Dr. Doyle Meadows is jumping off what is uncannily similar to a run-away horse. After four years as the CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, it has been learned the veterinarian will soon take a flying leap after this year’s event. His decision comes only a month after the two largest equine veterinary groups in the nation castigateda Walking Horse industry that was already knee-deep in muck.
Already there is a resolution on the floor of the Tennessee legislature (sponsored Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville) in praise of Meadows but the better truth is that a video of horse trainer Jackie McConnell, appearing on ABC’s News Nightline in May and promptly enraging millions since then, has caused the seedy side of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry to come under intense and scathing scrutiny.
The latest laugher is that when the judges for the upcoming 74th Celebration were announced on Wednesday, it was quickly discovered that three of the five people who were chosen have a total of 16 past violations of the federal Horse Protection Act between them. And the biggest kick in the face came when the Tennessee State Fair, to be held Sept. 7-16 in Nashville, stunned all of Shelbyville when it just aligned with the Kentucky-based National Walking Horse Association.
The NWHA is “dedicated to preserving and promoting the naturally-gaited walking horse and its welfare,” so the so-called “Big Lick” horses, with their stacks and chains and questionable trainers, will not be welcome in Nashville. The thugs are also learning --- as Dr. Meadows knows only too well – that 50 years of soring and horse abuse will no longer be tolerated by the American people.
The epicenter of mounting concern is the annual Celebration in Shelbyville, which set for August 22 - Sept. 1, and when it was quietly revealed Meadows would be stepping down after this year’s event, it only fueled speculation that his action might have been a preemptive move.
Pepsi immediately pulled its sponsorship of the Celebration when the McConnell video was released and tickets were quickly put on sale in classified ads across the state. Worse, federal compliance officials are continuing to tighten down on a small but quite cancerous group of loathsome owners, trainers and riders whose criminal actions have tainted not just the industry but the magnificent and noble breed as well.
Meadows has been the Celebration’s CEO for four years but this has been, by far, his most tumultuous year. Federal prosecutors have successful sought and obtained guilty pleas from five men in federal court already this year and it has been proven, by public records, that the Shelbyville leadership of the walking horse industry is infested with past violators of the federal Horse Protection Act.
When the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners called for action against the Big Lick methods, one could only wonder how much longer Meadows could stomach witnessing the repeated soring and abuse of the some contenders that historically are brought to the Celebration in quest of the blue ribbon.
My goodness, there has been so much brought to light since the sickening McConnell tape was shown a weekly TV reality series could be called “The Shelbyville Soap Opera.” For example, it was just learned that one pitiful horse that co-starred in the vile Nightline tape is three-time world champion Moody Star.
The horribly-traumatized horse, owned by Wilsene Moody Kwok (her husband is the executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio), is now being trained and shown by Shelbyville’s Brad Davis, who has eight prior violations of the Horse Protection Act. The horse is now named “Star.”
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.
Finally, word has gotten out that at a recent horse show, federal enforcement agents were charged admission to enter the grounds. How stupid, in the name of great Jehovah, is that? The first rule the littlest boy on a farm learns is “Don’t tease the bull.” My goodness gracious, the Shelbyville Soap Opera rolls on.