The summer solstice brought with it something more than the longest day of the year. It also ushered in a summer of Tennessee Walking Horse shows throughout the United States culminating with the National Celebration in August. In the interim, thousands of horses, trainers, owners and riders will compete for local honors. Most horse enthusiasts know that. Even some critics know that. What they don't know, or tend to ignore, are the following facts:
Every Tennessee Walking Horse that competes at a sanctioned show is inspected;
That inspection takes place every time the horse enters the show ring regardless of how many class competitions they enter;
Each and every winner of individual classes inspected again after the winner is announced; and
This is all done without any cost to the taxpayers of the United States, unlike some proposed legislation in Congress that would put the burden for inspections-and some $20 million in bureaucracy-under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Tennessee Walking Horse industry is the only breed that does this. Not Thoroughbreds, not Standardbreds, not American Saddlebreds, not even the different breeds that will compete in disciplines at the upcoming World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.
As a result of our industry self-policing, we can boast a compliance rate of greater than 96 percent according to the USDA's own data and records.
We are the only breed that does this. And yet that's not good enough for some people, including powerful Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield or his wife, Constance, who lobbies for the Humane Society of the United States, which is responsible for the edicts included in the so-called PAST Act (Prevent All Soring Tactics).
The PAST Act sponsored by Whitfield, and a companion bill sponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, which is home to only 94 Tennessee Walking Horses, would jeopardize 85 percent of the equine athletes that support more than 20,000 jobs and a $3.2 billion economy.
That's why the Performance Show Horse Association supports alternative pieces of legislation introduce by Marsha Blackburn in the House and Lamar Alexander in the Senate. Both would also aggressively go after owners or trainers that promote soring. But just as important, the language of the bills would create one Horse Inspection Organization to provide consistency in training and inspections for Designated Qualified Persons. But even more important than that is that objectivity would be introduced in the inspection process. Believe it or not, under today's subjective testing, even some USDA inspectors disagree on whether a violation has taken place.
In fact, in 2012 a nationally renowned independent veterinarian inspected 30 horses after they were turned down and found an error rate in his opinion of 70 percent. Those 21 horses were unjustifiably not allowed to show because of subjective inspections. The objective inspections put forth in Blackburn/Alexander would rectify this type of injustice.
PSHA and the entire Tennessee Walking Horse industry and its thousands of participants, stand solidly in opposition to soring as a competition practice, but the Whitfield/Ayotte bills go too far. Let's introduce a measure of rational discussion and objective testing to our industry. Otherwise, it's an industry that will vanish right before our eyes.
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Thanks to Phil Osborne for his article on the inspection process used for Tennessee Walking Horses.
I had almost quit buying your paper on my trips through your area - due to Roy Exum's untruthful reporting on this issue. Phil Osborne has renewed my interest in your paper.
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What a disgrace that you published an opinion by Mr Osborne without noting next to his name that he is a paid ($17,000 per month from PSHA) public relations director.
Truth should be told. The "opinion" was just a paid advertisement for the Sore Big Lickers in Shelbyville and the propaganda from the owners association called "the Performance Show Horse Association."