"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, November 18, 2009

THOUGHTS - Questions for Ourselves

Hello everyone. Once again, this is not a research or article post. This is something I personally experienced that I thought I should pass along.

I regularly read a blog called Shame in the Horse Show Ring. Her current post is about the Big Lick horse and how horrible it looks via the Freak of the Week videos from Walking Horse Chat. (She gets *ahem* colorful with her language, so please be forewarned if you go to her blog.)

There were some good comments to the post, but of course we got one person who posted who believes soring is a thing of the past and who has BL and flat shod horses that show. Obviously, we all know that this person is either being lied to or is just denying that this is going on.

I answered her comment word for word, and one of the answers was I asked a series of questions if this person truly knows if the horses are happy and sound. I thought these questions could be ones we could all use to screen our TWHs that are in training.

I want to make it perfectly clear that as owners, we are morally responsible for the care and well being of the animals we own. Just as a child can will be taken from abusive parents, the same can be done with animals. Ignorance does not excuse you from your horse having been sored. "I just didn't know" is not enough. A mother who acts innocent while the father beats the son will be held responsible in a court of law. Therefore the animal owner should be too. If you do not take the time to make sure your trainer is using ethical methods to train your horses, then you are just as guitly of that trainer for the abuse caused by your horse. And really, this goes for any breed and any type of care being provided to an animal.

These were the questions I posed to this person. Of course I haven't received an answer, and I don't expect to. But I thought perhaps they would help others out there who want to keep their horses in training but don't want their horses sored.
  • Do you shoe your horses yourself or watch while they're being shod to watch for signs of pressure shoeing or other soring methods?
  • Are you with your horses every time they are worked in training?
  • Has the trainer you're using ever had a horse in his training barn ticketed or received an HPA violation?
  • Has he been suspended or banned from any shows?
  • Are you inspecting your horses for signs of soring? (The USDA has the inspection method posted on the APHIS-HPA website.)
  • Are you pulling their stacks and shoes on a regular basis to see if anything is being used to cause them pain? (Yes, stacks CAN be pulled and put back on easily so you can inspect your horse--don't let any trainer tell you different.)
  • When at the show and you have to leave your horse for any period of time, do you have someone standing in for you to make sure no soring is done to your horse while you're gone?
We need to remember that just because our TWHs in training look well fed doesn't mean they aren't being tortured with soring methods behind the barn. Take the time to be there when your horse is being trained. Take the time to show up unannounced. And even if you think your horse is in good shape, note the level of care and well being of the other horses around. Do they look healthy and happy? If you are suspicious, remove your horse immediately. You don't have to report this person to the ASPCA or HSUS if you don't want to. Simply removing your horse and your money from that trainer's pocketbook is a very strong message, and the more people who continue to do this, the more the bad guys will lose their hold and will lose the battle.

Overall, if you take these steps, a good trainer will not think you're being rude or sneaky. A good trainer will respect you for how much you value your horse's well being and will welcome your visits and your being involved with your horses care and training. Those are the marks of a good trainer and moral person overall.


Funder said...

Good post. I think I'd just casually ask early on if the trainer could fix my horse - that seemed to be the common code for "sore them, but I don't want to say sore." Of course, I don't know if I could ever send a TWH to a trainer. :(

What about looking around the tack room, too? Most people have one bottle of DMSO, but only sore horse owners have a GALLON bottle of it. And chains. And unlabeled jars. And Saran Wrap, and tons of quilts and wraps. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Funder. Yes, asking if they can "fix" the gait is a good test. I do my best NOT to use that word when I talk about working with gaited horses! I also never use the words "break" or "control"...but I won't go into that.

Looking for those phsyical signs of DMSO and other unusual amounts of Koppertox, Tuff Stuff, and other seemingly innocent products are good things to look for as well. And note the smell of the barn. Even if they have all their chemicals hidden, you will definitely smell the chemicals. Carts full of chains and shelves full (and I'm talking FULL, as in stacked on top of each other from floor to ceiling) of all different kinds of shoes, stacks and boots are also good signs that things aren't what they seem.

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