"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - NWHA National Issues

So I've decided to talk about this, mostly because I'm a member of NWHA and I support them wholeheartedly because they are the largest flat-shod and sound TWH venue in the United States.  This past year they had 1444 flat shod, keg shod or barefoot horses entered at their National Show, with no chains, bands or pads in the show ring and not one HPA violation among them.  No other group can top that, not by a long shot.

I'm sure many of you have heard about the problems that happened at the National this past September.  Now I was not there, so I'm not privy to what happened.  I've posted the article from the Walking Horse Report below to put in some of the information.

Shoeing regulations were the issue.  Per show management's instructions, some horses were targeted specifically from certain trainers' barns as to if they were too large or if they had tungsten shoes on.  As far as I understand it, these were horses that were not local and were beating some of the EC and board members' horses.  I also heard a rumor that the measurements for shoeing changed mid-show to accommodate a local trainer, but it's not included in the below report so I don't know if it's true or not.


Let me say that again:

These were all shoeing issues that we're dealing with here.  Shoeing regulations are not included in the HPA--they are governed by each individual HIO.  Now the fact that the show management tried to influence the DQPs IS a violation of the HPA, as stated below.  So that is something that needs to be addressed in whatever way is necessary for the USDA and NWHA.

I honestly am befuddled by this and have not signed the petition because of how I feel.  However, I stand by the fact that NWHA is STILL the largest sound horse venue and the most flexible available to those who want to compete on a high level.  This problem is minor compared to the issues with SHOW, TWHBEA, WHOA, WHTA, and all the other HIOs that continue to allow soring at their venues and continue to fight with the USDA about it.  At least NWHA members are ready and willing to see this investigated and have the USDA help them if necessary.  That is a big deal--they want not only to see the integrity of NWHA preserved but also the HPA upheld.  This is a far cry from SHOW, TWHBEA, etc. who want to keep things status quo and continue to break the law.


NWHA Faces Scrutiny Over Improper Contact With DQPs
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Copyright WHR 2012

By Jeffrey Howard

The National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) is under intense scrutiny over alleged improper contact with Designated Qualified Persons (DQP) at The National, the championship show of NWHA held September 26-October 1, 2011 at Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  The Walking Horse Report obtained copies of interviews of several DQPs assigned to The National that were conducted by Linda Ivins, a concerned board member.

The contents of those interviews show members of show management and the executive committee allegedly ask DQP’s to “target” certain exhibitors and to check those horses more closely than other horses, which included entries owned and shown by members of the executive committee and/or their family.

When asked if they attempted to instruct you or influence you, a DQP working the show answered, “Yes…Ms. (Connie) Holbrook told us to look for different people on several occasions.  She really was talking more to David (Scott),” said the DQP.  Another DQP David Scott added when asked who tried to influence the DQP’s answered, “Gordon Lawler, I think that was his name, he came one time and Connie Holbrook, she came several times,” answered Scott.

Scott, who has been a DQP with NWHA for eight years and has never had a complaint or conduct violation, was terminated during the show.  A petition was passed around at the show and garnered about 60 signatures to reinstate Scott.  However NWHA refused to reinstate Scott.  When asked who he was to “target”, Scott stated, “The names that were given to check, Connie gave me one name which was Jeff Givens…Other board members that were at the show, and I can’t tell you which ones it was, but Martha Day (DQP Coordinator of NWHA) said they (board members) were calling and telling us to check Charlie Moore and his wife, I think and Jared Carrier’s horse.  And when they did that, they went out and bought us brand new rasps and magnets and wanted us to check for tungsten shoes.”

When the Walking Horse Report contacted Holbrook to ask if she attempted to influence DQP’s, she answered, “That did not happen and that is all I have to say at this time.”

Scott also reported this conduct to the USDA.  When asked if he had heard from the USDA, he stated, “I have not heard from them, but Martha has and all I know is that she said they were going to investigate.”  Dr. Rachel Cezar, Horse Protection Coordinator with USDA confirmed to the Walking Horse Report that the department was looking into the matter.  “Yes we are aware of the allegations of misconduct at The National and the USDA is looking into those allegations and seeing where we need to be involved and if there have been any violations of the HPA,” said Cezar.

Scott stated he was asked during the show to measure shoes differently than had been done all year and when he explained what the change potentially meant on shoeing to a trainer, he was relieved of his duties.  “I got a phone call from Martha (Day) saying that Lori Lowe (then President of NWHA) had told her she wanted me to leave and not come back,” stated Scott in his interview.

Ivins stated her interviews were only done after Lowe refused to release to the NWHA board the statements taken from the DQPs by Day.  The Walking Horse Report contacted Lowe and she said she knew nothing of the interviews.  When asked if she knew of the statements taken by Day, she said “Yes I am aware of those statements.”  When asked the contents of those statements, Lowe answered, “I will not answer any more questions and you will need to contact Sheryle Long of Schenck & Long, legal counsel of NWHA for further questioning.”

The Walking Horse Report was able to contact Day and she confirmed the contents of the interviews of the DQPs.  “I have no reason to believe there is anything in those interviews that is not factual,” confirmed Day.  Ivins also questioned Day as part of the interviews but did not release that interview to the NWHA board.  When asked why that interview was not released Day commented, “I asked Linda not to release the interview to the board after I received an indirect threat from Lori (Lowe) that she would file a lawsuit against me if it was released.”  Lowe also did not allow Day to release the statements to the NWHA board of directors.  “Lori told me if I turned over the statements to the board that it would be considered insubordinate behavior and since I am an employee of NWHA I did not turn those over,” confirmed Day.

“I have been conflicted during this entire process because of what Lori told me to do yet I have a responsibility to the department and to NWHA,” continued Day.  Day did confirm that the interview and its contents have been turned over to the USDA and Day has asked the USDA if she is covered under the Whistle Blower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  To this point, Day has not heard back from the USDA on her protections.

Ivins interviewed David Scott, Polly Smith, Kathy and Emily Mortensen, all of whom worked as DQPs at The National.  Ivins turned the interviews over to Jason Crawhorn, new President of NWHA, and at this point said he had not done anything with them to her knowledge.  Crawhorn emailed a statement to the Walking Horse Report which stated, “I can not comment on the situation that occurred at The Nationals as it is currently under investigation.”  Crawhorn did not clarify who was investigating the matter.  Ivins stated her purpose for the interviews, “I did this out of the best interest of NWHA, not to prove any wrongdoing by anyone or to punish anyone.”

The allegations made by the DQP’s at The National would constitute a Horse Protection Act (HPA) violation by those executive committee members.  Section 11.20 (b) (1) of the HPA states, “Further, management shall not take any action which would interfere with or influence said DQP in carrying out his duties or making decisions concerning whether or not any horse is sore or otherwise in violation of the Act or regulations.”

An online petition has been started by an advocate of NWHA which states the following, “In an effort to preserve the integrity and mission statement of the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA), this petition requests the NWHA to assign an Investigative Committee (IC) to investigate the alleged improprieties at the 2011 NWHA National Horse Show (Murfreesboro, TN).”  The petition asks for a five-member committee that would exclude any existing Executive Committee members or Director of DQPs.
The petition asks the committee to investigate alleged improprieties relating to influencing judging and/or DQPs and the committee should consider information from both 2010 and 2011.  It also asks the committee to consider unethical abuse of power, improper conduct and conflict-of-interests and requests that the information obtained through the investigation be published to the general membership of NWHA.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - Chris Zahnd Caught and Sentenced for Soring and Stewarding PLUS His Previous Denied Petition

Chris Zahnd, five time HPA violator in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2009 per the HPA database, was caught, tried, and sentenced for having a bilateral horse and by using a zip tie as a "nerve cord" along the gums of the horse to keep it from flinching during inspection.

Click here for The Tennessean article (copied and pasted below)

Click here for the U.S. Department of Justice article (copied and pasted below)

Unfortunately, all this abuser got was a mere two-year probation.  This is a slap on the wrist because he'll still be allowed to go to shows as a spectator...but we all know how spectators can "just give some advice" on the sidelines.  SHOW did ban him for life, but he can still show with WHOA, WHTA, or any other HIO if he so chooses after his two years are up unless they ban him as well.

Let's also point out that the USDOJ article says Zahnd's still allowed to have horses under his care.  So I looked up his farm, called Swingin' Gait Stables.  I found this ad in Hoofbeats online magazine: Choose your Gait Breeding Ad.  So I went to the Choose Your Gait Breeding website.  Note that two of the horses that are posted on the website are full bred Friesians, so he certainly won't be allowed NOT to work with that horse.  If he's willing to abuse TWHs, will he be willing to abuse a Friesian?  Not a question I can answer, but it certainly crossed my mind.

Ironically, I have seen photoshopped pictures floating on the Walking Horse Chat that have our famous squid friend with a hat on that says "Save Chris Zahnd."  I have also been reading some online group chats, and people are blaming the HIO, rather than Zahnd himself, for the fact that he got caught and is putting another black mark on the industry.  They said the HIO "sicked" the USDA on Zahnd, so they are to blame for this mess.

Let me make this clear: the HIO is a representative of the USDA when the USDA is not present at a show.  This is why HIOs were formed: to "police" the industry so the USDA doesn't have to do it.  If an HIO decides to send a case to the USDA and asked them to pursue it in court, they can do it.  Aren't the HIOs there to uphold the HPA, which is in place to protect the horse, as stated repeatedly by Drs. Gipson and Cezar?  Didn't the HIO do its job here?  Or perhaps the industry really wants the HIOs to be protecting the industry and keep soring and abusive methods of stewarding horses alive...?  Give that some serious thought.

I also found this particular case online when searching for Zahnd's stables.  Zahnd v. Secretary of Department of Agriculture, No. 06-11571.  Basically, Zahnd petitioned the USDA as to "whether substantial evidence supports the decision of a Judicial Officer for the Department of Agriculture that Lady Ebony's Ace, a four-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse, was sore within the meaning of the Horse Protection Act...when she was entered in a horse show in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on May 25, 2000."  The Judicial Officer did agree that the horse was sored and Zahnd was sentenced to a measely $2200 fine and a one year probation.  In this case, Zahnd's petition to the USDA was denied as the USDA agreed with the Judicial Officer.

So let's see here.  ZAHND HAD FOUR PREVIOUS VIOLATIONS, ONE BEING A ONE YEAR SUSPENSION THAT IS DOCUMENTED AS HAVING GONE TO COURT.  HIOS: WHY WAS THIS ABUSER NOT STOPPED SOONER?  How many horses had to be abused in order for him to FINALLY get "caught" and put on trail?  Why did this one incident stand out?  What is REALLY going on here?


Alabama man sentenced to probation in Tennessee Walking Horse soring case

Written by
Andy Humbles | The Tennessean

An Alabama man has been sentenced to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Horse Protection Act involving a Tennessee Walking horse soring case.

Chris Zahnd, 45, of Trinity, Ala., was sentenced on Nov. 21, by U.S. Magistrate Court Judge E. Clifton Knowles, according to an announcement made Friday by Jerry E. Martin, United State Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Zahnd was the owner and operator of Swingin’ Gate Stables, located in Trinity, Ala., according to Martin’s office.

On July 4, 2009 at the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show, a horse trained and stabled by Zahnd was discovered to be wearing what Martin’s office described as a nerve cord in its mouth and was determined to be bilaterally “sore” by an inspector.

At a plea hearing, Zahnd admitted to a violation of the Horse Protection Act, according to the announcement by the Martin’s office.

As part of his sentence, during his two year probationary period, probation officers and

representatives of the USDA are authorized to visit Zahnd’s barn to monitor the welfare of the

horses. Additionally, Zahnd will be required to supply information on all horses under his care, Martin’s office said.

A high stepping gait is valued by Tennessee Walking horse show judges. The Horse Protection Act prohibits trainers from using illegal soring techniques that create pain in the animal’s feet to force the horse to lift them quickly for relief.

Zahnd had already been assessed a lifetime suspension from SHOW, the Shelbyville-based organization that works with the USDA to assure Horse Protection Act compliance. It was SHOW inspectors who discovered the violation in 2009.


United States Department of Justice
The United States Attorney's Office
Middle District of Tennessee

Alabama Man Sentenced In Soring Case For Horse Cruelty Violation

December 9, 2011

Chris Zahnd, 45, of Trinity, Alabama, was sentenced on November 21, 2011, by U.S. Magistrate Court Judge E. Clifton Knowles to two years of probation, announced Jerry E. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee and Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG).  Zahnd pleaded guilty to a violation of the federal Horse Protection Act involving a Tennessee Walking horse soring case.

United States Attorney Jerry E. Martin said, “The use of illegal soring techniques undermine the equine industry while giving unfair advantage to those who engage in such cruel, painful, and inhumane training methods.  This office is committed to prosecuting such abuses that are in violation of the Horse Protection Act. ”

Special Agent-in-Charge, Karen Citizen-Wilcox stated, “The USDA- OIG will continue to aggressively pursue violations of the Horse Protection Act in order to protect horses and competitors from illegal and unfair acts and practices.”

Tennessee Walking horse show judges value a high-stepping gait called the “big lick,” a high-reach of the front legs with a long, gliding stride behind, and winning horses can be sold for significant amounts of money.  Properly training a horse to walk in this manner, however, takes significant effort and time.  Therefore, some trainers use illegal “soring” techniques to quickly accentuate a horse’s gait in order to gain a competitive edge in horse shows.  “Soring” is a technique used to create soreness and pain in a horse’s feet, which causes the horse to lift its front feet quickly in order to relieve the pain.  The Horse Protection Act prohibits the practice, which also includes the application of irritating or blistering agents on a horse’s legs.  The irritating or blistering agents causes the horse to suffer physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness, when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving.  The Horse Protection Act also prohibits the use of certain devices, including nerve cords, which are plastic zip ties that are often applied around a horse’s upper gum to distract the horse from any pain it might experience due to soreness when an inspector is checking a horse’s legs for such soreness.

Chris Zahnd was the owner and operator of Swingin’ Gate Stables, located in Trinity, Alabama, and trained, boarded, and showed Tennessee Walking Horses.  On July 4, 2009, at the Woodbury Lions Club Horse Show, a horse trained and stabled by Zahnd was discovered to be wearing a nerve cord in it’s mouth and was determined to be bilaterally “sore” by an inspector.  At a plea hearing,  Zahnd admitted to soring violations prohibited by the Horse Protection Act.

As part of his sentence, during his two year probationary period, probation officers and representatives of the USDA are authorized to visit Zahnd’s barn to monitor the welfare of the horses.  Additionally, Zahnd will be required to supply information on all horses under his care.
The case was investigated by agents with the USDA- OIG.  The United States was represented by Assistant United States Attorney S. Carran Daughtrey.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - Meadows Retires; Industry Meetings Updates; USDA HPA Search Database

I have three things to talk about in this post, so here we go!

Doyle Meadows retires from TWHNC

The following was from The Horse.com.  Click here for the article.


Doyle Meadows, PhD, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) Celebration, has announced he will retire from the position in October 2012.

The TWH Celebration is a high profile horse show event at which Tennessee Walking Horse breed world champions are chosen. The event became the subject of controversy in 2006 when federal inspectors temporarily shut the show down after finding high incidences of Horse Protection Act noncompliance. The Act prohibits "soring," the deliberate injury of a horse's feet and legs to achieve a high-stepping gait. When several top competitors declined to participate, no World Champion was crowned that year.

Meadows assumed the Celebration's CEO post in February 2008. During his tenure he oversaw the removal of the National Horse Show Commission as the horse industry organization (HIO) that managed the Celebration, and the formation and funding of the Sound horses, Honest judging, Objective inspections, Winning fairly (SHOW)--the HIO that replaced it.

During its Dec. 1 planning meeting Meadows informed The Celebration board of directors that he would retire from the position on Oct. 31, after the 2012 Celebration takes place.

In his letter to the board Meadows thanked Celebration directors for their support during his tenure.

"I truly appreciate all those people that have helped me as we continue to have the world's greatest horse show in Bedford County (Tenn.)," Meadows said. "I have a tremendous amount of pride for The Celebration and what it means to the Walking Horse industry and our community."

Meadows, 64, said he originally assumed the post under the provision that his tenure would be limited.

"When I came in (to this position), I said that I would be here for no more than five years," Meadows said.

Meadows said he has no immediate post-retirement plans.

No one from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association was available for comment on Meadow's retirement.

Teresa Bippen, vice president of Friends of Sound Horses, an equine welfare advocacy organization that also operates a sanctioned gaited horse show circuit and a judging program, declined comment.

The 2012 National Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration is slated to take place Aug. 22 through Sept. 1, 2012.


I'm sure his salary was plentiful.  Since 2009 was the most sore horses found at the Celebration to date, it's not like he did anything to improve the situation.  Closing NHSC and opening SHOW, which contained at the time the same judges and DQPs...whoop-dee-doo.

Maybe we'll see someone get in there who is truly against soring and will help stop it...and monkeys might fly out of my butt.  (Thumbs up if you get the reference!)

Industry Meetings

So here's what I've learned about the industry meetings, and quite frankly, I'm very confused.

The HIOs/groups that are involved are the WHTA, SHOW, TWHBEA, and the Celebration (TWHNC).  They have made their end goal to go with one HIO, that one being SHOW, and one rulebook.  Now I'm in agreement with this--I am all for one HIO and one rulebook because then it would encourage a level playing field for everyone.  (I would hope, anyway--we all know how this industry plays favorites to those who bring in the most money.)  I'd prefer there to be no HIOs anymore, that the USDA be the inspectors at all TWH shows, and that the rulebook either be in the hands of the registry or the USEF, just like every other breed out there.  But if we can at least get down to one each, then that's more along the lines of progress.

However, I'm extremely confused.  Does this mean that the other 10 HIOs will be shut down?  What does PRIDE, KWHA, etc. have to say about this?  I'm sure they're not happy at all--I know I wouldn't be.  And what happens to FOSH, IWHA, and NWHA, who consistently have 100 percent sound shows?  Overall, unless the USDA changes the qualifications for HIOs, then I would imagine that other HIOs are still going to exist.  I think this is probably up to the USDA in the end.

USDA HPA Suspensions Online Search

Here's a great little tool that a friend found that the USDA has on the APHIS website.

USDA HPA Suspensions Online Search

From what I can tell, it seems this database is updated frequently when they receive HIO reports from shows.  So this should be a great tool for people to learn everything about a suspension, which includes length, fines paid (if any), dates, etc.  This is also a great place to look up any trainers or sellers you run across to see if they have HPA violations in the past if you wish to avoid buying from them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NEWS - Press Release From the Industry Meeting

Here's the press release from the meeting.  I received this from multiple sources.


Tennessee Walking Horse Meeting
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
On Wednesday, November 30th the Board of Directors of these four groups met to discuss issues related to the future of the Tennessee Walking Horse in the show ring and to discuss unification within the performance horse division.

As a result of the meeting it was decided that a “Unity Committee” would be formed with 3 representatives from each group. Each group will have one week to discuss with their respective boards and appoint individuals to the committee. The Unity Committee will have no official decision making power and will gather information and then report back to the groups.

Goals & Objectives Established By The Four Groups:

1- To support one rulebook and judges list.
2- This group plans to implement a program to be inclusive of all aspects of the flat shod & padded performance Tennessee Walking Horse.
3- To market all facets of the breed.
4- Develop an organizational structure for the committee.
5- To create and implement a unified public relations effort.
6- To promote education in all aspects of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

In addition, the group also took a unified position of being against any reduction of pads and action devices and being opposed to the proposed USDA mandatory penalties.

Mr. Jackie Brown, who graciously offered his time to facilitate the meeting stated “the industry should be most grateful for all of their leaders who attended and offered their thoughts and ideas as related to ‘what is best for the horse, what is best for the industry.’”

44 people from the groups invited were in attendance at the meeting.


Now to break it down.

I definitely agree with number 1.  That issue is something that should have been addressed a long time ago.  One rulebook means that everyone will have the same level playing field as long as they agree to the mandated penalties.  Multiple HIOs are only necessary when there is a REAL goal to keep sore horses out of the ring.

As far as the rest, I doubt very seriously this will be a program that includes "all aspects of the flat shod and padded performance horse" when they are being selective as to which groups the committee members will be from.  If they were going to be all inclusive, then they would have invited ALL of the HIOs, not just a select few.  And the best way to deal with public relations will be to get rid of the stacked horse.  The public doesn't like it, and therefore if you were smart and wanted to relate to the public better, you'd stop the soring and get rid of the stacked horse.

And OR COURSE they don't want a reduction of pads or action vices and oppose the USDA mandated penalties!  We all already know that.  But what's really telling here is that WHOA signed the mandated penalties.  So does this mean they are going back on their agreement with the USDA?

They say they are working on "what is best for the horse."  NO, YOU'RE NOT.  You're working on what's best for your pocketbooks.  If they were working on what's best for the horse, then they would agree to the mandated penalties and agreed to a reduction in pads and getting rid of chains.  So that's just another one of their "man behind the curtain" ploys.

As always, more talk, more meetings, and more stalling.  USDA: PLEASE STOP THIS.  Please end soring and keep these people from continuing to break the law!

Monday, November 28, 2011

NEWS - THIS Garbage is What Outrages Us and What Will Tear the Industry Down

This picture was posted on the front page of the Walking Horse Chat tonight.  Click on the photo to view it in a larger format.

In case you don't know, the squid character is from an adults-only cartoon called Squidbillies.  No, not that kind of adults-only cartoon.  It's one shown on [adult swim] on Comedy Central late at night when the kiddies are supposed to be asleep.  Think of it in the vein of Beavis and Butthead, Family Guy, and King of the Hill.  The cartoon itself makes fun of rednecks and their attitudes, and the show is quite annoying but sometimes very truthful.

UPDATE 11/29/11: I'm now being told that people are saying that I have performed copyright infringement by posting this.  But isn't it copyright infringement to use a copyrighted character from a nationally recognized television show in this manner?

I wish I could say I am completely and totally flabbergasted, but I'm not.  Fact is, threats have been made to people against theirs, their children's, and their horses' lives when they stand up against soring, and that includes death threats.  So implying this creature wants to "get" those who are against pads and chains doesn't seem all that surprising to me. But overall, we should be outraged for them treating us who want to see the law obeyed and horses saved like this.  And really, THIS type of garbage is what is going to end this industry, and it's going to be a beautiful thing.  And how embarrassing for them--this makes ALL OF YOU look like idiots.  It is no wonder the TWH industry is the laughing stock of the horse industry.  You don't see other breeds posting garbage like this.  Shame on all of you for continuing to make our breed look like a farce.  It's childish behavior like this that makes us work harder to end soring and stop you monsters from continuing to break the law and abuse animals for pleasure.  You are ruining yourselves, and I'm happy to see you do it.

DON'T FORGET to write to the people in the below post to let them know we want to see a true end to soring!

NEWS - Industry Meeting on Nov 30th and WE NEED YOUR EMAILS!

This is a big alert to everyone!  This list was posted on the Walking Horse Chat today and we need to act!  It included an announcement that on Nov 30th (this Wednesday) the industry organizations will be getting together with the following members involved.  Note that this list does not represent the entire industry--only those who want to keep things as they are.  The person who posted this said that s/he wants to keep their rules and equipment as they are today, and we all know this needs to stop.  Be sure to email or call these people and let them know we are tired of the charades and the farce and want to see soring end now.  Of course, they want to keep things status quo, and we cannot let this continue.  And let's note: Keith Dane, who is a board member with TWHBEA, was not included on this list.  What does that tell us?  I think it's clear what they are doing!


TWHBEA Executive Committee

Marty Irby - mirby@twhbea.com

Margo Urad - murad@twhbe.com
Rob Cornelius - rcornelius@twhbea.com
Kathy Zeis - kzeis@twhbea.com
Tom Kakassy - tkakassy@twhbea.com
Tracy Boyd - tboyd@twhbea.com
Mike Hicks - mhicks@twhbea.com
Linda Montgomery - lmontgomery@twhbea.com
Stephen Brown - sbrown@twhbea.com
Rick Weis - rweis@twhbea.com
Joyce Moyer - jmoyer@twhbea.com
Wayne Dean - wdean@twhbea.com
Lloyd Black - lblack@twhbea.com
Linda Starnes - lstarnes@twbea.com
David Pruett - dpruett@twhbea.com


Kim Bennett (PRESIDENT)
270-781-8237 / 270-792-1471

Dr. Jana Anderson (2011)
Cell: 931-205-9574/Bus. 615-893-6169

Jean Baum (2011)

Tam Brogdon (2013)

Steve Brown(2011)

Chip Carrier (2011)
270-586-6649 / 270-586-8227

Martha Child (2012)
615-297-1196 / 615-834-4300

Betty Denton (2012)

Sally Fleck (2013)

Darden Gladney (2013)
318-927-9316 / 318-377-2135

Richard Greer (2011)
828-757-9559 / 828-757-6767 Cell

Don Hancock (2012)
270-365-3966 / 270-365-2071

Phyllis Langley (2013)
208-255-2849 / 208-290-4746

Bob Lawrence (2011)
229-227-5705 / 229-224-1813

Judy Martin (2013)
931-205-0079 / 931-684-5800

Frank E. Neal
615-202-7782 / 615-383-8874

Kathy Owen (2011)
615-848-0729 / 615-201-7432

Andy Rippy(2012)
615-273-2181 / 615-394-6776

Dee Dee Sale (2013)

Iris Schumann (2012)
931-685-1106 / 931-685-5278

Beth Sims (2012)

Gail Wailing (2013)
931-389-9073 / 931-580-4245

David Williams (2012)
Cell 931-639-1081

Harolene Willis (2012)

Lynn Womack (2011)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

THOUGHTS - The Attitude of the Industry

As always, I'm constantly bombarded with negative and downright nasty emails and threats.  The more truth I expose, the more threats I receive.  I believe that it is so important to share some of this information because it's key to understanding why soring and the Big Lick still exist, and why they still go hand in hand.  People who abuse animals are quick to abuse other people, whether it's verbal, physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Anyone who has studied any criminology or watched a few shows on True Crime TV knows this.  And the verbal abuse I receive is quite indicative of why we need to stop these monsters.

Here is an email verbatim from Anthony N. that I received in 2007.  It was in response to a petition I put together to eliminate the Big Lick from the local shows in my area.  A combination of efforts resulted in all of our local shows that have Tennessee Walking Horses in them to use either the IJA or NWHA rulebooks, so the sore horse has been eliminated in our area.

"Wanting to say that I own "Big Lick" horses and invite you to visit them anytime to see that are are cared for more than any animal you have.  They are know way abused and you need to kiss my ass"

Well!  I will certainly head on out to his barn then--what a warm and wonderful invite!  And I guess he must have spies looking at my property, where my horses are barefoot, have free access to hay and water, 24/7 turnout, manure is cleaned everyday, plenty of shelter, get all natural supplements for each horse's individual needs, and, quite frankly, are fat; and they look in my tack room where I have bitless bridles, saddles that are measured to fit my horses, and nary a "package", chain, tie down, full and half blinders, or a 10" shank in sight, since he knows his horses are better cared for than mine.  I guess if this is worse care than his, then I must be a terrible person indeed.

Look, the bottom line is this: when I am spoken to this way, and when I hear of others who are ridiculed or called names or bullied for standing up for the horse, it does not make me sympathetic to those who are "just trying to make a living" or to their wanting us to leave them alone and let them do what they want (the horse's welfare be dammed).  Industry, listen up: NO ONE is going to soften to this kind of talk.  If you want me to stop exposing the truth, then make a choice to stop treating people the way you do. The attitude of the industry is what is going to to tear all of them down more than anything.  Whining, complaining, carrying on, and generally pretending that these horses are all sound has become not only tiresome but laughable.  As the old saying goes: you catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar.

On one of the posts on the Facebook group, one of our members and I had a great conversation about the two opposing groups (stacks vs. no-stacks) coming to a common ground.  My thoughts were this: at this point, whether or not the BL horses are sored is no longer the question.  The problem is that the image of the BL and the high-stepping, crouching horses is horrific to outsiders.  I understand that the industry doesn't care about this; we're constantly told "if you don't like it, don't look at it!"  But they don't realize that they are going to continue to lose money, memberships, and customers unless they get rid of it.  They hurt ALL of us, sound or sore, when they continue to showcase this horrible, crippled look.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if it hurts the horse, and that's from people who don't even know what soring is.  Then when they find out what soring is, they assume all of us sore our horses, whether flat shod, barefoot or BL.  There is no longer a chance for a middle ground when the industry still has thousands of violations every year with stacked horses. Research showed that in 2008, 2009 and 2010, 90% of all violations were on stacked horses.  This means the BL needs to go away because soring is prevalent in the BL world. And quite frankly, every single person I have known who has BL horses says their horses aren't sored, so no one gets the chance to believe anyone anymore.  I have watched BL trainers who I have physically watched sore horses turn around and tell their clients they don't sore their horses.  I know that I saw that the majority of the horses in the WGC class this year either had past soring violations themselves or were ridden/trained by people with soring violations.  The lies and misguided information has gone more than far enough.  It's obvious to me that this industry is not cleaning up it's act and therefore the BL needs to go away--they have abused the privilege to show a horse in this way.  And if anything, the industry should do it for their own welfare.  I don't think they realize how much respect they would get if they truly stopped soring and showing horses that look like they're in pain.  I know I'd be happy to renew my memberships with many of the associations if they'd admit there's a problem and truly do something about it.

Overall, it's impossible for me to have respect for people who break the law on a regular basis and abuse animals for the sole sake of entertainment and money.  Now, I have HUGE respect for people who walk away and say I won't do this anymore...that takes guts and eating a lot of humble pie.  Honestly, I can forgive anyone who can admit they're wrong and who won't do it again.  But unfortunately, there aren't enough of those people in the industry who call the shots right now.  And we need to see the USDA step in and stop those people once and for all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NEWS - Yet ANOTHER Committee to "Discuss" the Future of the Breed

I received this from the Walking Horse Report.


Industry Boards To Address Issues
Monday, November 21, 2011
Editor's Note:  The following is a press release issued by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' & Exhibitors' Association.

Lewisburg, TN - Following a series of meetings held throughout the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, including at the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA), Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA), The Celebration and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), a decision was made that the boards of directors from the WHTA, WHOA, Celebration and the executive committee of TWHBEA will meet with the goal of appointing a smaller committee to study the issues surrounding, and make recommendations concerning, the welfare and future of the Tennessee Walking Horse in the show ring.

This decision came about in response to presentations made at each industry meeting by Dr. Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for Animal Care at the USDA. While the USDA will assist the committee appointed to study the issues and make recommendations, this will be a Tennessee Walking Horse industry endeavor. The meeting of the WHTA, WHOA, Celebration and TWHBEA boards, which will result in the appointment of the committee, is scheduled for November 30, 2011, at WHTA headquarters in Shelbyville, Tennessee.


OH BOY!  Yet ANOTHER committee to discuss keeping things as is!  I certainly don't see any other HIOs being invited, and the HIOs that are included are those who have huge stakes in the stacked horse divisions.  They are calling themselves the Walking Horse Association and have a website located here.  Superhorse.org?  Really?  Geez.  And some association--they certainly aren't including all of the stakeholders within the industry that will be affected by any changes.  Plus, will this "association" really try to end soring?  OF COURSE NOT!  They're going to figure out how to keep things status quo.  Seriously, USDA, you don't buy this crap, do you?

This website has a section where you can comment, and so far most of the comments are very negative.  I actually am in agreement with a lot of them because truly, the association is only out to take care of themselves and their pocketbooks, not the industry.  Feel free to make your own comments and let them know what you think at this page.

Of course, there are huge rumors going around and wild speculations along with personal interpretations of what all of this means.  The most reassuring rumor I've heard--but note, it IS still a rumor--is that Gipson told the industry to take away the chains and make the pads smaller or they will do it themselves, and he's still threatening decertification.  But I'll believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, I request that everyone get your fingers going for sending emails and phone calls to the USDA and get them to STOP DISCUSSING AND START DOING.  I am going to work on asking for the presentation that Gipson made at the meetings, and your emails to them will also help.  Don't be fooled by what the stakeholders are really doing here, folks--we need to see soring end and we need the USDA to step up and do their job!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - HPA Enforcement Receives Additional Funding and is Approved by Obama

BREAKING NEWS!  The USDA has been granted more money to enforce the HPA!  The final bill was signed by President Obama this week, so the approval has come down from the top!  The final decision was to split the difference between the Senate and the House bills.  This is a big deal considering that major cuts were made across the board with the USDA.  But in those cuts it seems that enforcing the HPA won out among a lot of people who want to keep things status quo!

Click here to see the entire Act, H.R. 2112.   Page H.R. 2112 states as follows:

For necessary expenses of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, including up to $30,000 for representation allowances and for expenses pursuant to the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 4085), $816,534,000...of which $696,000 shall be for activities under the authority of the Horse Protection
Act of 1970, as amended (15 U.S.C. 1831).

We need to thank all of the people who worked so hard to get this passed and won the bipartisan support of 125 reps and 34 senators, especially since one of them is from Kentucky and two are from Tennessee!  The list of people to thank that worked so hard are as follows:

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

Also, don't forget to send your letters to the USDA to congratulate them AND to ask them to put this money to good use!  We need to see more of these cases brought to court, so also send your request to the OIG to get them to do more work like they did in the Davis et. al. case.

Below is an except from this article from the Humane Society Legislative Fund.  This is wonderful news that is going to help save the Tennessee Walking Horse!  THE SOUND HORSE WINS!


There was, however, great news for horses also contained in the committee’s bill: Congress is poised to increase funding for enforcement of the decades-old Horse Protection Act, which has been stuck at the woefully inadequate ceiling of $500,000 since 1976. The minibus provides $696,000 for the Horse Protection Act—almost a 40% jump, and a very important signal that USDA needs additional resources to step up its enforcement of this federal law against widespread cruelty to show horses. (The conferees split the difference, since the Senate bill had $891,000 and the House bill had $500,000). The Horse Protection Act combats the criminal act of “soring” horses, the intentional use of caustic chemicals and sharp objects on horses’ hooves and legs to make it painful for them to step down and give them an artificial, high-stepping gait in show competitions—in other words, deliberate, illegal infliction of severe pain in order to cheat and win prizes.

In fact, in a very tough budget climate, with so many lawmakers focused on deficit reduction this year, we fought hard to keep funding levels strong for a range of animal welfare programs. The HSUS and HSLF worked with Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to mobilize a sign-on letter, and won the bipartisan support of 125 representatives and 34 senators requesting modest funding levels that are critically needed to implement and enforce the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the federal animal fighting law, and programs to help prepare for the needs of animals in disasters and to address the shortage of veterinarians in rural and inner-city areas and public health practice. We also worked with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., to push specifically for the increased funding to crack down on horse soring.

Many programs were competing for dollars, and USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service took sizable cuts overall ($350 million and $47 million, respectively), as did many individual accounts. But, even within this broader political landscape, we were able to maintain consistent or increased funding levels for most animal welfare programs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NEWS - Meetings between USDA and HIOs

I received this text from the Walking Horse Report.

"[Dr.] Gipson will meet with the Kentucky HIO on Wednesday November 16, 2011 in Lexington and then make his way to Middle Tennessee to meet with the TWHBEA Executive Committee on Saturday November 19, 2011. The Walking Horse Report will be at this meeting and have a report on the contents of that executive committee meeting.

The Report has also learned that Gipson will meet with the Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) on Sunday November 20, 2011 and is awaiting confirmation of this meeting from WHOA. The exact intent of the meetings with Gipson is unknown however rumors are rampant as to the contents of those meetings. Topics such as mandatory penalties, decertification and the future of the pad and action device have all been rumored to have been discussed."

As always, plenty of rumors are floating around, and I'm sure most of the people who are spreading them have it on absolute authority that their information is correct.

I have to say that I'm tired of these meetings going on and the stakeholders and members not being given the details of the meeting.  What's written are just little blurbs like "we are confident we can work with the USDA in the future," trying to placate the public.  There is no reason why things like this need to be kept private--the entire industry, sound or sore, needs to know what's going on.  So if you are a member of TWHBEA and especially are for real change that ends soring, then it might be a good idea to request a transcript of the meeting.  Take the time to write to or call the Executive Committee before the end of this week and ask for a transcript.  No matter what is said, the membership deserves to know what's going on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLE - Barney Davis Pleads Guilty and Faces a Hefty Sentence

After Paul Blackburn pleaded guilty to having sored horses, Barney Davis seems to be making the same choice. However, his crimes were more egregious and he faces a hefty sentence: up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Rate My Horse PRO posted their on the article at this link.  I've also copied and pasted the article below.

To echo US Attorney Steve Neff a bit, this type of prosecution should keep trainers and owners from cheating (aka, soring) in the show ring.  The problem is the Big Lick community is brushing this off.  They truly believe that the Spotted Saddle Horse is a completely different breed, and this situation doesn't apply to them because the horse was not on stacks.

Reality check: The horse was pressure shod, which is one of the ways Big Lick horses are being sored today.  It absolutely DOES apply, because soring is soring, no matter what breed suffers from it.  And for those who think this has nothing to do with them, they are merely holding their fingers in their ears and saying la la la la la.  This is just another excuse for them to ignore the fact that soring is still rampant and that anyone who receives and HPA violation should be sent to court.

The sentencing is in February.  If I find out who to contact in order to request the maximum, then I will pass it on.  Also, be sure to let the USDA know that we want to see a lot more of these violators going to court so the threat becomes real.  Only then will soring stop once and for all.


Tennessee Horse Trainer Pleads Guilty to Soring

by RMHP Staff

A spotted saddle horse trainer and two co-defendants have pleaded guilty to violations of the Horse Protection Act.

Barney Davis pleaded guilty today to two felonies including conspiracy to obstruct justice and two misdemeanors, according to Assistant US Attorney Steven Neff. Davis faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He remains behind bars.

Christen Altman and Jeffery Bradford, who worked with Davis, pleaded guilty to lesser charges of conspiring to violate the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA). Bradford faces up to a year in prison and both may have to pay a $3,000 fine.

"We hope this prosecution and others like it will deter trainers and owners who are thinking about cheating and committing fraud in order to reap monetary profits and achieve notoriety," says Neff. 

In April, a federal grand jury returned a 34-count superseding indictment against Davis, Altman, Bradford, and Paul Blackburn charging them with violations of the federal Horse Protection Act and related financial crimes.

Court documents state Davis, who ran a horse training and boarding facility called Monopoly Farm, Altman, Bradford, and Blackburn, who pleaded guilty last month, conspired to violate the HPA by soring horses, falsifying entry forms, and documents.

Soring horses is an illegal practice where items like bolts are driven into horses' hoofs, foreign objects are attached to horses' legs, or chemicals like mustard oil are used to produce pain and sensitivity to alter the gait. A sored horse tries to escape the pain in his front end so it will snatch its legs up quickly, and gives tremendous lift in the front, known as "big lick." The altered gait is considered abuse by most horse enthusiasts. According to gaited horse experts, those that utilize soring can get the desired effect with training rather than abuse. 

The three will be sentenced in February. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

NEWS and HOW YOU CAN HELP - A Call To Action: Help Solidify the Additional Funding for the HPA

I found out this information today.  As we already know, the Senate did approve the additional funding for HPA enforcement for 2012.  However, the minibus bill is now being decided by a Joint Conference Committee.  Unfortunately, Hal Rogers, the elected official who is all for keeping the HPA as is, is the chairman of the committee.  They could see such a small amount of $499,000 in HPA enforcement as a bargaining tool in negotiations, and I imagine Rogers will probably want to get rid of it.  So, this means it is now or never for the funding.  EVERYONE needs to write their legislators AND the committee members requesting no cut in the funding approved by the Senate.

Here are the names, phone numbers, and emails of those who sit on the Joint Conference Committee.  Please write to or call ALL of them and let them know we need to see the HPA more appropriately enforced.  If the email link requires you to put in a zip code from that rep's state, then state zip codes can be googled online.  As it's best to write your own letters rather than use a pre-written piece, here are some pointers to use.  Point out that as elected officials, we require them to make sure laws are upheld, no matter how trivial they may seem.  The government has had nearly 40 years to uphold the law, but continued violations of the HPA are being recorded on a regular and alarming basis.  This is an easy law to uphold if the government will step up and do it.  Additional funding will help put those in violation in court and set and example to others to stop breaking the law.

Plus, since many of those who want to continue the system as is read this blog, be assured that they will also be writing to these people.  So feel free to spread the word and let's make sure that the law gets upheld and the TWH is saved!

Appropriations Full Committee Chairman Hal Rogers - 202-225-4601, email link
Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Chairman Emeritus - 202-225-5961, email link
Rep. Jerry Lewis, Chairman Emeritus - 202-225-5861, email link
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, CJS Subcommittee Chairman - 202-225-5136, email link
Rep. Jack Kingston, Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman - 202-225-5831, email link
Rep. Tom Latham, THUD Subcommittee Chairman - 202-225-5476, email link
Rep. Robert B. Aderholt - 202-225-4876, email link
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson - 202-225-4404, email link
Rep. John Culberson - 202-225-2571, email link
Rep. John R. Carter - 202-225-3864, email link
Rep. Jo Bonner - 202-225-4931, email link
Rep. Steven C. LaTourette - 202-225-5731, email link

Appropriations Ranking Member Norm Dicks - 202-225-5916, email link
Rep. Rosa DeLauro - 202-225-3661, email link
Rep. John Olver - 202-225-5335, email link
Rep. Ed Pastor - 202-225-4065, email link
Rep. David Price - 202-225-1784, email link
Rep. Sam Farr - 202-225-2861, email link
Rep. Chaka Fattah - 202-225-4001, email link
Rep. Adam Schiff - 202-225-4176, email link

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - New TWHBEA Board Member, Good Article from 2009, and USDA & Celebration Meeting

I've received three big stories in the past few days.  Here's a post combining all three.

NEWS - Keith Dane Now a TWHBEA Board Member

This is FANTASTIC news!  Keith Dane, the Director of Equine Protection from the HSUS, has been elected as the Board Director for the State of Maryland!  Click here for the election results on TWHBEA's website.  In the TWHBEA letter to its members, it seems that only 21% of the membership voted.  Well, it seems that the part of the membership that voted for Dane was the right part!  I believe that this is going to help save the horse tremendously.  And THANK YOU to all of you who voted for Dane!  I believe that you are are going to help finally start making a REAL difference for the horse!

ARTICLE - "Spotlight on abusive horse training" from Examiner.com

This article, posted at this link, was published on October 2, 2009.  While it was written some time ago, there is an interesting point made concerning a video of the 2009 WGC winner, Watch It Now.

Video - Tortured Tennessee Walking Horse Watch It Now wins obscene amounts of prize money for his cruel trainer and greedy owners.

According to the HSUS "The 2009 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse is trained by past Horse Protection Act violator Jimmy McConnell, and owned by William B. Johnson, who only recently settled a previous HPA case involving trainer Billy Gray."

Let's also point out that McConnell was one of the complainers when his horse was found sore at this year's Celebration, and the Johnson's are currently on suspension for one year for the abuse they've caused horses at Waterfall Farms.  Be sure to boycott your local Waffle House and Ritz-Carlton hotel--since the owner is now a known animal abuser, we need to be sure the public knows about it as well and put our money where our mouths are!

So, the word is out there.  Let's be sure to keep it going!

NEWS and ARTICLE - USDA and SHOW/Celebration Meeting

From the Walking Horse Report:

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Celebration® Board of Directors met Thursday, October 20,2011 with Dr. Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for USDA APHIS at the Celebration grounds in Shelbyville.  The meeting was a result of a commitment  from Dr. Gipson to meet with not only the industry HIOs but also Executive Committees and Board of Directors who represent stakeholders in the Walking Horse Industry.

Dr. Gipson said “The driving force behind these scheduled meetings is to discuss both challenges and opportunites that lie ahead for the industry.  The USDA and subsequently the Walking Horse Industry cannot be successful without the entire support of both organizations working for common goals.”  Dr. Doyle Meadows, CEO of The Celebration® said “We appreciate Dr. Gipson and his position with USDA and look forward to working with him as we begin our move toward the 2012 show season.”

This worries me somewhat.  From what I understand, no one was told about this until now, and I HATE these behind the scenes meetings.  What I would normally do is encourage everyone to write to Dr. Gipson and tell him to not change his stance on ending soring and to PLEASE enforce the law.  However, we didn't get that opportunity.  Hopefully we will hear soon what the results of the meeting were.  Let's pray Gipson is not falling into the hands of their greed or being threatened by them and is going to force them to TRULY end soring!

Friday, October 21, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - Blackburn Found Guilty of Soring Horses

Remember Tennessee's resident animal abusers, Barney Davis, Christen Altman, Jeffrey Bradford, and Paul Blackburn?  If you don't, click here for one of my many posts about them.

Well, Blackburn actually plead guilty guilty guilty!  Rate My Horse PRO posted the article and where you can read the court documents--click here to read them.  I've copied and pasted the article below.  I am so glad the court found him guilty.  His sentence is in January, so hopefully he'll get the max!  (Even though the maximum really isn't enough, it would still be nice to see justice served.)

Really, I don't see how these abusers can't be found guilty--the evidence was extremely clear.  However, I have to ask: why is it that with 173 HPA violations at this years Celebration (according to the USDA DQP Report), why are we not hearing about those abusers going to court?  We need to see them there, and we need to see the law upheld.  A ticket is not enough, so be sure to let your voices be heard!  Write to the USDA and demand that they start taking these tickets to court!  And let's give a big send off to Blackburn to jail.  Maybe we should tell his jail mates what he did to get in there...I hear animal abusers are looked VERY poorly on by other inmates!


Blackburn Guilty of Horse Soring Violations

by RMHP Staff

A Tennessee man pleaded guilty today to conspiring to violate the federal Horse Protection Act.

Paul Blackburn was part of co-defendant Barney Davis's horse training and boarding operation at Monopoly Farm. According to Blackburn's plea agreement, he was hired to look like the farm's trainer since Davis is serving a lifetime suspension for soring horses. It goes on to say he sored horses, transported them in that condition, and falsified documents.

In April, a federal grand jury returned a 34-count superseding indictment against Blackburn, spotted saddle horse trainer Barney Davis, Christen Altman, and Jeffery Bradford. Hearings for Davis, Altman and Bradford are scheduled in U.S. District Court, Chattanooga in early November.

Soring horses is an illegal practice where items like bolts are driven into horses' hoofs, foreign objects are attached to horses' legs, or chemicals like mustard oil are used to produce pain and sensitivity to alter the gait. The altered gait, which is considered abuse by most horse enthusiasts, is seen as desirable for some that compete in gaited breed horse shows.

Blackburn is scheduled to be sentenced in January. He faces up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Apology on Posting Comments

Hello everyone.  I wanted to apologize that recently, your comments weren't being posted in a timely manner.  I discovered that I had misspelled my email address where the comments information goes to.  So I have fixed that and now I will be notified directly when comments need to be approved.  As a reminder, I only have it set up so I have to moderate comments to keep spam from coming through.  Thanks in advance for your understanding!

Monday, October 3, 2011

ARTICLES - Shame in the Horse Show Ring Picks Up on TWH Issues

Shame in the Horse Show Ring is one blog I really like to read.  She tells it like it is when it comes to show venues continuing to allow abuse of all types in the show ring.

Click here for her latest post about the TWH.

Yes, the harsh language can get hard to read.  But I think it's important for people to realize the message that's here.  She's angry, and she's tired of the horses being abused for the sake of a ribbon, no matter what breed or discipline.

I know we'll hear all the same excuses: pads don't hurt the horse, these horses passed inspection, blah blah blah.  Folks, we're dealing with an image here that makes the horses look tortured.  Whether or not they're sored doesn't matter anymore.  The horse world and a lot of the general public know the TWH industry's dirty secret, and so therefore when horses are being showcased as crippled, crawling spiders, people are going to think they're being abused.

She also make a great point--people WITHIN the industry need to start standing up.  The problem is that plenty of people are willing to just brush off the cheaters and abusers and turn a blind eye to what's going on.  Start standing up for your breed and your horses.  If you want the bad image of the TWH to go away, then you need to do something about it.  Make an effort to end soring for real.  The industry will listen if the masses start demanding a change.

Monday, September 26, 2011

NEWS - USDA DQP Show Report Statistics Are Online

This is so cool!  I love it when stuff like this happens!

A few days ago I found the USDA 2011 DQP Show Report.  Click here to see the link.  However, I thought it was incomplete.  The list was divided into the show date(s), the title of the show, the HIO, DQP Inspected, and DQP Violations.  However, I thought there also needed to be clarification between how many horses were inspected and how many inspections were conducted.  These numbers only represented how many inspections were conducted.  I came to this determination because my local yearly show affiliated with NWHA is on this list, and the number under DQP Inspected is higher than the number of horses that I knew at the time were actually at the show.  So obviously, the same horses were in multiple classes.  (But I am very proud to say that NO horses were found sore at my local show!  See, SHOW, PRIDE, KWHA, et. al.?  YOU CAN ELIMINATE SORING!)

So I sent an email to the USDA asking if we can get some more information to clear this up.  And they provided it!  I was really happy that they did this for us.  Thanks, USDA!

So, now the list shows a clear distinction between number of inspections versus number of horses actually at the show.  Now some of the information they didn't have yet, but they told me that they'll be getting it soon.  So I'm going to hold off on my calculations that I want to do on it until all the information is there.  However, I want to write about what is truly happening here.

Now, when I hear things like the industry is 95%, 97%, 98% compliant, I'm always wondering where this number comes from.  (And why it's so varied--can't they decide on an official number?)  A while back I did some calculations on just the Celebration, and unfortunately I can't find my blog post on it right now.  But overall, I learned that those percentages were coming from just the Celebration.  I also learned that the percentages were based on the number of times inspections were done, NOT the number of horses that were at the show.

Why does this matter?  Because it's easy for the industry to skew the numbers in their favor.  See, I think it would be more accurate to take a look at the number of horses rather than the number of inspections.  Obviously at a show, one horse might be shown in multiple classes.  Let's break it down so this makes things clear.

Lets say we have a show, and during the show five horses are going to be in a few different classes.  The horses are Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Ben Kenobi, and Chewbacca.  Here are the classes they showed in.  (And yes, I'm making all of this up on the fly.  The type of classes are just random choices.)

Luke Skywalker - English Pleasure 2 Gait Amateur, English Pleasure 2 Gait Open, English Pleasure 3 Gait Open
Han Solo - Western Pleasure 2 Gait Amateur, Western Pleasure 3 Gait Amateur, Western Pleasure TWHBEA Members Only, Western Pleasure
Leia Organa - Lite Shod 2 Gait, Lite Shod 3 Gait, Model
Ben Kenobi - English Pleasure 2 Gait Amateur, English Pleasure 3 Gait Amateur
Chewbacca - Model, English Pleasure Novice Riders, English Pleasure Novice Horse, English Pleasure TWHBEA Members Only

Since each horse must be inspected before each class, here's what our numbers look like.

DQP Inspected - 16
Horses Entered - 5

That's a big difference in numbers.  Wouldn't it stand to reason that if we were to find a percentage of HPA violations from these two different lists, than if we just went by the DQP Inspected number we'd have a much LOWER percentage of horses found in violation?

So let's take a look at the USDA list.  On page four at the bottom is the KWRHTA Derby Classic.  The information looks like this.

Start Date - 5/7/11
End Date - 5/7/11 (one day show)
Name and Location of Show - KWRHTA Derby Classic, Harrodsburg, KY
DQP Inspected - 96
Horses Entered - 69
Shoeing, Pads, Action - 8 (this usually means illegal equipment)
Unilateral Sore - 24
Foreign Substance - 4

Now, let's do the math.  First, 36 horses were found in violation.  This means the following.

DQP Inspected percentage of violations
36/96 = 37.5% violation

Horse Entered percentage of violations
36/69 = 52.1% violations

See what a big difference it makes?  And really, the thing is that we really are more accurate if we go with the amount of horses.  The first calculation makes it look like the show was 62.5% compliant.  But that just means that some of the same horses went in several different classes during the day.  If we actually look at the real number of horses, the show was only 47.9% in compliant.

Folks, that's over 50% of the horses at the KWHRTA Derby Classic show that were found in violation.  And the industry thinks there is no problem.

So I'm going to do some big calculations with this list once it's more thoroughly updated and we'll see some real statistics about what's going on in this industry.  Thanks again to the USDA for their help.  We're going to be able to continue to be able to expose the truth with this kind of data!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RESEARCH - A Lesson in Listening

I've spent a lot of time studying the gaits the Tennessee Walking Horse can perform.  The TWH is defined by his unique gait: a perfectly square, four beat movement where each foot hits the ground at a different moment with the same timing between each foot fall.  The head and neck will nod up and down from the withers so as to balance the hind end of the horse--it is physically impossible for a TWH to gait correctly without this head nod or "head shake."  This is known as the flat walk, and at faster speeds without sacrificing the form of the horse, it's known as the running walk.

The TWHBEA has an excellent explanation of the gait on their website, and since they are the breed registry, I believe it is the rule we should all follow.

The Flat Walk is a brisk, long-reaching walk that can cover from four to eight miles an hour. This is a four cornered gait with each of the horse's feet hitting the ground separately at regular intervals. The horse will glide over the track left by the front foot with his hind foot: right rear over right front, left rear over left front. The action of the back foot slipping over the front track is known as overstride. Overstride is unique to the walking horse breed. The hock should show only forward motion; vertical hock action is highly undesirable. A Tennessee Walking Horse will nod its head in rhythm with the cadence of its feet. This nodding head motion, along with overstride, are two features that are unique to the Tennessee Walking Horse. This distinctive head motion along with overstride are both things the judge should take into consideration when judging a Tennessee Walking Horse.

The Running Walk is the gait for which the walking horse is most noted. This extra-smooth, gliding gait is basically the same as the flat walk with a noticeable difference in the rate of speed between the two gaits. Proper form should never be sacrificed for excessive speed in a good running walk. The breed can travel 10 to 20 miles per hour at this gait. As the speed is increased, the horse over-steps the front track with the back by a distance of six to eighteen inches. The more "stride" the horse has, the better "walker" it is considered to be. It is this motion that gives the rider a feeling of gliding through the air as if propelled by some powerful but smooth-running machine. The running walk is a smooth, easy gait for both horse and rider. A true Tennessee Walking Horse will continue to nod while performing the running walk.

To watch this movement in action, check out Papa's Royal Delight, a barefoot and all natural stallion trained using only dressage methods, conditioning, and hard work.

The TWH gait is specifically defined as "each of the horse's feet hitting the ground separately at regular intervals."  But what I'm seeing in the show ring are horses that are either performing the pace or the stepping pace with what I see as a false head nod.  Now of course, as is nature's design, not every horse is going to perform perfectly at every single step.  However, the TWH can be conditioned to perform as perfectly as possible for his particular conformation and body type.  So it makes no sense to me that horses are being showcased in the show ring that are not performing the correct gait, especially the Big Lick horses.

I'd like to show everyone what I mean by this, and I think the easiest way I can do it is by a method I use myself that helps me more than any other when I'm working with a TWH on his gait: MY EARS.  When a horse is well conditioned to perform a flat walk or a running walk, then we can literally hear each individual hoof beat hitting the ground at a separate time.  Having a father who is into steam trains, I realized that the flat walk has the same rhythm that a steam train has.  So dipping into my childhood, I found that if I chant the old saying from the Little Engine That Could, "I think I can, I think I can" then I can see if the foot falls are matching up with my voice.  If they aren't, I do whatever exercises are needed to bring the horse around to where his feet are hitting the ground at separate intervals.

So here are some videos where I want to show you what I have seen the BL horse becoming.  You can listen and watch these videos to help you learn the foot falls.  Then you can watch horses in videos in the ring to see how the horse is moving and point out when it is and isn't in gait.

NOTE: THESE VIDEOS ARE BEING PUT HERE AS EXAMPLES OF GAIT SOUNDS ONLY.  THEY ARE NOT TO BE CRITICIZED IN ANY WAY, EITHER ON THE RIDER, TRAINER, OWNER, TACK, OR THE HORSE ITSELF.  I picked them because you can clearly hear the footfalls, as that's the focus of this post.  I respectfully request that the readers this blog not to contact the people who have posted these videos.

First, here's a great example of a flat walk.  Listen to the footfalls as best you can and try to ignore the wind.  You will hear each foot hit the ground individually.  Sometimes you might hear them falter a bit, but that's okay--that's normal with any horse.

He also has a wonderful head nod--straight up and down without the head swinging from side to side.  This is  key to a true flat walk--a horse that swings it's head side to side is physically not performing in the true flat walk.  A horse MUST nod his head up and down to truly be able to balance his hind end correctly.

Now let's listen to another gait, the tolt, as performed by an Icelandic Horse.  This is a fast gait akin to the rack, which many gaited horses and American Saddlebreds can perform.  The rack is not desirable in the TWH show ring, but there are Racking Horse shows that showcase the rack.  I'm adding it here so you can hear the separation of hoofbeats at a faster speed.  I have ridden Icies before, and they will perform a true flat walk--it is within their conformation to do it. I've been able to get several to perform it.  One was a horse who the owner told the trainer he wasn't gaited at all, and now the trainer and I have him gaiting everywhere!

If you ever get the chance to ride an Icy, I recommend it.  They have big personalities in small bodies, and are very strong and sure footed.  It's fun to ride that little gait all over the place!

Here is an example of a TWH performing a pace.  The pace is a completely two beat gait where the two feet on one side hit the ground then the two feet on the other.  It's basically a lateral trot.  Listen carefully for the two beats, like a march.  Not how the rider is bouncing and being slung from side to side.  This rider recognizes that her horse is pacing and wants to change it.

Here is an excellent example of a TWH performing the stepping pace.  Again the rider recognizes the horse is not performing well and wants to change it.  Listen to the footfalls: there is hesitation between them.  Also notice how the rider is being slightly bounced from side to side.

You will see this particular gait a lot on videos.  It is smooth for the rider depending on the footfalls, but it's bad for the horse.  They can perform it either being "strung out," where their nose sticks out far and the head bobs from side to side with no head nod, or they can be overflexed in the bridle with a hollow back where their body is not allowed to stretch out, so the horse starts short striding, or in layman's terms, mincing his steps.  Both motions are harmful to the horse's back and joints over time.

Now here's a listen to the footfalls of some BL horses.  This one is the best example because we can clearly hear the footfalls.  AGAIN, we are listening to footfalls ONLY.

And a couple more.

From what I hear, these are broken gaits.  there is not four beat gait here at all.  In fact, if you pause here and there during the videos, you will see that the horse isn't even in the correct gait and he will have two feet on one side in the air during forward motion.

I really don't understand how this is considered natural or the correct gait when it goes against the breed definition of the gait.  The feet are not "hitting the ground separately at regular intervals."  The sound is clearly broken up.

Now true, these horses are in training.  But I find if I watch horses in the show ring, they also are not performing the gait correct to the breed standard.  Pause the video during the classes and take a look at the footfalls.  The horses are clearly not in a four beat gait.  Plus the riders are being slung about, which is indicative of the pace and the stepping pace.

I worry that the flat walk is slowly being bred out of our breed because of the desire for the BL.  These are the horses that are showcased the most and that make the most money for this industry, so they are breeding for the BL.  Never mind what happens to those that don't "make it" as a BL horse.  When those horses are tossed aside as leftovers, those who buy them are having increasingly difficult times getting the true flat walk out of them.  Even though only 10 percent of the TWH show industry are BL horses, those are the horses the industry is overbreeding for, with thousands of foals every year with only a few able to "make it."

So I recommend to anyone that if you are considering breeding for a foal, find a stallion and a mare that are truly performing a true four beat gait.  See them go without pads and chains on and see what natural gait it truly has--the flat walk or a stepping pace.  This will preserve the initial breed standard for the breed, but it will also make your job as a rider to find that four beat gait much easier.

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