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.

Whole Heap of Little Horse Links

Spotted by Helen Maguire at the UCCA contemporary art gallery in Beijing

Cruelty Licked

Thank God. Some mainstream coverage of the scandalous abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses. ABC News went for a big trainer and obtained horrific undercover footage of him beating and  electrocuting horses. Jackie McConnell is now being prosecuted. A brief and disturbing video is here, along with an article. The documentary also goes into the practice of soring, in which the horses’ heels are burned with caustic chemicals and then weighted with chains – all in the pursuit of the bizarre “big lick” gait (seen here, being applauded by morons).

As a palate cleanser here’s the Friends of Sound Horses website. They’re an organisation dedicated to the true gaited horse – the one that’s not scarred, scabbed and terrified by training that forces them into an unnatural and painful way of moving. This is what it should look like:



UPDATE: (via International Fund for Horses) Pepsi have dropped sponsorship of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration. Now they’re getting them by the goolies. But why on earth had Pepsi hung on for so long?

Bad Role Model Horses

Abusive showing methods used in the Arabian horse world have now been immortalised by the model horse hobby scene. Snarky Rider (who’s now filling in for Fugly Horse of the Day) is rude about the hobby in this post, but the photo of the handler waving a big stick at the 1980s Hagen Renaker Arab is just a replication of what’s on view in many show rings (see this post for a nasty reminder). Larger image at the Sylverwyng Stables site: the stallion is called *Aneirin. As a former model horse collector and shower, I almost wish more people did this to highlight the absurdity of some real-world showing practices. What about some “big lick” Tennessee Walking horses with bleeding legs? There’s a Breyer model that’ll do the job nicely.