Roy Exum: What Happened To Horse Sense?

Saturday, June 30, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A smoke-and-mirrors show that is being touted as “The Tennessee Walking Horses of Today Equine Conference” is being held this weekend in Murfreesboro and the most noticeable absence at the Embassy Suites Convention center will be what is commonly called “horse sense.” Everybody there is praying it will be one of the most glorious celebrations of the embattled Tennessee Walking Horse industry ever – Lord knows it needs it – but until the estimated 500,000 owners of registered Tennessee Walkers join hearts with the half-million YouTube viewers who have now watched the sadistic undercover tape of sheer depravity obtained by the Humane Society, the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, as we know it, is crying harder than the whimpering horse that you saw get whipped with that electric cattle prod.

What’s that you say? Just Tuesday Frank Eichler wrote an impassioned opinion piece in the Nashville Tennessee begging for public understanding. It touted a new group – the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization – and Frank promised “all four performance-horse industries have expressed an initial willingness to support the protocol” to end soring and abuse.

Please, I’ve never seen a stall that needed to be cleaned out any worse in my life. For starters, TWSHO was just founded last month and – already – a husband of one of the initial seven board members has filed a suit against the Humane Department of the United States. Talk about quick thinking?  And – get this – six of the first seven hand-picked plums now on the new TWSHO podium have been “ticketed” in the past for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act.

That’s not funny, not to the 98 percent of good and wonderful and honest Walking Horse owners who are about to founder on the chronic misdeeds and stumbling antics that now have the Walking Horse reputation too smelly for a barn pitchfork. As Chicken Little would yell, “The sky is falling” because, brother, there’s a bigger mess every day. In Memphis this week the organizers of the prestigious Germantown Charity Show are trying to eliminate Tennessee Walking Horse – the whole breed – after over 40 years of competition. It was learned 27 of 38 exhibitors (or their families) had violated the federal Horse Protection Act but competed last month and some of the horses made spectators want to cry. It was so bad do you know what they call the petition? “No more crippled horses for crippled kids.” That makes me want to weep, too.

Nobody is saying just who exactly picked the new TWSHO board members but they – and their trainers -- can easily be traced on USDA websites or www.stopsoring.com. They are Proctor Dean of North Carolina, Terry Dodson of Tennessee, Frank Eichler of Tennessee, Nancy Groover (Winky’s mother) from Texas, Bruce MacDonald of Georgia, Mrs. Lee McGartland of Texas, and Duke Thorson (of NASCAR truck fame) in Ohio.The truth is everybody knows who picked the newest board because the same fingers picked the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers’ Association, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, the Walking Horse Owners’ Association and the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, in sponsorship with The Walking Horse Report. Are you kidding me?

You can compare the intertwining and overlapping to either cancer or the Rotary Club but, in fairness, about four or five slick guys in Shelbyville control the whole shebang. Soring horses, making the front hooves take the “Big Step,” has been going on for 50 years and sheer “horse sense” will tell you the organization’s top leadership has finally “looked the other way” too long.

New USDA rules, three huge veterinarian groups, state and federal legislators and – worst of all – “we, the people” – are actively descending on what insiders call “the Shelbyville country club” like the fruit flies on sweet feed. Four industry villains have already pleaded guilty to federal charges and will be sentenced on Sept. 10 and federal investigators are, it is safe to say, still quite active.

The most famous rogue, the notorious Jackie McConnell, has 14 counts of state charges pending and, curiously, his trial in Sessions Court in Fayette County (Somerville) has just been moved back to Sept. 25. By already pleading guilty in Federal Court, those proceedings will be interesting, especially since animal abuse and soring become a felony instead of a misdemeanor in Tennessee this Sunday.

Kathy Zeis, who is the secretary/treasurer of the Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse, will be something of a celebrity at this weekend’s gala in Murfreesboro after she petitioned the Breeder’s and Exhibitors board to kick off Keith Dane, the head of equine protection of the Humane Society when the famous abuse tape when platinum.

Kathy, of course, withdrew her petition when TWHBEA president Marty Irby identified her and said she was betrayed. But she told the Murfreesboro newspaper this weekend wouldn’t include any discord. “This is about getting to know our people, our trainers, our owners. This is a multi-industry conference,” she said.

Yeah, just one little tea party after another but to the half-million who own Tennessee Walking Horses and the other half million who are now infuriated by the proof that McConnell’s sadistic act was hardly an isolated one, how does it smell that six of seven new TWSHO board members have allegedly violated the federal Horse Protection Act or that Lee McGartland’s husband, Mike, is already taking the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to court?

Please, lighter on the peanuts and heavier on the horse sense.

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: The Same Family Tree

When it was learned the UnifiEd Foundation was a left-wing crowd of political organizers rather than a group with the sole intent of bettering public education in Hamilton County, several other liberal groups fell under scrutiny and it is uncanny how many of the same few people are intertwined in a county of 360,000 people. Or, as one critic succinctly said, “They are all from ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

The entire Western Hemisphere is breathlessly awaiting today’s Royal Wedding where Meghan Markle will be united in Holy Matrimony to England’s dashing Price Harry but it may well be the nuptials will take a second billing. Sir Harry is alleged to have said during his ‘Stag Party” (the British equivalent to bachelor’s parties in America) the ultimate quote earlier this week. Some ... (click for more)

Man And Woman Killed In Sunday Morning Murder/Suicide At Hixson Gas Station

A man and a woman were killed in a Sunday morning murder/homicide at a gas station in Hixson. The shooting was shortly after 10 a.m. at a Shell station at Hixson Pike and Brookaire.  Upon arrival, police located Kimberly Phillips, 48, lying in the parking lot from an apparent gunshot wound.  Also in the same parking lot, officers located Frederick Tragresser, 47, ... (click for more)

$2,060,705 Tennessee Cash Jackpot Won In South Pittsburg Friday Night

A Tennessee Cash player in South Pittsburg won a near-record jackpot of $2,060,705 on  Friday  night. A Knoxville Powerball player won $50,000  Saturday  night by matching four of the five white numbers drawn plus the red Powerball. No information is available about the winners until the prizes are claimed. The  $315.3 million ... (click for more)

Six Chattanooga Baseball, Softball Teams Open State Play This Week

The state tournament matchups in baseball and softball have been announced. Only thing left is for the fortunate teams that have reached the 2018 TSSAA Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to make a final push toward possible championships, the most prized trophies in high school sports. While only two local baseball teams -- Baylor and McCallie -- are ... (click for more)

Lookouts Fall (3-2) In 10th Inning Walk-Offs By Biloxi Saturday & Sunday

The Biloxi Shuckers (26-17) grabbed their second walk-off victory of the season in extra innings on Saturday night against the Chattanooga Lookouts (28-15) with a 3-2 win. The Lookouts have a 3 1/2 game lead over second-place Jackson in the North Division, while Biloxi has a 3 1/2 game lead over Mobile in the South Divisioon The Shuckers scored two runs to counter Chattanooga's ... (click for more)