"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, November 29, 2010

NEWS - HIO PRIDE Refuses to Include New Penalties In Their 2011 Rulebook

I got this off of The Scoop, a TWH publication. It's run by the same folks who run the Walking Horse Chat and the Walking Horse World websites. My comments after the post.


November 29, 2010


Mt Vernon, KY – November 29, 2010. On November, 2010 PRIDE filed a preliminary response to the OIG Audit and the USDA Response with the USDA. At that time PRIDE informed the USDA that it would be filing a detailed response to the petition in the future. Along with the preliminary response PRIDE filed a letter informing the USDA that it would not implement the mandated penalty structure for the 2011 show season. PRIDE submitted its 2011 Rulebook as a part of the packet to the USDA. The response was filed with Dr Chester Gipson of the USDA. A copy of the 2011 PRIDE Rulebook has been enclosed with this press release. PRIDE will continue enforce the original intent of the HPA as written. PRIDE will also continue to work diligently to ensure that all aspects of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry flourish in the future. PRIDE encourages all industry organizations to work together to enforce the HPA uniformly across our great industry. PRIDE also welcome all organizations to work together to ensure that everyone who wishes to show compliant horses continue to have that freedom.

PRIDE is a Horse Industry Organization (HIO) located in Mt Vernon KY. PRIDE welcomes show managers to contact Sam Hamilton at 859-393-4979 or at sam.momentum@yahoo.com to affiliate their show for the 2011 show season. PRIDE is also taking applications for anyone interested in becoming a licensed judge or DQP for 2011. Anyone interested in getting more information about PRIDE can contact Sam Hamilton at 859-393-4979 or sam.momentum@yahoo.com.


Do you guys remember the Disney animated movie Aladdin? There's a scene where Jasmine says she won't marry Jafar, and Iago, the parrot, says "Why am I not surprised?" I SO feel like Iago right now.

Well, at least we know that PRIDE is not willing to make progress and that we can certainly steer clear of them. AND let's send in those letters to the USDA--tell them to SHUT PRIDE DOWN! We need to see them fight back and be serious about saving the horse and enforcing the HPA! And feel free to email or call PRIDE so you can voice your displeasure. I think it's important for them to know that we understand they are admitting guilt by not including the new penalty structure and we hope they seriously consider changing their minds and actually following the enforcement as it is being worked on. Cooperation is the key here--if groups like PRIDE want the USDA off their backs, then they better start making serious changes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ARTICLES and THOUGHTS - My Thoughts on the 2010 Sound Horse Conference

So let’s talk.

I heard a lot about the SHC and what happened. Click here for the link to the 2010 page on the SHC website. In my opinion, I think there were some serious ground breaking things going on, and I got some great feedback from my friends who went and friends back east who know the sore horse industry side of it and their reactions.

First, I imagine many of you heard about Winky Groover, son of Wink Groover and president of the Walking Horse Trainers Association. (Yes, WHTA has members and officers with violations and has had violations at their affiliated shows.) Winky stood up and gave a speech about how he’s gone sound after years and years of soring horses. He admitted that he has HPA violations and said he’s ready to stop. Click here for the article that has his speech. I was told that he was crying while he made this speech, so I do believe he was serious—I don’t think this guy can act that well.

This is a big deal because the Groover family were well known sore horse supporters and their whole family has sored their horses. For someone like him to go sound is an amazing feat. I think it’s important for us to realize that what he has done has put his job and his livelihood on the line, so we must respect this choice. I believe forgiveness is important--when someone has a change of heart, we should welcome them to the sound horse world with open arms.

I however want to address a few things in his speech that I think he might be a bit off on. Now, I truly believe he believes this information, that he is not spouting crap to get the rest of us to sympathize or anything like that. But I do want to point out that there are still issues here that we need to be aware of. Below is a quote from Mr. Groover’s speech in italics, followed by my assessment.

I thought the AAEP nailed it in their assessment of the industry. Perhaps the most profound statement was, “effective change in the current culture of the industry must come from within, it is incumbent upon industry participants themselves, owners, trainers, and all support personnel to take full responsibility for developing a program which succeeds in eliminating the recognized abuses that are at the core of the problem”. I believe this program is in place and we have already seen sweeping, effective change come about in the industry. We have more to do but we have come a long way in a short amount of time.

Yes, Mr. Groover is correct--the core of this problem is the culture. However, the change is VERY slow. Let’s look at Mr. Groover himself: he and his family have obviously continued to sore horses even when the HPA was in place. His change didn’t come until 40 years AFTER the HPA was in place. We can no longer wait for changes of hearts to come. What we need is a sweeping change that shuts down sore horse HIOs and jail time for the felons who continue to violate the HPA rather than a slap on the wrist...which the USDA is capable of doing. (More on that later.) Changes of heart take years upon years to come about. It won’t happen anytime soon enough for the horse.

An HIO was activated in April of 2009 with the mission and desire to implement inspections employing AAEP recommendations. This HIO called SHOW, is headed by an AAEP vet and they took actions to resolve conflicts with DQP’s, organize clinics both for owners and trainers and also with USDA involvement and direction. SHOW has also implemented an inspection process that is tough and fair whether the USDA attends the shows or not. A fund raising entity, FAST (Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the TWH Show horse) was also developed to fund the education and projects in accordance with the AAEP recommendations that “funding must come within the industry”.

I don't buy this at all. SHOW has hired HPA violators to be on their board, on the BODs, as DQPs and as judges. If they were serious about ending this, they would do so by keeping these people out of the limelight. Also, we are still seeing people leaving in droves when the USDA shows up at a SHOW-affiliated show, which of course is proof of guilt. And of course, we still have the proof that over 200 horses were found sore at the 2010 Celebration, which was sanctioned with SHOW. How is this progress? It isn’t. Having a sound HIO would that allows the BL horses at their shows would be progress.

To wit, I have heard from the BL industry that this was all a hoax to get the USDA off the BL industry’s back. In fact, here’s the exact quote I got from my friend back east who has some connections.

I just got off the phone with my BL friends. They are the same trainers I mentioned before that said the Wink G. stuff was just a gimmick. I asked again to see what they thought was the real deal. What I just heard was that this was a whole big scheme to get NWHA and SHOW to join forces in the face of dwindling show attendance and lower numbers across the boards. We talked at length of how this is NEVER EVER going to happen, but at long last, this is the word from her trainer buddies in TN, and they are some of the bigger kids that are often associated with pressure shoeing, at least around here.

But, from the folks I talked with about the conference itself, they truly believe that Groover was not making this up. I think that most likely, the BL community is acting like this because they know that for someone like him to stand up and quit soring is going to be a big hit on their industry.

Now we’re seeing a different kind of change. Perhaps more people are sound, but now I’ve learned that in this past year, over 450 “outlaw” or “wildcat” shows have popped up. These are shows that aren’t affiliated with any HIO, so they don’t have to have DQPs and do whatever they want. Here’s more information from a source back east.

We show on what is now called an "outlaw" show circuit and very probably almost every walking horse that is not a light shod horse is sored and perhaps 1/3 of the light shod horses are sore in one way or another. Some of the trainers don's give a damn and they wrap in plastic with buckets of greasy stinking stuff right out in the aisles for the whole world to see. It makes everyone with a walking horse look bad. I refuse to stall by the other TWH folks and camp at the very end of the fairgrounds away from everyone! I attend because they are all breed shows and I have trotting horses too. They also cost a lot less then sanctioned shows. I can take 2 horses and show all weekend for about $400. That includes stalls, camping fees and all entry fees. It is a load of fun and it is only the TWH folks that are frowned upon! I have showed this circuit since I started showing and I can take my TWH and my ASB [and my Paint] and show them both all weekend and have a blast. You just have to be prepared to get beat by '"tungsten and blue soap."

I think this is something we’re going to see a lot of now. Most shows are going to just not affiliate with any HIO, period. Now technically, the USDA can show up at these shows and shut them down and fine the show management. Question is...will they do it?

My friend Gary Lane presented at the SHC. Gary and I are friends, I won’t lie. But one reason why we’re friends is we have the exact same views on this industry--that the way it will end is if the USDA steps up and gets serious about enforcing the law. This is a view I had long before I met Gary. Gary and I agree that if they just shut down one HIO for continued violations, then the other HIOs will start to figure things out. Or if they shut down HIOs all together and do inspections themselves, then things will change.

Gary put together a presentation that I will be including in this blog soon. Right now it’s not being posted on the SHC website. I don’t know if they haven’t received it yet or what, but honestly, I do know that several people who run the SHC think that people like myself and Gary need to stop bothering the USDA about this. They think people will have a change of heart like Groover did and the culture will break down. Well, they’ve had 40+ years to have a change of heart...it’s high time that change be enforced.

Gary pointed out some very, very important information. The APHIS HPA inspection process has been reviewed a multitude of times over the past decades. I don’t have the exact dates on me right now (I will get those), but if I remember right, there were two reviews done in the 1980s, one in 1996, the one by the AAEP, and the most recent one by the OIG. Here’s the deal: ALL of these reviews have said that allowing the industry to police itself is a conflict of interest. To put it plainly, it is literally the fox guarding the hen house. Whether or not horses are sored, the fact that the industry hires people within the community who have violations as judges and DQPs is not going to solve the problem. These people will allow sore horses through because it’s in their best interest to do so. The USDA APHIS has been given the suggestion multiple times to shut this down, and they’re not doing it.

Because the USDA enforces the HPA, this does mean that they have jurisdiction to enforce it with any means necessary. But here’s the problem: they have threatened to shut down HIOs in the past (e.g., SHOW) and have not done it. They will not decertify HIOs, judges, or DQPs who have violations. The penalties are way too lax--a slap on the hand and a small fine is not going to get these people to stop what they’re doing.

The bottom line is this: If we make the consequences of soring equal those of other types of felons (because violating the HPA is a felony--ask any lawyer if you don’t believe me), then it WILL begin to end. Or soring will become very rare, which will make it easy to spot, and if judges and DQPs would do their jobs then those horses can be eliminated before they get into the show ring. Gary stated in his presentation that when he was a police officer, he didn’t give people a blue ribbon for speeding when he pulled them over. In that same vein, imagine having the same penalties for violating the HPA if you were dealing with a felon who has committed grand theft auto or homicide. With that perspective, are those penalties acceptable? And here’s the kicker: the tools and capabilities are in place to make these changes. THE USDA JUST NEEDS TO STEP UP AND DO IT! That’s all we need!

Well I kinda got away from the SHC itself with that. Overall I heard it was nice and had tons of great information. But the conference itself is a hard thing for me to understand. Don't get me wrong--it's a great way to gather information and get it out there for the public. The one thing that does not sit well with me is that the SHC preaches to the choir--they are merely presenting in front of people who already want to see soring to end. Rose Miller said in her review of the SHC: “One of the speakers said...that [this information] should have been presented in front of thousands instead of the group present. I totally agree, and with that in mind, please feel free to share these thoughts with your friends.” They are right. This needs to be presented through mandatory meetings by the USDA with HIOs, get this information out at equine affaires and horse expos, things like that. The pressure needs to continue on both the USDA and the HIOs to get them to stop this nonsense. So please, spread the word, tell people about the SHC, and let’s be active in helping to end this horrible practice and stop these felons once and for all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NEWS - For the TWH Now Has a Facebook Page

Hey everyone. I decided to start a Facebook page to compliment this blog so people can get regular updates when I post. I plan to post on the Facebook page each time I post here. So please head on over to the new page and "Like" it so you can be informed on a regular basis too. And feel free to tell your friends! Thanks again for all your support and help - remember: knowledge is power!

Monday, November 15, 2010

ARTICLE - Thoughts on the 2010 Sound Horse Conference

I am writing up a big post concerning what I have learned from this year's Sound Horse Conference. I have good news and bad news, but it's taking some time to gather all the correct information.

So in the meantime, these are articles written by two of my friends who attended the SHC. First is reprinted by permission from Edie Jeffas of One Horse At A Time, Inc., a small rescue group who is making a big difference in the lives of horses. One of the co-founders owns a TWH gelding Midnight's Stud Duck, who was the first place winner in the Beginner Novice Level 12 to 17 Youth division in the 2009 Three Phase Event. OHAAT dedicates a lot of their work to helping end soring.

The second is from Rose Miller, author of the wonderful book The Horse That Wouldn't Trot. Rose has become a personal friend and she sent me her article concerning her thoughts. I asked if I could post it and she said I could. Be sure to check out her book if you haven't already. It's well written and a wonderful real-life story, and is worth every penny!

Hopefully both of these posts will give you a first hand idea of how the 2010 SHC went and how more information is getting out there to educate the public about helping to stop soring. We still have a long way to go, though. More in my next post.

Sound Horse Conference 2010
By Edie Jeffas

Until a few years ago I had no idea the practice of soring existed. For those who don’t know what soring is, it is the practice of using chemicals and foreign objects to make the feet of a gaited horse hurt when they put pressure on their front feet. This results in a high stepping gait.

This practice has been illegal since 1970 when the Horse Protection Act was passed into law. 40 years later the horrid practice still continues.

The Sound Horse Conference was created to bring organizations together to address HOW to get rid of this practice once and for all. Some of the Organizations participating were the Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), USDA, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Assoc. (TWHBEA), National Walking Horse Assoc (NWHA), and many others.

Speakers this year were from diverse backgrounds and presented topics on the new technology used by the USDA to detect various forms of soring, methods for training that don’t use a natural approach as opposed to mechanical means, second careers for show horses, the practice of pressure soring/shoeing and its debilitating results and how soring affects the lives of all involved with the horses that are victims. From the vets and farriers, to the trainers themselves. On the second day we heard from the judges perspective, learned what the racing industry is doing to improve their industry and how the Gaited Horse community can use similar methods to regulate themselves, had a presentation on how the Big Lick gait affects the entire horse through the use of thermography and the status of legal proceedings. We also heard a moving presentation from a trainer who once used soring practices and has changed his ways, bringing hope to all of those present.

As you can tell, this was a jam packed conference. So, what did this non-industry person take away from all this information?

First and foremost, there have been great strides, but there is still a long way to go to get rid of this horrible practice.

Why are people still soring their horses? One word, GREED.

Some claim it is so thoroughly entrenched in the culture that it won’t go away until the fans want it to go away. To a degree I agree, but I also don’t think the fans are aware of the damage being done to the horses just to get that high-step gait. All they know is they like the way a high-stepping horse looks. Personally, I don’t see how the grotesque movement of a Big Lick horse is seen as good looking, but to each his own. One presenter showed a video of Big Lick horses to his middle school special education students to show them what he used to do for a living. They all asked him what was wrong with the horses to make them walk like that. It was then he decided he needed to change his ways.

The damage done to the horses was illustrated by farriers, vets and trainers who work with these horses. Not only is there the obvious damage to the pasterns of the horses and their front feet, but also to their backs, necks and rear hocks as they struggle to carry themselves with their unnatural gait. It also affects the psyche of the horse. Imagine how depressing your life would be if you were kept in a stall, in pain, until you get pulled out to show. You may be drugged to get through the pre-show exam but you then are asked to perform in excruciating pain during the show. You then get sent back to your stall for the process to start over again. Is it no wonder so many are stressed out messes by the time they retire, if they live that long.

Some have said that if the Judges would quit rewarding ribbons to sored horses, all soring would end in 30 days. Hmmm, let’s look at what the judge is actually there to do. A judge is hired to choose the best of the group presented to him/her. To choose what best matches the standard set by whatever the governing body is for that show. Doesn’t matter if they are judging eggs, cars or horses, the job is the same. The are allowed to disqualify those that don’t come close to the ideal, but currently can not disqualify an entire class. They simply are not the ones to determine who is sore and who isn’t. They don’t have that skill set. They also don’t currently have a set of standards to judge.

Did you know there are 11 organizations involved in the showing of the Tennessee Walking Horse? I didn’t. I knew of two, TWHBEA and NWHA. Can you imagine how much easier it would be if we could get all these organizations to agree to ONE set of standards, or better yet, have ONE governing body over all shows!

If you have a ring full of sored horses, and can’t disqualify all of them, you have to pick a sored horse to win. It isn’t easy for a judge to do, but they have a job and have to put their personal feelings aside to do that job well. They also have to have the full support of the governing body. If they are challenged by an exhibitor or owner, they need to be 100% sure they will have their decision supported by the governing body. Right now they don’t have that assurance.

Who’s responsibility is it then, to identify sored horses and penalize those who sore? Ultimately it is the USDA’s. However, they can’t attend all the shows so there was a system of inspectors (DQP) chosen by the Horse Industry Organizations (HIO). Only problem with this system is that those inspectors are often in the pocket of a corrupt HIO. When the USDA would show up to do an inspection, violations increased dramatically over those when the DQP was acting alone. Clearly something has to change and it will be during the upcoming show season.

The attorney general’s office audited the USDA’s performance in regard to the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and found it lacking several things. I am not going to go over them here, but you can read the audit on the USDA’s web site.

During the 2010 show season there were 350 Horse Protection Act cases created! Out of 187 foreign substance tests, 107 have had positive results. Most of those for numbing agents.

Out of a total of 9098 HPA violations, 4505 (50%) are repeat offenders. There are a total of 1157 individuals that are those repeat offenders!

What is the USDA doing about it and why is it taking so long? Apparently the biggest problem is getting irrefutable proof that soring took place. That is easier with the new technology being introduced, but then you have the case load of the USDA.

Progress is being made; it is just slow in coming. Hopefully with the changes being made to address the recommendations by the attorney general’s office, we will see more action taken at the show level. I’m afraid that the current system of disqualifying a sore horse from showing at that one show just does not keep people from soring. It also does nothing to help the poor horse!

Some trainers and farriers have already recognized the error of their ways. One of the most moving presentations was made by a well-known trainer with multiple HPA violations, who also happens to be the President of the Walking Horse Trainers Association. With pressure from members at the Sound Horse Conference mounting and the attendance at Big Lick shows dropping off, and a meeting with Our Lord Jesus, he has changed his ways. He has been working with a farrier to make his horses sound, even when showing with a Big Lick “package” on their feet. He was intrigued by one presenter’s suggestion of removable boots for those who insist on the Big Lick way of going and will be contacting boot manufacturers to see if this could be a reality. Has it been easy for him? NO! He has been getting flack from some of his peers, but he sleeps better at night knowing he is on the right path. It will take a while to learn new ways of doing things, but at least he was willing to attend the conference and tell us he was wrong for what he had done and to ask our help in this big step. He received a standing ovation and we are very happy to have Winky Groover as a testament to doing things the right way. His horses are still winning even without the help of soring!

What can we do to help?

In Kentucky, you can help pass legislation that makes soring a STATE crime. Stay tuned to the One Horse At A Time facebook page, website or forum for when this is brought back before the legislators.

Sign our anti-soring petition. This petition will be used to help push for more funding for the USDA’s program. Their funding has been static for the past 4 years! It will also be given to Walking Horse registries to show the public will NOT tolerate this practice and they need to get their membership to STOP!


Become a member of FOSH and help fund their incredible work on behalf of our gaited horses.


If you want to see what the Big Lick looks like you can start here. [I removed the example due to potential permission rights, but if you want to see it, just go to YouTube or any online free video website and search for Big Lick. There are also videos on the TWHBEA website.]


2010 FOSH Sound Horse Conference - Personal Thoughts
By Rose Miller

My friend Sara and I arrived in Louisville, KY in time to join the pre-conference workshops, and chose to attend the one for judges. Dr. Jim Heird, who officiated, was raised in TN, but currently is active in the Quarter Horse world as Chairman of the AQHA Show Committee. Because he knew all about TWH and the QH industry, his thoughts on judging were of interest. We have a saying that “Judges could put an end to the soring, if they would not place the sore ones.” He took exception to that saying that it isn’t the judges’ job, and a judge cannot tell for sure if one is sore. A lot of us took some exception to THAT, as a creepy crawly pleasure or big lick horse is sore. However, he had a valid point, and stated that QH are not to have their tails deadened,(so they cannot swish them while showing) but a judge cannot for tell for sure that one that carries his tail flat to his butt, is deadened. The gist to me was that all involved have to end the soring; it cannot all be placed on the judges. To be honest, fair and hopeful, I do believe in many cases the walking horse classes are better, and hopefully/perhaps it is harder to tell, and a judge could get in hot water if he were wrong. That brought the issue to the judges’ governing body. Would they stand behind a judges’ decision? My personal belief is that a judge can make a difference, and certainly could have stopped soring in early years of TWH showing when it began, but then as now, they would have all had to stand together in their opinions.

On Saturday another speaker who was a trainer and judge, Chris Messick, pointed out that the spectators are a big issue, and had us listen to a tape where a big lick horse was excused from this year’s celebration because the judges (GOOD FOR THEM) thought the horse was “bad image.” The crowd cheered loudly as the horse left the ring…and NOT because they were glad to see him go! So there are lots of folks responsible for soring and many will have to pull together to get rid of it. Spectators who are appalled at the big lick classes leave if they even go, so the ones left are the supporters.

A big deal for me personally at the Conference was the opportunity to gift several of my books: The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot (www.rosemiller.net) to some notable people. Senator Tydings and his quietly elegant and gracious companion Helen attended the Judging workshop. It was told to me that Senator Tydings was incensed when told that soring was continuing. “It is against the LAW!” he responded. (The law that he was responsible for getting passed was 40 years ago.) Ah yes….

After the Thursday evening work shop ended, I had my chance to give Helen one of my books, as she noticed me waiting while the Senator was talking to someone else. I thought I would simply give it to her and she would later give it to him, but she tugged on his arm and he turned to me! So, I was able to thank him personally for the 1970 Horse Protection Act he sponsored and got into law, to help both the wild horses and the Tennessee Walking Horses. I could tell the fact the horses were still being abused weighed heavily on him, as he asked me, “Do you think it is better?” I am no expert, but I told him I thought it is better, but certainly not gone. As the seminar went along, I know he got his answer because I saw him later and he commented, “It is better…” Friday morning, the first day of the actual Seminar, I again saw Helen. She gave me a big smile and said she hadn’t quite finished reading the book. Since it is a woman’s story, she might enjoy it more than Senator Tydings if he ever has time to read it. I found Helen a most gracious lady.

The next morning I grabbed the opportunity to give a book to Rick Lamb who was the Master of Ceremonies. Rick is a popular horse education and has earned national awards and fans from his radio and television appearances. I hope he has time to read it.

Of course, the “Main Event” for me was Madeleine Pickens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_A._Pickens (wife of T. Boone Pickens http://www.boonepickens.com/) who was the Friday luncheon keynote speaker. She was introduced by Senator Tydings and had been accompanied by T. Boone. She told about her effort to save the mustangs and give them a permanent home on their personal acreage. http://www.madeleinepickens.com/sanctuary-qa/ Please check out her site and note how you can also help the wild horses.

It was clear to see that Madeleine and T. Boone were very much a loving couple and supported the betterment of animals. During Katrina Hurricane she was instrumental in helping many deserted and desperate cats and dogs. They were very involved with ending horse slaughter and now are working on forbidding transportation of the horses to Mexico for slaughter. Yeah!! Now, of course, you know I sure wanted to give HER a copy of my book, but I was a little daunted by the idea of getting close enough to do it. I had asked Lori Northrup, FOSH President who put on the Sound Horse Conference, if it would be ok to give the books, and got the go ahead. During a quick break before Madeleine spoke, Lori’s husband Bill escorted me over to where Madeleine was speaking to Helen. Wow! I stood there for a couple of minutes and then Madeleine looked at me. I found my voice and said that I would like to give her my book which was my small effort to help horses, to thank her for all her work for the horses. She said, “There are no small efforts, everything counts.” Then she asked me if I had autographed it, and you can bet that I had! I would rather meet her than any movie star. (Well, maybe Harrison Ford…) By that time on Friday I had given 3 of my 4 books, and was content. I could have gone home then and been happy. But more good stuff was on the way.

We heard more from various trainers, veterinarians, farriers, and judges on the good and the bad still happening. One of the very bad is still the pressure shoeing. It is the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s front hooves in order to achieve an accentuated gait for the show ring. It is said to be on the rise since it is more difficult to detect. This is one of the awful things I encountered when I showed Praise Hallelujah in the late 90s. It is worse because unlike painting the ankle area with a caustic material, the pressure pain never lets up. I take my hat off to Tommy Hall and the International Horse Show (the one I used to love in the 90s, but quit because of all the sored pleasure horses). They had exhibitors sign a release that the show could pull off the shoes of any winner if they desired, to check for illegal pressure shoeing. Some left (good riddance). Events such as this give me hope that indeed something can be done to stop this abuse. It comes down to determined people.

Friday evening we all were treated to another good dinner buffet and horse demonstrations in the Louisville Equestrian Center. Suzanne De Laurentis demonstrated horses doing tricks at liberty. Sheryl Crow donated her trained horse, Lady C, to FOSH for demonstrations, and Lady C performed for us. http://www.twhbea.com/voice/Features/LAdyC.htm The horses stood on platforms, some small, some larger, side passed or turned around on them. I think I would love to do that (with a SMALL platform). Mary Ann Kennedy is a Grammy-nominated hit songwriter from Nashville who creates music that celebrates the horse. She sang some of her songs (live!) while we watched the horses. She was the other person I wanted to gift one of my books to, and the next day had my chance. She generously gave me 2 of her music CDs. www.maryannkennedy.com She is very concerned and involved with horse/animal rescue. Here is another link to see the evening performance (Compliments of Lori and FOSH!). http://www.nashvillenewzine.com

Other clinicians (Larry Whitesell, Diane Sept and Buddy Brewer) gave demonstrations of sound happy training practices insuring contented horses. Ivory Pal, a beautiful Palomino Tennessee Walking Horse stallion and Rafael Valle gave a riding exhibition.

The next day was Saturday and a lot of talk was about ZENYETTA!!!! We hoped we would get to see her final race on television (we were finished by then and did). We shared our Holiday Inn Hotel with many race fans that had flown into town to see her in person. She is a splendid lady. Now that she is retired, maybe she will present all her followers and adoring fans with a colt that might just win the Triple Crown…who know? Then maybe a movie will be made about this magnificent mare!

It was plain to see that the speakers were passionately against soring and other abuses and the fact that even when caught, seldom is there a significant punishment. Gary Lane, a former Kentucky State Police officer, author of Training the Gaited Horse, and clinician, stated adamantly that when he was an officer he never pulled over a speeder and gave him a blue ribbon! http://www.windsweptstables.net/Book-and-DVD-sales.html

The conclusion of the weekend’s events (next to Madeleine Pickens talk) was a high point of the Conference for me. It was: A Story of Change, and Winky Groover was the speaker. Anyone knowing Tennessee Walkers, trainers and shows would know of Winky (and his dad, Wink Groover). I was most interested to hear what this big lick trainer would have to say. Winky began his speech with the disclaimer that he was not a public speaker and was scared to death to be there. He said he didn’t know how his presence would be received, but wanted to come anyway. He said he was going to read his speech, and began by saying, “During my life I have done about everything wrong that one could as a trainer and a person. Yes, I have served suspensions for those acts. I am sorry for the hurt I have caused horses as a trainer and I’m sorry for the grief that I caused family members, customers, and friends as a person. I have a past that I am not proud of, but with the help of many, I made a decision to change my life and training techniques.” It was a good talk from the soul. When finished, he received a standing ovation for his honesty and yes, bravery, to come before a group of SOUND horse folks who detest the sore/abusive horse training, and stand and be counted as “one of us.”

Next time we had a break and I hustled over to him. “Can you really have a big lick show horse and not sore it?” I asked. He answered that one could indeed. It takes a really talented horse, but it can be done. Trying to make not so talented horses into world champions is part of the “why” of soring. Winky is president of the Walking Horse Trainers Association and before I left home I had received a phone call from another member asking me if I would donate a copy of The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot to their Annual Banquet and Convention auction in December. I had a good laugh. Did this person KNOW what my book was about???? I told Winky about the call and told him the book was about my life with Walking Horses, but it was against soring, as I had seen it as I showed my horses in the 90s. I mentioned that I had waited until ‘09 Celebration to publish my book so I could say “all is well, soring is on its way out,” but I couldn’t say that. I could say it was somewhat improved, however. Did he still want a copy? “Yes, Ma’m I would,” he replied. And would he like a personal copy? “Yes, Ma’m, I would.” Well ok then, off I went to get 2 autographed copies. I hope he indeed reads his. I had been told by several folks in the know that some trainers really would love to stop soring, or abusive training. He surely sounded like one of them.

The final speaker was Keith Dane, Director of Equine Protection for the Humane Society of the United States who oversees the domestic horse welfare programs for the nation’s largest animal welfare organization. He spoke about the future of the Walking Horse, and among other statements noted that the Saddlebred horses do not invoke the kind of intense dislike and disgust (although they are not without problems either) that the big lick Tennessee Walking Horses do. Perhaps smaller pads, no action devices (chains) around the ankles and a horse performing to a lesser degree would be a start. Films could be made of horses such as these and the trainers told to limit their gaits to this standard. It sounded like a hopeful idea to me at least.

I applaud Lori Northrup and FOSH for the Sound Horse Conferences. I missed the first one, went to the second in FL with friend Ann because I wanted the latest on the soring issue for the final pages of The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot. There I met Pat and Linda Parelli, and Dr. Robert Miller, the vet who has written so many horse books, most famous for the foal imprinting books. Dr. Miller also endorsed The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot and Mules, Mules and More Mules www.rosemiller.net which will shortly be available for purchase. Naturally, that makes Dr. Miller very special to me.

With this third Conference I can see the forward movement in the anti-soring debate. It is encouraging, but only a good beginning. Still only a few shows can be attended by the USDA inspectors, the show inspectors can be lax or good. They still do a better job if the USDA inspectors are in attendance. If very good, exhibitors with sored horses pack up and go to one that is more lax, or even “wildcat” shows with no inspectors at all. Not all want to stop soring horses. You can help by writing your legislators asking them. After all, IT IS against the law!

There were 2 other things that stood out in my mind. One of the speakers said there were 2 things wrong with the Conference. One was that it should have been presented in front of thousands instead of the group present. I totally agree, and with that in mind, please feel free to share these thoughts with your friends.

Also, Winky Groover mentioned that both animals and people learn best by positive re-enforcement. With that in mind, I certainly wish to applaud and thank Mr. Groover and any other trainers (of which I sincerely hope there are many) that are willing to change their training methods for the betterment of the Tennessee Walking Horse!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ARTICLE - TheHorse.com Picks Up the News

Glad to see that TheHorse.com has picked up the news about the OIG audit. Click here for their article (transcribed below). This is big news for all horse owners. It will help more people learn not to support BL shows and shows that are not sanctioned by sound horse groups.

All is still quiet in the industry...honestly, I believe they are in shock and are having a hard time countering this. This is a serious situation for them. Are they man/woman enough to really make a change this time rather than skirting the issues? I'm sure we'll find out soon.


The current system for examining animals for signs of soring at Tennessee Walking Horse shows would be dismantled if recommendations contained in the results from a new USDA Office of Inspector General audit are adopted. The audit, results of which were released last week, examined the efficiency of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970. The act forbids soring, the deliberate injury to a horse's legs to achieve an exaggerated "big lick" gait. The USDA/APHIS is tasked with enforcing the law.

Currently horse show managers hire USDA-licensed designated qualified persons (DQPs) to inspect animals at horse shows. But according to the results of the audit, the system creates a conflict of interest between DQPs and the horse show management organizations that hire them.

"DQPs realize that by ticketing horse exhibitors or by excluding horses from a show, they are not likely to please their employers, who are interested in putting on a profitable show," auditors said.

The audit also revealed that DQPs who are also exhibitors are less likely to vigorously inspect animals to avoid scrutiny when their own animals are inspected, and that DQPs frequently refrain from issuing violation citations to persons directly responsible for soring the animal.

As a result, auditors recommended that the system employing DQPs be abolished and replaced with a new protocol whereby independent USDA-accredited veterinarians would carry out animal inspections at horse shows, sales, and other events. Those veterinarians would be empowered to issue violation citations to those responsible for soring an animal.

Auditors further suggested that APHIS implement measures to ensure that suspended HPA violators are barred from participating in future events, and to revise and enforce regulations that ban horses disqualified due to soring from future exhibition.

Finally, auditors proposed that the USDA petition Congress to increase HPA enforcement funding significantly.

Doyle Meadows, PhD, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, declined comment on the audit. The president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, David Pruett, was unavailable for comment.

Lori Northrup, equine welfare advocate and president of Friends of Sound Horses, an organization that opposes the soring of gaited horses, said the auditors' recommendations represent positive steps in HPA enforcement.

"Progress in this direction will certainly help protect these show horses from the abuses of soring," Northrup said.

Monday, November 1, 2010

ARTICLE - OIG's Conclusions

Click here for an article from the Huffington Post about the OIG's audit of the APHIS. It was written by Wayne Parcelle, the president of the HSUS.

A lot of sore horse supporters are going to say well of course it's biased--the HSUS is against us, blah blah blah. But here's the thing: the following highlighted points are not biased because truly point out the facts that contribute to the continued problem of horses still being sored.

  • DQPs have clear conflicts of interest, and do not always inspect horses according to the requirements of the Horse Protection Act. They realize that by excluding horses from a show, they are not likely to please their employers -- who are interested in putting on a profitable show.

  • Some DQPs -- when they did issue a ticket -- would issue it not to the exhibitor responsible for abusing the horse, but to almost anyone else, including stable hands working for the exhibitor, so the responsible person could avoid receiving a penalty.

  • DQPs working independently issued few tickets; they were much more likely to issue violations when they were being observed by an APHIS employee. From 2005 to 2008, APHIS veterinarians were present at only 6 percent of all shows, yet DQPs issued 49 percent of all violations at these shows.

  • Many in the horse show industry do not regard the abuse of horses as a serious problem, and resent USDA performing inspections. The practice of soring has been ingrained as an acceptable practice in the industry for decades.

  • APHIS employees were subjected to intimidation and attempts to prevent them from inspecting horses. Due to this hostile environment, APHIS employees routinely bring armed security or the police with them when they visit shows.

  • APHIS inspection teams at horse-related events cannot ensure that individuals suspended from participating in horse shows due to violations are not participating.

While all of us have truly known this all along, getting the information out into the public is crucial. I think this article is an excellent example of how we can put the guilty parties in the spotlight by presenting the facts and show why this is such a problem.

I also posted the OIG's Audit Report in the sidebar under Stacked/Sored Horse Articles and Information. The information is public and can certainly help everyone understand why the audit was performed and what changes need to be made.

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