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.
"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
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