"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, August 31, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - USDA Defends Their VMOs

I'm glad that the Shelbyville Times-Gazette took the time to talk with the USDA and ask them about this. Overall, I doubt very seriously the USDA is going to bring a VMO who isn't experienced to a horse show like this. It sounds like his/her credentials are excellent, even if he's not overly experienced at HPA inspection work.

Click here for the article from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette titled "Inspector is capable, USDA says." I have copied and pasted the text below.

There was also a good comment on the FTTWH Facebook page by one of the members that pointed out that the VMOs don't do HPA work 100 percent of the time. They have other duties, such as inspecting slaughterhouses, studying herd health, and various other issues that the USDA works on to improve the health and welfare of livestock and food animals. VMOs that usually have familiarity with horses are assigned to take the courses to work on the HPA portion of the USDA. Overall, I think it's better to have experienced vets inspecting my horses rather than a DQP who doesn't have much more experience than learning how to sore from his uncle.

But also, as this member pointed out, the VMO could have 30 years of experience inspecting horses and he'd still get flack from the industry if he turned a horse down. Let's face it: these are people who are criminals, and they will always claim they are innocent. It's the same in all levels of crime. They will blame everyone else for being caught, their abusive father, their drugged-out mother, whomever they can blame. But they fail to see that THEY are the person who actually committed the crime and therefore are responsible. And unfortunately, in the TWH industry, the penalties aren't stiff enough to discourage them from doing it again. Jimmy McConnell is a prime example. He's fresh off a two-week suspension in May 2011, and here he is, being allowed to show again. Is that fair to the horse who is being abused at his hands? Is it fair to other exhibitors who have not sored their horses and are trying to compete fair and square? Whether or not he's found guilty or innocent, the horse has still suffered, and that's what's most disturbing here.


Inspector is capable, USDA says

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Shelbyville Times-Gazette

The U.S. Department of Agriculture responded to the Times-Gazette's inquiry about the experience level of veterinarians inspecting horses during last Saturday evening's Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

Industry leaders expressed their frustration with USDA inspectors after the agency turned down six horses before the aged stallion class.

"Our personnel have extensive experience in the care and handling of animals," said Andre Bell in an e-mail to the Times-Gazette. "The veterinary medical officer we believe you're inquiring about is an equine veterinarian and a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

"Along with all of our inspectors he went through an orientation when he joined the agency, also a weeklong training in March, and has inspected animals at a number of horse shows this season.

"USDA takes its work under the Horse Protection Act very seriously and we are confident in the training and requirements of the VMOs that we employ for the program."

The USDA's comments were not received in time for inclusion in a front page story Tuesday.

One inspector came under heavy criticism by trainers and officials for what they said was a lack of experience inspecting at horse shows.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

NEWS and ARTICLES - Horses Being Turned Down During Black Week

I have great news! The USDA is coming down hard at the Celebration, just as we have needed them to all long. Click here for the article from The Tennessean.

Of course, instead of accepting the problem for what it is, accepting that the horses are turning up sore, and actually trying to stop the madness, the industry is up in arms about how unfairly they're being treated. Jimmy McConnell, seven time HPA violator and fresh off suspension for unilateral sore in May 2011, was quite angry.

“They were unreasonable,” McConnell said. “The one that checked mine didn’t know what he was doing. His first show was Jackson, Miss., and here he is checking the world championship show. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Dark and Shady will not be able to compete in next weekend’s championship.

“This is as bad as it gets,” McConnell said when asked about his frustration level. “(Dark and Shady) has never been turned down in his life.”

McConnell said most of the horses that didn’t compete were turned down by the USDA.

“It’s hard to fight city hall,” McConnell said. “They’ve got an agenda.”

McConnell has no right to complain which VMOs show up for inspections, if it was even a VMO that checked his horse--he doesn't even say. He has no right to say whether or not the person knew what they were doing because he's not a professional DQP or VMO himself. And overall, I imagine the VMO could have been a veteran and he probably would have complained. Quite frankly, the USDA does have an agenda: to stop soring and catch violators. It's a pretty simple agenda.

Sadly, I think this is something we can always expect from the industry: continued denial and outrage against those who want to see the law followed. It doesn't matter how many horses are turned down: anyone who's horse has been turned down is going to say the USDA does not know what they're doing, that they have been targeted, that there's an agenda, etc., etc. It doesn't matter what it is, they will find an excuse for why their horse was turned down. This is instead of realizing where the real problem lies: within the industry itself. As one member from the FTTWH Facebook page commented: shouldn't this be a wake up call to the industry? Shouldn't they realize that enough is enough, and that soring needs to end? I would hope that people who think their horse shouldn't have been turned down will stop pointing the finger at everyone else but themselves and start looking at what needs to change within the industry. TWH industry: if you want the government off your back, then stop soring horses and stop pretending you're trying to do so.

Please, take the time to send your emails to Dr. Gipson and Dr. Cezar to let them know we support their decisions and are happy to know they are coming down hard. We have to keep our hopes up that this work will continue through next week and that the horses will be spared this continued spectacle of abuse.


SHELBYVILLE — A surprisingly small field competed in the aged stallions preliminary class at the 73rd Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration on Saturday night.

Only nine of the 22 horses listed in the program competed in the A and B divisions.

Just four of the 11 horses listed in the program competed in B Division.

Dark and Shady and Moody Star, two of the top contenders in B Division, did not compete.

Rowdy Rev, another highly touted contender, did not compete in the A Division. Only five of the 11 horses listed in the program competed in A Division.

Folsom Prison Blues, ridden by Rodney Dick of Unionville, won the A Division.

Puttin’ Cash on the Line, with Justin Harris in the saddle, took reserve honors in A Division. Joe Cotten rode Johnny Ritz to a third-place finish.

Gary Edwards rode Game World to victory in B Division. The Golden Sovereign, with Tim Smith in the saddle took reserve honors. Bill Cantrell rode My Kinda Luck to a third-place showing.

Dark and Shady, one of the top contenders, was turned down by a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector for an alleged violation of the Horse Protection Act that prohibits abusive and inhumane training practices. Horses that are turned down for HPA violations are disqualified for the remainder of the show.

“The government went nuts,” said Jimmy McConnell, Dark and Shady’s trainer who has won three of the last six big stakes. “They don’t know what they’re doing. Absolutely don’t know what they’re doing.”

McConnell said the government was checking every horse in the aged stallions class strictly.

“They were unreasonable,” McConnell said. “The one that checked mine didn’t know what he was doing. His first show was Jackson, Miss., and here he is checking the world championship show. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Dark and Shady will not be able to compete in next weekend’s championship.

“This is as bad as it gets,” McConnell said when asked about his frustration level. “(Dark and Shady) has never been turned down in his life.”

McConnell said most of the horses that didn’t compete were turned down by the USDA.

“It’s hard to fight city hall,” McConnell said. “They’ve got an agenda.”

Moody Star was the 2010 reserve champion.

McConnell, 64, was seeking his fourth big stake title.

That would have tied him with Shelbyville’s Billy Gray for second on the list of trainers with the most big stake championships. Winston Wiser holds the record with five titles.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

RESEARCH - Black Week Begins

Well, it's back to that time of year again, where the celebration of abused horses occurs here in America. I'm sure the USDA will be out in force, and let's hope they find hundreds of violations.

I decided to look up information on the judges for this year's Black Week. There a five judges for the Celebration. Four of them are HPA violators. From the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration new page on their website:

"The 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration will feature 12 years of Celebration judging experience within the five members of the judging panel. Jennifer Bingham, Shelbyville, Tenn., Jamie Hankins, Paris, Ky., Ronnie Spears, Tullahoma, Tenn., Jamie Bradshaw, Union Grove, Ala., and Jeff Willis, Shelbyville, Tenn. will adjudicate the 73rd Annual Celebration."

Jamie Hankins - 3 violations: 7 months in 1990-1991, 2 weeks in 2002, and ticketed in 2010.

Ronnie Spears - 6 violations: 6 month suspension from USDA in 2001, 1 month in 2008, and fresh off a 6 month suspension that started and ended (quite conveniently) during the off season, from 10-2010 to 4-2011. He also received 3 tickets in 2010 in June, July and September, so that recent suspension could be for one of those tickets.

Jamie Bradshaw - 2 volations: 8 months suspension in 1998-1999 (again, during the off season) and 2 weeks in 2003

Jeff Willis - 3 violations: 9 months in 2002-2003 (also during the off season), 2 weeks in 2004 and 2 weeks in 2005.

Let's also remember that Hankins was the judge at the show last month where the bad image horse was not only allowed to show but he didn't even excuse the horse from the ring.

Note also that three of the four of the really long suspensions were during the off season of showing, and they were allowed to resume their duties right when show season was underway. This seems particularly suspicious to me.

It saddens me to know that these poor creatures will be judged by those who have committed a crimes against them in the past. I see it like having a burglar watch your house while you're out of town. I don't understand why, when the industry says they want to end soring, still hires those who are documented violators to be BOD members, officers, judges, DQPs, and the like. I believe this is a continued example of why soring will not be stopped within the industry and why we absolutely need to law to be upheld by the USDA.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

RESEARCH - The Most Important Comments to the Proposed Penalty Structure

So I've read a lot of the comments on the proposal penalty structure as written by the USDA. I think it is extremely important to share the comments submitted by Mark Matson on behalf of the International Walking Horse Association (IWHA). To explain, the IWHA is the only HIO that allows Big Lick horses in their venue that actually does not allow sore horses through. They have a strong penalty structure and make sure no "bad image" horses enter the ring. I have heard a lot of really good things about their shows, and their dedication to ending soring is by far very strong and a real asset to the TWH industry.

I decided to post the comments from the IWHA because I believe they are the best out there. They truly point out the real reasons why soring continues and why the industry continues to fight against the new penalties. The essay is organized as follows.

Industry decline; is the USDA responsible?
Penalties vs. Inspections
Test Variability vs. Test Subjectivity
The Borderline Horse - One time in, one time out
Can the USDA Mandate Penalties?
The Matter of HIOs as "State Actors"
Due Process and Double Jeopardy
Is there really a problem?
Submitted for consideration

This fact was extremely telling:

A couple or three years ago, a well-known trainer was interviewed for a morning television program the morning of the first evening of the National Celebration. He stated during the interview that soring was something that happened 40 years ago, but it was relatively rare today except for a few bad apples. That very night he received a ticket for a bilateral sore horse.

And the conclusion is spot on:

In conclusion, those in the walking horse industry, who oppose this rulemaking and these penalties are attempting to defend the indefensible. In particular, in this case, they are attempting to defend and protect the interests of violators. They want to defeat any changes to the Regulations, maintain the status quo, keep their corrupt HIOs in play, and maintain the ability of trainers to sore these horses during training. In short, outside of their ever glib lip service, virtually everything they stand for stands in direct contradiction to the purpose and intent of the Horse Protection Act.

I was going to further highlight the most poignant parts of the comments, but really, this entire essay absolutely covers everything that is wrong with the industry, why they continue to support soring, why the penalties need to be put in place, and why the USDA needs to step up to the plate and force the end of soring.

Please take the time to read the entire comments. They can help everyone get a better understanding of not only why this is happening, but why it absolutely needs to stop now.



APHIS DOCKET NO. 2011-0030




DATE: JULY 26, 2011


A recent communication from the president of the Walking Horse Trainers Association to its members read as follows:

“July 11, 2011

Dear WHTA Members,

July 26, 2011 at midnight could change the future of our walking horse industry. This is the deadline to respond to the USDA Rulemaking. (You have received the appropriate filing addresses in a previous news brief to you.)

This is a heartfelt plea to all WHTA members to take a stand and send in your PERSONAL response. This is the most significant matter that has impacted the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry in almost 40 years. OUR LIVELIHOOD IS AT STAKE. OUR PROFESSION IS AT STAKE. We CAN NOT live with the mandatory penalties.

Our Trainers Association has 650 members. It is absolutely imperative that each member sends in a response. Logically thinking, I know this is an impossible goal. However, if we can get at least a 70% response rate…this would be a huge accomplishment.

Remember, the time to ACT is NOW. We can’t answer today’s and especially tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. That shoe no longer fits.

I challenge each of you to take the time and respond. This could be the only opportunity to save our future.

Thank You,

Bill Cantrell, WHTA President”

There cannot exist a more damning self-indictment of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry than what is contained in the foregoing communication and others similar to it. Penalties are only assessed to those who have already been deemed to be in violation of the HPA. Put plainly, penalties only apply to violators. One might logically then ask, “So, why is this industry so over-wrought regarding penalties? Why are these penalties described as so onerous as to threaten trainers’ livelihoods and the profession of training show horses in this breed when penalties only apply to ………. violators?” The reason for this all-consuming concern with penalties is as elementary as it is obvious, and the trainers understand it better than anyone. It is because they can’t conceive of a world in which they have to train horses without engaging in - as an integral part of that training - the prohibited acts described in the Horse Protection Act. Engaging in those prohibited acts as part of a horse’s training, regardless of whether it is a little or a lot, becomes a far riskier business in the face of significantly increased penalties. And, of course, that is the whole idea of the proposed mandated penalties becoming law.

Kenny Smith (KWHA) points out in his comment that if these penalties are enacted, then there will be more shows that will not affiliate with an HIO. Why would that be? The obvious reason is that those shows want trainers to come, and the trainers won’t show their sore-trained horses where there is increased risk of suspension. Therefore, the trainers will put pressure on the show managers to not affiliate with an HIO, in spite of the fact that doing so presents serious risks and liability directly to show management. The potential for this effect was mentioned as far back as in the listening sessions held in the mid-1990s. The trainers always point to this effect as a possibility, and they should know because it is they, who are largely responsible for it. This threat is made every time there is discussion about more effective inspections and/or stiffer penalties, which are clearly not wanted by the trainers. Again, penalties don’t enter the equation unless first there are violations. That the trainers view these proposed penalties as a life-altering concern points straight to the fact that they fully anticipate violating.

One of the most telling aspects involves the issue of “probation”, which does not exist under the proposed penalty structure. Probation wipes a trainer’s slate clean at the beginning of each year. Trainers have always wanted probation. Probation only matters to violators, and especially to those who are, or expect to be, repeat offenders, and it is otherwise of little consequence. Is it not another glaring self-indictment that trainers consider probation to be important to the point that they believe their very livelihood is threatened without it? But, how could that be possible unless trainers fully expect to be repeat violators in numbers sufficient to profoundly impact the industry? The plain fact is that they do violate in sufficient numbers currently to have such an impact, and they know it, and under these penalties that impact will be borne by the industry unless they simply STOP VIOLATING; STOP ENGAGING IN, AS PART OF TRAINING, THE PROHIBITED ACTS, DEVICES, SUBSTANCES AND PRACTICES OUTLINED IN THE HPA.

While penalties are to serve as a deterrent, it has been well established that the penalties set by HIOs have been virtually non-functional in that regard, as evidenced by the large number of repeat offenders – many of which are multiple repeat offenders. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Task Force (2008), the Independent Review Committee of the greater equine industry (1994), the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) (2008 – 2010) and APHIS all concluded that industry penalties were woefully inadequate to effectuate the purpose and intent of the HPA (which, incidentally, is not merely to keep the sore horse out of the ring, but to abolish the practice of soring). In stark contrast to the approach of the walking horse industry, and provided as an example of the approach of other breeds, Denny Hales, then president of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association, stated with regard to AQHA’s approach to penalties for violations, “The first time we slap your hand, but the second time we cut off your arm.” (2008) The mandated penalties proposed in this rulemaking were drafted in order to address the industry’s weak, worthless penalties as well as to provide uniformity across the HIOs. While still significantly less than the maximum penalties set forth in the HPA, these penalties are designed to skew the risk/reward ratio in the direction of making engaging in the practice of soring a much higher risk venture than it has been with the intent to discourage the practice. The soring problem in this industry requires a systemic, across-the-board solution, and these penalties are part of that.

Industry decline; Is the USDA responsible?

This industry has had a party of corrupt, going-through-the-motions inspections coupled with meaningless penalties for decades with predictable results. Even in the absence of meaningful penalties, this industry is bearing the impact of the soring, cheating and corruption as over the past five years people have left the breed, its shows, and industry in record numbers. Today, the membership of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association is roughly half of what it was five short years ago, and mare breeding and foals registered have declined by roughly 80% to numbers that are decades old. Attendance at shows has declined substantially as well, and many shows that have not folded are barely hanging on.

The decline in this industry since the 2006 National Celebration is due to a combination of key factors. The overall economy has certainly been a factor over the past three years, affecting all breeds and breed industries. However, the decline in this industry actually started during the USDA “listening sessions” in 2004 – 2006, and then rapidly accelerated after the 2006 Celebration in spite of the economy soaring to unprecedented heights in 2007. By contrast with most other breeds, the walking horse industry has seen a far worse decline, due primarily to the following factors specific to it:

1) Knowing the industry wants to keep the sore horse in the ring, and will not change of its own volition, many have also now given up on the USDA’s ability to solve the problem;

2) The age of the internet, cell phone cameras, etc., has made it impossible for the industry to control the flow of information, and can no longer keep a lid on its dirt.

3) Many on the sore side have left because they fear the USDA will ultimately win, and they will no longer be able show a sore horse like they want to;

4) Many die-hard sore horse people have made it clear that they will destroy this industry before they will give up their “right” to show a sore horse.

5) Certain grossly non-compliant HIOs continue to put sore horses in the ring while hiding under the cloak of USDA certification.

For many people, the far greater availability and immediacy of information has moved these matters past the point of mere suspicion, and into realm of knowledge. It is one thing to suspect soring and corruption, but quite another to know it for a fact, and most people in competition are not interested in being a victim of something they know to be corrupt. The exception to that is the person who becomes involved in the corruption, believing they can outdo someone else at unjustly advantaging themselves in some way. Corruption attracts corrupt people, and this industry has been like a magnet for them. Control of information was critical to the ability to question and attack the credibility of those who made claims regarding the ongoing soring and corruption. However, such control of the flow of information has simply become impossible in recent years, and the industry is paying for its sins as the shroud has been removed.

The USDA’s enforcement actions have not caused the decline in the walking horse breed and industry. It is the industry’s continued militant and defiant attitude toward true, effective HPA enforcement that has caused this decline. It is the ongoing war they have waged to keep the sore horse in the ring that has caused it. If this breed would embrace the true purpose and intent of the HPA, which is to end the practice of soring, then even with rigorous inspections this breed would be a rising star. This industry’s self-destructive love for the sore-trained horse is like an out of control ship bashing itself against the rocks of the law. It wants to blame the rocks while by its own choice it has put itself in harm’s way.

If the USDA bears some responsibility for the industry decline, it is precisely due to inadequate enforcement, a matter which they are now attempting to address. However, it should be noted that past enforcement attempts by the USDA have always been met with strong opposition by the industry, including the industry’s use of certain senators and representatives to back off the USDA. While there is a long history of political influence peddling by the industry, the most recent example of that has been the gross misinformation fed by certain industry parties, including certain rogue HIOs, to certain members of the current House Appropriations Committee. That misinformation resulted directly in the loss of the additional $392,000 in appropriations for USDA attendance at shows. It also resulted in the inappropriate potshot taken at the USDA by the Committee, including a threat to further cut appropriations. Interestingly, the Committee also reprimanded the USDA for not going through the rulemaking process to address these matters in spite of the fact that the very HIOs and aforementioned industry parties are 100% unified in their opposition to opening the HP Regulations for rulemaking.

Despite all indicators suggesting this industry should change its ways and finally accept that soring must end, it continues to fight, to its own detriment.

Penalties vs. Inspections

The walking horse industry is attempting to base a large part of its opposition to increased penalties on the claim of subjectivity of inspections. Dr. Steve Mullins, president of the SHOW HIO, makes a great deal of this in his personal response, as do others. First, the industry is attempting to tie penalties and inspections together as a bundle. They are not so tied, but are separate, albeit related, issues.

However, before addressing this issue it should be noted that Dr. Mullins is one of several veterinarians who have long-running, close ties with the industry, and most or all of whom have or have had clientele who sore horses. Those veterinarians are automatically suspect due to their obvious conflicts of interest. In fact, it is well known that some of these veterinarians have even helped their clients get horses in the ring by giving injections to block feet to get a horse through inspection prior to a class. Simply put, they are sympathetic to trainers who sore horses. Unfortunately, holding a DVM degree does not automatically confer ethics and morals on someone. However, even if we ignore that aspect, Dr. Mullins and most of the rest of the industry do not understand the difference between test variability and subjectivity.

Test Variability vs. Test Subjectivity

Test variability and subjectivity are two separate issues. All tests of every kind, shape and size, whether heavily operator dependent or independent and done by instruments – all of them have an inherent amount of variability. Run any test that is sufficiently sensitive multiple times, and you will get varying results. Does that mean that tests have no value? Clearly, the answer to that is an emphatic, “No!” Whether a test has value largely depends on whether it provides sufficient information to make whatever determination is necessary, and to do it with an acceptable amount of repeatability (within the same operator and lab) and reproducibility (between labs and operators), often referred to as “R & R”. Whether a test will serve its purpose most often involves whether the test can properly and sufficiently discriminate between two things. Once it is determined that a test can provide adequate discrimination, then confidence intervals are determined, commonly set at 95%. In other words, if a test is run 20 times, run properly according to the test protocol, then 19 out of the 20 times it will provide a result between X and Y. That interval is called the 95% confidence interval. The interval for reproducibility is always wider than for repeatability. These intervals are established empirically; then once the entire procedure is approved and the R & R approved, it is published as a standard. Test variability is an inherent, normal part of every kind of test and testing. The point is that product, whether it is a widget or a trained horse, should not be produced that is right at the limit of being out of specification. Good, sound training that is designed to develop the natural abilities of the horse, and which is designed to avoid the horse encountering and reacting to any kind of pain, will not produce a horse that is borderline with respect to HPA compliance. If a horse is borderline, which means its condition is at the limit and within the variability of the test (results of the test may be in one time and out the next), then that is the direct result of a conscious decision by a trainer to push the training in that direction.

Subjectivity is different than test variability. Subjectivity has to do with how much an operator can or does influence a test result, whether intentionally or unintentionally. All tests involving a human operator have an inherent amount of subjectivity, even assuming an operator is trying to do the test procedure exactly to protocol. The question becomes one of whether the amount of subjectivity is sufficient to render the test a bad test. Tests that are bad due to subjectivity are those in which the results are variable or skewed, due either to mal-intention on the part of the operator or which are beyond the operator’s ability to mitigate the operator-dependent variability. There are tests which, although highly dependent on operator skill, are still perfectly valid tests due to the operator properly controlling to the best of his/her ability those aspects of the test dependent on operator skill. Tests that allow a high amount of subjectivity can yield results that may vary from meaningless to outright misleading and harmful, depending on 1) the skill of the operator and/or 2) the honesty of the operator. The two areas of claimed subjectivity by this industry are with regard to the scar rule and palpation for reaction to pain. In both cases, it is the honesty of the operator that is the greatest issue, by far. IF a DQP (or VMO) wants to do the job correctly, then true subjectivity will be of little or no consequence. While normal test variability will remain as a factor, it will come into play almost exclusively with borderline horses. As a matter of fact, it is entirely possible to inspect horses with a high confidence level for properly determining compliance. Further, the confidence level is far above 95%.

Palpation presents a one-sided potential error when subjectivity comes into play. Contrary to what is popular, when the protocol for palpation is properly followed, it is not possible to apply enough pressure to make a horse react to pain that isn’t there. Peer reviewed work that has been done with the pressure algometer has demonstrated conclusively that to elicit a pain response in a truly sound horse requires many multiples of the amount of point pressure that it is humanly possible to apply with the ball of the thumb. That finding supports reams of anecdotal evidence to the same effect. In fact, truly sound horses don’t even react to the end of the thumb, or even to the thumbnail, no matter how hard they might be applied. That is not to say that it is not possible for a dishonest DQP to cite someone, claiming a pain response that did not occur, a situation that is relatively uncommon. Citing honest exhibitors with sound horses is relatively uncommon, as HIOs and shows do not generally want to discourage honest, sound people from showing, since the entry fees from them provide the funds to pay winnings to those with dishonest, sore horses. It is, however, not only possible, but is common practice to intentionally apply inadequate pressure to truly determine whether a horse is sore. Untold numbers of sore horses have gone in the ring using this dishonest technique. This common practice with certain HIOs is the other key reason (aside from meaningless penalties) why soring persists to the extent it does today.

The same scenario exists with enforcing the scar rule, a rule which involves tissue pathology other than true scars. The USDA has provided clear guidance regarding what is and is not acceptable, and it is, in fact, not difficult to determine whether a horse is in or out of compliance. Under IWHA’s approach, a horse that is not clearly out of compliance is not cited; in other words, the tie goes to the horse. However, the intent of the Act is that “evidence of abuse indicative of soring” will be cited, and if such evidence exists, then IWHA will cite the violator. Effective enforcement of the scar rule is necessary to achieve the purpose and intent of the HPA, which is to put a stop to soring altogether, including during training – not just to keep sore horses out of the ring.

The Borderline Horse – One time in; One time out

However, even assuming the desire to do the job properly, there exists the matter of DQPs and VMOs making varying calls on a horse. One might ask, “How can that be?” The obvious answer is that, driven by competition, some trainers chose to ride right on the line of being in or out. In other words, they are running right at the end or limit of the specification, and within the variability of the test. This approach is not unique to trainers in this industry. Driven by exactly the same kind of competitive factors, manufacturing companies choose every day to do exactly the same thing with their products, and face exactly the same “one time in – one time out” consequences. What is key to note is that THEY ALONE MAKE THAT CHOICE TO RIDE THE LINE. Nobody forces them to do it. It is their choice, and has nothing to do with a bad test. Just as it is not necessary to manufacture any other product right at the specification limit, it is also not necessary to ride that line in order to train a horse for competition.

While this industry cries, “Subjectivity! Subjectivity!”, one may rest assured that the last thing they want is for subjectivity to be driven out of this process. Why? Because 99.99% of the true subjectivity in inspections takes place on the part of dishonest DQPs and HIOs who continue to feather horses instead of properly inspecting them. Is that due to inadequate training or knowledge? No. It is due to simple dishonesty. It is due to the fact that this industry has intentionally and blatantly abused the inspection area to keep the sore horse in play. While oxymoronic to be sure, certain rogue HIOs have abused their certified status to literally claim a “USDA-Certified” stamp of approval on the butt of the sore horse going in the ring. Does that mean that the entire HIO/DQP approach cannot work? No. Clearly certain HIO programs are grossly fraudulent, whose primary goal is to protect their HPA violator customer base. However, just as there are honest people involved in the enforcement of any other law or rule, we can have honest people, who will do this job right. The only viable solution is to get rid of all those programs and individuals who are dishonest, and whose purpose and intent is quite the opposite of the HPA.

Can the USDA Mandate Penalties?

The more appropriate question is, “Should it be necessary?” The entire HPA, its purpose and intent, and the authority of the USDA as set forth in Section 9 of it, is mandated. That is what a law is; a mandate. Regardless of the fact that many in this industry hate it, and think that if they want to show a sore horse it should be nobody’s business but their own, the HPA is federal law. In fact, it actually should not even be necessary to mandate these penalties to HIOs, assuming that the HIOs’ goal is effective enforcement in line with the purpose and intent of the HPA. That it is even necessary for the USDA to mandate penalties exposes the real problem, which is that aforementioned assumption is false. In fact, the primary purpose and intent of certain of the HIOs is to function as a roadblock to effective HPA enforcement. Ultimately the only real solution is to get rid of the HIOs for which that assumption does not hold. They are not hard to spot.

The matter of HIOs as “State Actors”

HIOs, which indeed exist as private organizations, but which do not WILLINGLY enforce the law in the way deemed appropriate and necessary by the USDA have no business being certified, and need to be summarily decertified. The whole notion of certified HIO inspection programs was that the industry, with USDA oversight, would police itself. However, inherent in that notion was the presumption that industry self-policing would be sufficiently effective to achieve the purpose and intent of the HPA, which was to end the practice of soring. Instead, the industry has abused its role in order to achieve exactly the opposite of what was intended. The over-arching doctrine in all of these matters is that the HPA must be effectively enforced. Anything that stands in the way of that being accomplished is thwarting the USDA’s responsibility in that regard, and therefore, must be removed, including any HIO that does not properly function in the capacity of a certified inspection program. It is the USDA who is the sole authority in these matters; not the HIOs, and it is the USDA, who is ultimately responsible. All HIO inspection programs were certified by the USDA based on the aforementioned presumption, and by the exact same token, where that presumption has proven to be false, then that certification should be summarily revoked.

There is nothing which prevents a private organization, such as a certified HIO inspection program, to put rules and policies in place which would achieve the purpose and intent of the HPA. However, certified HIO inspection programs were brought into existence via rulemaking, and therefore, are part of the law, for the sole purpose of enforcing the HPA. HIOs which refuse to voluntarily function in the manner deemed necessary to achieve the purpose and intent of the HPA have simply made the case for their non-existence via decertification.

Further, it is completely untenable that the USDA could breathe into existence, via certification, an entity to perform a function under the Act, but over which the USDA ultimately has no control. The law of contradiction precludes two different entities having authority over this matter simultaneously, but unless the USDA has the authority to control, including the authority to decertify, including cease and desist authority, over an HIO, then multiple authorities do exist, which means there is no real authority. Simply put, any HIO which refuses to take direction from the USDA has set itself up as its own authority in matters for which Congress has vested sole authority in the USDA. By itself, such action on the part of any HIO should be grounds for immediate, summary decertification.

Due Process and Double Jeopardy

All of the complaints about due process rights being abridged are disingenuous, at best. The last thing these people really want is totally fair, objective and effective inspections coupled with all alleged violators going to federal court. However, SHOW has been the primary author behind the industry’s responses in this regard. The cases they cite simply do not apply. In the Derickson case, the primary focus of the USDA federal case was transporting a sore horse. However, it was first necessary to establish that the horse was sore as the basis for proceeding the transport aspect. What is commonly ignored by the industry is that when the federal penalty was imposed regarding the soring violation, credit was given that actually exceeded the suspension time already served under the HIO penalty. The other case cited took place at a time when there was no express or implied agreement between the USDA and any HIOs, although the prospect of such an agreement had been discussed. As such, that case simply had no application to the situation whatsoever. Regardless, the USDA has always been clear that they reserve the right to bring a federal case in situations where the HIO penalty was inadequate or in areas which were not addressed by the HIOs, such as transporting.

The fact is that these matters of “state actor”, “double jeopardy”, and so forth are being used by the industry in a blatant attempt throw any wrench they can find into the works to prevent the USDA from dealing with this 40-year old, ongoing problem of the sore horse. That these horses do not today have gross scars like they did in the 1960s and 1970s does not in the least mean that this problem has been solved. The industry’s position on these penalties stands as proof enough of that by itself. In the Dericksons’ case, they did not dispute that the horse was sore. Yet, that seems to be of little concern while this case is oft cited, albeit incorrectly, as one of double jeopardy. Clearly, this industry continues to be far more concerned about the interests of violators than it is in protecting the interests of those who abide by the rules and the law, and in enforcing the law.

Is there really a problem?

If you listen to many within the industry, they claim the soring problem is blown way out of proportion, and is basically a thing of the past. A couple or three years ago, a well-known trainer was interviewed for a morning television program the morning of the first evening of the National Celebration. He stated during the interview that soring was something that happened 40 years ago, but it was relatively rare today except for a few bad apples. That very night he received a ticket for a bilateral sore horse. The industry talks about all the “great strides” that it has made, which always compares our current state to something worse rather than what it should be. As support for their claims, they commonly cite compliance rates. However, the HPA compliance figures so often cited by the industry are statistically meaningless. The only potential purpose they serve is as an extreme minimum reference point, the true compliance rate being relatively far worse. The reasons the true compliance rate is far worse are: 1) the very DQP programs in question are those reporting a large percentage of the individual shows’ violation rates, the USDA not being present at 94% of the shows; 2) the overall rate includes the shows of “sound” HIOs, which have very low violation rates due to rigorous enforcement; 3) the overall rate does not include the horses not brought to inspection when the USDA is present; 4) the overall rate includes horses which get through inspection via use of drugs, no drug testing having been implemented in spite of the fact that precisely 2/3 of the 400+ swab samples taken by the USDA in 2009 were positive for illegal foreign substances, a high percentage of those including numbing agents.

It is interesting to see all the comments from people within the walking horse industry, who all think the current system works fine, and no new rules are needed. They are the only ones who think so. By all measures from virtually anyone outside the industry, its efforts at self-regulation are an utter and total failure. As previously noted, this is the recent conclusion of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Task Force, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and was also noted by the 1994 Independent Review Committee of the greater equine community.

The International Walking Horse Association, one of the certified HIOs, inspected 21 shows last year and will do more this year. We support showing these horses in every division from Country Pleasure to the Padded Performance horse. We have put thousands of entries in the ring, entries which include both padded and flat shod, and we have written very few violations. Many/most of these horses, both padded and flat shod, have successfully shown multiple times, so it is not a fluke. Put another way, if people properly train these horses without subjecting them to the things prohibited in the HPA, then inspections are not the subjective role of the dice that this industry wants to claim they are. On the other hand, there are many people who will not show their horses with us, and the reasons are glaringly apparent. It isn’t because of “subjectivity” or any of that nonsense. In fact, it is precisely because of the lack thereof. In other words, rigorous but fair inspections are themselves serving as a deterrent against non-compliant horses showing with IWHA, and that is exactly as it should be. For those who are foolish enough to consider bringing a non-compliant horse, the penalties are a further deterrent. Yes, there will undoubtedly be some who will still try, but they will either change their ways, or they will be out of it on suspension, and that is the whole idea.

Unfortunately, a large portion of our show industry remains intent on keeping the status quo in play, and it is killing our breed and our industry. In the world of people who break the law and have no real compunction about it unless they get caught, at the top of their “wish list” is to have no law. But, if you have to have a law, then the next best thing is to have no real penalties for breaking it. However, better yet, put yourself in charge of enforcing it so that you use it to your own advantage and to disadvantage others. Of course, at the top of the list to disadvantage would be anyone who thinks such an enforcement system presents a problem and needs to be changed. To those knowledgeable, this scenario is all too familiar. We need those who sore horses during training to go away, as well as the HIOs that cater to them. Only when this industry is no longer a safe haven for those types will we see a brighter future as a breed and show industry. The key is to get rid of all those programs and individuals who are dishonest, and whose purpose and intent is quite the opposite of the HPA. Once that is done, then it may not be perfect at that point, as humans are still involved and always will be, but it will be a lot closer to perfect than the corrupt mess we have today with certain notable HIOs. Is it any wonder that we have not solved this problem and have so much concern about how loss of probation affects violators when those charged with enforcing the HPA regularly undermine it with their non-compliant inspections?

I can testify from personal experience that this job can be done correctly, fairly, and effectively. It very simply comes down to having people who want to do it that way. When HPA enforcement is carried out correctly, including imposing meaningful penalties, it

1) will serve as an effective deterrent,

2) is fair,

3) will shortly put an end to soring,

4) will result in the loss of some people and horses in the this industry (the so-called “harm”), but,

5) will result in the bad elements being replaced with a better cut of people and position this industry for great growth.


In conclusion, those in the walking horse industry, who oppose this rulemaking and these penalties are attempting to defend the indefensible. In particular, in this case, they are attempting to defend and protect the interests of violators. They want to defeat any changes to the Regulations, maintain the status quo, keep their corrupt HIOs in play, and maintain the ability of trainers to sore these horses during training. In short, outside of their ever glib lip service, virtually everything they stand for stands in direct contradiction to the purpose and intent of the Horse Protection Act.

IWHA supports these penalties, and asks that upon consideration of the potential modifications listed below, that the Secretary write these penalties into the Horse Protection Regulations. Further, we believe that there should not exist perceptible differences between HIOs with regard to HPA enforcement, including in the penalties imposed, and they should certainly not be allowed to exist as a competitive factor between HIOs. Further, IWHA strongly encourages the USDA to swiftly propose language to summarily decertify HIOs who are grossly non-compliant, who continue to put sore horses in the ring, whose purpose and intent is clearly not in line with that of the HPA.

Submitted for consideration

Specific recommendations regarding the proposed Regulation language under this rulemaking, submitted for Department consideration:

1) The language needs to be altered to clearly prohibit anyone who is on either federal or HIO disqualification from participating at a horse show in any way other than as a spectator. The proposed language is not sufficiently clear in that regard. This language already exists in the Points of Emphasis, but should be included in the changes to the Regulations. Further, the prohibition from participating should extend to include coaching via electronic/radio communication from the suspended party to anyone working with a horse on the grounds or riding it.

2) Language needs to be added which, for purposes of serving suspensions, requires that they be served during the show season, which should be defined to exclude the months of December, January, and February. Allowing suspension to be served in the off-season provides no deterrent effect.

3) Language should be added which requires that in the event of a post-show violation, all prizes, awards, premiums, titles, trophies, etc., must be stripped from the violator and the horse found in violation, and the class must be re-tied. Failure to impose this requirement allows significant benefit to be derived in spite of a violation, which flies directly in the face of the purpose and intent of the Act. An alternative would be to significantly strengthen (such as x3 or x4) the penalty for post-show violations.

4) Any violation results in the horse being suspended for the duration of the suspension of greatest duration of any other party related to that violation. The horse is the vehicle to obtaining benefit via inappropriate means. The vehicle should be de-commissioned so that it is not merely passed to another party, and the inappropriate benefit still derived by doing so.

5) Finally, even the best penalties are meaningless so long as HIOs continue to exist, who have no intention to enforce the HPA (except perhaps via lip service). Strong language needs to be drafted to allow the USDA to immediately summarily decertify HIOs, making it clear that upon notice of decertification their certified status is revoked unless and until it is re-instated following successful appeal, and that they must remain inactive with regard to all HPA enforcement activities, including affiliating and inspecting shows, during the appeal process.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark L. Matson
July 26, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

ARTICLES - The American Farrier Journal's New Article About Soring AND Data That Pads Can Cause Damage

Thank you AFJ, for writing another excellent article about soring! This issue of AFJ came out two days ago. It's an excellent account of what's going on in the TWH industry, why changes need to be made and where changes need to come from. I was sent a scanned copy of this article, so I posted it on the FTTWH photobucket page. You can read it by going to the below link.

Click on the next button to go to the next page. If it is too small to read, hover your mouse at the top left of the actual page of the article and you'll see a toolbar come up. Choose Zoom In to zoom in on the article to make the print larger.

The changes that are coming are the RIGHT changes. They include "possible increased federal government funding for horse show inspections and increased emphasis on bringing violators to court under the Horse Protection Act (HPA)..." And additionally speakers at the Sound Horse Conference "maintained that more stringent enforcement and demands to ban soring by the equine industry are essential to eliminate this long-term problem."

Huge kudos go out to Jim Crew, for standing up for what is right. He "urges trainers to work together to save the TWH show horse. The first step, he maintains, is for everyone to quit violating the HPA." Crew goes on to say that "'You don't have to worry about going to a horse show and passing inspection if your horse is completely sound...and it's not going to be very long until all of the unsound horses will be on the truck back home and you'll be collecting ribbons.'" He also says one of the most valuable things I've ever heard a gaited horse farrier say: "'We need to get rid of that big long bulky shoe...We need to clean up the looks of that shoe, along with the size and style. Morgans and Arabians don't have these problems. I shoe some Saddlebreds, and those shoes are not nearly as long or as big as with the TWH, but they still get a lot done.'"

I really liked this particular data that Dr. Tracy Turner came up with--that stacking a horse causes abnormal hoof balance. In 2007, Dr. Turner used thermography to study 15 performance/BL TWHs. What follows is the data he discovered.

Among these horses, five had an abnormal pastern, three had abnormal hooves, five had both abnormal pasterns and hooves and one had an abnormal cannon bone.

...Turner says many of the unusual thermal patterns he's seen are related to abnormal hoof balance. Here's what he found with different types of horses:

With TWH horses wearing a pad and shoe package, 50% had a negative solar angle,* 50% had a hoof wall length disparity of more than 1/4 inches, 86% had a medial lateral angle** of more than 3 degrees and 7% had a rotation*** of over 5 degrees.

Among flat shod TWH equines, 22% had a negative solar angle, 67% had a hoof wall length disparity of over 1/4 inches, 67% had a medial lateral angle of more than 3 degrees and 15% had rotated by more than 5 degrees.

Looking at hoof imbalance in a normal TWH, Turner found none had a negative solar angle, 35% had a hoof wall length disparity of more than 1/4 inches, 7% had a medial lateral angle of more than 3 degrees and none these horses had a rotation of over 5 degrees.

With gaited Saddlebreds, 33% had a negative solar angle, 40% had a hoof wall length disparity of more than 1/4 inches, 20% had a medial lateral angle of more than 3 degrees and 3% had rotated by more than 5 degrees.

With normal horses, 3% had a negative solar angle, 38% had a hoof wall length disparity of more than 1/4 inches, 17% had a medial lateral angle of more than 3 degrees and none hadroated by more than 5 degrees.

Turner says hoof imbalance causes numerous problems with movement and other physical issues. "Horses that move better don't need to be fixed," he says.

His analysis suggests dorsal hoof wall thickness should be at least 16 mm. Sole thickness at the top of the coffin bone should be at least 10 mm.

This is excellent data that we should all learn from. Heck if you don't even understand the percentages, 14 of the 15 horses on stacks had some type of problem going on. These weren't even sored horses. That's really something to think about. Can we still claim that pads are okay? Well, the data keeps piling up to show that it's not.

Thanks again, American Farrier Journal, for pointing out the truths in the TWH industry. I know I personally can't thank you enough for keeping this atrocity in the spotlight so more and more people can learn what's really going on in the TWH industry.

*solar angle - the angle from the bottom of the coffin bone to the ground plane. (Picture here: Correct Angles of the Horse's Front Hoof)

**medial lateral angle - the angle between the inside (medial) side of the hoof to the outside (lateral) side of the hoof. (More information here: Lateral Medial Balance)

***rotation - when the coffin bone rotates forward down into the laminae, part of the sole or bottom, of the hoof. Rotation can lead to founder aka laminitis, which is the inflammation of the laminae due to pressure of the coffin bone. This is extremely painful for the horse.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RESEARCH - The Auburn Study: Yes, Pads Are Bad

I finally found the Auburn Study! I’m really excited about this. I know that sounds kinda funny, but the reason I’ve been wanting to find it is that the industry continues to say this study states that pads are okay. In fact, I know of one person who posted on the Facebook page that the study states that pads are actually good for the horse!*

So let's take a look at the study for real and go over what it was done for and why.*

The Auburn Study: Thermography in Diagnosis of Inflammatory Processes in Horses in Response to Various Chemical and Physical Factors

Thanks, American Horse Defense Fund, for posting this study!

The Auburn Study is well known throughout the industry. Unfortunately, it’s pretty obvious that most people have never even read it, or they would know what it was really done for. The opening sentence states: "To study the effects of acute and chronic inflammatory responses of the horse’s thoracic (front) and pelvic (hind) limbs, several studies were done over a seven year period at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Alabama." It says nothing about studying the effects of pads in this sentence at all. However, while they don't actually study the effects of pads, the conclusions they make after doing the work ends up showing us that pads are bad, and that they can cause problems for the horse.*

The study was done in a total of 18 phases. The phases can be read on the study itself, but overall, there is absolutely nothing in this study that talks about the pads themselves. The study itself is titled Thermography in Diagnosis of Inflammatory Processes in Horses in Response to Various Chemical and Physical Factors. This means that what they did was study the effects of using chemical irritants and different sized chains using thermography. Thermography itself is a pretty neat science. Here’s a great definition on how it works from Wikipedia.

Infrared thermography, thermal imaging, and thermal video are examples of infrared imaging science. Thermal imaging cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum (roughly 9000–14,000 nanometers or 9–14 ┬Ám) and produce images of that radiation, called thermograms. Since infrared radiation is emitted by all objects above absolute zero according to the black body radiation law, thermography makes it possible to see one's environment with or without visible illumination. The amount of radiation emitted by an object increases with temperature; therefore, thermography allows one to see variations in temperature. When viewed through a thermal imaging camera, warm objects stand out well against cooler backgrounds; humans and other warm-blooded animals become easily visible against the environment, day or night. As a result, thermography is particularly useful to military and other users of surveillance cameras.

Inflammation in a horse’s limbs can easily be detected using a thermal imaging camera. So what the vets at the Auburn Study did was take a base reading of the horse at rest to show the level of heat that horse’s legs produce. Then they ran separate experiments with different types of chemicals and different chain weights to the pasterns and then worked each horse for a certain amount of time. Then they did new scans with the camera and recorded the results.

The results showed that chemical soring and pressure shoeing do cause pain, that chains combined with chemical soring does cause pain, and that 10 oz chains or heavier without chemicals caused pain. This study also pointed out that 2, 4 and 6 oz chains without chemical soring did not cause any detectible pain or tissue damage, with the exception "to some loss of hair from 6 oz. chains in the pastern areas." So hair loss is possible with 6 oz chains. Since this study, there is a rule that only chains up to 6 ozs are allowed in the ring, but I certainly don't see DQPs weighing chains when horses are being inspected.

One part of the study is particularly notable. This is Phase XV, as posted below.

Phase XV. Preliminary Studies to Evaluate the Effects of Change in the Heel to Toe Ratio
The objectives of this study were to determine if deviation of hoof angle will alter the gait of Tennessee Walking Horses and to determine if tendonitis or other inflammation were caused by deviation of hoof angle. Two horses, # 22 and # 23 were placed under observation on 4/9/81 and monitored before and after 15-20 minutes of exercise with thermography, pressure device, Micron, rectal thermometer and visually by rider, technician and veterinarian. Horse # 22 was shod from ‘barefoot status to wedges, pads and shoes on 4/13. Horse # 23 had been shod similarly before 4/9/81. On 4/29 the heels of both horses were raised 8 degrees, before exercise and monitoring. On 5/11 the heels were dropped 12 degrees by removing wedges and the horses exercised and monitored. Horses were then exercised and monitored on 10 separate days during the period of 5/12 - 6/1. No action devices or chemicals were applied to the feet or legs during the study.

Thermography study suggests that shoeing of the forefeet in pads and wedges from a barefoot status (horse # 20) causes a 1—2 degree rise in temperature in the superficial and deep flexor tendon area.

Similarly, inflammation in this area was observed on thermography when the angle of the hoof was raised or lowered (both horses). When the heels were lowered on 5/11 and observed until 6/1 there was a gradual decrease of inflammation in the f1exor tendon area.

Pressure readings taken at the usual 6 points on the foot fluctuated to a minor degree, reaching their lowest levels 2 days after the heels were elevated 8 degrees in both horses. Raising the heels 8 degrees caused both horses to stumble and tire easily. They did not regain a sound gait for about 7 days. When the heels were dropped 12 degrees the horses gaited more soundly although there was swelling in the flexor tendons for about 7 days. Raising or lowering the heels of Tennessee Walking Horses and shoeing one with wedges and pads from barefoot status causes thermal patterns in the flexor tendon area that can be distinguished on thermography. These changes cause less fluctuation in pressure readings than the use of action
devices or chemicals. Inflammation subsides about one week after the heels are raised or lowered 8 and 12 degrees respectively. Raising the heel causes a more observable change in the horses’ gait than lowering the heel after it has been raised.

If anything, this part shows that pads ARE bad for the horse. When raising the heel, it caused swelling in the flexor tendons. This can lead to tendonitis, which is a bowed tendon, which is very painful and takes a long time to heal. And over time, a bowed tendon that is not treated can lead to damage and tearing of the fibers of the tendon itself. Click here for more information. If anything, this should show us that horses should be off pads when he’s not being shown, and this means off pads after each show, to prevent the horse from getting tendonitis in the long run. If the horse shows this swelling after 7 days, imagine what kind of swelling could be present after wearing stacks for months on end during show season.

Plus, raising the heel in general caused the horses to “stumble and tire easily,” and "they did not regain a sound gait for about 7 days." Perhaps it’s because the tendons were swollen?

Now since this study, the industry has adopted a heel/toe ratio. The entire package cannot be taller than half of the length of the toe. But I certainly don't see DQPs measuring for the correct heel/toe ratio. They seem to be "eyeballing" it, and that doesn't seem to be a very reliable means to make sure the horse is being shown according to the rules.

Overall, Dr. R.S. Sharman included a letter to Dr. Schwindaman of the USDA APHIS with the findings of the study. Below is the text of the letter.


February 19, 1982

Dear Dr. Schwindaman:

We have yet to carry out the formal steps to determine the effects of built-up pads on Tennessee Walking Horses. Over the years, however, we have experienced what the group considers a high rate of thrush in the horses we have shod with pads and used in tests. Although it is not readily apparent on clinical observation we have observed with thermovision varying degrees of abnormal inflammation on the posterior aspect of the metacarpal area where the flexor bundle is located. This usually occurs the day after a horse has been freshly shod, whether or not he is exercised daily, and lasts from a few days to two weeks.

Attached are some questions we asked of our farrier and four clinic veterinarians who devote their professional time almost exclusively to equines. They all answered 'yes' to the first two questions and suggested sheared heels, quarter cracks, and laminitis as other abnormalities of the forefeet of Tennessee Walking Horses shod with conventional pads. They all answered 'yes' to the fourth question, giving their reason that they could not adequately examine the feet unless the sole was exposed.


R.S. Sharman, DVM

Assistant Professor

1. Do you associate , from your observation, increased incidence of thrush with pads covering the sole of horses hooves? [YES]

2. Contracted Heels? [YES]

3. Other abnormalities? [YES - sheared heels, quarter cracks and laminitis]

4. Would you consider it necessary to remove pads and shoes from a horse to do an adequate foot examination? Why? [YES - The foot cannot be adequately examined without the sole exposed.]


Clearly, even without doing a specific study on the effects of pads,* the Auburn Study has a lot of evidence that pads are not good for the TWH. Hopefully we'll see more evidence in the future of the damage pads do. However, I don't think the industry can hinge their hopes that pads are okay by this study.

*Added for clarification 8/11/11

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

NEWS and VIDEO - Abuse In a Trailer At a WHTA Show

I don't think the attitude of the industry toward horses can be better explained by this video.

This was brought to my attention by a trainer from KY. This is quite possibly an example of "stewarding," a practice used to force a horse to stand to take the pain of a DQP inspection. Stewarding involves taking a horse and having it stand tied while someone holds its feet and prods it the way a DQP would. Another person is standing next to the horse with something that will hurt if it hits the horse, such as a broom handle, baseball bat, or 2 x 4. If the horse flinches, they get whacked really, really hard. This way the horse learns that if it doesn't stand still, the pain will be worse than the pain he's feeling on his legs and feet. Another form involves burning the horse up in side the nostril with a lit cigarette or a hot branding iron, which will cause pain but won't leave a visible scar. Unfortunately, I once met a horse with circular shaped scars in its nostrils, a victim of stewarding.

Click here for the link to the video. This is a public website with all videos available for view. This show was the 35th Annual Marshall County Horseman's Association Horse Show that took place on July 22nd, 2011.

Here's what you're looking for. At approximately 4:00 minutes, the announcer asks for the horses to slow to a flat walk and then reverse. The camera will pan to the right and stop on a sorrel horse with a blaze. In the background in the upper right of your screen is a trailer with a lighted, open door. You will see a horse standing tied to the trailer that then moves out of view. You will then see a horse's head in the door. A man then steps out of the trailer with a broom. He turns around, then slams the broom down through the air, and as the broom makes contact, you will see the shadow of the horse in the square window to the left react and jerk violently to the left. This all happens at about 4:45.

As the trainer said to me, I don't think this guy is swatting flies.

I hear from the industry that they love their horses and would never do anything bad to them. So is this love? They certainly love their horses enough to buy a fancy truck and trailer to pull them to the show. They love them so much they're happy to abuse them to get them to do what they want.

I don't care who the trainer is, who the person is who swung that broom--it doesn't matter. The horse is being abused on the show grounds, period, AND it's on video. Way to go, WHTA. You're continuing to prove to us that abuse abounds in the TWH industry.

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