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Tennessee Walking Horse Soring Issue *Update post 1*

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  • Some years ago, I created a 100-mile endurance ride called the Race
    of Champions. There was massive competitive energy surrounding
    the event, as you can imagine when the best of the best in the nation
    came together to crown the BEST. I felt a profound responsibility
    for the safety of the horses, knowing that when you put the goals of
    the rider above the well being of the horse, bad things can happen.
    Each year, as 100 horses and riders gathered at the starting line at
    the break of dawn, I asked everyone to bow their heads and over the
    loudspeaker...I would pray. “Please Lord, keep all of these horses and
    riders and all the people involved with the race today safe. And please,
    put on the rider’s hearts that there is nothing in prizes or glory at the
    finish line that is worth more than the health and well being of their
    horses.” Every year, riders (of all faiths) would come to me and say the
    prayer calmed their spirits and focused their priorities.
    We have a CANCER in our equine industry that has been allowed to
    go on too long, and it is time to eradicate it NOW. Tennessee Walking
    Horses have a naturally high-stepping gait, but over the years trainers
    have used special shoes and metal chains to encourage an even higher
    step. Eventually, some figured that the training could go faster if they
    burned the horses’ ankles, a practice known as soring. Dripping harsh
    chemicals on the horses’ front ankles forces them, because of the pain, to
    lift their legs even higher and shift their weight to their back legs, giving
    them the “big lick” gait for which the judges award ribbons and money.
    The Walking Horse industry has pledged for more than three
    decades to crack down on soring, but it is public record that the MAJORITY
    of those who sit on the governing boards of the breed have
    at least one Protective Act VIOLATION on their records. They pay lip
    service to “cracking down,” but when you have the leadership as part
    of the abuse problem, you aren’t going to get any meaningful changes.
    The barbaric, inhumane torture of these beautiful, kind horses
    could end in a New York minute if the breed associations and horse
    show management would step up and do the right thing. Instead, the
    top organizations plead their case to maintain unnatural pads and
    “action devices” based on their
    need to generate more money
    and membership at the shows.
    Quoting from a letter from the
    top breed association to the
    USDA: “I plead with the USDA
    to give serious consideration to
    economic factors, jobs, horse
    farmers … 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.” It’s all
    about money for them, and the horse be damned.
    A few years back, I rode the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim solo on a
    Tennessee Walker gelding (shown in this photo), and he was the most
    beautiful, smart, kind, lovely horse I ever had the privilege to ride. These
    horses are truly amazing athletes, and why so many inside the industry
    don’t see the value of promoting the breed in a way that does not involve
    abuse and torture is beyond comprehension. So little has changed
    in the last 30 years that I don’t believe there is going to be an end to
    this horrific practice anytime soon—without massive intervention.
    I believe the only way this can change is for the entire horse industry
    to stand up with one voice and say THIS STOPS NOW. We need to
    write letters to government leaders on a national, state and local level.
    We need to protest and picket horse shows—and their sponsors—to
    keep the light shining on them without let-up. Let us all give our voices
    (and prayers) to set these beautiful horses free from their abusive lives.
    In the months ahead, Trail Blazer Magazine will show you ways in
    which you can truly be an advocate for the Tennessee Walking Horse,
    because what the industry is doing is evil, and there is nothing in prizes
    or glory that is worth more than the health and well being of the horse.
    Susana Gibson | founder Trail Blazer Magazine
    Last edited by walknsound; Jun. 23, 2012, 06:19 PM. Reason: Add info

    Comment


    • Amen.
      from sunridge1:Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.it is going to be good until the last drop!Eleneswell, the open trail begged to be used. D Taylor

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        Great article. I like the way she thinks. And thanks hurleycane for posting that Tennessean article earlier
        from sunridge1 Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by katarine View Post
          So I understand that the government showed up at the Athens show last night. Hardly anyone bothered to get their horses inspected.
          Do you mean that, rather than go through the inspection, they chose not to show?

          Comment


          • yes. that particular inspector has a bit of a reputation, but seriously....30 classes...yet only 5-6 classes were held. So flat shod, lite shod, sorta shod...everything PLUS the padded horses said no thanks. they left.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              There were 30 classes but only 12 horses showed.
              1 Lead Line
              1 Lite Shod
              1 2 yr old mare/gelding riders cup
              2 AOT
              4 Country Pleasure
              2 Trail Pleasure
              1 Championship
              from sunridge1 Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.

              Comment


              • That is GREAT news as far as the show numbers. You can't put on a show if the classes can't be filled. They MUST finally have the you-know-what scared out of them.

                Athens always has been pretty much BL country. We bought a wonderful son of Pride of Midnight in Athens, Georgia. He was being sold because he couldn't pass inspection any more because of the scar rule- he had a noticeable callous on one pastern and you could feel a smaller lump on the other. We bought him because he was out of the same mare that our favorite stallion was out of and he was getting up in years.

                After my husband died, he had a decent career as a stud in Texas. He lived into his 20s and I was told by his last owner that he passed away in the night without any sign of struggle in his stall. She had him buried on her ranch, which was right as she had owned him longer than any of his previous owners. He was a very even tempered stallion, but not as sweet as our Robert.

                Comment


                • I just read on another forum that the TWH show in Buckhead, Ga. was cancelled tonight (Sat). The USDA inspectors showed up and all but 6 of the exhibitors loaded up their trailers and left. Also, another BL TWH trainer was fined and suspended for 7 1/2 years. I guess it's getting pretty hot in BL TWH-Land.

                  Comment


                  • Well, first it will be 12.

                    To those who did show, high 5! You are the start of something good. Glad the USDA is showing, too.

                    For sure there will also be a few more problems to try and show. Hopefully, they will merely represent the dying gasp.

                    All that is needed now is da ban on the action devices in the ring.
                    from sunridge1:Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.it is going to be good until the last drop!Eleneswell, the open trail begged to be used. D Taylor

                    Comment


                    • Thanks all for posting that news. I believe soring/BL is dying, indeed last gasps. Still wish those trailers had been stopped.

                      Comment


                      • I do sort of feel bad for the civic organizations that often put on the small shows, which are also often on behalf of some charity. They end up losing a pile of money when all the exhibitors bail out which in turn hurts the charity that the show proceeds were earmarked for.

                        It is going to take some time and there is going to be some collateral damage but hopefully in the long run it will be a positive for the TWH breed as a whole.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by GracesMom View Post
                          I do sort of feel bad for the civic organizations that often put on the small shows, which are also often on behalf of some charity. They end up losing a pile of money when all the exhibitors bail out which in turn hurts the charity that the show proceeds were earmarked for.

                          It is going to take some time and there is going to be some collateral damage but hopefully in the long run it will be a positive for the TWH breed as a whole.
                          In this area at least, so many of the civic organizations are chock full of Lickers. Raising money for whatever charity is a smoke screen to further the Lickers own agenda. You must understand the mentality of these sick people. There are other ways to raise money. No excuse for BL.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by walknsound View Post
                            Thanks all for posting that news. I believe soring/BL is dying, indeed last gasps. Still wish those trailers had been stopped.
                            Yup, that would be a great way for them to twist the knife in a little further. Here's hoping BL is in its death throes.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by GracesMom View Post
                              I just read on another forum that the TWH show in Buckhead, Ga. was cancelled tonight (Sat). The USDA inspectors showed up and all but 6 of the exhibitors loaded up their trailers and left. Also, another BL TWH trainer was fined and suspended for 7 1/2 years. I guess it's getting pretty hot in BL TWH-Land.
                              Not as hot is it will probably be when those Lickers get turned away at the Pearly Gates.

                              On another note many of the TWH shows around here are sponsored by some civic group raising funds of some charity or cause. It harks back to the days when the TWH and ASB shows were thought of as "society horse shows" as opposed to rodeos and such.

                              The planters and the "money people" in town were the ones mainly involved with the saddleseat classes.

                              The sponsoring group raises money for charity through sales of concessions and part of the entry fees go to the sponsor as well as all of the "gate" money if they charge people to attend as spectators.

                              I know the big April show in Jackson MS is called THe Mississippi State Charity Horse Show. It chooses a charity each year, and recently helped the Blair E. Batson Hospital of Children. This same show calls itself of of the major society events in Mississippi.

                              There also used to be a big TWH show in Lake Charles held for charity. I don't know if it still goes on or not. I hope that once the LIckers die out, these shows can still be held and people can show sound flat shod walking horses in the classess instead of those Licker freaks.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                I feel no sympathy for any organization that takes a hit trying to host this type of fundraiser. There are innumerable ways to raise $ and they will need to be creative. They have made money off the suffering of horses for way too long. S***w em.

                                or yes as bayou-bengal said - just show sound horses !
                                from sunridge1 Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.

                                Comment


                                • this looks promising,if all the pre Celebration shows have USDA inspectors and the BL folks just load and leave than what is this saying to GOOD OLE BOY DOYLE,can he see the writing on the wall. one sure hopes so.

                                  or maybe the GOOD FOLKS of Shelbyville will not want to be known as the show soring capital any longer,and stand up saying to the celebration board of directors NO BL CLASSES. we want a better name for the TWH and Shelbyville and the STATE of TENNESSEE.
                                  i can hope

                                  Comment


                                  • Today's (Sunday) feature story in The Tennessean. It's free today, but you'll probably have to pay for it tomorrow.

                                    http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120624/NEWS01/306240044/Mistreated-Tennessee-Walking-Horses-get-second-chance?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
                                    It's 2017. Do you know where your old horse is?

                                    www.streamhorsetv.com -- website with horse show livestream listings and links.

                                    Comment


                                    • Some of y'all don't know squat about winning a war. And make no mistake about it: abolishing the BL, JVBL (Plantation/Lightshod), associated way of going, etc. is a war.

                                      All wars have two parts: first, the battlefield part. In the war on soring/outrageous way of going the battlefield is the DQP station, the ring, and courtroom. Here the power of the State can be brought to bear on the miscreants.

                                      But part two is "winning the minds and hearts of the defeated." Think of this as "winning the peace." It is, by far, the more difficult and expensive part of victory.

                                      Way too many voices are screaming for blood and vengeance. Those of us with a historical bent remember how that turned out in places like the American South after the ACW and Germany after WWI.

                                      Further, way too few voices are from the TWH world. Outsiders are important in winning on the battlefield but can be an impediment to winning the peace. I'd feel a whole lot better if some of our traditional defenders of the Big Lick way of going were to sign on to proposed restrictions on action devices. If they genuinely believe that they don't cause harm (and this whole thing is just about style, not substance) then they will engage in "guerrilla war" and you'll be at this for a very long time.

                                      An awful lot of voices are paraphrasing the late Sen. Goldwater. We hear "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of humane treatment is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of natural movement is no virtue!" That didn't work out in 1964 and it won't work out in 2012.

                                      G.
                                      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                                      Comment


                                      • Martha Day doesn’t know exactly what happened to the Tennessee Walking Horse she cares for.

                                        But she has a pretty good idea.

                                        The scars and discolored tufts of hair on his front legs, and the horse’s obvious fear when she approaches with tools, tell her that Big ’Un, as she calls him, endured abuse at the hands of trainers trying to force him to step a little higher in his previous life as a competitive show horse in the making.

                                        But now he’s just a big, black horse in a pasture in Scottsville, Ky. Day gave up years ago trying to ride him. He spooks too easily.

                                        “He will never be the same as a horse that lived without horrible abuse,” said Day, a former director of inspectors for the National Walking Horse Association.

                                        For Tennessee Walking Horses that win championships and earn stud fees, retired life can be leisurely, ending beneath an ornate headstone out behind an owner’s home. But most Tennessee Walking Horses don’t garner such accolades. An untold number are sent to slaughter. Others are rescued but still bear the scars of their time in the show ring.

                                        Walking horses that are severely abused and sored — training techniques that inflict pain on the legs and hooves to exaggerate the natural gait — often live out their time damaged inside and out, skittish and unridable, however long they live.

                                        And some don’t last all that long.

                                        “If you can’t reasonably control a horse’s pain over time, the only fair thing you can do with that horse is euthanize them,” said Nat Messer, professor of equine medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri. “It’s not uncommon for horses that have been pressure shod to develop laminitis.”

                                        Pressure shodding, or shoeing, places screws, nails and other objects between the horse’s foot and a pad. It can cause crippling laminitis, or sore hooves, which is the most common cause of euthanasia, Messer said.

                                        That sort of treatment can disrupt blood flow and create pus-filled, painful abscesses, Messer said, which can cut short an otherwise 30-year life span — about 20 years beyond the age of showing.

                                        A loose network of horse owners monitors auctions to buy and care for discarded walking horses, a breed known for smooth rides, but there’s no organized retirement system. Many adopters can only guess what happened years before, and what might give the animal comfort.

                                        “It’s all based on how the human being interacts with the horse and whether you can make that horse have trust in what you’re doing with it,” Messer said. “How mentally abused they are, I don’t think anybody can assess that. But if somebody is doing the right thing by the horse in terms of daily training and use, they’ll eventually get over that, as long as they’re not reminded of it.”

                                        Messer is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which this month called for an end to horse soring as part of a growing chorus of criticism of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. The outcry erupted anew last month after the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video that captured award-winning Collierville trainer Jackie McConnell beating and soring horses.

                                        The association’s push, along with tougher soring penalties approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a horse industry initiative to begin closer inspections, is part of the latest effort to root out abuse. But the industry has been the subject of periodic investigations and public condemnation for decades.

                                        Marty Irby, president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors’ Association, said the majority of show horses retire in good health and can be used for breeding and trail riding.

                                        “There are good trainers and bad trainers,” he said. “We only stand for the sound horse. We’re against soring of horses in every way and will do what we can to eliminate the practice.”

                                        Irby said an organized program for retiring walking horses would be expensive.

                                        “Until we are able to raise some money to put programs in place, it’s hard to do anything but keep (the association) alive,” he said.

                                        A horse costs about $2,000 a year to care for, more if the animal becomes ill. Euthanasia can cost up to $500, with added costs for disposal.

                                        A past that's hard to trace
                                        Day said she once triggered Big ’Un’s memories by approaching with a measuring stick.

                                        “I’m not brandishing it at him, just walking,” she said. “I’m about a 5-5, average-size woman. I go in with this stick, this animal shrank into a corner of his stall and cowered. He was terrified.”

                                        That kind of response sent Day in search of details on the 16-year-old horse’s past, but tracing it wasn’t easy. She said she learned from a former owner that the horse had been trained by a man with more than a dozen soring violations.

                                        Even learning that much eludes many owners of former show horses, which often pass through dealers and auctions before finding a more permanent place to retire.

                                        Day’s horse carries scars on the front legs and areas where white hair has grown instead of black, which she said was a sign of scarring.

                                        Messer said chemical soring causes temporary pain, but in serious cases it leaves lasting scars that irritate and restrict the skin.

                                        Owners also must convert the shape of the horse’s hooves back to a more natural form, said Steve Adair, associate professor of equine surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

                                        The bottoms of show horses’ feet don’t hit the ground, so they need to toughen up.

                                        “You do a conservative trimming and shoeing and you gradually back their toe up, you let their heels lengthen up and become taller, and it’s a gradual process,” Adair said. “Most of these horses, after about six months of routine farrier care, their feet will start looking more and more like what you would consider a normal horse.”

                                        Humane Society Equine Protection Director Keith Dane, who has led the push for change in the walking horse industry, finds it troubling that some horses are damaged permanently.

                                        “Some of them never recover from either the physical or the emotional scars of the training process,” he said. “But the bottom line is: Why are we subjecting horses to the possibility that they might be unsound or might be made unsound for months?”

                                        Messer, the veterinarian, said he often sees sored horses that act “stoic.”

                                        “The typical horse is going to react to its environment and be aware of what’s going on,” he said. “We talk of (walking horses) standing there and gritting their teeth and taking whatever is put on to them.”

                                        In such behavior there is at least one benefit, he said: Former show horses are often docile.

                                        “Once they’ve been through this type of treatment, they look at people differently,” he said. “Fortunately they don’t hold a grudge, and many of them aren’t mean.”

                                        That’s some of what Day has seen in Big ’Un.

                                        “He’s definitely been taught that you don’t move when your limbs are touched,” she said. “He goes somewhere else, mentally. He’s been taught not to react, no matter.

                                        “I believe you could saw his legs off one at a time and he’d be there motionless.”

                                        The Sportin' Man
                                        For other owners, even knowing details of a retired horse’s show-by-show history can still leave them unable to know whether abuse took place.

                                        Brenda Lees, vice chairwoman of the Volunteer Equine Advocates horse rescue in Gallatin, rides these days on a former blue-ribbon winner she bought from a local owner.

                                        An inspector disqualified the horse, The Sportin’ Man, and the owner, Mark Croxill, in 2005 for soring. He and the trainer, who also was disqualified, decided not to appeal and to retire the horse.

                                        To this day, Croxill denies the horse was sored, and Lees wants to believe that. But the trainer, Michael Daniel, has since picked up additional violations, and her own experience with showing horses leaves her with just one conclusion about the high-stepping “big lick.”

                                        “You just can’t get that exaggerated lick without a chemical enhancement, I don’t think,” she said. “Was he sored? Maybe he was.”

                                        Croxill, of Madison, called the horse the best he ever had. And he said a veterinarian at the show critiqued the inspector, saying it didn’t appear that The Sportin’ Man had been sored.

                                        “I know that he was not sored,” Croxill said.

                                        Daniel did not return phone calls for this article.

                                        The Sportin’ Man had drawn interest from other buyers. From 2002 to 2005, the horse had a pair of first-place finishes and other ribbons, according to records kept by The Walking Horse Report.

                                        But the disqualification squelched the interest of buyers.

                                        Whatever happened back then, The Sportin’ Man now shows no sign of abuse.

                                        “I could take him into a horse show at a local ring and probably win a ribbon,” Lees said. “He’s beautiful, he steps high, and he’s smooth.”

                                        Lees said it took some time to train the horse to ride trails.

                                        “He’d never been ridden a lot like a regular horse. They have to learn how to be a horse out in the woods,” she said.

                                        Adair, the veterinarian, said that in his years of work, he estimates 90 percent of Tennessee Walking Horses do not show lasting behavioral issues.

                                        “I totally abhor soring,” he said. “But looking at the horse itself, the soring doesn’t prevent the horse from leading a productive life for years.”

                                        What a horse remembers
                                        In Powell, Tenn., outside of Knoxville, horse rescuer Michele Ketchum will never know exactly what happened to Titus, her dapple brown Tennessee Walking Horse.

                                        The horse came from a Cannon County farm where authorities seized 84 abused and neglected horses in 2009. When examined by a vet, Titus ranked among the skinniest, sickliest horses ever to show up at Horse Haven, the horse rescue facility that took them in.

                                        Although veterinarians said there’s no obvious connection to soring, Titus clearly has problems.

                                        He runs funny, with his feet out, perhaps the sign that a trainer manipulated his gait. His willingness to be touched changes from day to day. When visitors approach, the 1,200-pound horse tries to hide behind Ketchum and her 18-year-old daughter.

                                        Not knowing his past makes it difficult for Ketchum to know what might trigger an episode of skittishness during training sessions.

                                        She wants to see him saddled again someday, carrying her daughter through the field out back where Titus grazes with a mare, Cayenne.

                                        One day earlier this month, after the horses roamed among pine trees at the far end of the pasture, Ketchum tracked down Titus to lead him through a series of walking circles. A bit clumsy, he’d get a little too close to her and she’d push him away, a pattern that repeated itself several times.

                                        Titus also gets anxious when the mare leaves his side. To demonstrate, Ketchum took Cayenne out of the barn.

                                        Titus flared his nostrils and began pacing. Then he ran out into the pasture. As Ketchum’s daughter walked Cayenne out of sight, Titus galloped back and forth along the fence line, snorting and nickering.

                                        “I think they really seriously messed him up,” Ketchum said as she watched him run. “Titus remembers bad things that happened to him, no matter how many good things happen to him.”

                                        Contact Tony Gonzalez at 615-259-8089 or tgonzalez@tennessean.com. Follow him on

                                        Comment


                                        • http://www.tennessean.com/article/20...n-seven-years-

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