Capital letters, should be avoided, as THEY GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU'RE SHOUTING. Remember that you are writing to an audience that may not even know much about horses or care about animals one way or another. If we start begging for the horse, then we can suddenly be seen as a wacko tree-hugger who has nothing better to do than send crazy letters.

Tip #3: Use language that is direct and to the point. Do your best to stick to the point. Remember, whomever you are writing to probably gets thousands of emails and letters a day. That person probably has to weed through a lot of it to get to what's important to their job. So be sure your letter is short and direct. This will make for easy reading for the receiver.

Tip #4: Back up your claims with facts. Facts will always stand over hearsay and rumors. Don't say "I heard" or "A friend told me"--be able to say "I read in such-and-such article that...." Include links to websites, or, if the information can all be fit on one page, include pictures or quotes from where you got your information from.

Tip #5: Don't tell people stuff they already know. Remember that if you are writing to someone who is working on the case, such as a judge or DA, they will already know the main facts. You don't have to retell them. Reference the case once at the beginning of the letter, and then get straight to the point of what you want to say. The same goes for the head of a horse organization. If you are alerting someone to the problem that may not already know about it, you can give a little more than just a quick statement that you are referring to the case.

Tip #6: Don't reference anyone except yourself unless you have a real quote to back it up. For example, don't say things like, "Both me and my friend next door think...." Unless you have their permission to say it, or you have a petition to go along with your letter, then don't talk about others. Make the words your own--they will stand strong just fine. Direct quotes can be used, such as quotes from articles or videos about the case.

Tip #7: Don't make assumptions. Don't assume that your friends will back you on this, that the general public thinks this is wrong, or that you think such-and-such horse organization agrees with you. Once again, make the words your own. You are here to express how you feel about a situation and why you feel it, not to express how you think others feel.

Tip #8: Be sympathetic yet firm about the situation. For example, you can say "I understand that you are busy, so I won't take up much of your time." Then keep your letter short and to the point. Or you can say "I understand that you might not be aware of the implications of horse abuse." You can follow those kinds of statements with very firm ones. "Statistics show us that animal abuse leads to people abuse--many convicted serial killers were known to 'practice' on animals before they started on humans." Or be firm about their position in society. To a judge up for re-election: "The newspaper and online articles indicate that the community where this happened is outraged at the lack of progress in resolving this matter, which could jeopardize those in positions of importance that are dealing with the case."

Tip #9: Don't be afraid to ask for help when writing your letter. Have someone else read your letter for you and give suggestions, or go to a friend who's already written a letter and ask for ideas on what to talk about. Don't copy someone else's letter word for word, however. You don't want the recipient to receive the exact same letter only from different senders. Make your letter your own, just as you make your words your own. This has far more impact than a generic, sign-your-name-here formatted letter.

Tip #10: When you finish your letter, set it aside before mailing it and reread it later. It is important to step back and then reread the letter later. Give yourself at least an hour if not about half a day to let the letter sit and stew. All of your feelings are now on paper, so you can afford to stop and reassess. Not only will you be better apt to catch spelling and grammar mistakes, but you'll also be able to focus on how you used your words and whether or not they are effective or need to change. There's nothing worse than firing off an email without having reread it first and realizing you've misquoted someone or you have even emailed the wrong person.

The following is my letter that I wrote to the World Equestrian Games regarding whether or not they will be allowing the exhibition of TWHs at their venue. To give you some background, the 2010 WEG is being held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Due to the proximity to Tennessee and that other American breeds will be showcased, TWHBEA approached WEG about showcasing TWHs during the breed demonstrations at the games. Originally, because of the continued debacle that is the sore horse, WEG said no. But TWHBEA kept pushing. Here is the letter I wrote to ask them to keep Big Lick and all padded horses out of the WEG.

Silver Phoenix Ranch, LLC

October 23, 2008

Ms. Holley Groshek
Director of Administration
2010 World Equestrian Games Way
Lexington, KY 40511-2010

Re: Equine Demonstrations of the Tennessee Walking Horse

Dear Ms. Groshek:

My name is Andrea Ohnstad, and I am extremely excited about the World Equestrian Games (WEG) of 2010 being held in the United States at the Kentucky Horse Park. This is an amazing opportunity for the horse industry in general and for breeds to be showcased so attendees can learn more about the riding and ownership opportunities available for all breeds.

As an owner and advocate of Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH), I would like to express a serious concern that is prevalent in our breed. I imagine that you are aware of the serious issue of soring, the practice of using chemical or mechanical means to cause a TWH pain in his front limbs in order to lift his legs higher for more animation of the gait in the show ring. This practice is currently found to exist in the show ring, particularly with the Performance or “Big Lick” horse. These horses are forced to carry stacks of pads on their front feet in order to exaggerate the natural, smooth gait for which the breed was originally bred. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) passed the Horse Protection Act (HPA) in 1970 to address this very issue, but soring is still prevalent. USDA statistics and recent evidence available on various websites show us that it is still the main form of training TWHs for the show ring. There is also evidence that Plantation and Heavy-Shod TWHs suffer from further forms of soring such as pressure shoeing or road foundering, where pain in the foot is achieved through mechanical means so the horse will lift his legs higher.

I would like to request that the committee tasked with selecting horses for breed demonstrations consider not allowing Performance or Plantation TWHs to perform at the 2010 WEG. I believe that the chances of a sored horse being showcased are too great for the WEG to take a chance on. In addition, the Performance and Plantation horses are a very poor representation of the breed. The exaggerated gait is considered unattractive by the general public when they see it, whether or not they know about soring. It would behoove all representatives of the WEG if the public were exposed to the natural, sound gait and versatility for which the breed was originally developed rather than an outdated, inaccurate and awkward representation of a very majestic and noble American breed.

If you need help with finding quality horses to showcase at the 2010 WEG, I suggest contacting the National Walking Horse Association, Inc. (NWHA), whose home office is located directly on the Kentucky Horse Park grounds. I also recommend Friends of Sound Horses, Inc. (FOSH) as another resource for sound, naturally gaited TWHs. I am a member and volunteer on committees for both organizations, and I find that their ethics, show venues and efforts to educate the public are exemplary and worthy of worldwide public exposure.

If you need additional information or have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at the below contact information. I am more than happy to provide any help I can. Thank you very much for your consideration of this request.


Andrea Ohnstad
Silver Phoenix Ranch, LLC

cc: Maggie Daniels, WEG Equine Relations and Special Projects Coordinator
David O’Connor, USEF President
Carrie Mortensen, Director Breeds and Western
Jack Kelly, WEG 2010 Foundation CEO

I don't know what kind of impact my letter had, but I did get a personal email response from one of the people involved with the WEG saying they would make sure my letter got to the right person. That meant a lot in that I know someone seriously considered what I had to say. That is the goal all of our letters should have: to make an impact on someone so that action is taken.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PRESENTATION - Emphasis on Inspection Protocol Beginning 2009 Show Season

Since the videos that I posted in my previous post were pulled before I had a chance to transcribe them, I have done some more research to find these videos again. I noticed that there is a potential link to the videos on The Walking Horse Report, if you subscribe. I don't because they continue to support the sore horse industry. Feel free to send me the links if you do subscribe.

Anyway, I did go to the USDA website and found the presentation that Dr. Cezar made in one of the videos.

Emphasis on Inspection for Horse Protection Program

Full Version with Regulation and Act Citations

To recap what was on the videos, Dr. Cezar and Dr. Gipson went over and emphasized the new inspection processes that DQPs will be using at shows in the 2009 show season, particularly the USDA VMOs. This includes using hoof testers, sniffers, thermography, pulling shoes, weighing chains, checking inside the horses' mouths, and requiring no tack on the horses when being inspected. The following is why they're using these measures.

Pulling Shoes. The shoes can be weighed to make sure they're within HPA regulations. Pulling them can also expose anything such as hard acrylic, golf balls, nails, or any other item used to put undue pressure on the inside of the hoof and cause pain. It can also expose brusing, exposing if the horse is standing on its soles, removing the frog, or other such abnormal trimming and shoeing to also cause pain. Be sure to note the photos in the presentations--they are excellent examples of these practices.
Hoof Testers. Hoof testers can be used to expose pain in conjunction with pulling shoes. The horse can also show pain if the hoof testers are used on a horse if it still has shoes and pads on.
Sniffers. Sniffer technology instantly finds any chemicals or lubricant that are being used that are illegal per the HPA.
Thermography. This will expose inflammation within the inner workings of the horse's legs that indicates pain.
Weighing chains. If a DQP sees a horse or someone reports a horse as wearing chains that look to heavy, the horse can be pulled from the warmup ring or grounds and put in inspection to have the chains weighed for compliance.
Requiring horses to be inspected without tack and checking in the horses' mouths. Many times the trainers/owners/exhibitors will attach alligator clips, bit burrs, or other such devices to cause pain on the horse's skin under the saddle or girth or inside their mouth. This distracts them from the pain when being inspected. It is another form of "stewarding," where the horse is subjected to worse pain than what it endures when being inspected to keep it distracted from the inspection process.

It's important to note that all of these ways of hurting the horse are violations of the HPA.

These drastic changes are necessary to end this horrible practice. I am really glad that the USDA has decided to take these drastic measures. It gives me hope for the TWH and to save so many horses from this horrible form of abuse.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

PRESENTATION - Videos From the January 2009 USDA DQP Training Session

I think these videos speak for themselves. I am publically thanking all of those who have stood up and said something about what's really going on out there. I also want to thank Dr. Cezar and Dr. Gipson for standing up and pointing out that soring is still rampant. This is a huge step and gives me a lot of hope for the sound Tennessee Walking Horse.

Dr. Cezar - Emphasis to Inspection

Dr. Gipson Training Closing Remarks

I will be transcribing these videos and posting them here, just in case they're pulled.

Edited 2-4-09: It seems these have already been pulled. Dammit! I will try to find them somewhere else.

Monday, February 2, 2009

NEWS - The Sound Horse Conference 2009, March 20-21, 2009

In case you're in FL, or you feel like heading on out to see what's happenin', here's a great chance to find out what's going on in the world of supporting the sound horse and the work being done to stop soring. The Sound Horse Conference is now in the second year after a very successful first year.

The two days will be filled with panels, informative classes, demonstrations, and the like to help end the practice of soring. Some of the sponsors are my two favorite groups, FOSH and NWHA.

The website also has a ton of important information about recent studies on the practices of soring and solid proof that it is still going on. So be sure to peruse the SHC website to learn more.

For more information, click here for the SHC website. If you go, feel free to post a report in the comments section!

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