"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NEWS - Spectator Kicked Out of TWH Show for Wearing Anti-Soring T-Shirt; Letter from TWHBEA President

Spectator Kicked out of TWH Show for Wearing Anti-Soring Shirt

This is a bit of old news since it happened two weeks ago, but I wanted to post it anyway.

One of our posters on our FTTWH Facebook group was recently kicked out of a TWH show for wearing an anti-soring shirt by none other than Mike Inman, the Celebration CEO.  The show was the Tunica Fall Classic, November 8-10, in Tunica, MS.  She was there on Saturday the 10th.

Here's a photo of said shirt:

Her story as posted on Facebook:

First, I cut my head off [of the photo] because of retaliation. 2nd my 75 year old mothers hands were shaking because we got kicked out of the show [which is why the photo is blurry]. There was not much of a crowd, I've seen more spectators at a saddle club show. There was no gate fee, we stood where the horses entered and exited the arena. It was like no one wanted to make eye contact with me, no one said anything, but you could tell they were grinding their teeth. Then we went concession stand, ate. I kept seeing people with coconut cake, I asked where we could get the cake, the lady pointed to a buffet down on the floor. We walked over and it was sponsor, donors buffet. I ask if I could have some cake, the lady said I needed a ticket. The man that catered the event came over, and offered a piece of free cake, he was very nice. We walked around and found a empty sponsor table and sat down. A girl came up to my 75 year mother and said that it was her table. We moved to another sponsor table, we were there for 3 hours, no one said anything, but they were staring. I got cold and was ready to leave, we were walking towards the exit, Mike Inman, stopped us. He said he had had enough, I was only there to cause trouble and my shirt was inappropriate and we had to leave. I Never said a word to anyone, except in polite conversation, never mentioned soring. Look in my hand, Pepsi, because I will never purchase or drink coke again. Why did Inman wait until we were walking toward the exit, to ask us to leave?

I want to ask the same question.  Per your TWHBEA Position Statement dated 3/2/11 on your website, TWHBEA says: "The primary consideration for the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeder’s and Exhibitor’s Association (TWHBEA) has been and remains the humane treatment and care of the Walking Horse and his equine cousins."  So how is an anti-soring shirt a problem?  Why react with such anger?  You know, if you were truly against soring, why not react with a wink and a smile and a "cool shirt" comment as you walked by her?

Letter from President of TWHBEA

To continue to prove that actions speak louder than words, Marty Irby, President of TWHBEA, just came out with this letter to TWHBEA members on November 28.  I'll look for the other letters he mentions as well, but this one really says the most about what you're doing here.  My comments follow the letter.


Tennessee Walking Horse
Breeders' & Exhibitors' Association
the Official Breed Registry

November 28, 2012

Where We Are Today

My Fellow Members:

This will not be the most popular letter of the week, but it is the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. As the third of my series of six letters this week, I hope the information contained herein will serve you, TWHBEA, and our great horse well. Please keep in mind that I am a very positive individual, and as our Executive Director Mr. Thomas frequently says "I am not being negative, just facing reality."

I am thankful to have been blessed with such a professional, talented, and world class Executive Director as Ron Thomas during my time as President. He is the most straight forward, direct, to the point, and honest man I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I thank him for his willingness to serve TWHBEA, and for stepping out of retirement to help further the breed registry and great horse we all love so much.

More than one year ago Dr. Chester Gipson, USDA APHIS Deputy Director traveled to Lewisburg to meet with our TWHBEA EC, and present the hard cold truth that we as a breed were in danger of losing our pads and action devices. He delivered the same message in a joint meeting with the Walking Horse Trainers' Association (WHTA) the next day, and again later with the Walking Horse Owners' Association (WHOA). Mr. Thomas was one of the first men to step forward and present the word Dr. Gipson had delivered, and as your President I felt it my duty to deliver the message as well.

On a number of occasions, during group meetings of TWHBEA, WHTA, WHOA, & The Celebration I reminded many of what the original intent of our meetings was, and that was to discuss the performance horse pads and action devices, and to help establish "One Voice" for our industry. Dr. Gipson specifically said that he was willing to help us, but the matter was a separate issue from inspections, inspection processes, and inspection services. Over the course of several meetings, a number of our TWHBEA representatives were ridiculed, and slandered for merely delivering a message from the government. A short time later, the USDA held listening sessions around the country regarding pads, action devices, the HIO system & inspections, and the all too common topic of soring. We as an industry and we as a TWHBEA Executive Committee drew our line in the sand and said "no" to making any changes or modifications to the pads and action devices.

A short time later came the release of the Jackie McConnell video. When the release came out I was quite shocked, and in the middle of judging the German Championship in Wemding, Germany. Being located in a foreign country while President of TWHBEA when the video was released really showed me a different perspective, and how our horse, breed, owners, exhibitors, and trainers were viewed internationally. Most compared performance horse people to barbarians, and many have thrown all of us in the same category as Michael Vick. Please understand I am not saying they are right, just merely delivering a message that "perception is reality."

I recognize and realize many of those in our industry have been in denial about training techniques applied to horses in all divisions of our show horse segment. At the same time, I realize, understand, have enough knowledge, and have been involved with enough truly great and talented animals that I believe we do have sound padded performance horses. What percentage, I honestly don't know. I do believe in what we have bred over the past 70 years. I believe in our show horse, its talent, ability, stamina, and gifted kindness. The problem does not lie in the performance horse, its pads, or action devices. The problem lies within people who are willing to cheat and abuse a horse to make him mimic or imitate a truly great and natural show horse.

How will we ever stop the cheating? We won't. Someone will always try to cheat. Someone will always try to take advantage of the kindness and love a horse has for them. Please realize and recognize that no law or amendment eliminates a problem, it merely regulates it. That is the unfortunate truth of government regulation and humanity. There will always be people that run stop signs, and there will always be people that will rob banks.

I am believer in the old saying "you are what you think." Far too often we think about the issue of soring and catching people who break the law, when we should equally be focusing on promoting sound horses, education in training, and rewarding those who are doing the right things. Our industry has very little record of being proactive, and has become far too reactive.

In the upcoming days you will see the beginnings of a new program at TWHBEA, under our Horse Shows Division that will start the process of rewarding those who are doing the right thing, and those who are showing sound horses.

This program is long overdue. The concept of "The Champions Cup" which has been approved in concept by our Horse Show Committee and our current EC will be presented at the upcoming meetings.

In recent weeks and months we have seen major veterinary organizations speak out against our show horse. We have few friends, and very little time to work together to save our show horse. So many have asked for "One Voice" and if it is not too late already, that "One Voice" must be the voice at TWHBEA, The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' & Exhibitors' Association which remains the oldest and largest organization in our industry since its inception in 1935. As a Lifetime Member I stand behind TWHBEA as the leader of our industry, as do thousands of others. I hope you will all stand up for TWHBEA, and voice your opinions and become a vocal part of this association at the upcoming General Membership meeting on Friday and International Board of Directors Meeting & Election on Saturday! Our association and our great horse need you!

With truth and dedication,

Marty Irby


These were my immediate thoughts as I read this letter.

First thought: "When the release came out I was quite shocked." Yeah, I bet you were. SHOCKED THAT YOU WERE FINALLY CAUGHT IN THE ACT. Thought you were safe behind closed barn doors, didn't ya?

Second thought: " The problem does not lie in the performance horse, its pads, or action devices. The problem lies within people who are willing to cheat and abuse a horse to make him mimic or imitate a truly great and natural show horse." No to the first sentence, yes to the second. Forcing a horse to stand at an unnatural angle merely for fashion and vanity and to win IS a problem. Requiring chains in the show ring so the cheaters can cheat IS a problem.

Third thought: "How will we ever stop the cheating? We won't. Someone will always try to cheat." I agree. The problem is you guys ENCOURAGE the cheaters to cheat! You give them awards and accolades and continue to allow them to show. So why shouldn't they cheat when there's no serious consequences when they get caught?

Fourth thought: "Our association and our great horse need you!" Because we want to keep our pads and chains, dammit, and we all have to come together and FORCE it to happen!

The second to last paragraph: I'll believe it when I start seeing you people keep the cheaters and burners OUT of the ring. Get rid of these horrible men and women with multiple violations. DON'T LET THEM SHOW ANYMORE. You are already giving out plenty of rewards, both in the public eye and under the table. It's time for you guys to get serious about punishment.

These morons are like the band on the Titanic: they will continue to play their song and dance to try to calm the members who are jumping ship and will ultimately go down with the ship.  Let's just hope they do, because I know I am really tired of this nonsense.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NEWS and ARTICLES - AVMA & AAEP Release Joint Statement

The AVMA and AAEP released a joint statement today announcing their full support of HR 6388!  The press release can be read here.  I've copied and pasted the article below.

I also found out that at Shelbyville show over the weekend, a BL horse's hoof was sheered off while in the ring.  This can be caused by the band being too tight and the package being too heavy.  The horse was bleeding everywhere, and the rider didn't get off at first and rode the horse into the lineup, then waited for the groom to come help her.

The worst part?  NO ONE DID ANYTHING.  The horse's hoof was bandaged and he was seen limping back to his trailer.  On the thread I was reading, people were saying it was no big deal and a new hoof can be made out of epoxy while the old one grows back.  They were saying it wasn't unusual for this to happen, and lots of people have witnessed it.

Look, I don't know about you, but I once slammed my finger in a car door.  My entire nail down to the nail bed came off.  And it HURT, and I CRIED, and there was lots of blood.  And I don't even walk on my fingers the way a horse has to walk on its hoof.  I can only imagine the agony this poor animal was in, and having to continue to carry his rider to boot...at least in the racehorse world with horses like Eight Belles and Barbaro, the jockey came off as fast as possible and stopped the horse from continuing to run.

This is just another example of why we need the pads and bands out of the show ring. While nothing can be done about this situation legally, there is no reason why it should be happening in the first place.

This is another excellent opportunity to contact your Congress person and ask them to support HR 6388.  Go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov and go to the upper right corner to find your Congress person. Feel free to include the link to the press release so they can see that not only do groups like the HSUS support this, but true veterinarians do as well.  If vets are saying it's time to get rid of stacks and chains, then that's what we need to do.  And if you've already contacted them, contact them again, especially now that the elections are over with. Make your voices heard when the horses can't!


AAEP, AVMA Call for Passage of H.R. 6388 - Amendments to the Horse Protection Act
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November 19, 2012
Today the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners issued a joint statement of support for the Amendments to the Horse Protection Act, H.R. 6388.

“Soring is an unconscionable abuse of horses that is used to produce a high-stepping gait—the “Big Lick”—and gain an unfair competitive advantage in the show ring. For decades we’ve watched irresponsible individuals become more creative about finding ways to sore horses and circumvent the inspection process, and have lost faith in an industry that seems unwilling and/or unable to police itself. The AVMA and AAEP are committed to strengthening the USDA’s ability to enforce the Horse Protection Act and ending this abuse for good. We strongly encourage everyone who cares about the welfare of horses to contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 6388,” said Dr. Doug Aspros, AVMA President.

Specifically, H.R. 6388:

  • Makes the actual act of soring, or directing another person to cause a horse to become sore, illegal;
  • Requires the USDA (rather than the industry) to license, train, assign and oversee inspectors enforcing the Horse Protection Act;
  • Prohibits the use of action devices (e.g., boot, collar, chain, roller, or other device that encircles or is placed upon the lower extremity of the leg of a horse) on any limb of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle horses, or Racking horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions and bans weighted shoes, pads, wedges, hoof bands, or other devices that are not used for protective or therapeutic purposes;
  • Increases civil and criminal penalties for violations, and creates a penalty structure that requires horses to be disqualified for increasing periods of time based on the number of violations; and
  • Allows for permanent disqualification from the show ring after three or more violations.

"The passage of H.R. 6388 will strengthen the Horse Protection Act and significantly increase the effort to end the abuse of the Tennessee Walking Horse," said AAEP President Dr. John Mitchell. "The AAEP encourages all veterinarians to contact their legislators to voice support for the bill and help end the cruel soring of these beautiful animals."

For more information on the AVMA and AAEP’s efforts to stop this egregious abuse of horses, visit the AVMA's Soring Resource Page.

# # #

The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse.  Currently, the AAEP reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its nearly 10,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 82,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. For more information, visit www.avma.org.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NEWS, ARTICLES and HOW YOU CAN HELP - Post Election Post

Well, here we are, post-election 2012.  Now we can look forward to no more negative campaign ads online or on the television...well, for another four years, at least!  So it's onward and upward: let's talk about how we can further protect the horse!

McConnell Goes Back to Court November 13

As one of our posters on Facebook reminded us, Jackie the Jerk goes back to court on November 13 to face state charges.  This includes approximately 15 counts of animal cruelty, but it doesn't fall under the new Tennessee law making animal abuse a felony because Jackie was caught in March and the law was passed in July.

We need to send our letters and emails and make phone calls to District Attorney Michael Dunavant to let him know we haven't forgotten about this case.  Mr. Dunavant can be contacted at the following.

D. Michael Dunavant
District Attorney General
25th Judicial District of Tennessee
Lauderdale, Tipton, Fayette, Hardeman & McNairy counties
121 North Main Street
Ripley, Tennessee 38063
(731) 635-5163

He has been sending out a "canned" response, but the message is very good--clearly, he is getting enough emails to need to send a specific response concerning this case.  It seems he really cares about upholding the law and making sure justice is served.  But still, we need your voice to help keep this issue foremost in his mind!

HR 6388 Sponsors and Co-Sponsors - Contact the NEW Senators and Reps!

Good news!  Sponsor Rep. Edward Whitfield (R, KY) was reelected!  As were lots of the co-sponsors.  But some of them were not relected.  Those are highlighted below in red.  I put the new person's name in with a link to their website.  The amendment is still sitting in the committee waiting to be reviewed, so this means we need to contact the new Senators and Representatives and ask for their support!  And here's the entire list of new and reelected Congress persons--click here.  The new ones have links attached to their names, so they need to be contacted as well.

  • Rep. Roscoe Bartlett [R, MD-6]  to Rep. John Delaney [D, MD-6]
  • Rep. Judy Biggert [R, IL-13] to Rep. Rodney Davis [R, IL-13]
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer [D, OR-3]
  • Del. Madeleine Bordallo [D, GU-0]
  • Rep. William Clay [D, MO-1]
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings [D, MD-7]
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio [D, OR-4]
  • Rep. Anna Eshoo [D, CA-18]
  • Rep. Sam Farr [D, CA-20]
  • Rep. Elton Gallegly [R, CA-24]
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva [D, AZ-7]
  • Rep. Michael Honda [D, CA-17]
  • Rep. Eddie Johnson [D, TX-30]
  • Rep. Walter Jones [R, NC-3]
  • Rep. James Langevin [D, RI-2]
  • Rep. Rick Larsen [D, WA-2]
  • Rep. John Lewis [D, GA-5]
  • Rep. Frank LoBiondo [R, NJ-2]
  • Rep. Stephen Lynch [D, MA-8]
  • Rep. James McGovern [D, MA-2]
  • Rep. Gary Miller [R, CA-31]
  • Rep. James Moran [D, VA-8]
  • Del. Eleanor Norton [D, DC-0]
  • Rep. David Price [D, NC-4]
  • Rep. Nick Rahall [D, WV-3]
  • Rep. Steven Rothman [D, NJ-9] to Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (might be incorrect)
  • Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard [D, CA-40]
  • Rep. Janice Schakowsky [D, IL-9]
  • Rep. Brad Sherman [D, CA-30]
  • Rep. Fortney Stark [D, CA-13] to Rep. Barbara Lee (might be incorrect)
  • Rep. John Tierney [D, MA-6]
  • Rep. Nydia Velázquez [D, NY-07]
  • Rep. Lynn Woolsey [D, CA-6] to Rep. Doris Matsui (might be incorrect)
  • Rep. Bill Young [R, FL-13]
  • Rep. Brian Bilbray [R, CA-50] to Rep. Duncan Hunter (might be incorrect)
  • Rep. George Butterfield [D, NC-1]
  • Rep. John Campbell [R, CA-45]
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono [D, HI-2] to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI-2]
  • Rep. Steve Cohen [D, TN-9]
  • Rep. James Himes [D, CT-4]
  • Rep. Gary Peters [D, MI-14]
  • Rep. Paul Tonko [D, NY-20]
  • Rep. Bob Dold [R, IL-10] to Rep. Brad Schneider [D, IL-10]
  • Rep. Hansen Clarke [D, MI-13]
  • Rep. Michael Grimm [R, NY-13] to John Conyers Jr. (might be incorrect)
  • Rep. Steve Stivers [R, OH-15]

The best way to track all of this is via POPVOX--click here.  And don't forget: be sure to post your support of HR 6388 as well.  Do your best to word your response logically and clearly--cursing or negative language does not help our cause.

Extension on the FTTWH Letter

I've extended the date to sign our FTTWH letter that we'll be sending out to various horse organizations.  I have a lot of "real" work to do and won't be able to send it out for the next couple of weeks.  So please have your signatures added by NOVEMBER 14, 2012.  To add your signature, click here, choose the Comments box in the upper right corner, and comment.  PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR NAME - real names are what get us the most support!  Click here for the blog post about the letter and how I'll be distributing it.  And pass this info on to your horsey friends--the more the better!

Tennessee State University Changes the TWH Homecoming Presentation from Big Lick to Flat Shod

From the HSUS article:  "In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which funds the protection of natural habitat, the University has partnered with the state of Tennessee 4-H organization to celebrate the Tennessee walking horse. Although a Tennessee walking horse demonstration is one of Tennessee’s homecoming traditions, this year the University has decided to showcase a sound, flat shod horse in lieu of their customary “Big Lick” demonstration – following exposes and law enforcement actions against the cruel practice of soring these competitive horses."  Click here for the article.  More about the Morrill Act is here.

From the University of Tennessee article: "To reflect the Morrill Act’s mission, the university has updated its traditional Tennessee Walking Horse exhibition at this year’s Homecoming. Prior to kickoff, A Daring Affair, a flat-shod walking horse, will circle the field with rider Kimbrell Hines, a high-school senior from Winchester, Tennessee. Hines is a longtime member of the Tennessee 4-H program, and she and the horse, known affectionately as Summer, have won many horse shows around the state."  Click here for the article.

I love that the University says they have "updated" the exhibition!  This is wonderful news for the Tennessee Walking Horse and is a clear message to the industry that the Big Lick is no longer a quality or proper representation of the TWH.

If you'd like to send a thank you letter to the University for making this choice, here's the contact information for the All Campus Events, the group that puts together the homecoming events.

All Campus Events
A member of the Central Program Council
Phone: (865) 974-5455
Fax: (865) 974-9252
Website: http://activities.utk.edu
Email: ace@utk.edu

Lanier Loftin, Director’s Chair
Ashton Rummage, Co-Homecoming Chair
Paige Sabo, Co-Homecoming Chair
Keith Becklin, Advisor
Click for Facebook page

And congratulations to University of Tennessee for their homecoming win in 2012!  I think switching to a Flat Shod horse gave you good luck!

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