Horse Canada just posted this on facebook, thought others might like a read http://www.tennessean.com/article/20...nate-favorites
Some call Honors the Michael Jordan of the Tennessee Walking Horse world, an unstoppable winning machine in the sport.
But Honors will stay in the stable for what could have been the biggest show of his career, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s grand championship. A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector eliminated him before he ever hit the ring Saturday, citing signs of past soring on one leg — something Honors’ trainers say can’t be true.
The stallion, a fan favorite and frequent show winner the last two years, isn’t the only popular horse sitting out the walking horse industry’s premier event. An industry group president quit his post Monday after two of his horses that passed inspection on the way into the ring failed their post-show inspections on the way out, having collected third-place ribbons.
Terry Dotson, former president of the Performance Show Horse Association, said he confronted USDA inspectors after Guns and Roses was eliminated for scarring on his leg and Wired for Cash for showing sensitivity to an inspector’s prodding. Dotson said independent veterinarians cleared the horses both before and after competition. He didn’t have reports from them available Tuesday.
“I am too old, too tired, too upset to put up with this anymore,” he said. “I loaded up my camper and came home.”
The 75th annual celebration’s nightly events began Thursday in Shelbyville with collegial exchanges between horse trainers, local inspectors and USDA inspectors as each competitor went through the process of being cleared for competition. They’re under increased scrutiny after former celebration Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell pleaded guilty last year to violating the federal Horse Protection Act. An undercover videotape revealed stomach-turning abuse of horses in his Collierville stables.
The celebration inspectors look for signs of current or past soring — inflicting pain on horses’ legs or hooves to emphasize the breed’s naturally longer, higher gait.
It may seem odd to risk being barred from competition after years of expensive horse training and upkeep, but unscrupulous owners and trainers are driven by money and ego, said Donna Benefield, a Gallatin-based expert witness in soring cases and a consultant to the celebration in 2010.
She said the breed has become an equine pariah because of its link to abuse. She’s supporting a proposed federal law that would eliminate the tall, padded shoes and leg chains that mark the breed’s performance division. Supporters say that, in turn, would eliminate both the incentive to sore and methods of hiding the practice.
“For many, many years, I told people we could reform this thing from the inside,” Benefield said. “I was naÔve.”
Opponents of the bill, HR 1518, say reform is taking place, and they’re being unfairly targeted by the USDA.
USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa issued a statement Tuesday saying the agency’s veterinarians are continuing to work with local inspectors to end soring and make sure competition is fair.
“USDA does not target individuals and remains committed to enforcing the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and eliminating soring from horse shows,” she wrote in an email.
Paige Edwards, a Dawson, Ga.-based walking horse breeder and wife of Honors’ trainer, Gary Edwards, said Honors was fine going into Saturday night’s competition. He cleared three independent veterinarians and then local inspectors hired by the celebration. A USDA inspector stopped him and spent 45 minutes X-raying his feet to reveal any abusive devices hidden by his hooves or padded horseshoes.
After all that, he was cited for scarring on one leg, Paige Edwards said, and eliminated from the Aug. 31 world grand championship.
“We wouldn’t have had him any less than perfect, knowing the opportunity he had ahead of him,” she said. “Why would we do that?”
Some in Saturday night’s crowd booed when they figured out Honors wouldn’t be coming into the ring. Celebration CEO Mike Inman said the nightly competitions have otherwise gone smoothly.
“It’s certainly disappointing, but we have to realize that every horse goes through a series of inspections, and sometimes they’re not allowed to show,” he said.
At least one congresswoman went to Shelbyville to see the event for herself — and attend a $100-a-head reception in her honor held Friday. A Performance Show Horse Association invitation called Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn “one of our industry’s strongest advocates.” She watched the backstage inspections after the reception, Inman said.
Blackburn emailed a statement in response to questions about whether she thought the inspections were fair and her thoughts on HR 1518: “I was happy to attend the Walking Horse Celebration to support one of Tennessee’s treasures and meet with USDA, industry, and local officials.”