Whole Heap of Little Horse Links

  • Professional child jockeys (as young as 4) in Indonesia (SBS)
  • Virtual racehorses on the game Digiturf sell for $7,000 and $9,000. (ESPN)
  • The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration goes ahead, although welfare concerns knock out some leading competitors. DIg into the comments here. (Tennessean)
  • The number of horses slaughtered in Ireland this year appears to have fallen by half since 2012 – a good thing. The government are still organising a horse disposal scheme. (Irish Independent)
  • Mongolians and their horses (The Diplomat)
  • The results of a study into the deaths of feral walers culled by helicopter gunmen in Australia. (Horse Talk NZ)

Local Heroes for the Tennessee Walking Horse

I stick to talking about horses here and rant elsewhere, with friends, about politics, economics and what’s happening to writing and to journalism. This is one post where the both interests intersect. We all know about the decline of journalism thanks to the free content we’re all addicted to reading online: good reporting requires cash and time. The internet is something of a sausage factory in which that money and time are cut and cut again to produce a quick turnover of often poor quality journalism that goes by the name of “content” and leaves an unsatisfying taste in the mouth. I can’t pretend that I reverse this trend: occasionally I have the spare time to write something in detail, but if I really wanted to thoroughly research something I’d need to do it for cold, hard cash for a newspaper or magazine, not for my own personal horse-news churn. This blog is an aggregator, intended to point you in the direction of gems and snippets that you might otherwise miss. There are good horse news bloggers out there (Fran Jurga for one) who know their craft, and today I’d like to draw your attention to a US columnist whose work I’ve already highlighted here.

Roy Exum writes for The Chattanoogan. He neither pulls punches nor skimps on detail and, above all, he keeps track of a story that’s been unfolding for years and will probably ding-dong on for a few more. Roy is your source for the Tennessee Walking Horse shenanigans. He is, needless to say, anti-soring and anti-big lick. It’s nearly high noon for the old-school horse abusers as the government attempts to enforce the federal Horse Protection Act and end the brutal practices that have become commonplace in parts of the TWH world. The rats are leaving the ship, but the king rats fight on. The Celebration Show is turning into a showdown. Here’s Roy’s latest column:

… animal advocates promise the hardline stance being seen in Shelbyville this week is merely a battle in the escalating war to eradicate the dark and seamy side of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Harsh federal and state laws are being enacted and, in Tennessee, it is now a felony to abuse horses. Oddly, multiple violations are reportedly now being found in Shelbyville but, to the puzzlement of many, not one arrest has been made by the local sheriff.There is some indication that criminal investigations are indeed underway. Officials from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are said to have requested files before the Celebration and a heavy blanket of rumors now plagues the Big Lickers in the same way the increasing salvos of an incensed nation are aimed at the very leaders of this week’s calamity.

What is most unbelievable – and absolutely unexplainable – is why the Shelbyville crowd continues to perpetuate an evil and perverted method of animal cruelty when, today, any fool can tell it still thrives beneath some of the pads and chains and so-called “performance devices” that are associated with the Big Lick. …

Believe this because it is the new mantra – the Tennessee Walking Horse will win. Oh, will it ever. And when it returns to a natural gait, an intact tail, and countless loving hands, the only lasting scorn will be reserved for those filthy few who today stubbornly defend a dirty dollar at the expense of an ever-innocent horse. Their failure is now a certainty.

Keep an eye on Roy. Go through his earlier columns [if I have time I’ll add a list of links here] and get the word out.

Something Rotten in the State of Tennessee

Since ABC News exposed the horrific practices of sections of the Tennessee Walking Horse community to the eyes of America, things have begun to move. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners have called for an investigation. Pepsi dropped their sponsorship of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, and it has begun to look as though the abusers will finally be both shamed and prosecuted into submission. Their gravy train is slowing to a halt, too. Tickets for the Celebration were flooding the net as their purchasers decided that they didn’t want to witness the results of all that electrocution and beating.

Hats off to Roy Exum at The Chattanoogan who has a sharp and detailed piece on the desperate scampering that’s going on behind the scenes and suggests that the offenders are going to bring about their own demise through sheer pigheadedness. We’ve already seen attempts to use the US Constitution to avoid mandatory penalties. Now  a Republican in the Tennessee legislature is trying to bring a resolution to praise the outgoing CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Dr Doyle Meadows, who’s presided over the show for four years – four years in which abuse continued to be meted out behind the scenes.

This is a show whose current five-person judging panel includes three people who collectively have no fewer than sixteen offences against the federal Horse Protection Act on their rap sheets. Increasingly the old guard’s position is looking untenable: even the Tennessee State Fair has dumped them in favour of the National Walking Horse Association, who endorse only natural gaits and not the miserable “big lick”. It looks like even friends in high places can’t save the sorers.

Roy writes:

In a recent poll on the Walking Horse Report website, asking “Why are horse shows being cancelled?” a whopping 45 percent cited the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s inspections with another 33 percent believed it was Unknown Mandatory Penalties. Oddly, “cheating” and “soring” and “suspensions” were not among the eligible categories. The USDA simply enforces the law.

Someone Trying to Stop the Abuse of Horses? Time to Invoke the US Constitution!

A leading Tennessee Walking Horse industry group sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday, contending that the government’s effort to impose minimum penalties for soring and abusing horses is unconstitutional. …

SHOW Inc., the Shelbyville-based horse industry organization, filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth, claiming that the new rules violate the constitutional right of trainers and owners to due process under the law. …

“Reformers within the walking show horse industry are committed to self-regulation as demonstrated by recent efforts but the USDA’s regulations are not only unconstitutional, they unfairly punish those most aggressively working to clean up the industry,” SHOW President Stephen Mullins said in a statement.

Report by Duane W Gang at The Tennessean.