"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.

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