"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, May 24, 2010

NEWS - SHOCKING PHOTO making the rounds

CORRECTION: the HIO is Heart of America--that's not the horse's name. I also found out this horse won the class and "passed" post show. I think we can all conclude what' really going on here.

I received this photograph from a reliable source today. From the information I've recieved, the HIO is Heart of America and this photo was taken this year at a show. Don't know anything about the show, owner, whatever, but my God...if this horse isn't sore, I don't know what is.

PLEASE flood the USDA with letters and emails. Tell them this has GOT to stop!

Here's the letter I wrote to the USDA.

I received the attached photo today. If you don't know about the photo, I hope this is enlightening to you. If you already do know about the photo, then this had better be a strong reminder of how the Federal law is continuing to be violated.

From what I understand, this horse is named Heart of America and this photo was taken this year. I don't know anything further about it, but I don't believe I have to. This is absolutely ridiculous. This horse is obviously sore. Is this what our industry has come to? Is this what SHOW and other HIOs that allow this freak of a demonstration of this breed believe is okay to be in the show ring? I don't know if this horse was allowed in the show ring, and frankly, I don't care. It's the fact that this horse was on the show grounds at all in the state he's in that is absolutely unacceptable.

I am begging the USDA, please, PLEASE ban pads and chains from the show ring and limit the toe length and shoe size and weight like all other sound horse venues have done. These practices have obviously helped--why is it that the USDA won't follow suit? It doesn't matter that the industry claims that stacks don't hurt the horses--it's what they are doing to these animals when they are allowed to have stacks on them that does. Pressure shoeing will be easier to detect without pads on the horses. Shut down HIOs who continue to have violations at their shows. The USDA has been able to pass rules such as removing the saddle for inspection and not allowing a horse to show for the rest of the show if it's found in violation...certainly rules can be put in place to get this to stop for real.

I believe you are not doing enough and that the time for allowing the industry to police itself is over. Step up and stop this. Playing around and adding rules here and there is not going to stop this--we know that. These people have had plenty of time to stop this, and now they need real action from the Feds to end it. Stop trying to not offend them or upset them or whatever it is that is keeping the USDA from banning these practices--they don't deserve it because they are criminals. The Tennessee Walking Horse has become a disgrace to the horse industry at large, and it's obvious that those who continue to sore horses will not stop. Make a difference and make a change for the better.

ARTICLE - Into the Hurricane

Another bit from my website. Don Bell is no longer the Executive Director or part of NWHA, but it's important to hear his story about how NWHA came about and why he changed from soring to sound.

Into the Hurricane
Interview with Don Bell, Director of Operations, National Walking Horse Association
By Rhonda Hart Poe

As reprinted from The Gaited Horse Magazine in the NWHA National News
February/March 2006

Permission to reprint granted by Rhonda Hart Poe

For those in the Walking Horse Show Scene, the name Don Bell undoubtedly roils up an instant image—from hard-working Sound Horse advocate for some, to charlatan or turncoat to others.

Understanding why Mr. Bell has found himself in such a flickering spotlight requires a little background in the Tennessee Walking Horse show industry. This is BIG business. Millions of dollars dally around top horses and trainers. Training, or better yet, owning, a World Grand Champion (WGC) is a holy grail. As the caliber of horses steadily improved through the 1930s and 40s competition began to heat up. Trainers sought “new and improved” ways of eliciting bigger and more exaggerated gait from their horses. At some point, someone figured out that applying a blistering agent to the horse’s front legs got them to hitting a lick like never before and the age of soring—along with all the bitterness and controversy the practice entails—was born. Artificial devices, chemicals, pressure shoeing, pain, and winning at all costs crept into the Tennessee Walking Horse show ring and have refused to disappear for decades.

Too many competitors looked upon soring, or “fixing” horses, as a part and parcel of the show ring and, even if they condemned it as a necessary evil, joined in. Some really ran with it, others ran from it, and few took a public stand against it. This is where the Sound Horse movement began.

Embittered passions run high. It is not uncommon to hear accusations flung about that “so and so” is only involved in the Sound Horse movement because they “couldn’t cut it” in the “Big Lick,” or that someone is a fraud, or playing both sides of the field. Little do those who “see no evil” in soring realize that it’s not that sound horse people can’t compete with them, it’s that they will not do to their horses what they have to in order to compete. Rather than focus on the negatives, many have sent their own personal course towards focusing on the pure positives of the Tennessee Walking Horse and other breeds shown within the same venues. They envision a day when no horse is put through the pain of soring.

Where in all of this will you find Don Bell? Right smack dab in the middle of it.

TGH: Don, tell us a little about your life and how you got involved in Walking Horses.

Bell: I have been in the Walking Horse business all but six years of my adult life.

I was born in Decherd, Tennessee. Dad was a livestock dealer, so I’ve been around horses all my life and Walking Horses were the horse people in that area had. I lived and breathed that all my life. I worked for some real prominent trainers, started out in the 50s working for Neil Branschum, who trained Sun’s Delight. Worked for him while I was in high school, he was really a great horseman.

TGH: Were you ever involved in soring horses yourself?

Bell: Yes, I did, I’m ashamed to admit it, but that’s the truth. It did it regularly.

TGH: Since you are now a leading advocate against soring, what happened to change that?

Bell: I did that for 28 years, but several things happened that made me really assess what I was doing. It wasn’t even a matter of conscience at first. Around Tennessee it was an accepted thing and people didn’t think much about it. But as I got older I judged a lot of Walking Horse divisions at multi-breed shows, and I began to be embarrassed as to what other people thought about what we were doing to our horses. I could easily see how people in other breeds looked down on us for what we did. But still, I continued.

Jane is my wife, we’ve been married...(turns to ask wife in the background “How long we been married?”)...for all our lives. We have one son, Don Bell, Jr. He was showing Walking Horses when he was a kid. He’s 30 years old now. The thing that really turned me around was that he had a real nice little pleasure horse that he rode and showed himself. One year he won 30 blue ribbons with this horse. Just a little flatshod horse, which, you have to understand, trainers weren’t training horses like that in those days. They stuck to the padded horses. In 1988 the Walking Horse Trainers Show in Decatur, AL, was shut down as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Horse Protection Association. The shows were shut down for a couple of months following the Trainers Show. By this time, I was already having problems with what I was doing.

When shows started back up, a lot of trainers started showing and training flatshod horses because they thought they were going to lose the pads and action devices, using the same [methods] on them they did on the padded horses. It got so bad my son couldn’t compete, because the trainers were soring the flatshod horses and he wasn’t. I told my son if he was going to have to fix his horse. My son said, “I don’t care if I never win another blue ribbon, I’m not going to do that to my horse.” When my son told me that I felt about two inches tall and I never sored another one. I couldn’t do that any more.

I tried showing sound for a few more months but wasn’t competitive, so I walked away from it. I got rid of all the Walking Horses I had. I bought my son a Quarter Horse because I did not want him to be associated with Walking Horses. At that time there was not an alternative [to the sore horse venue] in the Walking Horse industry like NWHA offers today. Had there been, my son and I would both be training Walking Horses today. Instead, my son trains Quarter Horses and is very successful having won multiple World Championships.

In other breeds, when they catch somebody doing something wrong they penalize them. In the Walking Horse [industry] if they catch somebody soring a horse they reward them. They (the TWHBEA) don’t even publish the suspension list.

TGH: So swearing off soring cost you personally?

Bell: Cost me everything I worked all my life for...and I have no regrets from walking away from it. My regrets are that I ever did it at all.

TGH: How did you find your way back to the Walking Horse industry?

Bell: After staying out of it for six years I didn’t even read or see anything at all about the Walking Horse business, didn’t go to horse shows, I walked AWAY from it and I wasn’t looking to get back in the Walking Horse business, it found me. I was asked to apply for a job as administrator and Director of Judges for NHSC (National Horse Show Commission, which oversees Tennessee Walking Horse Shows). I did this job from 1994 to 1997.

When I took this job I made up my mind that I was going to really try to make a difference in the Walking Horse industry. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep the job long if I did, what I was planning to do. I wasn’t planning to make drastic changes at first, just deal with the most flagrant problems, and gradually keep tightening up, make it legitimate. I video taped shows and called the judges in on the carpet about it. I showed those video tapes of bad image horses to the judges committee. They didn’t have a problem with this as long as it wasn’t the big boys. When I started stepping on the toes of some of the big boys, things got heated. But I really tried to do a good job there. I tried to make a difference but the powers that be did not want change and I became history there.

TGH: Based on your experience, what do you think goes through the mind of someone as he’s going through the motions of soring a horse.

Bell: Could be anything or nothing at all. The truth is, I can think back and remember what I thought, as far as a matter of conscience, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I really didn’t think about it that much. It was just what was done in that area where I was. It was pretty well acceptable.

The Celebration was the greatest thing in the world—in my mind at that time—and winning at the Celebration was the ultimate. To do that you had to push the line very hard.

You justify it at the time. I look back at what those horses did, and what you had to do to them, but having a horse make a great show at the Celebration eclipsed what you had to do to get there. A lot of people say it was [for] the money, it put food on the table, but it was the ego and the glory. I think back now at the really great horses I had, and it hurt me to look at their pictures because I know what I put them through to get them to do what they were doing.

TGH: So how did the path lead from leaving the NHSC to heading up NWHA (National Walking Horse Association)?

Bell: Within in a year or so of the experience with NHSC, some folks called and asked me to help them get something going for a sound Walking Horse organization. At first that didn’t work out, but then another group approached during the Celebration in ‘98, and asked me to meet with them in Murfreesburo, Tennessee. We talked about starting a new organization and decided it would be a membership organization, so that no one person controlled it. We all agreed to get organized. We had a meeting that fall at Indianapolis. About 50 people met and formed the NWHA. We got it up and rolling.

I didn’t have any Walking Horses at that time, but I was thinking that I wanted to do something—this doesn’t sound good, but it’s the truth—a little part of me wanted to do something to get back at the NHSC and those people—just a twinge of that. That [feeling] didn’t last long though, as soon as we got started, what others thought really didn’t matter to me. What those people think or say about Don Bell means nothing to me.

As it turns out, it just seems I can’t do anything but live and breathe this. I’m not sure how wholesome that is, but it’s like it’s my whole life and we’re in our seventh year.

TGH: So what exactly does NWHA do?

Bell: NWHA provides a place to compete on a level playing field where you know you are competing with sound horses. We offer an alternative to the Walking Horse organizations that continue to promote the sore (abused) horse. NWHA is the largest sound horse HIO (USDA term for Horse Industry Organization that affiliate horse shows) in existence today and it is making a difference in the lives of the horses and the people that love them.

NWHA’s rules are not that different from other show affiliating organizations, the difference is we enforce the rules. Everyone is treated the same. This is accomplished through a DQP (Designated Qualified Person—USDA term for inspectors) program with thorough inspections that insure all horses that show are in full compliance with the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and NWHA rules. The standard for NWHA DQPs is the highest in the industry and they live up to that standard at every horse show.

NWHA’s mission is to promote the naturally gaited Walking Horse in the show ring and on the trails and to eliminate the stigma of abuse that has plagued the breed for over five decades. NWHA now has a registry for Walking Horses that tracks their performances in the show ring and on the trails at NWHA affiliated events. This registry will also track the progeny of these horses. In future years, the data in this registry will be a gold mine for horse people looking for information on the true naturally gaited Walking Horses.

TGH: What types of classes are offered at NWHA shows?

Bell: When we first started we discussed whether to allow padded horses in our shows. At the very beginning we agreed that of the horses were sound, then they could show. We all agreed that the one thing we had to stick together on was sound, no sore.

Some trainers called and said they just wanted a place to show sound padded horses. We thought we could offer a safe haven for these horses, so we offered that to them, until last year. But they didn’t bring them. We know that there are some things we can’t change, we’ll do anything we can to bring change to the industry, the only thing we can do right now is offer an alternative.

So other than padded classes it’s up to show management. Our rulebook has several divisions and we give show managers a lot of flexibility.

The most obvious thing is that the trail pleasure division is growing by leaps and bounds. There are more amateur exhibitors; our biggest participation is people that train their own horses.

TGH: What type of horse do you prefer personally?

Bell: A true naturally gaited Walking Horse is probably the greatest animal you’ll find...[along with] the greatest disposition.

I’ve done a complete turn around from the type of horse I like. I used to really like that Big Lick horse (I can’t believe now that I ever did, but I did), buy my appreciation now is for the naturally gaited horse. We have some really talented horses.

TGH: What does it take to be a DQP (Designated Qualified Person to inspect for soring at shows and events) for NWHA?

Bell: We solicit people to be DQPs. We try to get all we can and our pool is not nearly enough. We need more in some areas of the country.

The first criteria is that you must be dedicated to what we’re all about, eliminated the sore horse. Those looking for the money need not apply.

Our success at NWHA is the job our DQPs do. They are key. They have done a tremendous job. All are really committed and do a super job. That’s the heart of our program right there. They eliminated [sore] horses at our very first show and never looked back.

TGH: Is it difficult to tell if a horse has been sored in a show setting?

Bell: We met two or three times with the TWHBEA’s (Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association) Unity Committee. They were trying to get us all back together. We told them, ‘that would be real easy. If you’d eliminate the sore horse, we could all get back together.’ Their comment was, ‘it’s real hard to make the call as to whether a horse is sound or sore.’ We told them eliminating the sore horse was not the problem, that was easy, making the decision to eliminate the sore horse was the hard part for them. A lot of people will tell you that these trainers are so sophisticated...you can’t tell [if a horse is sore or not], but it’s not that they are so slick, it’s that in those circles they want those horses in.

TGH: Say one of your field inspectors fails to follow the USDA field inspection rules, how are they disciplined?

Bell: If they don’t follow the rules they are dropped from the program, that simple.

TGH: People have called us from shows to relay what is happening when the USDA inspectors show up unannounced. At one last fall, at least a third of the trailers loaded up and left, presumably because they knew they couldn’t pass inspection by USDA Veterinary Medical Officers, even though they were confident they could get by the show’s DQPs. What is your experience with such “drive offs?”

Bell: Doesn’t affect our participation at all. What’s funny, a matter of record with the USDA, other HIOs have canceled shows because the government shows up and the trainers won’t show. They’re afraid of the new technology [for detecting soreness.] We tell them you can check any of our horses any where at any show.

TGH: Are there sore horses at your shows?

Bell: We had one [sore horse] to date this year, but we don’t have many because most people are very afraid to bring them here. They know they can’t get them in. Check the USDA statistics. Of all HIOs, NWHA is the only organization that has less violations written when the USDA (inspectors) are there than when they’re not.

TGH: How do you feel about formerly padded horses being rehabilitated and shown flatshod?

Bell: Early on we passed a zero tolerance scar rule; any horse foaled after Oct. 1, 1997, would be free of any scars, except scars caused by accidents and are not indicative of soring. It is very unfortunate that some horses can’t be rehabilitated and allowed to show, but the problem with this is as long as you allow scarred horses to show, unscrupulous people will continue to scar them. It has to stop somewhere and NWHA has already drawn the line.

TGH: So would you say NWHA is a success?

Bell: Definitely. We’re in our seventh year of existence. We have 60+ horse shows this year, 800 members and approximately 20 affiliated organizations, a very successful National Championship Horse Show, a growing youth program, a strong versatility program, a trail riders program and a new registry.

TGH: Last question. Overall, what do you see your personal purpose to be an how would you gauge yourself thus far in achieving that purpose?

Bell: The salvation of the Walking Horse is in our hands. That’s real clear to me. I see the type of horse we’re promoting as growing and being THE Walking Horse and this unnatural, sore horse is truly a dinosaur. I can see it just as plain as looking out the window. My personal purpose is, maybe, I will have played a part in bringing change to this breed, change that has been long overdue. After all, HPA was passed in 1970. Are we where we should be? Not even close. Even though we have eliminated the abuse of Walking Horses at NWHA affiliated events, the torture continues in other circles. Check the USDA’s own statistics. The job is not over until the abusive training practices are eliminated everywhere and the stigma that has plagued this breed for so long is erased.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ARTICLE - Full Coverage of TWHBEA Semi-Annual Meeting, Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some more information from my website that I needed to move here. I think this is important information that we need to keep in mind. Unfortunately we continue to have problems within the industry as to what needs to be done about soring. Perhaps someday the TWHBEA will see the light and will make a serious change to help end it.

Full Coverage of TWHBEA Semi-Annual Meeting
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Attempts to Overthrow TWHBEA HIO Sanctioning Plan Failed
By Christy Howard Parsons, Copyright Walking Horse Report 2007

The semi-annual meeting of the International Board of Directors of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association proved to be contentious as the split between industry factions widened. Throughout the eight hour meeting, questions regarding the HIO Sanctioning Plan continued to come up from the directors and answers were tabled until later in the agenda. Eventually the subject was addressed and after some discussion Tracy Boyd made the motion to “rescind, remove, abolish, or whatever the proper term is the HIO Sanctioning Plan.”

TWHBEA General Counsel John T. Bobo was prepared for the motion as Daniel Starnes had posed questions regarding the legality of such a motion to Sid Baucom, Vice President of By Laws. Bobo concluded that the international board was not able to make such a motion as that authority had been delegated to the Executive Committee by the bylaws. After an hour of questions and legal wrangling among the group, Marty Irby challenged the Plan with a motion to pass a resolution to recommend to the Executive Committee that they abolish the HIO Sanctioning Plan.

A roll call vote was taken and the motion was defeated 36-32.

The meeting began with recognition of staff members. Paulette Ewing was recognized for 15 years of service to the Voice magazine. Sarah Gee, Joni Jenne, and Christy Stephens were each recognized for 5 years of service to TWHBEA.

Charles Wharton presented the audit for the approval of the board. CPA Greg Cook reported on the audit indicating that last fiscal year saw a loss of $92,000 including a $36,000 writedown of gift shop inventory items which were destroyed.

Jerrold Pedigo then made his opening remarks. “We are the guardians of the most versatile and talented of all the equine breeds. TWHBEA is the face of the Tennessee Walking Horse nationally and internationally… As directors we have a fiduciary responsibility to our membership. We must bear that responsibility wisely today… There is no one segment more important than the whole, or more important than the horse,” said Pedigo.

“This organization has had to make difficult decisions. The future growth of the Tennessee Walking Horse is dependent on our efforts. We must be broadminded enough to accept change and to put forth the effort to allow the change to be successful,” concluded Pedigo.

Senior Vice President Jane Meredith also shared her thoughts with the directors. “After the tumultuous season the Tennessee Walking Horse had last year and the deluge of negative national and international press, I believe we still have a tremendous reason to be optimistic. Our horse is so versatile and multitalented . . . the horse has never been to blame. The horse is why we have reason to look forward to the future.” Meredith cited the aging of the population. “ there will be 11,000 turning 50 every day. We must seize this opportunity to capture a larger portion of this aging market.”

“The Tennessee Walking Horse’s future is brighter than ever,” concluded Meredith.

New Executive Director Chuck Cadle also had introductory comments.

“When I came I passed out a 100 day plan to the Executive Committee. I just wanted to make sure our expectations were aligned . . . The main objective they gave me was to get the industry to endorse the Sanctioning Plan. They believed that once the membership was united with a common goal, that the industry could thrive,” explained Cadle.

“One of my first challenges was with the Kentucky Horse Park. The World Equestrian Games is going to be held there in 2010. For the first time, it will be held outside Europe. This is a great time to showcase the Tennessee Walking Horse. This year, however, they would not allow our Tennessee Walking Horse to return to the Kentucky Horse Park. I called a meeting with director John Nicholson and asked him what the reason was. The reason was because they thought TWHBEA was aligned with the NHSC and the Celebration and therefore supported sore horses. I gave them a copy of Sanctioning Plan and assured them we were committed to taking responsibility for the past and they we were charting a course for the future. I told him that would be my goal as long as I was a part of the Association,” said Cadle.

“Our Plan has now been endorsed by USDA and by American Farm Bureau Federation. Ron Thomas said in correspondence to me that it would be hard for any reasonable person to disagree with it. I’m focused on my mission that was assigned to me by the Executive Committee,” said Cadle.

“I have received many emails, letters -with directly opposed views. Reasonable people can agree on goals and objectives but have honest disagreements on how to reach them. Our industry conflicts are not good versus evil. Leadership is hard. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s about making tough decisions that support your objectives,” stressed Cadle.

“I have read your oath of office. It states you will support the objectives of this organization which means in part that you support the Sanctioning Plan. I ask you to go to the Celebration and to the industry and ask them to support the plan. If the NHSC and the Celebration signed the Sanctioning Plan, it would send a statement to the world that the industry was ready to take responsibility for their past and to lead us into the future,” continued Cadle. “The alternative is to ask why the NHSC and the Celebration do not support the Sanctioning Plan. I am laser focused on our mission. I will work hard to lead the industry to do the right thing.”

Bob Ramsbottom questioned Cadle’s comments “Are you asking us as directors, if we do not support Sanctioning Plan, or if we support the NHSC or the Celebration, that we are doing something wrong?”

Cadle responded “I am asking you to support the Sanctioning Plan. I can’t judge that for you.”

Bob Ramsbottom continued “I’ve been to 12 horse shows and shown 5 horses at least 20 times. TWHBEA doesn’t have padded horse shows that I know of. If I pay the money and go to support the NHSC, you make it look like I’m doing something wrong.”

“I recognize the industry is in trouble and the world is looking at us to see what we’re going to do about this,” responded Cadle.

“You’re asking us to go the NHSC to change - to align with the Sanctioning Plan. Horse shows are great. With the USDA in attendance, the show was great. Thursday was great. Friday was great. Everyone says there’s a problem with the NHSC and showing horses. What’s the problem? We showed last night with the USDA. I have a problem saying to people at the NHSC, you guys are doing it wrong. They want us to come over to the TWHBEA and support the Sanctioning Plan. It’s a little bit of a paradox,” said Ramsbottom.

“The NHSC has a mission and they are doing the best they can to put on good shows, but the reality is that the NHSC hasn’t even signed the Operating Plan. Our Sanctioning Plan asks that all HIOs sign the Operating Plan,” said Cadle.

“The NHSC is a recognized certified USDA HIO so they are doing their job. We can all be for one rule book and an overall judges clinic or instructions but we cannot say whether one HIO is doing their job or not. That the USDA took away from us. They certify the NHSC is doing their job. If they weren’t they would take that away from them,” responded Kathy Zeis.

“I did not say the NHSC was not doing their job. I said I wanted the industry to align…” explained Cadle.

Christy Coon Lantis also expressed her opinion “We pulled out of the NHSC. We could have done this much differently. And now we expect them to fall in line with what we’re doing. I think that’s wrong.”

Marietta Gambrell defended the plan. “This is all about control and every group wants control. A lot of people think the Sanctioning Plan gives TWHBEA control. It doesn’t. It gives everyone a voice.”

Sally Fleck protested “One of the main reasons we were going to form the HIO was so we could count everyone’s points. Now we’re not counting anyone’s points. I think it’s cutting our throats.”

Walt Chism asked the TWHBEA representatives to look up the resolutions that had been passed by the board of directors relative to the Sanctioning Plan for discussion later in the meeting.

David Landrum then expressed his resentment regarding the press release by TWHBEA on Friday relative to the American Farm Bureau Federation and its reference that soring is a practice that may be increasing in occurrence.

“That is not right and I have a real problem with that. For this organization to put out this is very disappointing. The bickering needs to stop. It needs to stop here first…I have a tremendous problem with this kind of language. Come over to the horse show. You haven’t been there. “

Tracy Boyd asked “this is an announcement from TWHBEA. I want to know who wrote it and who authorized its release?”

“We didn’t say this. Lewisburg is just where it’s released from,” explained Cadle.

After a short break, Deborah Williams resumed the questions. “When Mr. Cadle was addressing us as National Directors he said that we had the legal obligation to endorse this plan. I’d like clarification …I want to understand what Mr. Cadle said correctly that we are obligated to support the Sanctioning Plan. If we do not, I want to understand what the repercussion is.”

The discussion continued as to what the legal responsibilities were to support the actions reached through the democratic process. Eventually legal counsel John T. Bobo was asked to clarify that oath.

“The pertinent portion of the oath of office, respect and support the decisions reached, the key word is to support. There are a couple of ways to test that. If you vote against it, if you speak ill of it, it certainly could fall in violation of that oath, but now whether you could be convicted of that is like spitting on the street. Not saying if you speak ill of the plan, you’re going to get rolled as a director. You’ve got to draw on common sense examples. ..I’ve been called Mr. Gray, but you have to consider all the aspects here related to the oath of office.

“Not only do we have that to look at. But as members voted on by our state members, we have to answer the people in our state who elected us. As this thing is hemorrhaging money, we have to look at both sides of the issue,” countered Dee Dee Sale.

Robert Thomas added “This is the most ludicrous discussion we’ve ever had. I’m elected by the people in Mississippi to represent them to vote our convictions. There is nothing wrong with voicing your opinion. We are not required to go along with everything that’s decided.”

Donald Longest shared his convictions “This industry needs leadership. It is time the bickering should stop. It’s time for us to unite. I think the plan is great and I think it has room for everyone… It’s time to shut up and step forward.”

Kim Bennett clarified the original motion that put the wheels in motion for the Sanctioning Plan which was made by his wife Leigh Bennett. Bennett clarified that the intent of the motion was simply that TWHBEA enter into IPEDs all horse show results from all USDA HIOs. It was not in any way to start a highpoint program.

Jane Meredith concurred, “That’s how I remember the motion as well. It was later that a highpoint program came into account.”

Eventually the meeting returned to the agenda to ratify the actions of the Executive Committee. The vote was close enough that directors had to stand to be counted for their vote. The actions of the committee were ratified with a 39-30 vote.

Committee reports followed and Charles Wharton began with Administrative/Fiscal. He clarified that after four months the financials showed a loss of $222,000 compared to a profit of $23,000 for the same period last year. He also indicated that an extraordinary income item had been recognized for a little over $100,000 regarding income which had been realized but not yet recognized due to incomplete transactions within the registry. This income reduced the amount of loss that would have been reported for the period.

Chuck Cadle and Kristi Lane have reviewed all accounts and line items in the budget and expect by year end to experience approximately a $35,000 loss, approximately a $70,000 swing from the $35,000 profit that was projected.

Tracy Boyd questioned the current loss of $222,000 and whether it indicated a trend that would result in a much larger loss by year end. Wharton responded again that he felt a $35,000 loss would be closer to the final outcome.

“I don’t believe in bullshitting myself. These will be the most conservative financials I can present. As long as I’m in this role, you take your heat up front. If I thought this was a snowballing thing, I would stand up and say so. Through our first four months, we haven’t had the transfers and registrations we thought we were going to have,” explained Wharton.

Ramsbottom compared the Voice May issue to last year. Wharton clarified that Voice magazine revenues were down $76,000 from last year. “Is there an identifiable trend here that the industry is not supporting this association, its programs and its publications?”

“There are people who advertise who are able to control their enthusiasm for us,” quipped Wharton.

Ramsbottom asked “Do we need to start initiating some changes to bring those people back?”

“We need to all be on the same page. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We are at that point in time that if we don’t start to have a meeting of minds of how to do this, it’s going to be a bigger train wreck than what we have right now,” warned Wharton.

Kathy Zeis was the next Vice President. She presented the work of the Breeders Committee, primarily relative to the DNA conversion.

Zeis explained that the biggest problem in the conversion has been the Shelterwood debacle. Jamie Hankins drove to Shelterwood to pick up the samples and found them outside in garbage bags. TWHBEA was prepared for 10% of the samples to be spoiled and thus far the rate has been closer to 20%. After Hankins picked up the samples, he drove all night to the University of Kentucky where he met Dee Dee Sale and Sharon Brandon to transfer the samples to the UK freezers. Upon their arrival, they also found there were missing samples from 2002-2004.

There have also been glitches in the flow of information to UK. But Zeis was happy to report that they had received 2000 conversions just this last week. “ We made the right decision and we definitely needed to end our contract with Shelterwood,” concluded Zeis.

Zeis also addressed the current depression in the price of horses. “Transfers are down. Registrations are down. We’ve talked about reasons but one of the things we talked about in Committee is the demand on horses. There is no bottom to prices now. We’ve always depended on the slaughter plants to put a bottom on horses. The ban on slaughter means there’s not a bottom to prices. We can tiptoe around that, but all the years I’ve been in the horse industry, if you had an unwanted animal, you could always depend on the slaughter for a bottom price. We’ve overbred them. It’s a buyer’s market. If you get an offer for $200, you sometimes have to take that and get out from under that horse. The political and industry unrest has a lot to do with that also,” explained Zeis.

Zeis is also making recommendations to cap late fees on transfers and registrations. “We want to make it breeder friendly. User friendly.”

Walt Chism questioned the Executive Committee’s authority to charge the conversion fee for the switch to DNA. After several legal opinions, Chism appealed the decision of the chairman, but ultimately the right to charge the fee was upheld.

Jamie Hankins gave a brief report from the Enforcement Committee before the break for the luncheon was announced.

The luncheon was in honor of Sharon Brandon who recently retired from the Association. Kathy Zeis led a touching tribute to Brandon who was saluted by many of the directors for her service to TWHBEA.

After the luncheon Christy Lantis made a motion to amend the agenda to move Old and New business ahead of the remaining committee reports. Such a change in the agenda required a 2/3 majority vote and the motion failed with a 30-35 vote.

Thus Pat Stout resumed committee reports with her report from the Horse Show Committee. She announced that TWHBEA had affiliated 15 shows so far this year in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Utah, Missouri, Virginia, and other states.

Stout presented the motion that passed the Executive Committee earlier that day (See separate story Executive Committee Grapples With Celebration Issues.)

The motion said that by June 8, 2007, the TWHBEA staff in conjunction with Stout and her committee would find a suitable venue for the National Futurity to be held in the few days preceding the Celebration in a geographically convenient location for those members coming to the Celebration.

“People are wanting to know when we are going to have this. We would like to still have with Celebration, if this is not going to happen, we need to know that now, and not 30 days before the show is scheduled to start. People are already setting up their plans to take vacation and show at the Futurity that week. If it’s going to be at the Celebration on Wednesday, great. If it needs to be at the Ag Center on Tuesday night, that’s fine. But we can’t wait any longer. We can’t let this drag out. We’re asking questions continually and not getting an answer,” said Stout.

Stout also recommended that Tennessee Walking Horse papers be changed to indicate if a horse is futurity nominated.

“In other breeds, it is a fantastic selling point. We need to have this Futurity grow and we need to have an importance for a Futurity nominated weanling. I think we’ll get it accomplished this year and it would be a great value for our horse,” said Stout.

Stout also explained that Marty Irby had proposed that two and three-year-old park performance classes be added to the Futurity this year. Stout concluded that her committee would compile data on the division and consider adding it in 2008.

Stout also proposed a new computer software program to help show managers utilizing current technology to help with show management.

Christy Lantis questioned what the holdup on the plans for the National Futurity were.

“The holdup has been, now that we have the Sanctioning Plan and have a contract with an HIO with our Sanctioning Plan, our horse show should be run through TWHBEA with our Sanctioning Plan. The problem is that the Celebration has not said who they are going to affiliate with, so we don’t know where we stand,” explained Stout.

“Does our Sanctioning Plan exclude us from using another HIO,” asked Lantis.

“Yes,” responded Stout. “We are in contract under our Sanctioning Plan.

Marty Irby presented the marketing report. He presented the plans for the Voice magazine including new celebrity articles featuring artists like Sheryl Crow and their Tennessee Walking Horses. The plan calls for eventually putting some of these people in publications outside the industry as well.

Irby addressed the recent issue of the Voice. “It’s the smallest Voice I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen a lot of resistance from performance horse people - we have a $7600 difference in revenue from last year to this year. I can understand some of the reasoning behind people not buying advertising in the Voice. But we are trying to promote performance horses in the magazine, and if they don’t advertise, then we do not have them in there,” said Irby.

Irby also gave reports on a new membership benefit product evaluation form to be used in acquiring new sponsorships. He gave positive information on the GMC Sponsorship, the Walk This Way tour with Nicole Carswell and the Best of America by Horseback program.

Sally Fleck recommended “I always hear the TWHBEA is only for the performance horse. I think it’s because of all the padded horse advertising in the magazine. I think it would be helpful to put PAID ADVERTISING on all the ads.”

Tracy Boyd expressed his feelings about the recent newsletter which was done without input from the marketing committee. “I take exception to the expenditure of the newsletter.”

Irby clarified that there were no plans for an additional newsletter at this time.

Kristi Lane next gave Jack Haefling’s report including a description of the Celebration clinics that have been planned.

Bob Ramsbottom was hesitant in confirming the clinic he was scheduled to host. “The reason I said maybe is whether or not the breeders had withdrawn their corporate sponsorship money from the Celebration and whether we would be able to have the clinics during the Celebration or not.”

Pedigo responded, “As we discussed yesterday in the committee, no decision about changing the corporate sponsorship has been made by the association in any way. It’s budgeted and part of the budget the national board approved. That rumor is a result of a communication between Ron Thomas and Chuck Cadle that was misinterpreted. No change has been made.”

David Landrum asked Chuck Cadle, “did you say in the email that TWHBEA would only be sponsoring horse shows that came under their sanctioning plan?”

“Yes. As of this moment, that was correct. I told Ron we would get together and discuss this. This relationship goes back for a number of years and we do a lot of things together,” responded Cadle.

“The email does sound like we aren’t going to sponsor the Celebration,” concluded Landrum.

Bruce Vaughn then presented the report from the Performance Show Horse Committee.

“It’s been a very interesting and trying year for the performance horse. Some of our programs have been altered by our HIO. The youth medallion program that was very successful and starting to gain steam has been placed on hold. One of the shining stars is our Academy program. We went from 6 shows to 12. Entries were down, although we are still fighting the scar rule, so some of our best horses cannot participate, but hopefully that will improve as time goes on,” reported Vaughn.

Billy Strickland raised a general question in response to Vaughn’s report.

“Everyone keeps saying it is against our HIO. My question is to the board in general. When we got the plan, we read the plan and we enacted the plan, I did not read anywhere that this body signed authority over to HIOC to make decisions for us. It is bothering me to no end. Everybody keeps saying we can’t do this because of this HIO. Or we can’t do that because of this HIO. My question one is, is that what we voted on as a body. Who are the members of the HIOC? How did they get appointed?”

Pedigo reminded everyone that the Sanctioning Plan needs to come up under old business but to specifically answer his questions, Pedigo responded. “The HIOC is composed of myself, Craig Evans and Donna Benefield per the Sanctioning Plan that allows each HIO to send up to two representatives from each HIO under the plan. TWHBEA has agreed to underwrite the expenses of the plan. The plan is unchanged from what you looked at last year in May. It creates a mechanism by which everyone can be a part of the whole in making decisions,” explained Pedigo.

It was also brought up that recently two new HIOs have made application to the USDA including an organization founded by Jack Haefling in Indiana which has already received certification from the USDA. Pedigo indicated there were an additional two organizations preparing to be HIOs in other states and regions.

Strickland continued with his line of questioning.

“The original statement of the plan was to take nothing away from any organization that was willing to join this plan. But that’s not what’s coming true. The Go program, counting points from results, sponsoring organizations. I believe this is taking away from an organization. From TWHBEA. I don’t see that that’s what we voted on,” said Strickland.

Pedigo compared participation in the Sanctioning Plan to TWHBEA’s former participation in the NHSC. “We would vote on issues at TWHBEA, and there are issues that we might see as a benefit from TWHBEA’s viewpoint, and it would still be subject to NHSC’s final determination that that program we wanted to initiate was approved or not. We delegated that authority to the NHSC. We had the same responsibility then. We had the same position in that we had to be part of the final decision that came out of the NHSC.”

Craig Evans clarified the discussion relative to the show results. “I think some people lost focus in terms of whose show records they were. In the contract with the NHSC, it said that the show records belonged to TWHBEA. The NHSC contract had an exception in the non-compete clause for the versatility programs. As a result, the versatility program had already been outside the NHSC Contract.”

A lengthy discussion ensued regarding the status of a binding contract between TWHBEA and the HIO, the HIOC, the HPC, etc., etc.

Sally Fleck concluded, “I thought the reason we pulled out of the NHSC was because we wanted to count all the points, and now we still can’t count all the points.”

Kim Bennett asked if the Voice had implemented any restrictions in the magazine for advertising performance horses.

Bruce Vaughn responded “There are no written restrictions. There has been some discussion about encouraging the front page to have a more friendly type atmosphere.”

Darren Gray was up next with his Pleasure Horse Committee report. He reported on the World Versatility Show which is moving to a three-day format and returning to the Celebration grounds for its tenth anniversary on August 2-4, 2007.

Gray also reported on the Host-A-Ride program whereby TWHBEA partners with local clubs to help fund organized trail rides across the country. Eleven rides have been scheduled for 2007, but there is additional money in the budget if additional rides are organized.

Gray attested to the value of trail riding programs with his own story of being introduced to the Tennessee Walking Horse via the trail. “Our horse is the best out on the trail. This is how we can get people hooked on our horse. It’s how I started in this business,” said Gray.

Wayne Dean presented the report from the Training division.

“Horse shows have been a great success. I commend horse trainers that have stepped up to put these horses in the ring. I’ve talked to a number of leaders in the industry. They are really pleased we are presenting a more positive image in our show ring. We’re going to have to keep that up.”

Dean is working on a group insurance program for trainers and breeders as well as developing a directory of trainers for the Voice magazine and the website. He is also investigating a high point program for trainers within TWHBEA and workshops for trainers.

Sid Baucom presented the by law changes that had been approved by his ByLaw committee and the Executive Committee. There were five changes that will be presented in the July Voice and will be voted upon in the fall of 2007. Those changes include:

1. To get more continuity to the Executive Committee, is to provide for a term to coincide with the term for which the director was elected. So if you are serving a 3 year term and you are elected to the Executive Committee after your first year, you would have two years on the Executive Committee.

2. To change the secretary/treasurer from elected to appointed office.

3. To change the period of time that a director may qualify for election or be removed from office for HPA violations.

4. Have President rather than directors appointing secretary of the meeting.

5. Change the right of the Executive Committee to contract an Executive Director term of more than one year to up to three years.

Baucom also made some general comments. “The Futurity. I am assured and am aware of almost continuous meetings with Pedigo and the Celebration. They are optimistic it will be worked out for the Wednesday before the Celebration and I am truly hopeful that will occur. If it isn’t, the Executive Committee set a date by which the time and date must be set. But I am confident it will occur. WE have to compromise,” said Baucom.

“My father used to tell me there is no such word as can’t. There is won’t and try. We are going to try and get this done properly.”

“This is really a serious problem. We have these groups with divergent views. Even with divergent views within the groups. No one has been willing to compromise. We are talking about the industry. We are talking about the horse. If we don’t get this solved, we are going to lose the performance horse. The economic backbone of this industry,” stressed Baucom.

Holly Reynolds gave the final committee report on the Youth. She announced the scholarship winners which include graduate school students Melissa Burnette and Daniel Starnes and undergraduate students, Rachel Galeski, Mathew McMurtry, Blair Morton, Sarah Rowland , Ashley Scott and Mary Jo Williams.

Reynolds also expanded upon the statistics that Meredith gave regarding the aging population. She further commented, “We have a lot of new attitudes to deal with in the industry. We are no longer looking at our horses as livestock. They are pets. We are going to have to address those new attitudes.”

The meeting finally reached the Old Business portion of the agenda where the HIO Sanctioning Plan was to be properly addressed.

Pedigo began the discussion by referring to the bylaws and the need for a bylaw change if TWHBEA did not wish as an association to be an HIO or to establish rules governing HIOs.

“Then we need a by law change,” Sally Fleck remarked.

Of course by law changes had to be submitted prior to April 1 to be voted upon this year.

“I don’t see where in that it says we are precluded from doing business with other HIOs. For example, the Celebration that might be affiliated with the NHSC,” remarked Christy Lantis.

Billy Strickland added, “It has occurred to me. I was in the NHSC when some of these battles ensued. I was in NHSC when we argued the versatility exception. ..Now we are in the HIOC and we can’t get these three people, two of whom are appointed by TWHBEA to make an exception for some of these programs?”

Evans clarified that there are now four members of the HIOC including Jack Haefling from the newly formed HIO in Indiana.

Marty Irby expressed his frustration, “We had a heated election in December… I ran that I was against the HIO and the Sanctioning Plan. I want to tell you how I feel. So many of you have told me that you didn’t know what you had voted for. To put the horse first, we have to keep this business running. If a business can’t sell it’s product , then you get rid of the product. That’s the way I feel about this plan. I feel like the EC has no power to do anything.”

“I think we should vote to pull out of the HIOC,” said Sally Fleck.

“I think we lost $100,000 last year and this year we’ve got another loss of $200-300,000. We’ve seen the Voice reduced to a pamphlet. I think it’s time to take a look and see can we really afford to participate as we are, and take the beating on our financial statement. There are a lot of indications that something is wrong,” worried Bob Ramsbottom.

Kathy Zeis added, “I voted for the Sanctioning Plan. There was nothing on paper. I thought we were going to bring unity and include all the members and all the horses. In December there was only an outline. Nothing was ever mentioned about excluding members from programs. I voted to come out of the NHSC because it excluded members from some of the programs. Now I am totally against this. I think we are now excluding many more members.”

Donald Longest was offended that members of the Executive Committee were speaking out against the plan. “When this Executive Committee votes on something and they decide something, I think you are obligated to support that. I don’t think members of the Executive Committee should be opposing actions of that Committee.

Bill Strickland continued “My opposition is not to the plan or to bringing people under this. My opposition has always been that you go from thousands of people, down to 100, down to 11 (EC), and then we went to the NHSC and argued about 9 people in control. Now we have 3 people in control, four people in control. I believe in the Exec Board process, but you cannot convince me that I voted to instill the power through the plan to that small a group of people.”

Jerrold Pedigo responded “there are various reasons for people to participate in the decision making process. We wanted to share that power. TWHBEA only has a 1/3 vote in this plan.”

Craig Evans continued “Any HIO that signs up has seats. The only thing that stops any HIO from having a voice is sending a letter in to say they are a part of the process.”

Chuck Cadle added, “David Landrum and I have talked more today than since I‘ve been onboard. We’ll continue to talk and maybe we’ll find that compromise that Sid talks about. We can’t talk around it. I’m your representative. I’ll listen. I’ll analyze and I’ll take this to the people who will make these changes.”

“If you don’t back me,” Cadle continued, “ If you don’t want me to do my job, then maybe you don’t need me onboard. Maybe this wasn’t a commitment of this association. The first time we talked, we talked about being cause-driven. If we’re cause-driven, let’s stay the course. Things aren’t perfect. But let’s get the people to the table. This is not a plan that takes over anybody’s HIO. It’s a voluntary, self-policing plan.”

Craig Evans then gave a run down of all of the motions taken since December 4, 1999 relative to the HIO Sanctioning Plan.

Tracy Boyd interjected “I want to quit talking around this issue. The HIO Sanctioning Plan has successfully killed the Youth Medallion, the GO program, and our results programs. And it will kill the National Futurity if it affiliates with the HIOC.”

Boyd made a motion to rescind the HIO Sanctioning Plan. His motion was met by a legal opinion by John T. Bobo. Apparently Daniel Starnes had contacted Sid Baucom regarding the legality of a motion before the National Board regarding the Sanctioning Plan. Baucom had involved John T. Bobo in an effort to address Starnes questions.

When Pedigo announced he would not recognize the motion Bob Ramsbottom responded, “that’s a surprise.”

Pedigo responded, “There’s been a lot of madness over these issues. We need to have respect for each other and the opinions they have. We’re not going to agree. But there’s no reason for this bitterness. Let’s agree to disagree. I’m not going to recognize the motion based on general legal counsel.”

The basis of Bobo’s opinion was that the National Board could not overturn the actions of the Executive Committee. The Board had delegated the power for these type decisions to the Executive Committee by way of the bylaws.

Again there was a great deal of discussion regarding contracts with third parties and the terms of TWHBEA’s contractual agreement with the HIO and HIOC. After much legal wrangling, Marty Irby was able to structure a motion that Bobo did think was permissible.

Irby said “I want to know what this board wants. I would like the national board to pass a resolution to make a recommendation to the Executive Committee to rescind the Sanctioning Plan. John Fikes seconded the motion.

Dan Holmes gave his opinion as a part of the discussion. “I’ll tell you why I voted for the Sanctioning Plan as a new member of TWHBEA but a long-time lover of Tennessee walking horses. The involvement of the USDA became increasingly apparent. The culmination of that happened the first week in August at the Belfast-Wartrace weekend. That’s where the proverbial shit hit the fan.

“Whether you like it or not, the government lost faith in the NHSC and the DQP process as we knew it all these years. It was my hope that at the time the Sanctioning Plan was presented that it would have been equal representation from TWHBEA, the national registry of the Tennesee Walking Horse, the Trainers Association, and WHOA. With all three pulling the same direction we could have gotten where we needed to get. We all three pulled in different directions. Whatever happened - a lack of communication, wrong timing, personalities, or differences of opinion the plan did not work,“ Holmes said.

“I have to give the trainers a great big hand of applause since that time because I have seen them bring in clean horses presenting a good image. I’m proud of what we’re seeing today. But it’s not enough if the USDA doesn’t endorse it. The only plan that the USDA has endorsed and stood behind is the Sanctioning Plan. Isn‘t that right,” continued Holmes.

Chuck Cadle clarified, “Two days ago Chester Gipson read me a letter endorsing TWHBEA’s plan, but they also have an OP with other HIOs.”

“They endorsed that plan as it was written and if we could administer it like it says, they would go away. That hasn’t happened, but I think the involvement of all three, if we all get on the same plane, I don’t care if it’s the Sanctioning Plan or a new one. We need to get over the missed timing, the control issues, whatever it is. My only intent is to further this breed. Without the performance horse show and the performance horse, we can’t survive. It’s a smaller portion of the membership but it’s the highest percentage of the dollars. It’s not whether our points are counting today or the troubles we’re going through at the futurity. Keep in mind what your vote is going to do for the Tennessee Walking Horse itself for the next ten years,” concluded Holmes.

Charles Wharton asked Irby to consider an amendment to his motion to allow input from the entire board of directors by a certified letter. Irby declined to accept the amendment.

“We’ve sat here long enough. We want to know today,” argued Tracy Boyd.

Jack Doss responded angrily. “Do you know the problem with us? We are selfish. We are full of pride. And everybody wants their own little game. Anybody that tells me that he is interested in the horse in here, is lying bigger than hell. I don’t know how many thousands of dollars have been spent in the last six months, but we’re further apart today than we were at the end of the Celebration. We don’t have any credibility. We have credibility in our own little group. But out here on the highway, we don’t have any credibility.”

After the question was called, the vote was taken by roll call. The motion failed with a 36 to 32 vote against the motion.

Bob Ramsbottom tried to followup with a motion to remove the funding for the Sanctioning Plan. Bobo responded that the motion would be out of order due to that power being delegated to the Executive Committee.

Walt Chism returned the discussion to his questions regarding show records. “Is it the position of this committee that to keep show results from other HIOs would be in violation of the Sanctioning Plan?”

“Yes, I believe it would be,”said Pedigo. “I would suggest that the Executive Committee get counsel as regards to that and find out what we can and can’t do. I think we hear this board loud and clear.”

Sally Fleck pointed out, “I don’t really want the plan abolished, but I think we have to do something to get the plan to allow us to use our programs. That’s what I would ask you to do.”

Billy Strickland brought up the issue of the sponsorship of the Celebration. “am I to understand, that if we sponsor the Celebration that we would be in violation of our agreement to the HIOC?”

Pedigo responded, “I can’t say that today for sure. I think it would violate the spirit of the agreement. I think we are obligated to support sanctioned events. If the Celebration chooses an HIO not affiliated with this organization, I think we will have to evaluate and review that.”

Dee Dee Sale added, “We have Celebration clinics planned, it’s an olive branch. Your sponsorship of $25,000 should be a no brainer.”

Moving onto new business, Barney Denney proposed two motions that passed unanimously that TWHBEA put out positive press releases on the Tennessee Walking Horse and that they work to expand into other markets and other countries.

With this the meeting adjourned.

RESEARCH - True Stories of Soring

Since there isn't much action on the soring front right now (well, besides the fact that no, the practice has not ended and yes, it is still rampant), I'm posting some info here from my website. Some good reading to chew on.

True Stories of Soring

Since the USDA attended the 2006 Celebration and the horses were disqualified from classes, I have recieved a lot of emails from folks who have been "coming out of the woodwork," so to say, and speaking out against soring and telling me what they've witnessed. I think the USDA's actions have motivated people to stand up and talk and to tell stories about what has really been going on behind the government's back. Here are the stories I've received, and I hope they enlighten you as a reader to understand why soring still exists and why it must end.

Permission to reprint granted by the authors of the emails I received. Although names have been changed for protection purposes, the emails have only been edited for grammar and none of the content has been changed.

First email received from "Joy" in Kentucky, Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Thank you so much for your anti-soring support. I agree with you totally that the "Big Lick" shoudl be no more. It's sad to see them that way and I for one will not watch them. I have tried to show in pleasure classes for the past four years and have gotten so put out with the abuse and soring of these beautiful animals that I cannot stand to go anymore because I feel like I am supporting them every time I pay the fees to show. Even in the pleasure classes horses are sored really bad, and if you watch the spotted or racking classes you'll see a "lot" of them squatting down in back as if on big pads because they are sored so bad. The DQPs are useless. Most of them are trainers and show themselves, so I believe they trade off favors at shows and let the soring through. It's very sickening.

I've paid a small forture for "regulation" show clothes and saddles and such to abide by the rules, but I've found there are few of us abiding by the rules and few of us with a heart in us. I'm giving up showing because I can't handle the soring any longer, nor the favors rom the judges and DQPs, the buyouts, and the arguments. You can find a "real fight" at about any Walking Horse show anytime. Sad!

There is no fun in it. I thought I would enjoy showing off the beautiful natural walking stride of my horse, but as it turns out, nobody wants to see that. I've been urged so many times to "just try a little on him" to get more action.

Well, sorry you got me on a bandwagon and I'm made about what's happening with our horses. I'm so happy somebody did something about it at the "big show." It's about time. I would love to shake his/her (their) hands and give a big hug for doing something wonderful to protect the horses. I hope and pray they will go forward with this.

Second email from Joy in Kentucky, Thursday, September 7, 2006
Thanks for giving me the website information to contact the USDA. I definitely will let them know I support what they are doing and sincerely hope they continue to move forward.

I have considered showing at other shows, and I may just do that, but I have some work ahead of me. Unfortunately, I bought a beautiful spotted saddle horse that is triple registered (TWH, Racking, Spotted) and found out later that from day one of someone being on his back, he had been sored with extra heavy (illegal weighted) shoes, and therefore, when I put him in regular keg shoes and no soring, "surprise!"--all he can do is pace. When I considered buying him, I had no idea he had illegal weighted shoes on, and I surely didn't know he had been sored all his riding life. Other than being very "showy" and seeming to be very spirited, I thought he rode very well. No wonder he picked his front feet up so high--he was sore. Honestly, if I had known all this before, I probably wouldn't have bought him. Or then again, maybe I would have just to save him from future abuse. I found out the hard way that most Spotted Saddle Horses today were bred to pace, then shod and sored to show. I found out real quick what the "show" world was like.

But I'm not giving up on him. I'm slowly trying to work with him to get him to walk normally and comfortably for him and me, and I've taken the extremely harsh bits from his mouth. I also found out much later that his tongue had been tied in the past and it had nearly cut his tongue off. I wondered why his mouth was so tender, and now I know. I know it's going to take time and he might never walk as smoothly as my other naturally gaited Walking Horses, but at least he will be happy and comfortable.

Excerpt from third email from Joy in Kentucky, Monday, September 11, 2006
Sometimes we get a judge that has several of their own horses showing in several classes. Now isn't that fair and impartial judging! Sometimes it's a real joke, but not for us that drive far and pay lots of fees to show.

The following emails are corresponsdence sent to me by "DeeDee" in Tennessee, a woman who bought a Big Lick horse and chooses NOT to sore it. However, the horse already has scarring, and her horse has been disqualified because of the scars. The woman contacted USDA and FOSH to find out more information.

Email written by DeeDee, as written to the USDA and sent to them May 17, 2006
I am in deep concern over the new scar rule. I am an owner of six horses: one padded, the rest all pleasure. I am deeply against the soring of the walking horse and realize this has gone on for many, many years and needs to be stopped.

I recently purchased a walking horse from a vet-approved and inspected auction in Shelbyville. We felt confident since they had been inspected. We bought a beautiful padded black Walking horse. After several weeks of riding we decided to go to a horse show, the first being The Walking Horse Breeders Association. We went through a DQP inspection and passed. There were many horses squatting to the ground and one fell over right in front of the DQP inspection. It was obvious this horse was in pain.

The next weekend we went to a Charity Horse Show and was turned down in inspection to a scar rule but was not written up. The guy explained what a scar was and we told him this horse had been inspected by a vet a few weeks ago with no problem. He said he was sorry but he was not there at that auction. He gave us a scar rule book. After walking off being very disappointed, we had several Walking horse trainers and other people come up to us and tell us what we needed to do to get rid of any scars. We asked about all the horses that were squatting and flinching why there are not be disqualified. They said they are mostly looking at the scar rule. I was amazed at how this must be a regular thing for them. I can tell you now with the exception of putting Vasoline or hoof flex we will not do this to get rid of scars. As for the inspection, there were many horses not being disquailified for pain or flinching nor was there a rope up to keep inspected horse there so people could not doctor them up before going into the ring. They all went back to there horse trailers.

If you cannot do a test for chemicals, keep people in the area, or even disqualify for pain, why in the world would you disqualify for scars? Where was the test for chemicals (sniffer test)? This has to be structured, with all the same rules with no in between. We all know the horse that is squatting is in pain now. There is going to be a lot of horses available that need good homes when this is done correctly; homes that will no longer cause pain or sore. Do not punish the good people that have gotten these horses for scars of the past from bad trainers. There has got to be a way to make pictures, x-ray or vet observations that are documented to new owners so they can show these horses the right way. There needs to be a way this can be allowed to turn this around into a good situation. If you don't, you are going to have more problems of horses just being discarded in one form or another. The USDA/APHIS can be assured they will be responsible now for more trainers using more abusive chemicals and burning scars off more frequently to get thru DQPs. This in turn will make them also responsible for the horse that has to be put down or permanently damaged even more.

This needs to be handled a better way. Why can't you take points off for horses that are squatting? We all know, again, this is not natural and never will be. A horse that is not in pain will not squat. Would this just be too easy. Would the government not get their money, or what is the deal? Are you afraid of taking money out of the big trainers and barns, but it's okay to disqualify the people who truly love these animals? I could pay $400 a month and go to any barn and get the scars and the squatting done for a price. I choose not to do this. My new horse that they say has scars does not squat and does not have any pain. We can pick, prod and do anything to his feet and I want to keep it this way. I would do a sniffer test anytime because my horse is chemical free. But I feel you, the USDA/APHIS, have only forced the sorers to be more sneaky and to use more abusive behavior. Is this a way that the USDA/APHIS can force out the little people and only the big barns and trainers stay in by knowing how to get around this? It sure is looking that way to me by the so-called “disqualification check.”

I have been a personal trainer for all ages of people, 10 years to seniors, for over 20 years, and I know about shortcuts. I can tell immediately when someone is on steroids. It is out there, just like soring. I don't care how much testing is going on, there are always ways with enough money to get around this. I know—I see kids at age 14 getting on steroids to get ahead. We, the public, the money and admiration of the big huge bodybuilders and great athletes, have created this. We have created a monster. The money in this is huge and is why this will not change. Please do not let this continue in the Walking Horse industry. We have got to punish the ones responsible, not the ones who are trying to make it better. Do not again let the dollar put you in the wrong direction.

Due to the high volume of emails they receive, the USDA deferred DeeDee’s email to FOSH, and it was answered by Keith Dane, the FOSH USDA Liasion. DeeDee had not included her name, so Keith requested her name and she gave it to him.

Email received from Kevin Dale, FOSH USDA Liasion, as sent to DeeDee on July 5, 2006
Thanks for getting back to me. FOSH does not typically respond to requests for its position on a particular issue from folks who are not willing to disclose their identities. Unless someone wishes to anonymously report a case of abuse, or of witnessing a violation of the HPA, it is not prudent for us to respond to unnamed questioners, as it has been our experience that sometimes such persons may plan to use our responses to our detriment.

The head of USDA's Horse Protection Program (the APHIS program responsible for administering the Act) is Dr. Todd Behre. His email address is todd.h.behre@aphis.usda.gov. The Deputy Administrator for Animal Care is Dr. Chester Gipson, whose email address is Chester.A.Gipson@aphis.usda.gov. These two gentlemen would be the best USDA personnel to address your concerns to.

Briefly, in response to your email: FOSH supports full enforcement of the HPA and its regulations, including the scar rule. There is no "new scar rule"; the current one has been in place for decades, although its enforcement may have been erratic in the past. Although a scarred horse may not currently be in pain, it was in just as much pain when the scarring occurred, as a horse that is currently suffering from the effects of soring. The scar rule was intended to help stop the soring of horses by eliminating scarred horses from competition.

We are not aware of any project or plans to change any elements of the HPA or the scar rule.

While it is certainly unfortunate that you were sold a horse that is ineligible for competition, there is no way to know who originally caused the scars and apply the scar rule only to that individual. All owners must know and understand the scar rule and be cautious when buying any show horse.

We welcome you to bring your sound, Lite Shod pleasure horses to one of our FOSH shows and experience an environment free of soring and abuse, where natural Tennessee Walking Horses are rewarded for performing the original, signature gait of the breed.

Email sent to Kevin Dale, FOSH USDA Liasion, written by DeeDee on July 7, 2006
I appreciate your response and I totally identify your position on identities. I am aware of the threats that have been made to people trying to put an end to this abuse by horse owners or associations, some that have actually been carried out. So you have to appreciate my request not to identify myself and keep it on a first name basis.

Would you comment on the previous things I have asked? I realize this is your opinion, just as this is mine. I would just like some input on what you think about some of my ideas and concerns. I know the rules are as they are and I bought a horse that was inspected by a approved vet who stated that the horse was sound. So now it is my problem, and obviously there will be a lot of other people’s problem also, with the so-called vet approvals at sales. There are lot of other people that think the same thoughts as I do and would like to know a real answer or opinion from FOSH also. If new owners are going to be punished for saving a horse and nothing can be done about that, then why can we not change the way a judge rules to stop this now and for all? This would be a much simpler rule for everyone. This would also fix one of our major problems. Everyone that knows about the real Walking Horse knows that a sore horse is squatting, no questions asked. Is it fair for a horse that has been whipped, beaten, burned or whatever extreme way they use to make a horse not move while his feet are being handled to be able to show? Or how about the horses being sprayed with numbing agent, etc. to pass inspection and win because the trainer is an chemist and knows what to do? After all, the sniffer test is only at a few inspections, so what about the rest? And guess what, I predict that being the chemists they are they will learn a way, a new soring agent or lubricant of some sort, that will soon not be detected by the sniffer as an opposed agent, just like the steriod testing now.

If the one rule was changed to count points against the horse that is squatting, it would change everything. I know that a horse that has been sored will eventually not squat if the abuse is stopped. No longer would the abuse be done because the squatting horses would not win, and there goes the chemicals used to sore the horses, there goes the beating, burning, etc. that the horses get for moving when there feet are being handled, there goes a lot of horses with severe rotation and lameness for being sored and pressure shod. Then the trainers would actually be on an even playing field and have to work for their money; no longer could they sore as an shortcut to win.

Is this not what we want, horse abuse stopped bottom line, or is there another reason that I keep missing? Is it about the fees that are being paid for fines, etc., the profit and economy of the Walking Horse industry? I think if the rules are changed and we can somehow get back to real training only, everyone would be on the same playing field. Then the big barns, trainers, etc. will still make money but only after the judging is changed will it work. Again I will point out: anyone can go to any (padded) training barn and have scars removed for a price and with pain for the horse. I could do that to mine if I choose to. So the scar rule does not work. Anyone with money can go and have this taken care of, If you have big money like some barns do, you can go and have them lasered off. So tell me how this rule helps except to put another horse thru more agony? Again I will point out that my horse or anyone else's horse can be eligible for competition with a fee for removing the scars at anytime. So the Scar rule will push some people to do this, people that would not have normally done this without the scar rule. I don't understand this to be a help; tell me how this helps. I'm sure maybe at the time it might have been a good idea, until they figured out how to fix this. But when something doesn't work anymore or makes it worse, its time to change something or make a new rule.

I realize I am babbling on, but I have been trying to get a response from someone for awhile and everyone seems to avoid this subject or are scared to answer. I am just wanting an honest opinion; it is only your opinion. What you know that is fact is fine, but I am interested in what FOSH's opinion is on what is being done right now. We know the things being done now are not working. We know the same horses are being shown over and over again that have gotten violations but now have a different owner or rider. We know the top horses that have won in the big shows have violations that have been held up in court for many years that still have there placing keep pulling in the rewards from that horse. They can afford a $1,000 - $5,000 violation when they are pulling in thousands to millions of dollars on that horse. If they have to disqualify a trainer, there's always another one handy to fill his spot. We know large sums of money and fines are being paid, but the horses are still being awarded and ridden over and over again but with a new owner, trainer, etc. Maybe you have your own opinion or idea about how to fix this problem. I would love to know your thoughts or anyone else’s.

Also, what do you or FOSH think about my idea of changing the ruling on squatting? Do you think it is a good or bad idea? Let me know your thoughts or maybe a better idea. Thanks.

Email sent to Dr. Todd Behre and Dr. Chester Gipson of the USDA as per Kevin Dale’s suggestion, written by DeeDee on July 7, 2006 with the above email included
Please let me know of your opinions on this matter. So far it looks like nothing will ever change with the rules we have. I can predict 5, 10, 20 years from now the sored horses will still be out there with what we are doing now, even with the scar rule and the soring violation. There is going to have to be another direction if you really want this to change. We are dealing with the best chemists in the industry. It's time to go in another path and get to the route of the problem if this is really what HPA and the USDA want. If it's not, then I suggest you, me and everyone else just keep doing what they are doing and pretend this is fixing the problem. My ideas may not be the answer, but surely there is someone who has a better and different direction than we are going.

Dr. Behre’s response to DeeDee, sent to her on July 10, 2006 (Dr. Behre also asked how the USDA is influencing people to abuse horses)
If judges stopped rewarding riders with sore horses, soring would probably go away, as the tenet of fairness of competition and its impact on commerce are mentioned again and again in the [Horse Protection] Act. Neither the Act nor the regulations grant USDA any enforcement criteria or control over how horses are judged. Thank you for trying to do your part to help all of us find ways to eliminate the practice of soring. I appreciate your correspondence.

Excerpt from DeeDee’s response to Dr. Behre sent on July 17, 2006
In reference to the other matter of the USDA influence to abuse horses again I will explain my reasoning. The only way I can explain this is by example to make you understand. Anyone who is part of the horse shows now know it has become more apparent in the last year that you cannot have scars. This is a two-fold problem: 1. Now large training barns and trainers are not only soring a horse, they have to remove the scar tissue with acid on a regular basic to keep from getting violations. This is now an even more abusive situation because removing scar tissue is even more painful than soring, and it is being done much more often to the horse now to get by inspections. 2. A new problem now is you have innocent people buying previously sored horses who know nothing about soring or removing scars, and they are finding out they cannot even show without doing the deed. So now you have new people that never would have put acid on a scar before now doing it so they can even compete. We now have a multitude of additional abuses that would have not been done without the scar rule inspections.

Again, I am against this, but this system is not working. Don't keep adding to the problem go to the bulk of the problem. The reason why they sore them is to make them squat and lift the legs; try putting acid, etc. on your one foot and see if you want to put your weight on this. Let’s let them be a natural horse and let them put their weight where it should be: on the front. Why keep going in the direction when it is not working? This again would take out all of the items listed below if just one thing was changed. If you say you (USDA) can't change rules or change the judging process, then disqualify them for squatting. Again, I really believe this is a lost cause because it is actually controlled by the doctors, lawyers, large corporations and all the politics involved to make a change. All pockets have got to be padded to make this work and even though I would like to think this is a fair, honest and genuine way to go, in reality I am kidding myself.

I might be wrong, but the bottom line is this: if you, the USDA, changed a rule or disqualified person who had horses that were squatting, the problems listed below would be put to a end. I think this is worth looking into, but I'm sure I do not have the money it would take to look in to this idea because no one would be making money on this idea and therefore no one’s pockets would be padded. So I am sure this is a very simple and silly solution to the problem to do away with all the problems below.

1. Soring in whatever form it has been.
2. Removal of scar tissue over and over again.
3. Golf balls, screws, nails, toe filing and anything else they do to make them step out for pressure shoeing.
4. Excessive cases of founder and acute lameness.

DeeDee contacted me concerning her frustration in not getting a straight answer to her questions. I am working with her to fix this problem as I think they are misunderstanding her and vice versa.

Email from DeeDee to me, sent September 7, 2006
Andrea, Thanks for emailing me back. It's good to not be alone and know others feel as I do....
I am going to ask a simple question again but maybe you can tell me why this hasn't been approached. As I stated to Todd at the USDA, why can't we stop all this backwards way of solving this by getting the rules changed? We all know a horse sitting on his butt is getting away from the pain in whatever form. Why can't we change a rule that would give major points away for squatting in the backend? This is a totally unnatural way of moving that is well known, we all know a horse is made to carry his weight on his front. They would not squat unless they are in pain.

I have had walking horses for over 35 years. I have had many natural horses, not padded, horses that I padded without soring, and now I have a horse that was padded from a big barn that was squatting when I got it. The only horse out of all of the above horses that squatted was the horse that has scars on his legs from soring. I have many other people I know at barns that sore and don't sore and you can tell the difference.

The pressure shoeing is the thing now. I am very worried; I have a rescue horse at my barn that has been pressure shod and was put through a Walking Horse circuit. This horse was only 2 when we got it and it was already lame. All the vets said to put it down with a severe rotation. We put the horse on to barefoot shoeing to save it. This procedure has worked, thank goodness.

I have many major problems with the way we are going on inspecting horses. I have been in many shows along with my husband. I have the Lite Shod horse now and he has the padded horse. I do not have to worry or never have had to worry about any inspection on my horse because I have never done anything to him. My husband, on the other hand, has been to some of the bigger shows, and when we first got the horse he was awesome. We had people lining up where we went, trainers and their associates telling us what an awesome horse we had. We won several shows then, when there were not any inspectors at first at those shows. Then we went to some others from the Breeders Association; we were turned down but not written up at one and not turned down at another show....

We went to a Lutheran Big Show and he [the horse] was turned down there but not written up. That was a really weird inspection. All the horses are supposed to stay in a designated area after being inspected, but they were going back to their trailers before going in. We saw horses jump and move and all kinds of things and they were allowed to show. I have never seen a judge before go out and pull someone out of the practice ring and tell them to come over and get inspected till I saw it happen to my husband. We had a lot of people eyeballing our horse, and someone had even come over and offer us a large sum of money for our horse while he was in the ring. I turned him down and told him we had just gotten our horse. After pulling him out they told him he was disqualified after a few minutes. After walking away, we had at least 3 other trainers come over and tell us how to take the scars off with acid. One even walked us over to tell us how to hide the scars and what to do.

My point is, anyone can get the scars off if they want to abuse them more. It is a regular way of life, along with the daily regimen of applying burn cream and lubricants to keep it soft by trainers. I will tell you there was a great political thing going on at that show; we were a simple single-owner barn, a nobody, and they wanted our good horse out of the competition. The horse was so pretty, he would have had a great showing and have been hard to beat. That was then. We sat down and talked a lot about the system as we watched horse after horse in other shows be allowed with obvious problems of soring or pressure shoeing and realized it is a bogus front. If your in with the right trainers, you get in no matter what condition your horse is in. Although, I did see one show with the USDA there and it was different and several horses were written up.

We took our horse to get reset with new shoes the second time. The farrier showed us a very small tack that was attached to the bottom of the pad. He said a lot of trainers in Shelbyville use this and if the shoe is pulled off they just say it to help hold the pad on and secure it. This little nail is just enough to make them a little sore when they go at a powerful rate. We took it off. We noticed a pretty big difference now 12 weeks later without soring and without that little nail. The horse still will come in 3rd or 4th sometimes because of it's natural beauty, power but not because of the height of his step. You can pinch, poke, or do anything now to the horses feet and he is not sore but he does have the scar from the abuse before we received him. We would like to show him not in a non padded show but due to the scar rule we will probably not be able to unless we remove the scars. Old scars do not mean they are sore, but he was sore when we got him.

We have since taken this horse off his pads. We were faced with the decision to sore, pressure shoe, remove the scars with acid, and all the other procedures in order to show and be able to be competitive. We chose not to. Believe me, it was a hard decision because he is such a great horse and he could really be up there if we did. We had several barns and trainers wanting to take him in and fix him up. I can see why some people do this to compete, they are out of this division if you don't. Well, at lease if you want to place. We made the right decision and he is a much happier horse.

Email from DeeDee to me, sent September 7, 2006
The problem now is pressure shoeing. There is an overgrowth of this now because of the sniffer test. You can pressure shoe a horse about 8 different ways that are undetectable to the inspectors. I have a friend that has a padded and I know the horse is pressure shod and is never disqualified. We are creating a monster now with the soring rule or scar rule; they will just switch over to all pressure shoeing once this is totally enforced. Unless they come up with a way to test this; the shoe has to come off and apart to test this and be sure. Pressure shoeing is even more deadly and causes more lameness than even the soring.

The other problem is that in the future, when the scar rule is upheld and they cannot get their horses through inspections, two things are going to happen: 1. They are going to apply more acid to get rid of scars much more often, which in turn bring on more torture than ever. 2. The horses that have too much scar or they don't won't to fool with will end up auctions, slaughtered or just ignored and starved. We will then have an abundance of horses we don't know what to do with.

I think there needs to be a way to document a horse you buy. I really don't know how, but the good people like us that want to save these horses from their abuse and show them are being punished for the abusers’ wrath. We need to find a way to help these horses. The horse we have that was sored loves to show and is full of energy. He needs to be able to do this. There has got to be a way to document this. I think owners would pay to have this documented somehow on their own to do this to prove they are not sore anymore and agree not to pad them.

I would let anyone examine our horse that use to be padded for any pain anywhere. The funny thing about the horse we bought is that it was at Sand Farm, and they had vets there inspecting all horses. We felt we were covered. Guess what: the farm is in violation now and has a two year suspension, but it did not start until September even though they were written up long before. Not only that, the rule [states] that no one is allowed to sell a horse that is in violation. The owner or seller was in violation also; his name was Groover. So, we had a barn [that was] in violations and a seller in violations. No wonder non of the NSHC rules applied to anything they did. The rules do not apply or work.

Email from DeeDee to me, sent September 11, 2006, after she attended the USDA Listening Session in Tennessee
Just wanted you to know I went to the listening session today. I thought I would be in a room of least half and half. I realized after my speech I was surrounded by trainers and breeders that were very unhappy with the inspection process and especially unhappy with what I had to say and [my] exposé about some of the trainers. I am sure you will be able to read this soon on the APHIS website. Just thought I would let you know, there was only me and maybe two others speaking out on the abuse. The rest were united together on being against the new HPA violations.

Please encourage others to step up and speak out about the things they have witnessed. This is what it is going to take; we are a small army going up against power, money and unity, and it will take all of us to stand up to them. I don't care if they all stay and show if they will just change their ways.

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