"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, July 9, 2009

NEWS - Two Lifetime Bans Issued by SHOW

I hate that I am so skeptical. HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT. But I guess when you've been burned so many times, it's hard to take things seriously.

The reason why I'm skeptical is because in the past, HIOs have handed out tickets and suspensions to people who are paid to take them. It is arranged so their horses can be still be shown under someone else's name, and they can still train at home at their barns. Because the HPA still allows them to be on the show grounds, well, what's the difference if they ride someone's horse a little bit, "just to see how he goes," or give a few pointers while in the warm-up ring? Or sometimes someone would receive a violation, but it was actually a young kid's name, or even the trainer's dog's name. When you try to trace back who owned the horse the violation was found on, the information just magically disappears. This is a well-oiled machine that has figured out the loopholes for years, although a lifetime ban has not been given, well, maybe ever.

I do like whta Tommy Williams says below, however. I like how he says to start questioning the trainers and owners, and to start saying "no more" to them. Whether he is serious or not, and I don't know which, the words do ring true no matter what.

Once I find out the names (if they're released), I will post them here. I'm sure they will be posted on the USDA website and on the HPA Suspension List on FOSH's website.

So I just hope to God this is real and isn't a setup. I hope they aren't just doing this to try to slake the USDA, to try to get them off their backs. I pray every night that the horses really are winning, and that the suffering will end soon.


Tommy Williams - WalkingHorseChat Administrator
Posted - July 08 2009 : 09:05:37 AM

This past week we have seen the two strongest and most severe punishments handed out by any HIO that I can remember in my lifetime. I can’t recall the USDA having ever rendered a decision to give anyone a lifetime band on an HPA violation. The most I can recall is 15 years. For so long many of us have asked and begged on occasion that our business had enough rules and very little enforcement or selective enforcement at best. That day appears to be over. The reality of SHOW and its enforcement is that somewhere along the way one of our friends, or even our trainer could get one of these heavy suspensions. What do we do as fans, owners and trainers to keep our friends from be removed from the TWH scene for life?
When SHOW first started, I wasn’t the only one who was skeptical. There were so many emails rolling around, and I read a few of them on the concepts of what this was all about…who was trying to form it…what the intent of this new HIO seemed to portray. On paper it was what many of us felt was the answer to many of the inspection problems…and HIO with a totally independent board and vets involved in the inspection process. When the pre-inspection deal came along there were 2 sides to that argument. One, it would educate owners…2 it would create a pissing match between trainers and DQPs, and DQPs with the USDA. The latter proved to be true. But along the way we soon discovered that this very “pre-inspection” needed to be THE inspection. Soon 2 of the vets involved were hired to head up the compliance division and were given full rein to hire and fire DQPs, and completely overhaul the inspection process. Dr. Steve Mullins and Dr. John Bennett have done so, backed by Dr. Doyle Meadows, whose enforcement element has rendered these heavy suspensions.
Back when Frank Eichler and a select few of industry folks met to come up with something that would work, Frank issued an email/statement afterward that was posted here on this site that said a lot of things. One thing he said stands out in my mind today more than all that he said. He challenged us all to say something to any person trainer or owner that is doing something wrong or illegal to a horse. Be brave enough to say… ”Please don’t do that.” Folks, the reality of that challenge is here, and we really don’t have to be brave anymore in saying so. We don’t have to dread the repercussions of saying so. If we warn our friends of the repercussions of their actions, we are doing them a great favor, and this morning they realize that we are and we are concerned for the horse and their livelyhood.
Folks it's inevitable. With our rules being enforced, it’s a matter of time before one of our friends, a close friend gets a severe punishment if they haven’t already. When we question the crime weighed with the punishment, we may need to look around at other breeds and see what they do. On these appeals can you imagine being the person who nerve corded a horse and then having to walk in the hearing room with Dr. Jim Heird and SHOW’s Independent Board, with Bennett and Mullins and try to explain what happened. Dr. Heird’s board will be a board of the most qualified vets in America or horse people. Can you imagine what they will say to a person who put a nerve cord on a horse? I don’t even want to be within a block of that hearing.
Folks, SHOW has now made it very very easy for us to look our trainers and friends in the face and say. “ please…no more”. If you are like me you are very fond of every trainer and owner in this horses business. I don’t want to see any person put on any long term suspension, and I know those vets and the HIOs don’t look forward to any of that…but it has to be done. These last suspensions have sent shock waves through our business and this morning each of us can support this level of enforcement by looking our trainer and owner friends in the eye and comfortable say…” please…for us all…no more”.
Tommy Williams

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Letter to the Sound Horse Conference

I wrote this letter to the Sound Horse Conference in response to their online request for suggestions. I thought it was something that folks might want to read and think about. Feel free to send your own suggestions in to them. Go to www.soundhorseconference.com.


Hello. I'm Andrea Ohnstad, and I run the website www.silverphoenixranch.com and the blog For the Tennessee Walking Horse, http://forthetnwalkinghorse.blogspot.com. My goal is to help educate the public about soring and to let people know how they can help end it.

I'm glad the Sound Horse Conference exists, and I hope that it really makes a difference in the long run. In my opinion, we are at a crossroads with the TWH industry and have been for several years. I think that the industry is finally admitting that there is a problem instead of denying it, which is a huge step. However, it is not enough. I believe the industry is not doing enough to end soring, and I also believe that unless the pressure continues, nothing will get changed. The TWH industry has had 39 years to clean up their act, and since the shut down of the Celebration in 2006, there still has been no significant progress made. It is time to force them to change by forcing the issue.

These are my ideas that could be part of the discussions for the 2010 Sound Horse Conference. I'm happy to help share my ideas for putting my suggestions into motion as well if you're interested.

1. Petition for the elimination of pads, chains, bands, and shoes larger than 1 1/2 inches. Add this ban into the HPA if possible. While this may affect other breed shows, such as those for the American Saddlebred, I believe that it is a small price to pay for eliminating one of the most cruel forms of animal abuse that exists in America.

2. Petition for more stringent fines for violators. In April of this year, Cleve Wells was found guilty of abusing Slow Lopin Scotch, a horse receiving training at his training barn in Texas. Wells was suspended from the AQHA for one year and received a $10,000 fine. At the end of his suspension, he must show cause for reinstatement, and if he is, then he will be on permanent probation.

This is the kind of punishment that HPA violators should be facing. A mere $2,000 fine and still being allowed to be spectators at the shows is ridiculous--a simple sale of a horse or two would make that money back in no time, and we know that violators will have their horses show under someone else's name. I also believe that the original HPA Operating Plan had excellent penalties, and allowing the sore horse industry to require changes to that OP was a mistake. Stricter violations should be instated, and they should extend to the owner who is just as guilty for allowing their horse to be with a trainer who sores.

3. Start pulling shoes at shows. A system can be worked out where a horse's shoes can be pulled before or after classes. Farriers appointed by the USDA that work outside of the TWH industry can be available to put shoes back on.

4. Force the industry to start following the AAEP White Paper. The industry has denied those steps that actually would eliminate soring as outlined in the White Paper, such as pulling shoes at shows. This should make it obvious that the industry is not interested in change.

5. To help the sound horse community continue to operate and encourage those to show sound, begin an "innocent until proven guilty" program. This program would extend to sound horse venues such as FOSH and NWHA. Since these associations have very few violations if any at all, do not make them go through inspection before the classes. Inspection should take place after the class for all horses that won a ribbon, no matter what the placement. It's time to start rewarding those of us who continue to show sound, and I believe this would encourage people to show sound. While we understand the reasons for the inspections and showing up to the DQP without saddles on, I believe many are discouraged that those of us doing right have to continue to be subjected to this.

There are two other points I'd like to make. First, the fact that the sore horse industry claims they need to do more research and start new studies to find out what's going on is merely their way of buying more time. The research is already there, the proof is already there. They have no reason to act like the research is necessary. They need to start acting rather than spending more time and money on waiting for results.

Second, when the NHSC was disbanded and SHOW was started, SHOW hired on most of the same people to run their new organization and DQPs that were in NHSC. Starting a "Search Committee" and appointing veterinarians who we know are involved in the sore horse industry is ridiculous. None of this is progress--it is changing things around to make it look like they're doing good to keep the USDA off their back. Hiring Dr. Heird is no help either--he comes from the Quarter Horse industry, where the horses are as abused as they are in the sore horse industry. Why would someone who works in an industry where they allow drugs, deadening tails, and keep lip chains on their halter horses in the show ring think that the TWH industry is doing anything wrong?

Overall, I have very little faith in the TWH industry to make true changes on their own. There is absolutely no reason why the whole industry can't eliminate soring the way that sound horse organizations such as FOSH and NWHA have. I believe it is the responsibility of those of us who want to see it end to start putting the pressure on, whatever it takes. This fight will never end until we force the issue. I am of the mind that "discussions" don't cut it--actions do. We can talk about this all we want, but we need to actually put these things into practice to make a difference. The time has come for a real stand to be made and stop allowing these majestic animals to continue to suffer.

Thank you very much for your time. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. And thanks again for your hard work and time in helping end soring. I believe it can happen, and this kind of work is key to that process.