As a Tennessee Walking Horse advocate, I have worked diligently with various groups to help end the serious issue that plagues our breed known as soring, a form of animal abuse. I understand that you are aware of this issue as you point out the fact that the industry “comes under attack for alleged abuse of its animals” on your Our Campaign page of your website. I think we can all agree that soring is not a thing of the past as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proven time and time again that this abuse continues with statistical, video, and photographic evidence.
I noted on the Our Campaign page on your website, you state the following.
The SHOW campaign is “a tangible way of demonstrating our industry’s commitment to doing what is right and bringing about reform where needed.”
SHOW is “saying we pledge to take personal responsibility to refrain from any act that might be construed as animal abuse and state publicly that we encourage our friends to do likewise.”
“By embracing the values of SHOW, you can enhance the integrity of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, protect our horses and assure the future of real competition.”
A friend of mine took it upon herself to compare the list of judges licensed with SHOW to the HPA Violations list for the period of August 1, 2007 through October 16, 2009 as published on the USDA website. Of the over 300 judges, 68 of these judges were suspended during that time period, 14 are currently suspended, and 11 of them are under lifetime suspension. This represents 93 HPA violators—felons, really, for violating the HPA is a federal offense—that are still allowed to perform as judges. That’s almost one third of your judge roster.
In addition, I understand that Rollie Beard has been given the position of Director of Judges. Yet, recent information released by the USDA informs us that Mr. Beard has received five tickets within the past six years for violating the HPA, with the last violation occurring just recently in 2008.
I can also note that per the USDA data, over 400 violations were found at the 2009 Celebration, which as I understand was affiliated with your HIO. This is a record-breaking number of violations, and it was during SHOW’s first time of being the affiliated HIO at the Celebration.
In addition, I learned today that you have changed your shoeing regulations. You are now allowing bands in all divisions, including the Trail Pleasure division, and you are allowing extra weight and tungsten shoes on horses. It has been proven that bands can be used to cause pain by their being tightened too hard, and they can be used to hide pressure shoeing practices between the shoe and the hoof. This information has been documented in the article titled “Soring: Disgraceful Practice Continues” in the American Farriers Journal in 2009. The ridiculously heavy shoes can cause lifelong damage to the horse’s joints and muscle structure in its legs, back and neck.
I have a very important question for all members and representatives of SHOW. Are these the values Walking Horse owners and exhibitors are expected to embrace? That an HIO will allow a reported felon, even a repeat felon, to continue to represent the TWH industry by being a judge or the Director of Judges? That we will continue to see HPA violations at shows affiliated with your HIO? That you will change your shoeing regulations to actively include practices that are proven to help perpetuate soring and have been specifically banned by sound horse HIOs? What value exactly are you trying to convey here? It can’t be “doing what is right” or “bringing about reform.” Usually a logical course of action would be to remove violators from judging and directorial positions in your HIO, and it would also to be to either keep your shoeing regulations the same or change them to be more restrictive. Apparently, values you support are not the same kinds of values that I think most law-abiding citizens take seriously, such as honor, integrity, compassion, and most importantly, ethical behavior. I would think that you are doing exactly the opposite and are encouraging those who repeatedly sore their horses to keep doing it, which in turn is an “act that might be construed as animal abuse.”
Overall, I believe and I’m sure others will agree that you are doing nothing to “enhance the integrity of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry” by continuing this course of action. Allowing repeat violators to be judges and official with your HIO does not “protect the horse.” It serves to protect your own industry by allowing it to continue as is. Please know that until you start to consider true reform and start helping to end soring rather than encouraging it, you will never be seen as “doing what is right.” If you “pledge to take responsibility,” then stop pledging and start taking responsibility in making progressive changes and instigating the end of this horrific practice, especially before others do it for you.