I’ll be the first to admit I know nothing about horses, and darn little about people, but when I first wrote about a notorious abuser known as Jackie “The Jerk” McConnell this time a week ago, I had no way of knowing that story would open such a can of worms it would result in hundreds of impassioned emails, a sickening look at the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, and the very real chance America can indeed bring an end to a half-decade of torturing and abusing beautiful animals.
Right now the top 20 horse trainers in the walking horse Rider’s Cup competition have amassed 164 violations of the federal Horse Protection Act, this in just the last two years. Anyone who dares to say these are “isolated incidents” or that the nauseating soring of show horses isn’t still a rampant scar on the walking horse world is most definitely a liar.
But just as a “big lick” thrills thousands at a walking horse show when the champion horses so deliciously prance before the crowd, the time has come for those who love a half-million registered walkers in the United State to come across with “a real big lick” that will overwhelm the questionable leaders, kayo the scurrilous trainers, and stifle the rich owners whose lust for the “blue ribbon” has far outplaced their morals.The rank-and-file people in the walking horse world have to realize that this is an election year in the United States. Politicians, whether you think they deserve to be in the cell with Jackie the Jerk or not, are now running for all types of office on the national and state level. No matter the state where walking horses are kept, all of these politicians seek the same thing – your vote.
These politicians will promise you anything to get your nod and now is the time, especially in Tennessee and its surrounding states, to leverage the ghastly undercover video that the Humane Society has just provided of “Jackie the Jerk” walloping horses into hard-fisted legislation that will punish these atrocious creeps so badly that nobody will dare harm an animal – be it a walking horse or an alley cat.
Now, it is one thing to tell a political aspirant you want tougher laws. He’ll grab your hand, yell “Vote for me!” and his eyes will already be on his next mark. Don’t fall for that. No, you urge the candidate to come out publicly, long before the lobbyists get to him, and ask him to write down what he will do against animal abuse before the election. Then you make him sign it.
There are those who are running for judgeships. Ditto. There are men and women very eager to be the state legislator in your district. You are catching on. The walking horse people simply need to get a picture of Jackie the Jerk brandishing his electric cattle prod and, in a polite yet determined way, contact every soul who desperately wants your vote and get their “yeah” or – in horse lingo – their “neigh.”
The walking horse community is governed by a very powerful group out of Shelbyville. While there are all kinds of rumors and accusations now flowing, there is good reason to believe that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam did not sign an animal protection bill the very day before Jackie the Jerk pleaded guilty because of influential persons whose interests, shall we say, lie elsewhere.
What every supporter who wants the industry cleaned up -- and the chronic abuse stopped -- needs to do is to write letters, make telephone calls and request a written “position statement” from every person running for public office. Believe me, campaign promises are like the wind but a signed document is an instrument that just might hold a candidate to his word.
If my guess is accurate, you are going to need it. Yes, the Justice Department is angry and you are angry but for “the real big lick” to work you have to set a fire under each candidate’s seat of the pants. You have to demand a written “position statement” in order to not only share it with every horseman and horsewoman you know but – remember this -- that you can send by registered mail to whoever is the winner the first morning after the election.
Don’t underestimate the cheaters. People have written me all week, warning me to “watch my back,” claiming that there are seedy types who will burn down my barn and shoot my livestock after I’ve shed some light, but I believe in the system. Believe it or not, it is exactly the same “system” the cheaters themselves will use with political “donations,” street signage and other favors in hopes of getting a politician’s favors in return. Horse lovers have to understand that they have the crooks out-numbered right now. In case you are still in your freshman year, people in politics consider a “number” as a vote on election day. Nothing matters more to them. Right now Barney “the Bum” Davis and Jackie “the Jerk” McConnell have equipped walking-horse people with the single most-powerful tool in the United States – a motivated vote.
Since time in memoriam, the good people have out-numbered the bad and, if the owners of a half-million walkers will unite and stand together against the sleaze, powerful laws on the federal and state level will soon help abolish trying to explain the bleeding scars and stinking caustic wounds on a wild-eyed horse to your kids. That is today’s “real big lick,” believe me.
Finally, there is one other trick that I guarantee will stop soring and abuse for good. Back long ago, when the Roman Empire was strong, there was this meager monk watering his grape vine one day when crowds of people were rushing to the Coliseum for a big show. They even urged the monk to go and, while his horse-hair habit was mighty hot, he took his seat high in the grandstands.
On the floor of the Coliseum a gladiator came running out and a defenseless slave was pushed out of a door on the other side. Everybody laughed as the gladiator chased the slave around and beat him up. Finally the slave crumpled to earth and the gladiator looked towards the rulers of the day. The board of directors gave the “thumbs down” and the gladiator savagely chopped the slave’s head off.
From high in the stands of the Coliseum, the monk watched in horror. He jumped to his feet and shouting, “Stop! Stop in the name of Christ, stop!” the little monk made his way down the aisle. He was waving his arms and weeping as he brushed past hundreds who had come to see the “sport.”
“Stop! Stop in the name of Christ, stop!” he kept yelling, scampering over the lower wall in his sandals. At first the crowd laughed, thinking it was folly and part of the entertainment, but then they hushed as the little monk, tears in his eyes, knelt before the gladiator to plead, “Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!”
The bewildered gladiator didn’t know what to do. So he looked at the board of directors and they, immediately fearful that one brave man could cut into the concessions-stands profits, signaled “thumbs down.”
As the monk cried “Stop! Stop in the name of Christ, stop!” the gladiator ran his two-edged sword through the monk’s chest. But as the Holy Man lay dying in the sand, from near where he had been sitting he saw two men begin to walk out of the Coliseum. In Section EE the same happened. Then it grew in momentum with those in Section Y, B, G and Q quick to follow. Silently, with not one person uttering a single word, the entire Coliseum emptied that day until only the board of directors remained.That’s how the blood sport ended at the Roman Coliseum. Really.
I’ll guarantee you the soring and abuse of walking horses will stop if the crowds quit going and good people walk out. I hope we never have to use such a “big lick” but it is fail-proof. It made gladiators extinct. Curiously, the little monk’s words still ring just as true today: “Stop! Stop in the name of Christ, stop!"