Back in July I got a deeply-touching letter from a horseman who had finally had enough of the sleazy side of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Marty Irby, a mover and a shaker within the seedy “Big Lick” segment that sores and abuses the beautiful Walkers so they’ll prance in a grotesque manner, was ready to go clean.
The Big Lick bullies roared back, his boss firing him and his father still not speaking, but Irby has stayed strong and is determined to “save the breed, not just end the torture and cheating” that is rampant among the scofflaws centered in Shelbyville. He testified last week at a Congressional hearing in Washington, speaking on behalf of “sound,” or healthy, horse lovers who want the chains and pads banned from the animals, better inspections and stiffer federal penalties in House Bill 1518.
Predictably, within the next 24 hours Irby received a threatening message on his Facebook account from a Big Lick trainer who was identified by the Huffington Post Tuesday afternoon as Chip Weddington, a known violator of the federal Horse Protection Act who was suspended for a year in 2011 after inspectors found horses in his care had been sored with caustic chemical substances.
The HuffPost had an earlier story on Saturday that revealed a Tennessee Congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn, was actively trying to stop pending legislation and mentioned the Republican from Brentwood had been given a reception – and a check for $70,000 – by the Big Lick in August. Now the same columnist has written another, entitled, “This Man Refuses To Be Intimidated By Threat After Testifying On Horse Abuse.”
In the Tuesday story columnist Christina Wilkie alleged that Weddington, a childhood friend of Irby’s in the horse world, wrote on Facebook: “I don’t associate myself with (expletive)-made mother (expletive) who sing like little (expletive) birds to the (expletive) [Humane Society of the United States] and everybody else … I hope your gay (expletive) gets what’s coming to you soon!!!” Weddington added that if Irby ever approached him, he would “knock ur (sic) smooth (expletive) out.”
According to the HuffPost writer the matter was still being investigated by Capitol police late Tuesday afternoon.
The message comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association’s leaders are attempting to remove Irby and other sound-horse advocates from its board and nominate a Big Lick leader named Steven B. Smith as its president. Smith, the state campaign chairman for Senator Lamar Alexander, and his family are big contributors to the Tennessee Republican Party.
Smith has served on the Breeders and Exhibitors Association before but, after he was reported cited for several soring violations in the 1980s, he stepped away from the Big Lick. HuffPost reported Tuesday that Smith, his wife Denise, and son Steven Jr. have given $270,000 to the Republican Party since 1989. No politicians from Tennessee have endorsed the pending legislation.
During the hearings last week, Irby gave eyewitness testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that soring is continuing and it includes “corrupt inspections, corrupt judging, corrupt business practices … corrupt horse shows and corrupt titles”
But for the past year he has begged his friends in the horse industry to understand what he now does. That is why this summer he wrote about his “Leap of Faith,” why he turned away from soring. It is a beautiful story but too long for one reading in its entirety. So as Marty Irby is being threatened and cursed this seems like the perfect time to share what he wrote.
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MY LEAP OF FAITH
By Marty Irby
A few days ago, I had a revelation while driving to the World Versatility Show and thinking about all that has happened. There are sore horse people who know God, and there are sound horse people who don’t. Many of the sore horse people, who know God, don’t necessarily know they are sore horse people. I know this because I was once one of them.
Soring has become such a culture for generations, that many who were raised in this just don’t see it. Their hearts are hardened, and they are blind to what is really going on. They think using Gojo or hand cleaner on horses' feet is okay, and I used to think that way too. The fact is the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way, and Gojo makes a horses foot sensitive so that he will react to a chain and step high, stick his backend, and shake his head a little harder.
What do you think that horse feels when that chain hits his sensitive foot? Why does one utilize Gojo? For the sore horse people who know God, please know that Gojo is soring, and if you will pray and think about it long enough then God will show you the truth. For the sound horse people who don’t know God, please know that I would not be here with you all now if it were not for Him.
God is the reason that I was slowly brought from having both feet in the sore horse camp to having both feet in the sound horse camp. God is not merely some big, grey headed guy in the sky as many think. God is love. God is everything. God lives within each of us, whether we realize it or not. God put The Tennessee Walking Horse on Earth to help mankind, and for God’s glory. What an amazing horse we have, that has saved so many people in so many different ways.
I ask each of you to please do me one favor. Whether you are a sore horse person who believes in God or a sound horse person who does not please pray that God will open your heart and mind, and will awaken you. Please pray that God will show you the truth about who “HE” really is, and what you should do for The Tennessee Walking Horse and its future.
If this story does nothing more than touch two people in the world, then it will have served its purpose, and have been worth writing. Always know that if you follow God, do the right thing, and even with nothing left in your life but Faith, then he will take care of you. Many of you may think this story is about the Tennessee Walking Horse, and for years I thought all of my efforts were, but that is not so.
This story is about God, and so is my progression, because that is what the Tennessee Walking Horse is really and truly all about.
Everything good in my life today and everything good that has ever happened comes first from God, and second from the Tennessee Walking Horse, even the ability to write this story because God gave me two hands, and I received a full paid college scholarship because of the Tennessee Walking Horse. What I do each day I owe to “Him” and our horse.
For God’s Glory, Long Live the Tennessee Walking Horse!
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