"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, February 22, 2010

THOUGHTS - Facebook Argument About the Truth

I just HAD to post this. These are the responses to a post on Facebook. A guy I'm "friends" with posted a photo of a two-year-old TWH filly (yes, FILLY) that was at a farm sale in TN this week. Supposedly this horse was the talk of the sale and was just amazing...to them. Of course, the horse is a BL horse and looks awful--a nearly 10" shanked bit, probably with a twisted wire mouthpiece, crouching so hard in the back the horse looks like it'll fall down, obviously cut tail tied up in a tight bun, and suspiciously dark pasterns with chains on the front.

This was my response and the subsequent responses to the photo. The funny part is that it doesn't make me angry it all. It not only makes me laugh, but overall, it's just really, really sad. I'm posting this because it's a great example of the mentality that goes on in the TWH world. Attack other breeds, jump to conclusions...classic examples of trying to make excuses. For me, and I hope for the rest of you, these excuses just don't hold water anymore.

Then I ran into some irony...Commenter 5 is one of my "friends" on FB (I thought she was with the good guys, but apparently not). The weird thing is that she's a fan of a local trainer here in AZ who only does natural horsemanship. WTF? How can you be a fan of natural horsemanship and think that the BL is nice? I just don't get that. I'm trying to decide if I should ask her about that...but it's probably not a good idea to poke a potentially full hornet's nest.

I stopped checking the posts on the picture after my final post here. I'm done, and it's like talking to a brick wall: the mentality is immovable. I feel sorry for these people. No really, I do. I'm not joking here. These are people who have no idea why the TWH world is ousted by the rest of the horse community, and they never will learn. They just aren't capable of it--abusing animals is a way of life for them. Until pads, chains, bands, and the like are banned from the arena, we won't see any change anytime soon.


Me: Sick. This horse looks to be in horrible pain. Is this gross representation of our breed EVER going to end?

Poster: This filly was inspected by the most qualified vet in our business, plus a DQP. This filly was inspected infront of the whole crowd at the Calsonic. You can go to the barn this very hour and with a 6 ounce action device, that is what she will do.

Commenter 1: looks like a bad cat to me!!! shes strokin

Poster: Andrea, tie a baby rattle to your cats foot, and come back and tell me what she does.

Commenter 2: Theres one in every crowd..... This looks like one bad mama!

Commenter 3: I would love to take a ride!!!!!!

Poster: This mare has been good since day one. Her full brother, Puttin Cash on the Line made an impressive show at the 2009 Celebration. Who ever beats her is the best one in the business and will be terribly exspensive.

Commenter 4: man thats cool .

Me: Tommy, I don't mean that she's sored. Whether she is or isn't is not the issue. I mean that she looks like she's in pain. It is not natural for a horse to move like that, and therefore it looks painful. I know the rest of you think this is cool and pretty, but it's not to the rest of the world. It is disgusting and wrong, and it's ruined our amazing breed in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Commenter 2: By your rationalization, then, the piaffe and passage done by grand prix dressage horses are not "natural" movements of the horse and therefore are painful to the horse? When actually both this gait and those of GP dressage horses are the result of training. In this case, by a very talented young trainer.

Poster: Does a 5 Gaited or Morgan Park horse look like they are in pain?

An action device does just that, produce action. Tie something that rattles on your dog or cats leg and tell me they are in pain.

Commenter 5: Why argue with someone who doesn't like this style of horse? I see promise and talent. Quite a capable youngster.

Poster: "Looks" don't tell the whole story. Tiger Woods looked like a great husband.

Commenter 6: YYEAAA BOOOYYY! Right there your honor!

Commenter 7: AWESOME!! No pain here. She is as happy a horse I've ever seen! Great job Justin!!

Commenter 8: HELLOOOOO and YES INDEED....hurtin somebody right there now...yehawwww!!!!!!!!

Me: "Does a 5 Gaited or Morgan Park horse look like they are in pain?"

Yep, because they are forced into a frame that causes their backs to be hollow and their necks stiff and upright with unnatural development to the bottom of their neck. They look like they're in horrible pain.

Pointing fingers at other breeds only tries to defer the problem. It's like saying well OJ Simpson committed murder and you didn't convict him, so why can't I do it? Every breed has it's bad side, but no other breed has such an ugly representation of what the horse looks like in the show ring as the TWH. What is so wrong with the natural, God-given gait of this talented creature that there needs to be a parody of it? If the TWH world would start making changes that help their image, then maybe, just maybe they would regain some respect.

Commenter 2, you can't compare backyard training of a 2 yo horse to dressage movements such as the Piaffe. That training takes YEARS of development, not a few chains and a long-shanked bit to force the horse into a certain movement. That is not talent--it's gimmicks and gadgets to get the work done quickly. No two year old dressage horse would EVER be forced to do a Piaffe--they don't' have the body strength or mature frame to do it. And no 2 yo TWH should be forced into this horrible frame and unnatural movement--they shouldn't even be started until they're at least three years old, and that goes for all breeds. Check our The Ranger Study by Dr. Deb Bennett if you want proof as to why.

I never said chains were painful--stop putting words in my mouth. I just said the horse looks like it's in pain. That's all. think it's hilarious that all of you jump to it being a comment about the training methods and soring...methinks we all know the truth here and just can't grasp why it needs to end.

Commenter 9: Andrea....is it natural to race a horse until it's leg shatters into 30 pieces and their hearts explode??

I havent seen you speak out against the 4,000 horses put down due to race related injuries.

I havent seen you speak out against the Lipizaners that are forced to jump and kick with their heads RESTRAINED tightly over their backs.

Yet you have the audacity to get on a forum and claim a horse "looks" like it is in pain.

if you want to see some horses "in pain", you don't have to go any further than your local trail riding campground to see true ABUSE and "Pain". Go and tell those weekend warriors that ride their horses until they are road foundered while they are drunk and incoherent and tell me which horse has t worse...The one in the pic, or theo ne that is drug out and rode to it's breaking point every weekend.

Good grief...

Commenter 9: I will add.....Every other breed is allowed to enhance and exaggerate their natural gaits and abilities except the Tennessee Walking Horse. I for one am getting sick and tired of these loud mouthed blow hards trying to degrade our industry.

Me: Matt, nope, but this isn't a picture of a racehorse, is it? And I am also against the racing industry. Again, your pointing fingers at other breeds to try to make what the TWH industry does okay.

Lipizzans are not forced to jump and kick with their heads restrained over their backs--it's a natural reaction for them to counter balance themselves when kicking outward by jerking their head up. They wear surcincles so the handlers can cue them with the bit, and they are taught to round their bodies, balance on their hindquarters, and lift and reach out. These methods have been used for thousands of years to achieve this maneuver and do not destroy the horse the way the BL does. And if you did your research, you would know that it takes years upon years for a horse to build the strength and muscle to do those maneuvers. They are not forced into a movement at a young age like TWHs are.

I am not trying to degrade the TWH industry. I actually show all my horses with NWHA. But just because other breeds "allow" exaggerating natural gaits doesn't mean it's right. I simply don't understand why the Big Lick still exists when it's so ugly and a general detriment to our breed overall. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me why those horses wear those high-heeled shoes, and tell me how ugly it looks. Then they find out what it takes to get those horses there, and whether they learn about soring or not, they are sickened. I know many, many people who have left the TWH breed or avoided it because of the Big Lick. I know those of you in the circle don't get it, and it's really too bad. Otherwise maybe the judges would stop rewarding crouch, soring would stop, and maybe the breed could get the respect back that it deserves. Choosing to make a change is forgivable; continuing down the same path and poo-pooing anyone who doesn't agree with you is not.

Overall, it's too bad you all think this is still okay. May you all truly make a change for the better, for yourself, for the breed, and for the horse overall. I can only imagine a day when the Big Lick is gone, and what a wonderful day for the TWH that will be!

Me: P.S. And let me point out that there is a reason why the WEG isn't allowing Big Lick TWHs at their venue and is only allowing NWHA and private owners of flat-shod horses to present their horses. I think that should be a big enough message to all of you that something absolutely has to change.


Valerie said...

First time poster here.... I ride Paso Fino's and have ridden a number of other breeds of gaited horse and seen them. Honestly I love the natural gait (and I love the fact that the Paso Fino shows only allow flat shod thank GOD!)

But seriously I have been on a few of these message boards and people that use these so called training devices are so screwed up in the head! There was a saddlebred trainer talking about the chains and how they dont bother the horse at all (this was her first argument) until someone pointed out that if they get used to them then they wouldn't produce the reaction anymore and if they don't bother them and really serve no purpose why use them? She then changed her argument to "well they are a slight irritation"

But yeah talking to anyone in the TWH industry that supports big lick is like talking to a wall. They have it in their heads that its "natural" and there is nothing wrong with it. I DONT UNDERSTAND IT! Yeah 12" shanks with barbed wire for mouthpieces. Yup thats ok.(kind of sarcastic there)

*sigh* And I agree there are problems in EVERY breed. And frankly I think ill stick to pleasure riding for now. There are times Im ashamed to call myself a trainer, due to the fact that a lot of trainers use abuse to get the horse to "do its thing"

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Valerie. You are exactly right. I especially like their excuse that chains don't bother the horse because your bracelet doesn't bother you, does it? Of course it doesn't, but it doesn't make me lift my arm in exaggerated motions, either. So that means that the chains are doing something that is causing the horse to lift its legs like that.

A true trainer that uses chains will only use them for approximately 10 to 15 minutes at a time, and they will put something like Vaseline on the horse's pasterns to keep them from rubbing or causing problems. I have used rollers before and done just that and never had any problems. NOTE: I DON'T USE THEM ANYMORE AND NEVER WILL AGAIN! It does work if you do it right. But if you just ride them day after day in the chains for an hour at a time, the horse does become "immune" to them and/or it will cause irritation and will become a problem. The goal of chains is to put a little weight on the pasterns to help build muscle, just like a cyclist will add ankle weights to build muscle. The problem with the TWH world is that chains are allowed in the ring all the time, so something else has to be done to cause enough irritation to make the horse lift its legs higher. I believe that if chains were banned from the show ring as has been done with FOSH and NWHA, then they would be a training device only and would stop being used to sore horses.

Now don't get me wrong: I don't mind a heavier shoe and some chains when training to get lift and reach IF IT'S DONE RIGHT. There is a fine line between doing it right and doing damage to your horse, though, and most people don't know where that line is.

I personally no longer train due to the mentality. There are too many people that want quick results, and I'm tired of fighting with current trends and "the system" that does not encourage proper, long term training of a horse. And I also want to keep my amateur status at shows so I can show my friends' horses (don't have any of my own to show right now). However, we do need good trainers who have the mentality you have, so KEEP IT UP! Especially with Paso Finos. I do not like the way they look in the show ring--they are too restrained with hollow backs and false collection. But at least they're flat shod, that's for sure!

Thank you very much for commenting!

horsndogluvr said...

The ASB trainer I once worked for used bells, like the ones Native Americans use on their feet. The inside is soft leather. And he used them seldom, only once a month or so.

I enjoyed watching. The sound was sweet, and the horses looked more curious than anything. They seemed to enjoy the jingling, to the point where they'd lift their feet higher. One gelding in particular seemed quite proud of his jingly bracelets.

One reason for the BL's blindness is "habituation." Have any of you read this article? (warning, pdf.)


He talks about habituation - why the BL people can't see how ugly it is. They just don't understand why we can't see the "beauty" of it.

I guess we all need to check ourselves for habituation.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending that article, Ruthie. I've been looking for it. I will add it to this blog and probably my website as well. I have two new pages to write for my website and just haven't had the time yet.

That's funny you mentioned the bells, Ruthie. I have found that attaching bells to horses' bridles helps them learn to nod and find rhythm. Most horses I have put bells on really like them. And it's nice on the trail because others can hear you coming. So I bet it works well for their feet as well.

I also say outloud "I think I can I think I can" to the horse so he hears the four beats and finds his rhythm. This worked SO well on Indigo, my blue roan show gelding. As soon as I started chanting, off he went! He was incredible.

There is a guy from NWHA who will be exhibiting at the WEG who once did an amazing presentation with a TWH at a huge show back east. This was probably in the 90s. The horse was not wearing anything, flat shod, completely bareback and I think with just a snaffle bit on, or perhaps bridleless, and he was riding him and that animal was nodding and gaiting perfectly. He put crepe paper streamers in his mane and tail, and the also put them right under the horse's front knees to accentuate the look of the gait. They did all kinds of maneuvers, but at one point he lost his balance and came off. The horse--GET THIS--KEPT GAITING around the arena like he'd never left his back. The guy met up with him on the other side of the arena and jumped on WHILE THE HORSE WAS STILL GAITING. It looked like it was part of the act, but it wasn't! The crowd went nuts!

He was going to perform the same act at the Celebration and was going to include the getting off as part of the act. However, he was stopped by the president of TWHBEA at the time (won't mention the name for fear of being called a liar). They didn't want him showing off a naturally gaited horse at the biggest event of the year. They didn't want outsiders to wonder why all the horses weren't ridden like that. It was SO sad.

I am hoping against hope that he will perform that same routine at the WEG. It would be SO amazing!

Okay, that was totally OT. Overall, yes, habituation is definitely a huge part of the problem. These are people that have one of two mindsets: 1) they truly believe they are doing nothing wrong and don't get why everyone is so against them, or 2) they DO know they're doing wrong but don't care and lean on the idea that it's "tradition" or "my granddad's granddad did it this way, so that's the way it should be done." I think the same habituation exists in the dog fighting rings, Mexican rodeos, charro riders, "dancing" horses, and just about any other "sports" that are abusive to animals.

Valerie said...

"Especially with Paso Finos. I do not like the way they look in the show ring--they are too restrained with hollow backs and false collection. But at least they're flat shod, that's for sure!"

Ugh I HATE that. The pasos we train are under collection with rounded backs, their hind end under them and are on the bit. Oh and the bit we use? Snaffle. Or a rope halter. The ride great in either. The place I work at has an amazing Paso Fino stallion and the owner rides him in a treeless endurance saddle with a snaffle.
And along with the rest of her horses he was taught to bend, collect and respond to light pressure. All of our horses bend around our legs, do lateral movement.
I HATE seeing the Pasos with their heads and necks straight in the air. "GAG" But yes at least they are flat shod.

Oh and I dont disagree with using training aids and teaching your horse to lift higher with aids as long as they are used for a VERY short period of time and every step is taken to protect them. I have used side reins on horses to teach them to use their back and step underneath themselves more. I have used spurs to help exaggerate movement. I also used to trot my horse through sand to build muscle and to teach him not to drag his hind end.

Honestly I dont know if Ill ever get hired after working for the person I do because I am against the use of "harsh" training aids (unless in VERY experienced hands and for a short period of time to achieve a desired effect. And by short period of time I mean 10-15 minutes MAX.)

I guess im an evil person because I dont use anything harsher then a basic curb and my horses are either barefoot or with a regular shoe. I like them the way God made them and I want my horses to be happy healthy and comfortable while they work

Psychotic Raccoon said...

That was depressing. Good on you for speaking up.

I found it disturbing how he called the horse a mare. She is not a mare. She is a filly. A baby that's not even halfway grown and shouldn't have a rider on her back for a good long time yet. Let alone all the gadgets they put on them.

You just can't reason with people when their heads are shoved up their asses. I don't even try to talk to BL people anymore because I would have better luck screaming at a brick wall. They just keeping coming up with excuse after excuse and trying to lay blame on everyone else in the horse industry and there are so many people who do worse things to their horses so that makes BL okay.

I agree with you, I don't believe the Big Lick will ever disappear until the gadgets are banned.

Carol said...

First let me say -- I love this blog. We need more informative blogs out there like this that post the FACTS (without so much swearing and snark).

While I do not own a walking horse, I rode them quite a bit in my younger days. A gentleman I worked for for a number of years owned them. They were all pleasure horses (wearing only the normal, light horseshoes) and they were fun to ride and had great attitudes.

I learned about the whole soring debacle during my years working for him and was horrified then. Recently, I have begun to do more research on this horrible practice and I am no less horrifed today (perhaps even more so) than I was then. If there is ONE cause in the horse world I would like to take a stand against, it is this one. I feel this is worse than most of the other "cruel" practices in the horse world. I will explain:

First off, You can't compare this to a dressage horse. Even though dressage is getting a lot of heat right now about the practices of Rolkur/hyper flexion -- that STILL does not compare to this. Horses that are made to do hyperflexion are doing it only while being ridden (and don't get me wrong on this, I am not supporting Rolkur either as I think that is rotten too). Horses that are sored are living with painful feet & legs 24/7 EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES.

Even someone who is riding a horse with gadgets such as draw reins or martingales will still take those things OFF the horse at the end of a ride.

How often are the stacks removed from a walking horse? From what I understand they are also trimmed in a very crude way as well. This is not something that can be "removed" after a ride so the horse can rest in his stall or go play in the pasture.

...and what about standing in a stall with plastic wrap around the legs -- burning acid into the skin? ....what about the stories I've heard of horses beaten to their feet so they can be ridden. I don't see how ANY OTHER discipline's infractions can compare to THIS.

I will also say (and correct me if I'm wrong on this) that I have never seen ANY other breed ride with the kinds of bits that are used on BL Walking horses. The shanks on those things look almost as long as the reins! They remind me of something you'd see in a Medieval torture device section in a museum. Not only do these poor animals have to deal with horribly painful and deformed feet, they have to endure pain in their mouths as well.

If I were a horse, I can honestly say I'd take any fate out there over that of a (sored)BL walking horse. As much as I detest horse slaughter, I even think THAT is more humane than this. At least with slaughter, once the horse is gone, there is no more pain.

My guess is that most of these individuals simply live in a world of denial. Even those that sore horses probably don't think it's THAT bad (or course not, THEY don't have to endure it).

Personally, I think anyone caught soring a horse should have to endure the same treatment they are giving to their horse(s). Perhaps THEN they might understand why it is so cruel. There's nothing like first-hand experience to change your mind (evil grin).

Thank you for creating this blog. I agree with you 100% that educating the general public is key and that this crap will never stop unless the BL way of showing is ceased altogether.

Oh -- and pretty? Big Lick horses remind me of a Llama having a seizure. SURE, THAT's PRETTY...

summerhorse said...

I had a farrier whose father was a farrier in TN all his life. I think he summed up the BL/soring people best when he said, "They crawled out of a different hole than the rest of us!"

Anonymous said...

LOL summerhorse! That's a great way to put it! Thanks for posting!

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