Roy Exum: Horse Vote ‘Inevitable’

Saturday, July 5, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky), the primary sponsor of a broad bill that will greatly hamper those who abuse and torture Tennessee Walking Horses, has told a reporter for the Gannett News Service he believes the pending legislation now has “unstoppable momentum” and that a vote seems “inevitable.” Whitfield said support for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act now has 297 cosponsors in the House and 57 in the Senate.

“Despite intense opposition from Tennessee pro-soring groups, I am confident this legislation will come to vote. It is difficult for even well-funded opposition to deny the House of Representatives the opportunity to vote on a bill that has 68 percent of the House as cosponsors, and overwhelming support from veterinary groups and horse organizations in every state,” he told reporter Paul Barton.

The bill, which has been well received in every state except Tennessee and Kentucky, was recently brought into question as allegations over the influence of campaign donations are being mentioned. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and seven members of the House, all of whom have endorsed an alternate proposal that will allow the high stacked pads, the action chains and pressure shoes to remain, are allegedly trying to block the PAST Act

Reps. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Ooltewah) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) are among those who oppose the PAST Act in favor alternative legislation and there are many who feel the evil segment of the walking horse industry, called the “Big Lick” and headquartered in Shelbyville, is calling in its “markers” after donating hundreds of thousands to Republican politicians in Tennessee and Kentucky.

It is well-known that Alexander’s state campaign chairman is Steven B. Smith, who is the head of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Registry, but Barton quoted Smith as saying, “I haven’t been to Washington lobbying anyone.” It is also known that Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Franklin), who is sponsoring the watered-down bill in the House, was allegedly given $70,000 for her campaign after being feted at the National Celebration last August.

A Blackburn spokesman, Mike Reynard, said Blackburn was “trying to save a Tennessee industry” and, “unfortunately, those on the other side (57 senators, 297 Representatives) have refused to come together and work with us in finding a solution that would eliminate the bad actors. Instead, their focus has been to simply eliminate the walking horse industry altogether.”

Reynard did not say in exactly what way thousands of horses, their owners, their trainers and their riders would exactly be “eliminated” but sound-horse advocates, who show flat-shod horses and boast no citations for horse abuse, say they are showing Tennessee Walking Horses in healthy numbers across America this summer. In contrast, public perception of the “Big Lick” is at an all-time low.

Teresa Bippen, who represents the thriving Friends of Sound Horses, has been a voice against horse abuse for years and called Alexander’s Smith “an obstructionist” in her comments in the story. Smith has a known violation of the federal Horse Protection Act on file with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

* * *

Larry Joe Wheelon, who along with three others has been charged with aggravated cruelty to livestock, will go to trial on July 23, it has been announced in Blount County, Tn. Wheelon, two of his helpers and a farrier were charged with 13 felonies and five misdemeanors last April when his barn was raided.

Wheelon was the head of the Ethics Committee for the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers Association. The Trainer’s Association building has since entered foreclosure and was put up for sale this week in Shelbyville. If found guilty, Wheelon and the other three could be the first horse abusers jailed since the state of Tennessee made livestock abuse a felony instead of a misdemeanor, punishable by no less than one or no more than five years in state prison.

* * *

Austin Coppala got an unexpected standing ovation when he walked across the stage at his high school graduation not long ago in Rochester, N.Y. – not because of what he had accomplished but, instead, for what he refused to do. When Austin was born, his twin brother Ty was born within seconds, but Ty was diagnosed early with Down syndrome.

Austin, a fabulous kid, said he would have never gotten through school without Ty’s encouragement so he decided not to “walk” rather than leave Ty out because Ty did not graduate. He explained it to school officials at Fairport High School and was quickly told that … well, perhaps arrangements could be made.

Not only did Ty walk beside his twin brother, he heard his name announced, too. “Perhaps the most memorable day in my life,” said Austin above the roar of the huge crowd. “It means so much he can share this with me and he is very excited. The truth is he’s worked harder than me, he’s endured many challenges, and he’s worked hard in a different way.”

That is what education is about.

* * *

Ethan Aldridge, an 11-year-old from Cincinnati, will remember his vacation to Chattanooga for a long time. After he was bitten by a copperhead snake on the Ocoee River Monday, he was airlifted to Chattanooga where he has been hospitalized for treatment.

“I was hoping the venom didn’t go to my heart because I didn’t want to die,” he told WDEF-TV reporters. “I was freaking like crazy.”

Aldridge is the 13th person to get bitten by a snake this summer and those who visit the outdoors should be alert. Ethan’s mother knew to keep her son calm while help was summoned and Erlanger surgeon Pete Kelley urged victims not to get heroic.

“You don’t cut the bite. You don’t suck on the bite,” the doctor told the WDEF reporter, “and don’t put on a tourniquet because that decreases the blood flow to the extremity and makes things worse. The best thing to do is get professional help as fast as you can.”

The doctor also said to get a good description of the snake so that the proper medicines could be applied.

* * *

There is a new law in Tennessee that releases any “Good Samaritan” from liability if they see a young child that has been left in a hot car and believe they must break a window in order to save the child. Use a rock or any heavy object but don’t shatter the glass onto the baby. Instead, break into an opposite door and wait with the rescued victim until law-enforcement authorities arrive. Anyone who leaves a child or an animal in a hot car could be charged with reckless endangerment and other charges. And, yes, they must pay to have the broken window replaced.

The home of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer's Association has gone into Foreclosure in Shelbyville, Tn., and is now for sale. This comes three years after Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell was shown savagely abusing horses on national TV and it was learned soring and other cruelty is rampant in the seedy "Big Lick" segment of the horse industry.
The home of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer's Association has gone into Foreclosure in Shelbyville, Tn., and is now for sale. This comes three years after Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell was shown savagely abusing horses on national TV and it was learned soring and other cruelty is rampant in the seedy "Big Lick" segment of the horse industry.

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