"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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

THOUGHTS - "For a Bit of Ribbon"


So I know what's going on.  The industry is busy acting like our current presidential candidates and merrily trotting along with a smear campaign against the HSUS.  They're putting out videos that are so thick with lies you could cut it with a knife.  As someone said on our Facebook group, We're going to get cancer from all the smoke they're blowing in our faces.  I'm not going to post any of this because it's just the same crap over and over again: all our horses are sound, the HSUS has an agenda, the government is trying to shut us down, blah blah blah.  It's listening to a broken record.

At least Roy Exum has it right: A Dismal Horse Celebration is probably the best title I've heard for this year's Black Week yet.  In light of Hurricane Isaac, Roy says, "My goodness, a “wash out” would be a Godsend for the beleaguered annual event."

But I was reading a book tonight while in the bath, and some things written in it got to me.  I thought I could share them with all of you.

The book is called Lad: A Dog, by Albert Payson Terhune.  Terhune was the owner of Sunnybank, a collie kennel in New Jersey.  He wrote a plethora of children's books about his collies, namely Lad, who stars in many adventures in many of Terhune's books.

Each chapter of this book tells a sort story of an event in Lad's life.  The fifth chapter is called "For a Bit of Ribbon."  From the description on Wikipedia, "The Master and Mistress enter Lad in the Westminster Dog Show in New York, much to Lad's abject misery as he dislikes the preparatory bathing and brushing. Dismayed to learn that Lad will have to stay chained to a small bench for all four days of the event, his owners begin to regret bringing him."

Now this book was written in 1919, when dog shows and horse shows were HUGE.  Madison Square Garden in New York was quite the place for holding dog and horse shows.  In this chapter, that's where the dog show takes place, and it's a Westminster show.

First is this description of what happens to prepare dogs for shows.  And folks, I bet we can find out that a lot of this still goes on.

Dog show abuse was prevalent back then, and, as I've learned from experienced dog show people, it's still there today.  It's all about altering the dog to create what's popular or in fashion, or what the judge wants to see.  (If you want to learn more, watch this hour long video: Pedigree Dogs Exposed.  It's hard to watch, but it's the truth of what's going on in the dog breeding industry.  And you can bet these same problems are within the ASPCA as well.)

But doesn't this all sound familiar?  The "work" done before the show, much to the animal's dismay, whether it hurts him or not, all in the name of winning a bit of ribbon.

But then something changes in this story.  A judge named McGilead has been hired to judge the collies, and he places Lad first in the Novice class, over much more refined and "visually appealing" dogs.  He recognizes the good qualities of the original collie breeding, creating a solid working dog that was full of life and loyalty.  Even though Lad was miserable and did not put on a good "show" in the ring, the judge recognized the dog for the quality he truly was.

Lad is then entered into the Finalist class, where he is up against all of the dogs from all the collie classes that day.  Here's what happens.

The judge did it.  He did what we need to see more judges doing, especially in our current TWH industry: PUNISH THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO CHEAT.  Wouldn't it be a miracle if someday, one influential judge within the TWH industry would say enough's enough, and would tie a horse based on the quality of gait rather than which one's doing the most, or worse, which one paid to win the blue?  Is it wrong to wish for this?

Then there's what Lad's Master and Mistress do that's even more amazing.  

"The Association can have a pretty silver cup...to console it for losing Lad.  As for exhibiting him again--well, I wouldn't lose these two ribbons for a hundred dollars, but I wouldn't put my worst enemy's dog to the torture of winning them over again--for a thousand."

Maybe it's time for the owners to see the same thing within the TWH industry.  Maybe it's time to stop putting their horses through the agony of soring and stacks, stop allowing fat middle-aged men to ride horses at 18 months to 2 years, time to stop torturing the animals for the sake of a blue ribbon.  Is it really worth the nightmare all of you are going through right now at the Celebration?  Is it really, truly worth it anymore?


Denise in SC said...

Beautiful and well written blog post. Thank you for bringing back the memories of an old favorite book and making them relevant to today's issue!

For the Tennessee Walking Horse said...

You're welcome, Denise, and thanks for your post!

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