"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

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.


Gemtwist said...

Thank you for keeping up with this blog and posting this information! It really can be difficult to know where to look to find out what's going on to help these horses.

Funder said...

I'm so happy there's some national publicity about this stuff. Linked the HSUS article to my non-horsey friends, just to raise a little awareness. And congrats on the ultrasound - I forgot to comment when you posted about it!

Anonymous said...

i am glad you are taking the time to do this blog. honestly though, i have a hard time reading about all this, i have a great shame that i grew up involved with this industry and attended/supported many shows as a teen. i did leave it all behind and moved to another (less tortured) breed, but still....

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, all. And thanks for the congrats, Funder! We're really excited about the baby.

texoma, you don't need to feel shameful. I truly believe that those who realize what they have done, admit it, and walk away from it will be forgiven. You are not continuing to perpetrate the problem, and that is a huge step. It's a basic step, but huge. I would forgive anyone who says I won't do this anymore, it's not worth it anymore. I'm glad that you realize what you have done, and I hope you can pass on that information to others. That's what we REALLY need--people like you to stand up and say yes, this is continuing, and yes I made a change. You can too.

So the big question is: do you have gaited Morgans? :) I couldn't help but ask! Morgans are one of my favorite breeds--someday I will own an old bloodline Morgan for my dad to do Calvary reinactments on. :)

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