"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

Friday, April 13, 2012

NEWS - Transcript of Barney Davis Sentencing Now Available

****EDITED 5/14/2012 to correct that Neff is the federal prosecutor for the case, not Davis' lawyer.

I've had this for a few days now but only recently got the go-ahead to release this.  This is the entire transcript of the sentencing of Barney Davis.  As part of his plea bargain, Davis was required to stand in front of the court and demonstrate how to sore horses.  This transcript includes the soring process and how it's done.


Click here for the entire text.  Please note that this is a 56 page PDF file; Adobe Reader or CutePDF is required to read it.

In this post, all of the quoted text from the transcript will be in green.

What I first want to point out is this: The industry is claiming that Davis is a Spotted Saddle Horse trainer, and that what he has to say doesn't apply to them.  However, here's what Davis himself says about SSHs.

NEFF (Federal Prosecutor): And what do you do? What kind of horses do you train?
DAVIS:  Spotted walking horses.
NEFF:  And could you tell the Court what those are?
DAVIS:  It's just a walking horse that's spotted. I mean, it's, you know, just a gaited horse.
NEFF:  Okay. That's what I was after. A gaited horse?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF:  Which means what exactly?
DAVIS:  Just we call it Big Lick horse is what we call them, you know. It's actually, actually, just a saddle horse that's made to walk.

And again, later in the proceeding...

NEFF: And then I think the judge mentioned the Tennessee walking horse, which is just another kind of gaited horse. Is that right?
DAVIS: Just the same as a walking horse, it's just spotted.

Further research shows that Davis rode and trained TWHs for the Celebration in 2009 and 2010.  Videos WERE available online...but of course have since been pulled.  Natch.

So to start going over this situation, here's the reason why Davis was instructed to report how to sore horses.

THE COURT: ...A significant part of the whole purpose of any criminal prosecution is to provide general deterrence to others who may be tempted to engage in this sort of conduct. The articles that I ordered written or hoped that will, it will contribute to that general deterrence. I think what I hear in this case we're going to take the additional step of in addition to an article that I order to present some proof here at the sentencing hearing. And I know that at least certain representatives of the media are here and it will serve that purpose.

As far as why they do this:

NEFF: And what is the goal of training these horses? What are we trying to do with them?
DAVIS: The goal is to make them, to make them step as big as they can step, I mean, you know, that's how you win.
NEFF:  Okay. That's what I was going to ask. You're not doing this for fun?
NEFF: You're doing this for another right reason. Right?
DAVIS: Right.
NEFF: What is that reason?
DAVIS: To win. I mean, the customers want to win as long --
NEFF: Win what?
DAVIS: They want to win the money, the prestige, you know.  They want to know that they've got a horse that can win.

Now down to the nitty gritty.  This is where things get rough, folks...this is the evidence that soring is the norm and HOW they are doing it.  Please proceed reading with caution...

NEFF: Okay. Now, what I want to ask you is about training and how you train these and what is the proper way to train these animals?
DAVIS: Everybody does -- I mean, they've got to be sored to walk. I mean, that's the bottom line. It ain't no good way to put it, but that's it.
NEFF: Okay. When you talk about soring them to get them to walk in a certain way, what kind of things do you have to do? What does that mean? What does soring mean?
DAVIS: Soring means you put chemical agents on the skin or objects under the foot. A lot of people use what we call wedges and some people use blocks and some people use bolts and some people just can shoe them and get them close enough to, you know, make them hurt under their feet.
NEFF: Let's talk about the blocks and the bolts and some of the mechanical external devices that are used to sore the horses.
DAVIS: Right.
NEFF: Explain how that process works.
DAVIS: Well, it's just, I mean, you know, mainly, you just -- mainly, they stand on these blocks and it makes the bottom of their feet tender and makes them pick their feet up higher.
NEFF: Which is, I guess, the higher they pick up their feet the better the scores?
DAVIS: The better they are, right.
NEFF: Now, are there other methods used to sore horses?
DAVIS: Yeah. You got some people use mustard oil, which is a chemical you mix with, it can be mixed with kerosene or diesel, or Gojo, just, you know, anything to cut it down to put on their skin and wrap it up and it makes them tender, sore, you know.
NEFF: So, the chemicals irritate the horse's feet --
DAVIS: Right.
NEFF: -- or skin around their feet which causes them to lift their legs higher?
DAVIS: Right.
NEFF: All right. I'm going to show you some photographs here. This is Government's Exhibit No. 2, I think was taken after a search warrant. Do you recall a search warrant at your barn?
DAVIS: Yes, sir.
NEFF: What are the items that are located in that tray, can you tell us?
DAVIS: That's bolts is what we call bolts and flat washers. You don't actually put -- the bolt doesn't actually go into the hoof, I mean, you put the flat, something flat against their foot so you don't hurt them too bad. I mean, you don't want to hurt them too bad.
NEFF: You don't want to make them lame because they can't walk at all?
DAVIS: Right. But just enough to put enough pressure on them to make them pick their feet up.
NEFF: And you were aware that these methods are prohibited. Right?
DAVIS: Right.
NEFF: I'm going to hand you what's been marked as Government's Exhibit No. 8. Would you show the judge what those are and explain what they do?
DAVIS: This is actually a set of bolts here, and what it does, it locks, these plates lock in under the shoe, and these are tightened against usually a whole lot bigger washer than that, just usually pretty big, it will go against the foot, and you tighten it down and it pulls against the shoe and that puts pressure against the foot. And that's basically it.
NEFF: Okay.
THE COURT: When talking about a horse, don't you call the foot a hoof?
DAVIS: Hoof. Right.
NEFF: All right. Those are some of the items that I just showed you there are what's basically in the tray. Right?
DAVIS: Right. Right.

NEFF:  I've put up Government's Exhibit 3. I don't think there will be any objection to any of these exhibits, Your Honor for the record. Could you tell us what that is, Mr. Davis?
DAVIS: That's a picture of my barn of the inside cross ties area. Are you talking about the chains?
NEFF: Yeah. Explain what the chains are used for.
DAVIS: The chains are used for like when soring agents are put on, you put the chains on top of the, on top of the soring agent to make them, and that irritates them to make them pick their feet up higher.
NEFF: Makes, it actually rubs against --
DAVIS: Runs the skin, right.
NEFF: I'm going to show you what's been marked Government's Exhibit 11. Do you recognize that?
DAVIS: Yeah. These are, this is what we call a pair of six-ounce chains. They actually weigh six ounces is why. And they actually go around the horse's, top of his hoof.
THE COURT: Uh-huh.
DAVIS: Makes them carry the chain longer when they're sore.
THE COURT: Does it -- oh, when they're sore?
DAVIS: When they're sore.
THE COURT: Does that actually hurt the horse?
DAVIS: Yes, sir. I mean, this is the whole purpose, I mean, this is what makes them walk. I mean, this is on top of the sore and they carry the chain longer.
THE COURT: Is it just -- the reason as opposed to just adding weight, it actually hurts?
DAVIS: Right. Yeah.
NEFF: I'm handing I think what's marked Government's Exhibit 12.
DAVIS: These would be mostly used by a walking horse trainer, the pads and chains, you know. Actually, they slip around the hoof.
THE COURT: All right. Yeah.
DAVIS: And chemicals will be applied around the hoof.

NEFF:  I'm going to show you what's been marked as Government's Exhibit 4. Again, these are items that were taken from the search warrant during the search of your barn. Is that right?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF:  What's in there?
DAVIS:  I don't really know. This was, I think, after -- this was, I think this was Mr. Blackburn's stuff here. He had brought all of his stuff and put it and stored it in my, in the tack area.
NEFF:  Okay.
DAVIS:  I don't really know what he had in this, in these right here, or how it was mixed or what. But I would say that that's probably some, you know, mustard oil mixed up in different, in various different mixtures, you know, stout to stouter, you know.

(Starts playing the videotape.)
NEFF:  Stop just for a second. Now, Mr. Davis, what's being shown here is, and this was after, this is why, one of the reasons why you pled guilty. This is one of the things that you've pled to which --
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF: But this was after you were originally charged. Is that right?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF:  And you had been placed on pretrial release at the time?
DAVIS:  Yes, sir.
NEFF: Okay. And after you were placed on pretrial release, you continued to engage in the soring practices just not at your own barn, this is at somebody else's barn?
DAVIS:  This is at Lynn Dropka's barn here. Actually, I wasn't training these horses. This was, the owner, Lynn Dropka and Mr. Lanegar were training these horses. I actually gave Mr. Lanegar a ride to the barn that morning I think they were having a show the night of this when they were getting them ready. And I was actually waiting on my fiancee to get there with the kids. And I was waiting around on her, they were going to wash one of their trail horses, and I was waiting around on her. So, he wanted me to help him with those horses.
NEFF:  Okay. And that's what you were doing, you were helping him?
DAVIS:  Right. Helping him.
NEFF:  And that's what these video clips are from. Correct?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF: Just so the Court understands. Ready.
(Continue playing videotape.)
NEFF:  What's going on here, can you tell us?
DAVIS:  I think that Mr. Lanegar had trouble with one of the blocks in this particular horse that wouldn't fit, so I took a, he wanted me to take a file and rasp it down to where it would fit.
NEFF:  Okay. That's -- and which one are you?
DAVIS:  I'm the one that's carrying the rasp here is what we call a file. I mean, it's a file, but we call it a rasp, horseshoe rasp.
NEFF:  Can you describe what you're doing here?
DAVIS:  He's checking to see if it fits right here.
NEFF:  Okay. And what's the goal, what's, how is this going to help the horse walk the way you want it to?
DAVIS:  I mean, if it's too tight and it don't fit down in the shoe then it won't hit the bottom of the sole of the foot area and --
THE COURT:  The tender part?
DAVIS: The tender part. Right. So, if it's not hitting the tender part of his sole, then it won't work.
NEFF: Okay.
DAVIS:  I mean.
NEFF:  Is this like, this is kind of what I envision it, but your understanding is that when you're applying these mechanical things externally to the tender part of the horse's foot, it's kind of like having a rock in your shoe?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF:  Is that a fair --
DAVIS:  Or like a stone bruise, you know.
NEFF:  All right...What are you doing here?
DAVIS:  I'm just seeing if it's rasped down enough here.
NEFF:  So, you're still checking the fit?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF:  Now, what are you doing over there in the back room?
DAVIS:  I'm still rasping on the block.
NEFF:  Okay. This is all in an effort to try to make it fit?
DAVIS:  Right. Right. I think he had borrowed those blocks or something and they didn't fit.
NEFF: Okay.
DAVIS:  They didn't fit real good.
NEFF: You have to make it for the horse, do you have to make it specifically for the horse?
DAVIS:  Yes, sir.
NEFF: What might work on one horse might not --
DAVIS:  Doesn't work on the other one, right.
NEFF: Okay. Tell us what's happening here.
DAVIS:  Mr. Lanegar is, Mr. Lanegar he's inserting the bolts in this horse.
NEFF:  This is a different horse than the one we've been watching the first few clips. Right?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF:  And he's putting the bolt up against the --
DAVIS:  Sole, right.
NEFF:  -- sole of the horse's foot?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF:  Now, did Mr. Lanegar know how to do that or did you school him at all?
DAVIS:  No. No, sir. He knows how to do it. I mean, he's worked for enough trainers to see it, you know.
NEFF:  Before we go to the next clip, let me ask you this. How, I know you've alluded to it earlier, but how prevalent is this, how often is this done in the industry?
DAVIS:  This is every time a horse is shown. This is mostly, this is mostly done, I mean, on what we call flat shod horses without the pads.
NEFF:  Okay.
DAVIS:  In order -- it would be done different on a padded horse, the farrier would have to do it on a walking horse, padded horse. I mean, it would be done with therapeutic what we call blue putty. And what it is, it's just a putty that you trim the foot real close, and then you put the putty in there and you put the, you put the pad back on the foot, and when that, when the putty starts drying, it starts what we call rising. And just like dough rises when you cook it, when this putty starts drying, it starts getting hard and rising and it puts pressure against the foot.

To interject--the stuff he's calling blue putty is actually a substance used for therapeutic reasons.  When mixed correctly, it creates a cushioning pad between the shoe and the horse's hoof.  This can be used to help relieve the pain of founder, laminitis, navicular, or other medical issues.  However, what the industry trainers are doing is changing the mixture to make it harden rather than be soft.  The horse's hoof is filed down to where just little beads of blood are coming out.  With some of the stacks, there will be a hole in the middle.  They will pour this stuff down into the hole and it will rise like Davis said.  They then put it on the horse so it hardens and creates pressure on the sole of the foot.  The horse is then sored.  Unfortunately, this stuff cannot be detected with an x-ray, so the USDA needs to start pulling shoes.

THE COURT: Let me ask a question. So, you're telling -- Mr. Neff, I mean, is -- well, maybe I'll ask Mr. Davis. Is what you're doing here, is that illegal?
DAVIS: Well, at the time, at the time that everybody started doing this, we didn't -- I know a lot of trainers don't know that this is illegal and at the time --
THE COURT: Here's what, I mean, it's been criminalized now, apparently, by Congress or you wouldn't be here.
DAVIS: Right.
THE COURT: You're telling me that every horse that is shown in the show this happens to?
DAVIS: Right. Right.
THE COURT: And then my question is, well, why hasn't Congress just criminalized the entire enterprise?
THE WITNESS: That's what we would like to change.
NEFF: I guess that's a question for Congress, Judge. I mean, I think that the answer, this is what I was getting ready to get to here a little bit, the Horse Protection Act was passed in 1970, and there is not a lot of money set aside, I think, for enforcement activities. I think that any efforts to do so have been met with some significant resistance from people who are prominent in the industry and have some sway with lawmakers.  But there is a, there is a system in place. Is there not, Mr. Davis --
DAVIS: Yes, sir.
NEFF:  -- to check these horses?
DAVIS:  It's called a DQP program is what we call it, qualified designated person. And what they do is they check every horse that comes to the shows to be checked, I mean, to be showed. They check them all. And the problem is with the DQPs, we've got DQPs, I mean, like I've trained horses for DQPs, they know what goes on. And, you know, they tell me to get them good as I can get them, bring them to a show, they let me in. I mean, the problem, the problem with the whole DQP program is it's so corrupt that they let some people in and then some people like -- well, say me, for instance. I mean, the DQP that wrote this ticket on me that found this bolt in this Jose Is My Daddy, he's let me in many times the same way. But me and him had a falling out a bad business deal, and he, you know, he just saw it to take action on it, on this particular, on this particular horse, this Jose Is My Daddy.
NEFF:  So, it's arbitrary?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF:  And my understanding is that, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but this whole DQP program is designed to supplement the government's efforts at regulating this. Right?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF: And how often do you see a government inspector at shows?
DAVIS:  At our shows, we don't see them a lot at the spotted horse shows, we don't see them a lot, probably twice a year, but at walking horse shows, probably six, seven times a year when they should be every show, you know. In my opinion is that they need to do away with just the whole walking horse DQP program. I mean, that's a lot of what the problem in the industry already, where the government needs to check every show, you know. The government, the government has hundreds of tickets of sore horses.
THE COURT: Who administers this program, the Department of Agriculture?
NEFF: Department of Agriculture, yes, sir.
DAVIS:  But the government has hundreds of horses, I mean, you can pull it up on the internet that they've got sore tickets, but they hadn't pursued any of them.
NEFF: Okay.
DAVIS:  I mean.
NEFF: Yeah. You were surprised to find yourself in federal court, I take it?
DAVIS: Right. I mean, this happens every day, I mean.

SEE?  SEE HOW THE USDA NEEDS TO STOP THIS?  The DQPs are letting sore horses through on a regular basis.  They aren't regulating themselves at all.  And the USDA is clearly at fault for NOT prosecuting these people.  Because they continue to play around and have meetings and B.S. with the big wigs in the industry, they aren't getting the real job done, which is to go out and be at shows to stop these monsters.

(Videotape continues.)
NEFF: We're still working on this same horse that we're putting the bolt in. Right?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF: What's going on here?
DAVIS:  Mr. Lanegar is, he's tightening the bolts up so where the horse can start feeling them.
NEFF: Okay. So, this is, this is where the sore, the horse's feet are going to get sore because he's tightening it up against the bottom?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF:  Now, after you put the bolts in the horse's feet like you've done here, what happens next? What do you do with them?
DAVIS: Well, what he's doing now is he's watching to see which foot he moves, he starts moving, and if he starts moving one foot more than the other, then you have to tighten the one that he's not moving. That's what we call leveling him.
NEFF:  So, when he's not moving that means, when he's not moving it, that indicates to you that he's not in pain?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF:  And when he does move his feet, he is in pain?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF: And here we see the horse with his right front leg up?
DAVIS:  Right.
NEFF:  And that's an indicator of pain to you?
DAVIS:  Right. Right. Right. He's uncomfortable there.

This is just downright cruel.  They are LOOKING for pain in both feet to make sure the horse is "level", basically at the same level of lameness on both feet.  After asking around about this--how do they tell when the horse is level--I learned the horse will start to rock backward onto his back feet once the horse "gets level," trying to relieve the pain on his front feet.  This also creates the crouch behind that is so desirable.

NEFF:  All right. So, what's he doing here?
DAVIS:  He's --
NEFF:  He's tightening it up?
DAVIS:  This horse right here, this is another horse. This is the one that he's putting the block in. He's taping the block to this foot for this horse.
NEFF:  Okay. I have some photographs, six and seven, I think, which are just stills of the video. All right. Now, I'm going to put up 8A. These are -- are these bolts that were admitted earlier, do they look similar to it?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
NEFF:  Can you tell us what 9A is?
DAVIS:  This is, this looks like the blocks that he used on the horse.
NEFF:  I'm going to hand you what's been marked as Government's Exhibit 9. Would you show the judge what those are and explain?
DAVIS:  Well, this is what we call a block. This is the part that goes on the sole area.
THE COURT: The tender part?
DAVIS:  Right. The tender part of the hoof and the shoe sits on this --
DAVIS: -- this part here. So, this actually is the part that does the damage.
THE COURT: When you say "damage," I mean, does it actually cut into the tender part of the hoof?
DAVIS:  No, sir.
THE COURT:  It just --
DAVIS:  Puts pressure.
THE COURT: Just like having a fairly large rock in your shoe over an extended period of time?
DAVIS:  Right. Right.
THE COURT: Eventually you begin to limp?
DAVIS:  Right.
THE COURT:  Raising the hoof is akin to a human's limp in some way?
DAVIS:  That's right. Right. That's what a sore horse is, it's just a horse that's limping on both feet.
THE COURT: You're saying that any walking horse that you see that does that to some exaggeration is limping.  Right?
DAVIS: Every walking horse that enters in a show ring is sore.

NEFF:  All right. Mr. Davis, what's number 13 there?
DAVIS:  This is what we call a tungsten shoe. This is actually a spotted horse shoe here because of the thicker cork on the shoe. This shoe actually weighs about eight, nine pounds.
NEFF: You want to hand it to the judge so he can feel.
NEFF:  And what does that do?
DAVIS:  Well, that takes the place of the, like the pad on the walking horse. What this shoe is, it's heavy enough to make a flat shod horse walk the same as a padded horse which actually --
THE COURT: Which --
DAVIS: This shoe --
THE COURT: -- which side is up?
DAVIS:  There you go.
THE COURT:  That's where the hoof is?
DAVIS:  Right. Actually, this shoe is heavy enough right here to after you get the band around the hoof, this actually has a band that goes around the hoof and holds it on. And once you put that band around the hoof, it's actually heavy enough to hurt the horse.
THE COURT: Well, it's, I can certainly say I don't know how much stronger a horse's leg is than my arm, but it's heavy, I mean.
DAVIS:  If you get that tugging on --
NEFF: That's done in the training process, right, that's not something that they're actually wearing in the competition. Is that right?
DAVIS: Yeah. They wear this in competition. Right. You actually wouldn't --
THE COURT: This hurts the horse?
DAVIS: It can. They're heavy enough to snatch on the horse's hoofs to actually hurt them.

And don't forget, everyone: some of the HIOs have made tungsten shoes legal in their show rings!  Look at them just perpetuate the abuse!

That's it for the soring part.  Davis then goes on to talk about how they manipulate the names so that other people get ticketed rather than the trainers so the trainers can still show.  That can be read in the transcript.

Overall, the Judge seemed quite appalled and aghast.  He said, "I mean, talk about promoting disrespect for the law. If we are filling stadiums for an illegal activity, I mean, you know, you usually do that in private like cockfighting, you know. You don't advertise it."

He then came down on the USDA, stating the following several times.  He seemed quite aghast about it.

THE COURT: You know, what's being described to me here this afternoon sounds like just, you know, a totally corrupt system. And even though the Court is unfamiliar with it, I can only assume that that corruption stems from ambivalence, I presume by Congress, or the Department of Agriculture, or somebody about whether this should even be on the books. But, again, that's what I said earlier, if it is, it either needs to be on the books and enforced or it needs to be taken off of the books. Those are policy decisions that Congress makes, but, I mean --
NEFF: Judge, if I can, perhaps this will educate the Court a little bit. When the Horse Protection Act was passed in 1970 funding for enforcement was authorized at $150,000 per year. And in 1976 that amount was changed to $500,000 per year. And since 1976, there has been no increased funding.
THE COURT: $500,000 a year for the entire United States?
NEFF: Yes.
THE COURT: Well, that tells you how serious this is, I guess, I would argue that that does promote disrespect for the law, because what it says is that Congress has, you know, paid lip service to something that then isn't serious about actually enforcing.
NEFF: And I think one of the things that happened that I alluded to earlier, Judge, is that there are lobbying efforts made by those people in the industry with a stake in maintaining the status quo.
THE COURT: Well, look, you know, I'm not going to make any policy judgments --
NEFF: Sure.
THE COURT: -- about whether the people in the industry are right, that this really isn't such a bad thing, or, you know, the animal rights people who believe it's the worst thing in the world, I mean, but those are the sorts of decisions that Congress makes, but being, and we're somewhere in the middle now, which, again, the point I'm trying to make, that's the worst place to be, either make it legal, or make it, or make or criminalize it and enforce it.
NEFF: Right.
THE COURT: But don't leave us in this sort of legal limbo we're in here now, because, I mean, you know, it just promotes disrespect for the law.
NEFF: But we are here to try to promote respect for the law. That's why we're here, Judge.

Note that Neff said: "WE ARE HERE TO TRY AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR THE LAW."  So the goal is to obey the law, not to get it taken off the book.  There is a real need for the USDA to start enforcing the law and get out there and really make a change.  I think the Judge is right on with his assessment--the situation is in legal limbo, and it needs to end.  And the way it needs to end is to get the law enforced.

Overall, I guess there isn't much more I can say here.  It's clear horses are still being sored, we have more education on how they're being sored.  So my question is what is the USDA going to do?  We all know the industry is going to make up excuses for what Davis is talking about.  Even with video evidence, they're going to deny that these methods are used for soring.  They're going to deny everything and continue to stick their head in the sand.  So who needs to get change going?  YOU DO, USDA.  GET OUT THERE AND DO IT.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NEWS and ARTICLES - AVMA Supports the End of Soring and Produces Educational Video

The American Veterinary Medical Association has released a press release today to announce their commitment to be against soring and to present their educational video about soring.  The AVMA is quite clear on their stance against soring, and this will be hard evidence to beat that soring is still alive and well!

Here's the video from the AVMA.  Note how in the video, we have recent footage where the horses are CLEARLY in pain.  And they don't just focus on the BL horses--the flat shod horses appear as well.   And note how some of the DQPs are NOT doing their job--not paying attention to the horses when they're palpating or watching when they're going around the cones.

The AVMA also included this page on their website, which has tons more information such as a factsheet, backgrounder, and various other information that we can use to help educate about soring.

I want to sincerely thank the AVMA for being so diligent and open in being against soring, and for exposing this practice for what it is.  

Start of Gaited Horse Show Season Heightens Commitment by AVMA, AAEP and USDA to End Abusive Practice of Soring

PR Newswire

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., April 11, 2012

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., April 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Soring, illegal for more than 40 years, is the abusive act of intentionally inflicting pain on gaited horses through the use of chemical irritants, broken glass wedged in between a horse's shoe pads and sole, or overly tightened metal hoof bands. The extreme pain caused by these abuses forces the horse to lift its legs faster and higher, perhaps increasing its chance of winning in show rings across the country.

"It's time for this egregious form of animal cruelty to end," says Dr. Rene Carlson, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are doing everything possible to detect evidence of soring before horses are allowed to compete. 

Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, USDA inspectors are only able to attend a small number of the shows being held. It is going to take a team effort to put an end to the inhumane practice of soring horses, so America's veterinarians stand in support of government regulators and the walking horse industry in their horse protection efforts," said Carlson.

In 2011, the USDA documented 587 violations of the Horse Protection Act while attending only 62 of the 650 or so gaited horse events held that year. 

The USDA cited participants in the 2011 National Trainers' Show with 49 violations of the Horse Protection Act — the third highest number of violations for a single USDA-inspected show that year.

Prosecution of violators has met strong political opposition, challenging USDA's efforts at enforcement and creating an environment where recidivism is the norm.

"For that reason, America's veterinarians are standing right beside USDA inspectors in urging the strengthening of the Horse Protection Act.  Everyone -- inspectors, judges, trainers, riders and even spectators at these shows must take responsibility for ending soring. A zero-tolerance policy being promoted by these shows would set a significant tenor for the entire show season," Dr. Carlson added.

To assist in the return of the walking horse gait back to its natural beauty, the AVMA has created an educational video, produced in cooperation with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the USDA, to provide an overview of the issue of soring and highlight the tell-tale signs of when a horse has been sored.

The video includes an interview with  Elizabeth Graves, a licensed Tennessee Walking Horse judge and gaited horse trainer and Dr. Nat Messer, a member of both the AVMA's and the AAEP's Animal Welfare Committees.  Additional materials, including a factsheet, backgrounder, reporting procedures, and the formal AVMA policy are available for general use. The AVMA is confident that with appropriate recognition of the inhumane nature of soring; increased reporting of abuse; and stronger legislative and regulatory action, including adequate funding for inspections, the offspring of today's sored horses won't have to suffer tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

THOUGHTS - TWHBEA's Listening Session Responses

This is partially an opinion piece, but in a way it's also based in fact.  I have been reading a lot of the posts about the industry's talks in the USDA listening sessions.  Quite frankly, I don't have sympathy, and here's why.  This is the speech by Marty Irby, president of TWHBEA, from the Maryland listening session.  Some of it hasn't been included, but I found these parts important.  The entire speech is located here.  My comments are in green text.  (Did TWHBEA pay for Irby to attend this one?  And if so, did the members know about it?)


Response For USDA Listening Session on April 9, 2012 in Riverdale, MD from Marty Irby, President of The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA).

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Marty Irby, President of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, headquartered in Lewisburg, Tennessee. TWHBEA is the oldest and most prestigious organization devoted to the promotion and protection of the breed. Founded in 1935, the breed registry was established to record the pedigrees of the Tennessee Walking Horse. Its goal is to maintain the purity of the breed, to promote greater awareness of the Tennessee Walking Horse and its qualities, to encourage expansion of the breed and to help assure its general welfare. TWHBEA’s current membership is comprised of some 10,100 members from all 50 states, and a number of foreign countries.

TWHBEA was the only breed registry in the United States of America to show membership growth in 2011. This above all breed registries including AQHA, Paint Horse Association, Arabians, Morgans, and many more. All other breed registries showed substantial declines. This lends credibility to TWHBEA’s position, and shows strength within our industry to represent the interests of all members from all factions.

TWHBEA is the only National and International Organization whose membership is represented by states and regions, that elect representatives from each area to represent members on our International Board of Directors. There is no other organization or group within our industry that has the stature, numbers, and longevity that TWHBEA does.

Facts, all of the above; nothing wrong with any of that.  Well, I don't agree with the last sentence: the other breed organizations except AQHA and APHA have been around a lot longer and will continue to do so.

TWHBEA stands firmly against ANY reduction in weight or size of the current pads or action device.

So did they take a poll in the membership to ask if members want to see a reduction in weight and size of the current pads?  How do you know that TWHBEA stands against the reduction?

The survival of our registry relies mainly on the performance horse. As the performance horse market has declined over the past 6 years, our annual budget has decreased from $5,000,000+/- to less than $2,000,000 annually. Our breed, horse, and registry will not survive at its current level without the existence of our great performance horse.

Who said the Performance horse is going to go away?  If the USDA were to reduce the size of the pads and take away the chains (which I am all for), the Performance horse still exists.  It just won't look like the crippled spider it does today.  That will be a plus for the breed--you'll get people coming back if the horses look better.

My Grandfather, Dr. Leonidas Euclid Irby, DVM joined TWHBEA in 1955 after he traded a bill owed to him for a Tennessee Walking Horse named Sunset Sue, and our family has remained members of TWHBEA ever since. Our family has been a part of producing nearly 9,000 foals since 1955 through various avenues including my previous five year career as the Director of Sales & Marketing at Waterfall Farms, the largest breeding facility within our industry. I can tell you that based on past informal studies of the major breeding farms that 90% of TWH mares bred, are bred with the expectation that the foals will become future padded performance show horses.

Now that is REALLY sad, since as I understand, only about 10% of the registered horses make it to be Performance horses. This tells me there's a lot of over-breeding going on, and there must be thousands of culls.

If our pads and action devices are removed, TWHBEA, could expect a potential decline in breedings of 60-70% within a period of one year.

HA!  I doubt that, since trail horses are becoming more and more popular.  I understand that at the last big sale in Kentucky, trail horses were selling for double the amount of stacked horses.  I think that says a lot to the industry: maybe you need to start focusing on promoting the TWH as a using horse rather than a stacked freak.

The result of this shock and unintended consequence could possibly lead to the closure of an organization that is now in its 76th year. If this were to happen, the Tennessee Walking Horse would simply cease to exist. Today, our organization is considering leasing part of our facilities to private enterprise, and further cutbacks of our immediate budget. Less than 5 years ago, our organization had nearly 30 employees, and today we have a mere 12 employees.

Big deal.  Why is this the USDA's problem?  You guys are causing it--you're continuing to sore horses, and the USDA has to come in and stop you from doing it somehow.  Perhaps TWHBEA needs to rethink it's plan: stop making the stacked horse the most important and start going back to what the TWH was originally bred for: to be a UTILITY horse.  Start promoting trail horses, driving, endurance...there are thousands of areas you can focus on that would make you money.

The only financial help our organization receives outside of industry sponsors is a minute $30,000+/- annual grant from USLGE which can only be utilized outside of the United States.

OH BOO HOO!  I have ZERO sympathy with this, since your big sponsors are Ford and Pepsi!  Plus ANY other TWH organization would be thrilled to have a grant under their belt!  Maybe you could get more grants if you stopped showcasing your horses as abused freaks!

In today’s economy, and with the pitiful state of the United States of America’s financial situation it very hard to grasp that the USDA would choose to simply put us out of business. Put us out of business. Yes, that is what I said. Our industry and specifically our breeders’ are good, honest, hard-working farmers who are the backbone of our country and the backbone of our industry. Just a few years ago we had nearly 1,000 TWH farmers who owned over 100-200 broodmares each. Today we are lucky if we have 20% of those still involved in breeding horses. Due to the economic state of this country and our industry the average yearling prices have fallen in recent years from $10,000+ to $2,000 or less.

Okay, so you're talking about the economy causing these problems.  But then there is below...

The USDA should be in the business of promoting our horse, helping us thrive and flourish, and not trying to take away what little we have left.

Wait a minute: the USDA is not a business.  They are tasked with enforcing the HPA.  Their job is not to run your business.  In fact, it is YOUR job to END SORING.  Since you clearly won't* do it, the USDA has to step in and do it.  They aren't trying to take away anything: they're trying to stop soring and enforce the HPA.  If their enforcement messes with your current show horse, then that is your fault, not theirs.  *And I say won't, not can't--this industry could end soring if it really wanted to.

As the shift in society has changed from a rural America to a much more urban Bureaucracy, our great country has begun to die a slow death. If all other agriculture is treated as our industry has been, then I doubt very seriously that the good old USA will exist much longer. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”  While we stand near our Nation’s Capitol I ask the USDA to please take to heart what a great President once said....

YOU ARE NOT FARMERS.  You are producing a product that is a luxury item in today's society.  Horses are not a necessity like they once were.  That quote has no merit in your business.

Again, I plead with the USDA to give serious consideration to economic factors, jobs, horse farmers, and the backbone of our country. Rural America needs you, it needs us, and I challenge the USDA to stand up for our industry and not succumb to the pressures of animal rights activists who have no equity or vested interest.

Actually, there are lots of us out here who have vested interest.  In fact, many small breeders across the country who are breeding for sound, solid trail and show horses are frowned upon because of the soring.  Because soring is well known to be the way TWHs are "trained", then people avoid the breed altogether.

 If you have truly listened to the majority of the responses from all of the recent Listening Sessions then you will see, that the majority of our industry stakeholders want no reduction in size or weight or removal or the current pads and action devices. If you do not listen, then you are simply proving that we have no voice, and that America has already fallen.

Actually, I imagine the majority of the industry stakeholders DO want the pads and chains to be gone.  The continued need to sore the horse in the ring is ruining the breed, not the regulation by the USDA, not those who want a sound horse.  This is YOUR FAULT that your industry is threatened.  You won't stop soring horses, so the USDA is having to enforce the law.  You are blaming the USDA for YOUR actions.  You want the USDA off your back?  STOP SORING HORSES.  It's extremely easy--FOSH, NWHA and the IWHA have done it.  You can too.

Honestly, if I were a member with TWHBEA, I would be outraged that the president is making such ridiculous statements.  I would be ashamed to be a member, since he's blaming the USDA for the industry's problems.  He does not represent the membership--he represents the stacked horse industry and those who bring in money.  That's all he cares about--not the welfare of the horse.  Members: an uprising is necessary here, and I would hope some of you would be willing to do that.  Even if you don't really care for the horse's sake, at least do it for your own breed reputation.  The TWH will continue to be the black spot of the horse industry if this represented attitude continues.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


For the Tennessee Walking Horse is now an official website!   This is the big news I have kept alluding to, and it has finally come to fruition!

We are please to provide you with the ONLY website dedicated to the sound TWH and his owners. Our goal is to provide a place for sound horse people to learn about the breed, but also to continue our fight against soring. We always found that with most websites out there, either you are bombarded with the image of the BL or the sound TWH is lumped in with all other breeds. The TWH doesn't have a website where people can go to learn the truth behind soring and where to learn how to humanely train and ride their TWH. This website is entirely FOR THE HORSE. We are not affiliated with any one trainer, professional, HIO or association: rather, we encompass all areas where sound TWHs are welcomed. This includes showing, trail riding, endurance riding, versatility, dressage, all kinds of areas and things you can do with your TWH! This website is constantly being updated, so if you have suggestions feel free to send them via our Contact Us page.

This blog will still exist of course, because we still want to keep the public informed of all of the issues that come up concerning soring.  It will be easier to maintain that information here rather than post it on the website every time it comes up.

Let me be the first to welcome you to the new For the Tennessee Walking Horse website and a new, SOUND day for the horse!

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