"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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Just wanted to tell everyone HAPPY NEW YEAR!  May this be the year we see an end to soring and the Big Lick.  We'll have a lot of new projects in January and February, and we're going to need all the help we can get to save the horse!  So please stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook group.  Go out and give your sound horses a kiss!  THANK YOU for all your hard work in 2012, and let's look forward to a successful and progressive 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Vacation for FTTWH

We have a lot of activity on our Facebook group, so I wanted to post here that I'm going on "vacation" for the next few days, which in my world means NO COMPUTER!  So I'm going to set the Facebook group so no new posts can be made starting tonight (Dec 20) around 10 pm my time.  It's simply because I might not be able to sit down and monitor much over Christmas, and I don't want the admin to have to do it either.  I will put it back to everyone being able to post starting on Dec 26th.  I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 17, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER and THOUGHTS: A Response to TWHBEA and A Message To All TWH Enthusiasts

A Response to TWHBEA

TWHBEA posted this small blurb in the latest issue of The Voice this past week.

Our new guest blogger Elizabeth L. Jones has an excellent response to this below.  I think she's right on the money and I hope others understand and heed her message as well.


In the latest issue of the Voice, outgoing president Marty Irby issued a somewhat vague call for training that “ensures the future and longevity of the breed.” Since the article title refers to the “elimination of soring,” I will work from the assumption that this means more humane training practices for the Tennessee Walking show horse. But this call highlights some of the main problems of the breed. First of all, the vague language reflects the lack of transparency regarding the training of Walking Horses. Second, the language in the article implicitly focuses on the trainers. Here is where I think TWHBEA has gone wrong.

The Walking Horse is one of the most tractable and easiest to train of horse breeds. The secret that many people in the Walking Horse world don’t want to admit is that almost anyone with sufficient horsemanship experience can train a Walking Horse – not just to ride but to execute a smooth gait. No special equipment is needed, nor is any special knowledge.

The fact is that many trainers around the country are already doing the right thing, but if they don’t train padded horses, they are barely recognized by the industry. A few names of flat-shod horse have emerged, but many left the traditional Walking Horse years ago and now show in alternative venues like NWHA and FOSH. Many of these people are horsemen and horsewomen first, and Walking Horse trainers second.

I recall some discussions a few years ago about the “industry” investigating new training techniques. In fact, NO new techniques are necessary. The principles of classical horsemanship, dating back thousands of years to ancient Greece and revived during the Renaissance, work with ALL horses, including the Tennessee Walking Horse.

Although I have no special training in horse training, have taken only a few riding lessons and attended a few clinics, I have trained a few Walking Horses to saddle, and I have also developed a smooth, correct running walk for my horses. Over a decade ago, I tried the “traditional” gaited horse techniques of changing hoof angles and bits, but with very limited success. Eventually, I discovered, as have many others, that a Walking Horse can gait correctly in a plain, loose-ring snaffle and a good, basic shoeing or hoof trim.

So why do trainers of the breed get so much attention? One reason is that a trainer is “necessary” is to create the show ring fads because their training methods. In a way, it is a form of protectionism since most horse trainers are not willing to subject horses to the extreme shoeing and the necessary action devices of the Big Lick show horse. Indeed, to get a trainer’s license with the Walking Horse Trainer’s Association doesn’t require a test of horsemanship but the recommendation of other licensed trainers.

Some people were impressed that 2012 World Grand Champion Walk Time Charlie was worked on a regular basis for only five months before he won the title. What it may really show is that the level of competition in the Walking Horse world just isn’t that high. Some people in the “industry” claim it takes more than the pads to create the reach and action of a padded Walking Horse, but a video available on YouTube seems to prove that the pads and action devices are indeed a major factor. This video shows a mare, Dust Bunny, performing a pacing gait in lite-shod or keg shoes. She is reshod with heavy shoes, creating more action, and then reshod again with pads and ridden with a set of chains. The difference in just one day is dramatic and proof of the effect of pads.

This article advocates “programs that recognize and promote the natural abilities of our talented horses,” but these already exist – they are called Versatility, TWHBEA Trails, and the high point programs for Versatility and Pleasure Horses. The most talented horses are those individuals that perform in a variety of divisions and activities, and the most talented trainers and riders those who work with these horses. Instead of trying to encourage the “traditional” Walking Horse trainers to change, TWHBEA should recognize those who are already doing the right thing.

If TWHBEA wants to promote sound horses, they need to recognize the everyday owner/trainer and amateur rider. They need to pay attention to what small training operations around the country are doing. They absolutely MUST reduce the emphasis on showing and pay attention to the average Walking Horse owner, who may spend most of their time trail riding. These people don’t want to be part of an “industry” but part of a “community” of fellow Walking Horse owners. They want national leadership, not an organization controlled primarily by one region.

~ Elizabeth L. Jones

Ms. Jones has ridden and owned Walking Horses since she was seven years old and has competed in pleasure classes, equitation, and gaited dressage. Most of her dressage competition has been at open schooling shows where she had the only gaited horse. She has also ridden trails on her Walking Horses and other breeds in Missouri, Colorado, California, and Illinois. She edited the Sound Advocate for two years, and also contributed articles to The Gaited Horse. Ms. Jones is currently working full-time as a college instructor while she works on a Ph.D. in English. She has conducted some preliminary research into the rhetoric of horse welfare and hopes to incorporate further research in her dissertation. She is also an avid snowboarder and qualified for the NASTAR Nationals (amateur ski and snowboard racing) in 2011.

A Message to All Tennessee Walking Horse Enthusiasts

Hello again, friends and sound horse warriors.  Many of you follow our Facebook group and know of a lot of the current happenings going on within the TWH world with H.R. 6388 quietly waiting to be approved.  I've been thinking a lot these past couple of weeks about what's been going on.  I know I've started sounding perhaps more than a bit crazy sometimes on the group, so I decided I need to explain to all of you where I come from on the issues concerning the TWH.

I have been riding horses since I was 3 years old, but I didn't start owning horses until the late 90s.  I was originally taught the "cowboy" methods to train a horse: kick him belly when he won't suck in, jerk him in the mouth when he's bad on the trail, hit them in the head when they won't take their deworming paste, beat them when they won't stand still to be saddled.  But my husband and I both felt that something was really wrong, and it needed to change.  So we started looking for trainers and other methods to work with our horses.  Now, we have realized that training has everything to do with partnering with your horse and to communicate to him the way horses communicate with each other.  Our cardinal rule is never do anything to a horse that he wouldn't do to another horse.  Yes, if he bites me, I'll bite back (which I have literally done before--bit a horse on his nose and he never tried to bite me again), but that doesn't mean I'm allowed to grab a shovel and hit him in the head if he bites me.  Our goal is to always look at our own behavior first when a horse doesn't understand something and see where we're communicating wrong.  Yes, I still make mistakes, and yes I'm still learning (anyone who thinks they know it all is a fool in the true definition of the word).  Yes, I will kick a horse if he kicks me, or threaten to kick him if he threatens me.  I will protect myself.  But I will never go beyond the punishment fitting the crime.

I named the blog "For the Tennessee Walking Horse" for two reasons.  First, I always heard things like I'm for the sound horse or I'm for the performance horse, but no one ever said they were For the TWH.  Second, that is truly how I feel.  I am literally for the horse and no one else.  I am not for X HIO, I am not for the flat shod horse, I'm not for the barefoot horse, I'm not for dressage, I'm not for John Doe's training methods, I'm not for the horse show world.  I'm for the health and well being of every single Tennessee Walking Horse, and all horses in general.  So if the U.S. government has to ban TWH horse shows to end soring, then I'm all for it.  If ending soring means people like Jackie McConnell and Barney Davis and Chad Way are going to lose their jobs and have to work at Walmart, I'm all for it.  If ending soring means sound horse trainers are going to have to switch breeds, I'm all for it.  This is not about what size shoes your horse wears.  This is not about who's footing the bill for a horse show.  This is not about which HIO has the least amount of violations reported.  It's about two things that are extremely simple: the welfare of the horse and upholding the law.  And if the bad guys are going to continue to break the law to where the toys have to be taken away form both the bad guys and the good guys, then so be it.

Here's the rub: All of us have chosen to own Tennessee Walking Horses.  No one is putting a gun to our heads to make us put them in the show ring.  It is our choice to do so.  So truly in my honest opinion, if exhibitors/owners/trainers/breeders cannot choose to obey the law AND give up vanity, pride and greed, then we are ALL guilty of not caring about the welfare of the horse.  Competition does horrible things to people, but what's worse is forcing our vanity, greed, and pride on other beings that have no choice in the matter.  Showing horses is a luxury, not a necessity, and if we stop caring about the welfare of the horse merely because of shoe size or bit type or how much the horse can do, than the horse loses every single time.

I'm going to be brutally honest right now.  In all this time in the gaited horse world, I have found that no HIO is truly for the horse, even those that have sound venues.  In the sound horse world, being for the horse isn't about bashing other people and HIOs to get what you want.  In the sound horse world, being for the horse isn't about worrying about the shoes you want to put on your horse's feet in the show ring when heavy shoes are a luxury, not a necessity.  In the sound horse world, being for the horse isn't about allowing BL horses at shows even when you think they're sound because we all know what stacks can do to a horse long term.  HIOs no longer exist to protect the horse, but to protect and coddle those who want to show or force their ideas on other people, whether sound or sore.  I think ALL of the HIOs have lost their vision as to why they were started in the first place.  I think ALL HIOs are not capable of thinking past the end of their own noses.  I think ALL HIOs have become places where new ideas are shunned.  If you don't think they way they do, then to hell with you.  And at this point, that means we don't need HIOs any more than we need horse shows.

I'm tired.  I'm tired and I'm angry and I'm very hurt by the simple fact that pride, vanity and greed are prevailing right now.  We live in an heavily social society right now that rewards excess and fast results.  Whatever happened to pride being based in bringing a horse along from the bottom up, turning him into a master when he's in his teens rather than assuming he's finished at 4 years old?  Whatever happened to pride being related to the best quality ride being rewarded in the ring rather than the horse that's doing the most or the trainer that paid the judge the most?  What happened to training that isn't based in bits, equipment, and shoes but rather on communication and fairness to both horse and rider?  I think I echo Elizabeth's response above in saying that all of that seems to be gone, and it's most prevalent that it's gone in the gaited horse world.  No one cares about the horse--they only care about showing off as to how much their horse can do, how fast he can go, how much he can crouch, and all of it by the time he's 4 years old.  And this mentality has GOT to change for the sake of the horse.

I learned a very valuable lesson after I sold a very, very special horse to me.  Indigo was my pride and joy.  After years of trial and error, I had finally found my perfect show horse that was also a trail horse.  I did everything with him--went to clinics, went to lessons, and showed.  We were always in the top three and I have a lot of blues from showing him.  I had a strict training schedule that I stuck to, and I had a hell of a walkin' and noddin' horse in simply an off-the-shelf keg shoe and a snaffle bit.  I was so proud of Indy and me.  But eventually, Indy developed ulcers.  I was able to get them under control, but riding him became a battle.  He would fight me and buck and our training sessions became lessons in frustration and embarrassment.  I decided that showing him wasn't worth it anymore because he was so miserable, so I sold Indy to a guest ranch where I have sold them 21 gaited horses.  When I went to see Indy, I discovered a very, very happy horse.  He is carrying kids and timid adults on trail rides, and he carries handicapped riders in the arena.  He is turned out in a very large pasture with dozens of pasture mates and gets to "be a horse" when he's not on duty.  I could see in his eyes that he is happy and content, and that in the end I had done what was right for him.  It was not about me all along.  It was about finding Indy's happiness.  This also led to me getting my beautiful mutt mare who was my very first horse back home, who is my soulmate.  I realize now I never should have sold her in the first place.  I accept her that she is not a show horse and just loves to trail ride, just as she accepts my flaws in the saddle.  We are perfect partners together.  I had let pride and vanity get in the way of what was right for the horse.  Apache is and was everything I need in a horse, and I finally learned it.

So, a question we can all ask ourselves: Why do I own a horse?  I think everyone can answer that it's truly for self-satisfaction.  So, ask yourself this: where does my self-satisfaction come from?  Does it come from getting a blue ribbon at any cost?  Does it come from sitting in the field reading a book while you hand-graze your horse?  But overall, does my self-satisfaction benefit the horse in any way?  If it doesn't, then I believe we must ALL take responsibility and rethink why we're doing this in the first place.  And perhaps we need to rethink whether or not we should be horse owners in general.

Indigo, who changed my road to horse victory, 2008

Apache, my soulmate and my horse victory, 2010

EDIT 12-18-12:  With my last sentence, I am not suggesting that all horses should run wild and free and never be "owned."  What I mean is that they have been domesticated by man's hand, and therefore we must take responsibility for their health and well being first and foremost.  If a person's desire to own horses is based in self-satisfaction only, then it's time to rethink that particular person's ownership.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

NEWS and ARTICLES - Senator Robin Webb Busted; Roy Exum Honored; AVMA Bites Back at Industry

Senator Robin Webb Busted for Scar Rule

So many of you may already know that Senator Robin Webb (D-KY) is all for the Big Lick horse.  She's also been using her political influence to the industry's advantage.  Never mind the plethora of nasty posts about those who want to end soring on various forums and chats on the Internet, of which I have screenshots.  Doesn't she know that the Internet is not safe?  Politicians crack me up.

Anyway, this is her response to TWHBEA at the annual members' meeting they had last Saturday to elect new board members (some of them are, of course, violators or have their horses in training with violators--nothing new there).  To wit, here it is quoted:

There are entities in this country and internationally that want to do away with our animals. Want to do away with our recreation. That want to do away with our livelihood. Now, we have got—and the AAEP, they’re from Lexington Kentucky. Friends of mine are members. We’ve already heard that at least one has some retribution perhaps to pass out. Because of past treatment. They have sixty four countries represented in their organization. I sort of jokingly refer to them as the United Nations of veterinary medicine. We don’t need international influence. With all due respect, The United States of America has the best agricultural models in the world. People aspire to be like us. We have the best fish and game models in the world. People aspire to be like us. Make your decision based on science. Credible evidence. And I beg you too, not on emotion, and not on what’s gonna be outside that door with a microphone tomorrow. Education and what’s best—you’ve got a charge to do here people that elected you from different constituencies just like I do with my public life. You gotta take all that into consideration. To show leadership. And don’t let agenda driven entities sway you for what’s best for the future of this breed.

Well, I think she's right: we need to base this decision on science and credible evidence.  All you gotta do is read the AVMA's response to TWHBEA (below) and Dr. Vaughan's letter to get some science.  And here's some credible evidence for you:

Two scar rule violations on two different horses at the NCWHA Championship on October 4, 2012.  This is from the USDA's current Responsible Party for Horse Found in Violation list for 12-1-12 through 12-31-12 as of 12-4-12. (Page 154 if you don't want to search.)

(I can't make this s**t up, folks.  Here it is, in brilliant color, for everyone to see and hear.)

So please, let's not "let agenda driven entities sway [us] from what's best for the future of the breed."  Ms. Webb certainly hit the nail on the head.  Click here for her webpage if you need it.

A side note: I'm not going to post all of the crap that went on at the TWHBEA meeting.  Suffice to say the cheaters and burners were out in force and are continuing NOT to make any real changes.  That's about it.  It's what I expected.

Roy Exum Honored by the HSUS as Humane Horseman of the Year

This is just too cool!  Congratulations, Roy, and THANK YOU to the HSUS for this wonderful honor to one of our humble sound horse warriors!  Click here for the article (copied and pasted below).


December 3, 2012
The Humane Society of the United States Honors Roy Exum as Humane Horseman of the Year
Journalist recognized as a champion for Tennessee walking horses and the Horse Protection Act

The Humane Society of the United States has named Roy Exum the 2012 Humane Horseman of the Year.  Each year, this award is given to an individual who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to protect America’s Horses.

The HSUS chose Exum as this year’s recipient because of his unwavering commitment to exposing the cruel reality of the Tennessee walking horse show industry. In his opinion column in The Chattanoogan, Exum shined a light on the corruption and abuse behind the celebrated “Big Lick” gait, which is achieved by torturing horses through a practice known as “soring.” Exum reported on The HSUS’ undercover investigation into the industry and closely monitored the industry’s biggest competition, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn.

“The Humane Society of the United States applauds Roy Exum for his perseverance in the months leading up to the Celebration,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS. “Roy helped The HSUS lay bare the torture these horses endure, and he advocated that they be treated with kindness and respect. His newspaper columns played a key role in exposing and publicizing of the mistreatment of these beautiful creatures and greatly helped The HSUS in its mission to put an end to the cruelty.”

In nearly 20 columns and counting on the topic, Exum held nothing back when criticizing the Tennessee walking horse industry. In response to the federal sentencing of Jackie McConnell for Horse Protection Act violations, Exum wrote: “The ruling, although just, dashed the hopes of ‘many, many hundreds’ who had written Judge Mattice to ask for stronger justice. But because of woefully-inadequate federal laws against the depravity that has plagued the walking horse industry for well over half a century, the Horse Protection Act has been as lame as the horses it meant to protect and a plea arrangement was deemed at the very onset as the best ‘legal solution.’”

In a column praising the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new regulations to crack down on soring, Exum opined, “Call me callused or a cynic but when the top 20 trainers in the fabled Rider’s Cup standings have a total of 161 violations in the past two years and eight of the last 10 ‘Trainers of the Year’ have violated the Horse Protection Act, the only thing that will ever make a difference is placing anyone who would purposely injure a horse in the dark and dank basement of a jail.”

In response to public outcry about the cruel treatment of Tennessee walking horses for the show ring, Congress has introduced H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012. The bill will significantly strengthen the Horse Protection Act, originally passed in 1970 to stop the cruel practice of “soring” – the deliberate infliction of pain to Tennessee walking horses’ hooves and legs in order to produce a high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows.

H.R. 6388 would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice. H.R. 6388 is a necessary step to strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement capabilities and end this torture for good. In a recent column, Exum expressed his support for the bill, writing, “The amendments are badly needed since there has been continued and rampant abuse of soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry this year.”


The AVMA Bites Back at the Industry

This is really self explanatory, but I highlighted my favorite part in bold and red text.  I also included the links they have in their article.  What I love about this is that the AVMA bit back.  Seriously, TWHBEA, do you really think you can write this kind of response and get away with it?  It's so absolutely clear that you just don't care about the welfare of the horse.  When two national veterinary associations say no more pads and chains, you STILL can't accept that what you're doing is wrong.  Click here for the article.


It’s Time to End Soring – Take Action Now on H.R. 6388, the Amendments to the HPA
December 3, 2012
Dr. Gail Golab

On November 20th the AVMA and AAEP released a statement indicating our support of HR 6388, the Amendments to the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Expressions of support for the AVMA and AAEP decision from veterinarians and other stakeholders came in enthusiastically and quickly. And, on November 27 and 28, responses from the Walking Horse industry began to trickle in. One of those came from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (TWHBEA), the other via a letter to the presidents of the AVMA and AAEP from the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization (TWSHO). Not surprisingly, they were not supportive and their comments were as expected: “Only a few bad actors,” “Incidence of soring is less than 1%,” and “Chains and pads aren’t bad, it’s the people who abuse them.”

With respect to “a few bad actors,” we’d have an easier time believing that if we didn’t have evidence of a culture of abuse that has existed for more than four decades. When you have 37 of the 52 horses at the 2011 National Celebration testing positive for one or more anesthetic agents; convictions of trainers like Barney Davis and Jackie McConnell (now with a lifetime disqualification); a 9% HPA violation rate at the 2012 National Celebration (virtually no change from the 9.5% rate at the 2011 event); and violation detection rates that are consistently 5 to 10 times higher when USDA is present at shows to inspect, compared with shows where the industry self-polices; it becomes apparent that this is not “a few bad actors,” it’s a real industry problem.

As regards chains and pads, the industry says “there’s no science to suggest that chains and pads cause problems.” What the science says is that raising the heels (placing a horse on pads and wedges) 8 degrees can cause the horse to stumble and tire easily. Additionally, horses placed on pads and wedges showed inflammation in the flexor tendon area of the pastern. Chains that weigh 6 ounces will start to cause hair loss without the use of chemical irritants. Chains heavier than 6 ounces used on horses that have been previously sored will cause open lesions within two weeks. We’re happy to say we did our homework and, yes, the science that’s available appears to support our position. However, the industry has (once again) missed the point of the AVMA’s and AAEP’s decision. The AVMA’s and AAEP’s primary concern is that chains and pads are used to exacerbate and/or hide soring. And they can do so irrespective of their size and/or weight. And, if you had any question about whether we’re really talking about 6-ounce chains and small “packages” (as suggested by the industry) our photos that were provided by an AAEP member should resolve them.To remove opportunity and incentive to sore, and to facilitate the inspection process under the HPA, the AVMA and AAEP agree with the authors of HR 6388 that self-policing, and chains and pads, have to go.

We mentioned that AVMA member and numerous stakeholder responses to the AVMA’s and AAEP’s action suggest great support for our decision. We urge you to take those expressions of support one step further by helping us shut down this culture of abuse. Contact your member of Congress and urge them to support HR 6388. Do it today—we’ll make it easy for you. Visit our website and Take Action!

Monday, December 3, 2012

RESEARCH - Letters That Still Ring True: Auburn Study Cover Letter and 2007 Auburn Univ. Letter

The Auburn Study Cover Letter

I don't know if I had posted this yet or not, but I finally received the letter that went with the Auburn Study of 1982.  If you haven't read what I've written about the Auburn Study, you can read it here.

Below is a jpg image of the letter.  In case you can't read it, I copied what it says verbatim below the jpgs.

Auburn Study Cover 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.]


I really don't understand how this can't be considered evidence that pads are bad.  This industry continues to kid itself...will they ever learn?  Well, I think we know the answer to that one.

Auburn University Letter 2007

In 2007, Dr. J.T. Vaughan wrote the following letter to the TWH industry.  He was one of the original vets who worked on the Auburn Study, which included the cover letter above.  He was also one of the drafters of the Atlanta Protocol of 1991, which basically was an attempt to overthrow the HPA that fizzled.  The courts recognized that the Atlanta Protocol was a farce; excerpt: "The general consensus of the July 24, 1991, meeting (RX 4) [aka Altanta Protocol] is, in effect, a prescription for repealing the Horse Protection Act, while leaving in its place a facade to give lip-service to the purposes of the Horse Protection Act. If the Department were to accede to the principles set forth in RX 4, soring, as it exists today, could be practiced virtually with impunity."  Click here to read the case itself; quote is from page 34.

However, Mr. Vaughan has certainly seen the industry for what it is.  He certainly still holds true to the facts that were found in the Auburn Study.  His points are

Here are the thumbnails from the letter in three pages so you can see they're real.  If you click on the thumbnail, it will take you to the letter on the FTTWH Photobucket page.
Page 1
Page 2

Page 3

Here's the text of the letter verbatim. Honestly, I think the entire letter speaks for itself and Dr. Vaughan clearly wants to see a sound, natural, FS horse in the ring.  He points out that the problem is the politics and the continued need for power and money and there is no concern for the welfare of the horse.  This is a great letter that really deserves more attention.


Auburn University
College of Veterinary Medicine
Office of the Dean Emeritus

April 2, 2007

Thoughts on the Tennessee Walking Horse Problems

1. The physical examination described in the Atlanta Protocol of 1991 is sound and subject to change only with the evolution of the species, the horse and the human.

2. The problem lies in its application by unskilled inspectors - more VMOs than DQPs.  Basic horsemanship is not conferred with the DVM degree.  It usually comes from experience acquired before or outside of veterinary school.

3. The inequality in those skills puts the VMOs on the defensive and breeds resentment toward the DQPs.

4. The solution lies in using VMOs better trained and more familiar with horses.

5. There have always been lay inspectors to assist regulatory vets in many different operations.  In this case, however, DQPs are seen by VMOs as siding with the industry (they are hired by the industry) and in opposition to the government.  In an effort to assert their authority, VMOs make a conscious effort to "catch" the DQPs in an oversight or too lenient an interpretation.  Thus, innocuous calluses or inconsequential scurfing is ruled a scar violation.  Borderline sensitivity is ruled soreness.  Mistakes occur on both sides, but reconciliation and agreement is difficult and the VMO simply overrules the DQP.

6. Exhuming old data from previous research is subject to the errors of revised interpretations, and they are not apt to be accepted at the same level of credibility as before.  The simple fact remains that scars are the result of chronic inflammation, whether from chains (legal or otherwise) or from chemical irritants.  There is no "litmus test" to distinguish the cause.  It is inevitably a judgment call in the inspection station, and the law should be governed by reason.  Endless revisitation of the scar rule in hope of finding something new is likely to be no more productive.  Both sides accuse the other of splitting hairs, and the tie rarely ever goes to the runner (i.e., the horse).

7. Of greater concern to me than what happens at the pastern is what goes on under the shoe and pad.  Close-nailed shoes, pared-down feet, and pressure applied to the soles by various devices are abominations.  Frankly, I have to go on record as finding the elongated feet objectionable.  I greatly favor the flat-shod horse.  It's more natural and more humane.  I know that puts me in diametric opposition to the industry.

8. Old ways die slowly and never graciously, and intermittent reinforcement is habituating.  There will always be those who skirt the law, and every time they succeed makes them all the more determined.  Recidivism is a perennial weed that flourishes in the Walking Horse industry.  The sad thing is that it crops up so frequently among the leadership, just like in politics.  Affluence is the fertilizer that keeps it growing, and it is power that corrupts.  As you can see, I'm not optimistic that much will change sort of the death penalty.

9. Now what difference can be done?  The industry has always relied on exercising their influence through lobbyists in Washington, DC to gain the favor of the congressional representatives, who, in turn, were to apply pressure on government regulatory agencies, in this case, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), by such means as threatening to reduce their funding.  The benefits of this strategy are short term at best and, in the long term, loses ground by lack of cooperation and passive aggression (or by surprise rewritings of the law).  You may make a few points at the time, but like instant gratification, it is soon replaced by reinforced regulations, tighter restrictions, and stricter interpretations.  Bureaucracy can be a friend or a beast according to how it's handled.  And like an elephant, it has a long memory.  Elected officials come and go.  Bureaucracies staffed by civil servants have long tenures.

10. What I'm leading up to will be viewed by the big mules of industry as comparable to George W. sitting down with Iran and Syria.  But I am convinced what is needed is for industry and government to enter into bipartisan, multilateral summit meetings and strive for some reconciliation that is free from the old unilateral, political pressures, and to have successive meetings to correct problems before they occur, bringing pressure to bear on their own ranks - the incompetents and the malefactors, rather than on each other.  If the two sides - government and industry - can meet in a spirit of good will and a sincere desire to solve problems, the show walking horse may survive.  Otherwise, it may return to its roots - the plantation walking horse, which may not be a bad thing.

11. Thus far, I've said nothing about the humane activists who you may condemn as being at the root of the problem.  Well, this requires another change of mindset, for, if you think like Hamlet, "to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them," you are sadly mistaken.  That is tantamount to fighting the modernization of society.  What is needed is the same thing that is lacking in Bush's flawed Iran policy, and this is allies, such as the American Horse Council and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.  I can't speak officially for either (and individual members may disagree), but I can tell you that the Walking Horse show horse has lost the support of the hierarchy of the AAEP, which it had until near the turn of the 20th Century.  The AAEP has to live with the humane groups.  They know that much, and the same image problems face the Walking Horse industry.  As long as they are branded an inhumane group, the rank and file of society will reject them.  The best way to address that problem is to make peace with the USDA and the allied horse organizations.  As long as the industry determines to fight unilaterally, they travel a path of self-destruction.

12. I'm sure the industry can get a rosier opinion from another source, but it's apt to be viewed through rose-colored glasses.  The experiences of the previous year should be evidence of that.  Be that as it may, I should be surprised if anyone took this advice.  At least it didn't cost the industry but maybe a twinge of conscience.

In conclusion, I would consider attending a summit meeting of industry and government only upon the invitation of the USDA.  I have no agenda, and refuse any compensation for my services other than travel expenses and per diem.  I represent not institution or organization, and am responsible only to my own conscience.


Dr. J.T. Vaughan, DVM
Dean Emeritus of Veterinary Medicine

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