"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

Monday, September 28, 2009

RESEARCH - Padding and the Effect on Walking Horses

I was sent a couple of things from some friends about shoes, and after doing some further research, I ran across some excellent information that I believe clearly communicates why we should NOT stack our horses.

Now first, let's talk about the stacks themselves. Most people in the industry call them "pads" or a "package." I call them "stacks" because they are truly are that--stacks of pads made of leather, plastic, or aluminum or any combo thereof that are usually used for therapuedic reasons to protect the hoof. For example, I used to own a mare that wore pads on her front feet underneath her shoe. She used to be prone to stone bruises, so the pads protected her feet from this problem. Eventually my farrier found a hoof supplement that worked wonders for her, so she didn't have to wear them anymore.

With TWHs, these pads are stacked one on top of the other to create a Frankenstein-ish look so the horse is standing on several inches of these pads, as shown. The feet are cut at an unnatural angle with the heel low and the toe long so as to force the horse to "snatch" his foot up and fling it back out in front of him for more lift. This package cannot stay on the hoof all by itself, so metal bands are placed across the hoof and screwed to the sides of the stacks to keep the package on. Here is a video of how the package is put together. (PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT FLAME THE PERSON WHO MADE THIS VIDEO. He is doing nothing illegal here--just demonstrating how to do this.)

Now, there is nothing illegal about horses wearing pads. And it's not just the TWH industry that does it--Hackneys and Saddlebreds also wear pads and what they call "wedges." The wedges aren't nearly as tall as the TWH packages are. In 1986, a controlled study by the Auburn University (and I mean controlled by the TWH show industry) was done to see if the packages "hurt" the horses. They found that horses with packages are not under any stress and that a horse can wear chains around its pasterns up to 6 ozs without it causing pain. Of course, this was done without the horses being sored, and the horses used in the control were not studied over the long term as to whether or not it was a problem for them over time. The study did find that there is a higher incidence of thrush and laminitis in stacked horses, but that fact is usually hushed up. Of course, this study has never been published publically since the sore horse industry wants to continue to just quote only the good things that the study found, not the bad things. Click here for a good explanation of what the study found that you will not hear from the TWH show industry.

Many times you will be told by sore horse and stacked horse supporters that "it's no different than you wearing high heels." But there's a catch to that: when a woman (or man--hey, it happens) wears high heels, she can come home and take those high heels off. A TWH does not get to do that. He wears his pads 24/7 until he is retired from the show ring. He'll get them taken off for another trimming or to "fix" him in various ways to cause pain to the bottom of his foot for showing, but otherwise he wears them all the time.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I wear high heels, my feet hurt after just a couple of hours. So imagine being forced to wear them 24/7 AND you're a creature that does not sit or lie down for long periods--you stand for a good 23 of the 24 hours in a day.

What sparked this post was this article sent to me by a fellow blogger: The Quest to Conquer Laminitis. Most importantly, we can look at this chart: How Hoof Angle Affects Blood Flow. She said she sent it to me because the photos reminded her of the angles of a stacked horse's hooves. The vet who designed this machine in the photos is trying to understand how the blood flow in the hoof is working, because we know decreased blood flow causes laminitis. If he does a venogram of the horse's hoof, he can look at how the veins are working and be able to shoe and/or trim the horse correctly to increase the blood flow. Note that the photographs are of a sound, non-laminitic horse. When his hoof is tipped forward at 15 degrees, "there is increased loading of the heels and subsequently less blood flow in the bulbar vessels." So what does this mean? It means that the heel of the coffin bone is taking more of the weight while the blood flow is being cut off to the bulb part of the pastern.

Look familiar? The angle of the hoof in the photo of the stacked horse above is similar to the angle in the above linked chart. Plus, the horse in the photo has a longer toe and lower heel that the horse in the chart who has a normally trimmed hoof. This means the coffin bone is pointed in a more downward straight position for the stacked horse than the normally trimmed horse, most likely putting more stress on the bone itself. Now think about how the stacked horse is standing this way for 24/7. How in the world can a horse not be affected by this over the long term?

I think that this is something that the Sound Horse Conference and other groups can use to help end this grotesque image of our wonderful breed. If we can prove that yes, stacks over the long term are damaging, then perhaps we can get them included in the HPA. Maybe there is hope for an end to this after all....

Friday, September 25, 2009

NEWS and ARTICLES - Results Are In: More Than 400 Violations at 2009 Celebration

I would have posted this sooner but I was having Internet issues. Now I'm able to post again without it randomly kicking me off!

The Humane Society of the United States, always on top of the soring issue (f' you, PETA) released the following article. Click here for the article with accompanying photos. Most importantly, over 400 voilations were documented, many horses did not show, and our WGC was "trained" by an HPA violator. I forgot that the owner, William B. Johnson, owner of Waterfall Farms and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, also recently had an HPA violator at his barn, Billy Gray. Also note that the Celebration managers did not hold up to their end of the bargain with the USDA as far as inspections are concerned.

I hope that these violations are a message to the industry to clean up their act. Let's pray the horses will be seeing an end to this continued abuse that they do not deserve soon.


The Cruelest Horse Show On Earth
September 17, 2009

Amid allegations of bribery and horse abuse, the 71st Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration recorded the greatest number of Horse Protection Act (HPA) violations of any show in recent memory—and perhaps ever.

Despite long-running industry claims that the cruel practice of soring has all but become a thing of the past, the number of violations of the HPA has actually been on the rise.

About Soring

“Soring” is the intentional infliction of pain to a horse's legs or hooves in order to force him to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait—the “Big Lick”. Today, judges continue to reward this gait, thus encouraging participants to sore their horses and allowing the cruel practice to persist.

Congress passed the Horse Protection Act in 1970 to stop this intentional abuse and tasked USDA with the responsibility of monitoring horse shows to prevent the exhibition of "sore" horses. But even if a sore horse isn't detected as being “sore” the day of the show, his gaits have been created over a lifetime using painful, inhumane techniques.In perhaps the most shocking development of this year’s show, after the placing of the prestigious World Grand Championship class, USDA officials inspected and cited all three of the horses who took home the top awards—for violations of the USDA “scar rule” regulation.

USDA officials released the final numbers from this year’s event: More than 400 violations were documented by industry inspectors and USDA officials during the 11-day Celebration—compared to a total of 187 for the entire 2008 show.

A “Winning” Tradition

In an oft-repeated theme at Walking Horse shows, this year exhibitors—and horses—who were previously cited for soring violations (even during inspections at this Celebration) returned later to win high honors.

There is no prohibition against a horse returning to compete in a later class at a show, after having been cited for a soring violation.

Several 2009 Celebration exhibitors had previously been suspended for Horse Protection Act violations or other allegations of cruelty.

• The 2009 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse is trained by former Trainer of the Year and past HPA violator Jimmy McConnell, and owned by William B. Johnson, who only recently settled a previous HPA case involving trainer Billy Gray.

• Gray, himself a repeat HPA violator, won the 2-year-old championship to thunderous applause, having come off his own three-year federal HPA disqualification just days before. People in the jubilant crowd were overheard to say “It’s great to have Billy back”—although Gray’s Southern Comfort Farm continued to train and show horses during his suspension.

• Trainer Dick Peebles—suspended for five years in 2007 by the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association for alleged abuse, was back in the Celebration ring after being quietly reinstated sometime in 2009 without public announcement or explanation.

Bribery Charges

Walking horse industry participants will seemingly go to any lengths to tilt the scales in their favor.
Local newspapers reported that horse owner Clay Mills was immediately and indefinitely suspended for alleged bribery of an inspector licensed to prevent sored horses from being exhibited.

The inspection program overseeing the Celebration said it will hold a hearing and seek a five-year suspension and $25,000 fine against Mills, a past director of the breed’s registry.

Mills was not the only past or present industry official with his share of Celebration troubles, as horses owned or trained by several others were prohibited from competing due to HPA violations. Some training barns allegedly received dozens of tickets at this one event.

Inspection Inconsistencies

USDA is charged with inspecting Tennessee Walking Horse events to document and prevent abuse. They also certify industry-run programs to self-regulate when USDA can’t be present. But despite the tough enforcement suggested by the high number of violations, there were disappointing lapses in inspection consistency at this year’s event.

• Inspectors did not regularly watch for stewarding—a practice wherein a horse’s handler will frighten or hurt the animal to get him to stand still during inspection—even if his feet are in pain. Stewarding is a chronic problem: Three trainers were suspended for life earlier this year for applying a cruel device to a horse in their care during inspection.

• USDA veterinarians did not appear to be inspecting all horses placing first through third, as was promised prior to the show. The post-inspection holding area was not maintained according to federal regulations, which state that only the trainer, groom and exhibitor of a horse may be in the secure area.

• The drug screening that was implemented by show management in 2008 to identify and eventually prohibit whatever harmful medications may be in use was not in place whatsoever in 2009, despite the finding of a variety of medications in a third of the 30 samples taken in 2008.

What You Can Do

The USDA only has funding to send inspectors to 7 percent of all Tennessee Walking Horse shows nationwide.

All year long, horses suffer with only a scattered handful of federal inspectors in the field to document their abuse.

Tell your U.S. representatives and senators that USDA needs more funding to fully enforce the federal Horse Protection Act—and end cruel horse soring once and for all.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NEWS and ARTICLES - RHC Gives the Incentive Money to Three Sound Horse Venues

This is so wonderful! I found out this news the same week as Black Week, but I didn't want to post simultaneously so any information got lost.

The Racing Horse Commission has decided to allocate it's Breeders' Incentive Funds for non-racing horses to the three sound horse groups who were up for consideration: NWHA, FOSH, and the Horse Protection Commission. This means that if you live in KY, then you can earn money for showing your sound horse at any NWHA, FOSH or HPC group. So be sure to check with the RHC and the sound venue you show with to find out more. Click here for the link to their non-racing fund page.

hope the following articles make you as happy as they've made me. And be sure to take the time to thank the RHC for their choice. We have to let them know we fully support their decision.


Kentucky Horse Racing Commission
Gov. Steven L. Beshear - Secretary Robert Vance
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jamie Eads, 859-246-2847, 859-351-0682 (cell)
KHRC Approves Recommendation to Allow Walking Horse Participation in Kentucky Horse Breeders’ Incentive Fund
Votes to recommend changes in fund program
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2009) – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) voted today to approve the previously deferred Kentucky Walking Horse Breeders’ Incentive Fund (KWH-BIF) application based on recommendations presented by the KHRC Rules Committee.
The KWH-BIF was deferred at the Feb. 10, 2009 Commission meeting due to concerns over inadequate regulation and reporting of Horse Protection Act (HPA) violations, specifically the act of soring. The HPA, a federal law established in 1970, is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA trains and certifies the Horse Industry Organizations (HIO) and Walking Horse Shows will hire HIOs to enforce and uphold the HPA. The Commission noted in February the lack of enforcement at Walking Horse Shows when the USDA is not present and deferred the application back to the Rules Committee for further review.
The KHRC Rules Committee completed a full investigation of the KWH-BIF policies and procedures, Kentucky Walking Horse Industry Organization (KY-HIO) as well as other USDA-certified HIOs and Walking Horse Show management. Numerous discussions were held with KWH-BIF, American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and industry officials.
“As reform of the walking horse industry continues, the KHRC’s recommendations put the horse first,” said David L. Foley, AAEP executive director. “We believe these recommendations will help ensure humane treatment.”
Essentially, the recommendations will allow the Walking Horse members to participate in the incentive fund as well as reassure the Commission the Walking Horse shows are adequately regulated. Crucial to the recommendations is the list of approved HIOs. Any Walking Horse show in Kentucky that affiliates with one of the approved HIOs will be permitted to offer breeder incentive funds. This includes the Horse Protection Commission, the National Walking Horse Association, and Friends of Sound Horses. Additionally, the recommendations necessitate the need to escrow the 2009 funding and apply the 2009 funds to the 2010 show season.
“The safety and welfare of the horse is of great importance to the Commission and I applaud the Rules Committee for their complete investigation and subsequent recommendations,” said Lisa E. Underwood, executive director of the KHRC.
A full copy of the recommendations can be found on the KHRC website www.khrc.ky.gov or by contacting the KHRC office at 859.246.2847.


LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER - Tuesday, Sep. 08, 2009
Injured walking horses will not be eligible for breeders incentive fund
By Janet Patton
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved new standards designed to prevent injured walking horses from being eligible for the state's lucrative breeders incentive fund.
The new rules, approved unanimously, are "very significant" said commissioner Ned Bonnie. "It puts Kentucky in the leadership position with respect to how you treat horses and it has made the benefits contingent on treating horses fairly and taking care of them."
Bonnie said the move is designed to combat "soring," the outlawed practice of intentionally injuring Tennessee Walking Horses to achieve an exaggerated showy gait.
Under the new state rules, the Kentucky Walking Horse Association Breeders Incentive Fund will be reinstated next year, but the parent group will no longer be able to use its own inspectors at horse shows that award points.
To be eligible for incentives, the group will have to use inspectors from one of three "anti-soring" activist organizations — the Friends of Sound Horses, the National Walking Horse Association, or the Horse Protection Commission.
The Kentucky Walking Horse Association has operated the breed incentive fund since the state began the program in 2006, but it was suspended in February after concerns were raised about renewing the group's program.
Bonnie's committee "determined that prior actions of (the group) have not been consistent with the best interests of the walking horse industry or the (Kentucky Horse Racing Commission)," according to its findings.
Bonnie said Tuesday that the Kentucky Walking Horse Association's incentive fund also will be required to submit more financial information, including audits.
About $375,000 in state tax money that would have been available for horses competing in 2009 shows will go into an escrow fund to be added to the 2010 incentives. In 2007, the most recent year figures were available, more than $387,500 was set aside for walking horses from the sales tax on stud fees. Earl Rogers, head of the KWHA incentive fund, would not comment.
Last year, despite assurances from Rogers that no money had gone to participants with violations of the federal Horse Protection Act, Herald-Leader and state investigations found that more than a dozen fund recipients had been cited.
Last October, the racing commission approved rules specifically making HPA violators ineligible for incentive funds.
Donna Benefield, administrative director of the Horse Protection Council, hailed the changes. "I think it's going to be a huge, huge incentive to fix a very long problem," Benefield said afterward.
>"We want all the inspections done fairly and equally. ... I think this gives Kentucky the opportunity to become a leader in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Black Week News Compiled

All righty, I have all the info so I can post for everyone now.

First, Watch It Now won the WGC for 2009. He is owned by Waterfall Farms. Now, I had heard a lot about how WF was soring their horses from first-hand sources. However, as far as I can tell, due to the scandal concerning Monty Roberts, I have a strong suspicion they no longer sore their horses. So there is a possibility that Watch It Now was NOT sore. Let's hope this was the case.

Now to draw your attention here: TWHNC News and Articles. Mostly this information is about the winners at Black Week, but note the photos: lots of the seats in the stands are empty. HOORAY! I heard there's about half the attendance that there normally is at this show, and let's hope that trainers and BL supporters are getting the message.

The final results as to how many horses were disqualified will probably be available later. For now, here's information I got about the events of Black Week.


Missing links: only 12 of 33 stallions show in Saturday class
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
By Mary Reeves

As exciting as Saturday night's Celebration was for many -- it was a disappointment as well. Out of the 33 stallions scheduled to show in the split Aged Stallions 15.2 and over classes, only 12 made it to the ring. Those conspicuously missing were crowd favorites Weekend Warrior, Ironworks Tin Man, It's Billy the Kid and many others.

It's common for some of the horses who register for a class to not appear, said Mike Hilley, trainer for Rising Star Ranch.

"Could be their horse isn't performing as well as they think it should that morning," he said. "It could be sick."

And sometimes, the stallion is entered and shown, not with the sole purpose of winning the big prize, but to also showcase his abilities. In an interview last year with A Strong Dollar owner Curtice McCloy, she said she liked putting him in the World Grand Championship as a way of promoting his standing at stud. At other times, a trainer may have more than one entry, then choose the one with the best prospects to show.

Nine turned away

According to Penny Isaacs, penalities coordinator for SHOW, 21 of the 33 horses signed up for the classes were presented, meaning nine were turned away. The total number of tickets issued so far isn't known yet.

"We won't know the total until the Celebration ends," said David Sacks, spokesperson for the USDA. "We don't provide running totals while the event is still ongoing."

Hilley was working Ted Williams, a Rising Star stud and an entrant in the Aged Stallions Class, but he had no intention of pulling him from the competition.

He also had no choice.

"We were turned away," said Hilley. "They said it was the scar rule."

According to the Horse Protection Act, the scar rule states:

"(a) The anterior and anterior--lateral surfaces of the fore pasterns (extensor surface) must be free of bilateral granulomas, other bilateral pathological evidence of inflammation, and, other bilateral evidence of abuse indicative of soring including, but not limited to, excessive loss of hair.

(b) The posterior surfaces of the pasterns (flexor surface), including the sulcus or "pocket" may show bilateral areas of uniformly thickened epithelial tissue if such areas are free of proliferating granuloma tissue, irritation, moisture, edema, or other evidence of inflammation. "

In other words, scarring on the foot above the hoof indicates the horse has been sored.

Scar rule

The scar rule has come under fire from walking horse trainers who claim it is too subjective.

"We showed Ted three times this summer, he passed inspection all three times," said Hilley. "The USDA was at one of those shows and he passed there, too."

Hilley said before bringing the stallion to the Celebration, they had a veterinarian look over him and approve his condition, then at the vets at the show do it.

"The DQPs passed him, then the government went over him again and again and said it was a scar rule," he said.

Several other contenders who failed the Saturday night inspection have passed inspection at other shows, including USDA inspected shows, but the trainers were not willing to go on record.

"They go after you," said one.

Dr. Doyle Meadows, CEO of the organization and head of SHOW, said the inspections have been strict.

"Our people have written a lot of tickets," he said. " We're trying to enforce the laws and the rules. We knew how this was going to be, but we're really working hard to have a partnership and alliance with the government so we can work together.

"We've got to do that," Meadows continued. "We can't go on being so antagonistic. We all want to put a good, sound horse in the ring."


The Coach, owned by the Barnes-Holland- Kilgore partnership and shown by John Allan Callaway, won the Section A of the Aged Stallions class, with Watch it Now and Jimmy McConnell taking reserve. Third place went to Cadillac's Bum, ridden by Edgar Abernathy. The remaining horses were Armed and Dangerous Premier, ridden by Brock Tillman, fourth; Flash of Silver, with Stephen Daniel, fifth; Pusher's Astro with Joe Cotten, sixth; and High Dollar Silver with Billy Joe Hayes, seventh.

In the Section B Class, not only were 13 horses missing from the line-up, but for the first few minutes of the workout, so was the crowd's enthusiasm. Usually, as the horses circle the ring, waves of cheers follow them, especially crowd favorites. As the crowd realized that some of those favorites weren't going to show, it fell quiet.

But as the five horses began to walk on, the cheering resumed. Bill Bobo and Rowdy Rev took the win for the second year running, and David Landrum on The Golden Sovereign were reserve champs. Third place went to Puttin' Cash on the Line with Ray Gilmer up; fourth went to Missed the Boat with Jason Day; and seventh went to I'm Reagan with Barney Davis.

The horses who showed in the Aged Stallions class last Saturday night will meet again this Saturday night for the World Grand Championship.


Walking horse owner is suspended during Shelbyville's Celebration
N.C. exhibitor denies any illegal contact with steward
By Larry Taft • THE TENNESSEAN • September 2, 2009

The Tennessee Walking Horse industry's regulatory board has suspended a North Carolina owner-exhibitor at this year's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration over claims of making illegal contact with an industry steward.

Celebration CEO Doyle Meadows, who has oversight of the federally sanctioned industry agency that enforces regulations on the humane treatment of horses and all other show-related matters, issued a written statement late Tuesday citing a possible violation by Clay Mills of Mt. Airy, N.C.

Details were not given in the statement, which said Mills is suspended immediately and indefinitely. Industry regulations prohibit influencing or attempting to influence stewards, who are charged with determining the soundness of a horse before it enters a show.

Meadows' two-paragraph statement said the agency would seek a five-year suspension and a $25,000 fine against Mills.

Contacted Tuesday night, Mills vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

"I am the accused and the accusations are false," Mills, 36, said. "I have not attempted to bribe or influence (an industry steward).

"I have been given no due process, and my attorneys say that my civil rights have been violated in every way by them making this type of suspension without due process in the middle of a show.

"I have agreed to testify in a court of law that the accusations are false."

The 71st annual Celebration is in the midst of an 11-day run in Shelbyville, Tenn. It is the breed's premier show, with world champions being crowned in all age groups. The World Grand Championship — the crown jewel — is to be awarded on Saturday night.

Meadows' statement said that the findings from a preliminary investigation found that the allegation "was found to have merit" and because of the "gravity of the circumstances," it was appropriate to suspend Mills.

An appeals process is in place; however, no appeal can be heard before the end of the show.

The Tennessean recently did an in-depth report on the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and found that more than three times as many violations of the laws governing humane treatment of horses were cited between April and August of 2009 than in 2008.

The industry regulatory board that is now in place took over inspections of the horses in April. Meadows, trainers, owners and show officials say that the new regulatory organization is conducting the inspection process in accordance with federal guidelines, resulting in the increased citations.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Black Week Continues - Updates Soon!

I have tons of information on what's going on at the Celebration this week. I am going to try to compile everything this weekend and get it posted. Until then, here's the info I have so far:

Horses are being turned down left and right. If I have my numbers right, 11 of the ticketed horses were given tickets AFTER they came out of the ring because SHOW DQPs let them through to show but the VMOs found them sore upon reinspection after their first place winning. Trainers are starting to realize that this is SERIOUS. I have been told by inside sources that they are starting to realize that even just a few drops of oil before going in the ring is STILL soring and is wrong.

Clay Mills, a trainer, has been suspended from the rest of the Celebration for attempting to bribe a DQP. The DQP stood up and reported him. Mills faces a 5-year suspension and a $10,000 fine for this. I absolutely commend the DQP who went out there and did this. May Clay Mills never be allowed to show again.

I have noticed on some of the chat groups that people are calling for this to end, for the "trick trainers" to stop and for the owners to stop hiring trick trainers. They know this will be the end of the padded horse if soring continues, and it sounds like there is dissention in the ranks.

That's all I have for now. Articles and more info to be posted soon!

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