Walking Horse Breed Shrinking in Numbers

Source: Written by Sue McClure as published in the Tennessean

“Tennessee is getting a reputation as being a horse abuse state,’’

soring_2_01A man whose name is synonymous with Tennessee Walking Horses says the inhumane practice of soring horses must end — or the walking horse industry itself will die.

Bill Harlin of the famed Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, home of two-time world grand champion horse Midnight Sun, says the use of pads, chains and caustic chemicals to achieve the horse’s signature gait, known as “the Big Lick,’’ is wrong and efforts to stop the abuse aren’t working.

“Tennessee is getting a reputation as being a horse abuse state,’’ Harlin said. “Pads and chains are killing the industry. And I don’t know how long we can wait for proper enforcement before the industry dies.’’

The practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses has been a dirty secret in the industry for years, but it has received national attention after the release of a disturbing undercover video of a West Tennessee trainer soring a horse.

Trainers use mustard oil, diesel fuel and other caustic chemicals to make a horse’s skin sensitive, then they place chains or other “action devices’’ around the tender skin, causing the horse to develop a high step in response to the pain. Soring also has evolved into the use of “pressure shoeing’’ in which a foreign object or epoxy foam is inserted under the pad and shoe of the horse, causing extreme pain.

The time has come — in fact, it’s long overdue — for these practices to end, Harlin said. “We’re now in a fight for survival of the breed.’’

Breed registry falls

Harlin cites figures showing that the number of registered Tennessee Walking Horse foals has dropped from a high of 15,526 in 2000 to just 3,358 in 2010. During that same period, the number of individual breeders fell from 9,306 to just 1,870.

It’s a terrible fall from grace for a distinguished breed that Harlin watched be established at a 1935 organizational meeting of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders Association…(CONTINUED)

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Congress “has potential to end soring forever”

Source: HorseTalk.co.nz

“To compromise would not free the Tennessee walking horse from this bondage forever…”

Keith DaneLegislation before Congress aimed at toughening measures around soring could end the cruel practice forever, the immediate past-president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association says.

Marty Irby was commenting on the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, currently before the House and Senate.

He said he fully supported the legislative push to toughen regulations around soring – the deliberate infliction of pain to horses’ legs and hooves to force them to perform an artificially high-stepping gait.

“Our United States Senators and Congressmen can virtually eliminate the cruel practice of soring and utilizing pads and chains, which is nothing short of slavery, by passing this amendment,” he said.

“To compromise would not free the Tennessee walking horse from this bondage forever. I stand firm and strong in my conviction, and I believe this is what it will take for the Tennessee walking horse to become the largest equine breed on Earth.”

Irby was commenting as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was coming to a close, and as the Humane Society of the United States has introduced a grants system that it hoped would encourage a sound and versatile future for competitive Tennessee walking horses.

Although the federal Horse Protection Act was enacted in 1970, it has been difficult to enforce and persistently flouted by a small but determined faction of the horse industry. As a result, soring has continued unabated.

The PAST Act will end walking horse industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in soring.

The measure has broad bipartisan support, with 140 co-sponsors in the House. The Senate bill was introduced just before the August recess.

Keith Dane, the director of equine protection for the humane society, said: “We believe the Tennessee walking horse industry can realize a sound future by recognizing some of its new leaders: owners and riders who appreciate the versatility, temperament and athleticism of this magnificent breed.”

Dane said the bill before Congress to toughen anti-soring measures would be an integral part of this push.

“When every aspect of soring abuse is eradicated by this important federal legislation, the horses and their caring owners will truly be able to shine.”…CONTINUED

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Animal Welfare Group Sponsors Alternative Tennessee Horse Show

Source: By Tim Ghianni of KFGO.com

The alternative show this weekend does not include the controversial “Big Lick”

Tennessee Walking Horse SoringNASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – An animal welfare group fiercely opposed to what it calls cruel treatment of famed Tennessee Walking Horses is backing an alternative show that does not judge horses on the high-stepping gait they say is a result of an abusive practice.

The Humane Society said it contributed the maximum $1,000 to the World Versatility Show under way through Saturday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to highlight a better way to train and show the horses known for their exaggerated steps.

The owners and trainers of Tennessee Walking Horses, a popular breed in the American South, have been criticized for decades over a practice called “soring” – slathering the lower legs with caustic chemicals to induce pain that causes the horse to step higher. While chemical soring is officially banned, it is suspected that some trainers still use it.

In 2011, the Humane Society produced an undercover video of a celebrated walking horse trainer, Jackie McConnell, abusing horses at his stable. The video, broadcast on ABC television last year, showed the animals being beaten with sticks and poked with electric cattle prods. It also exposed that soring was used in their training.

McConnell, 61, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges this month, and was banned from owning and training horses for 20 years. He also was fined $25,000 and sentenced to a year’s house arrest and four years probation.

Eight horses were removed from McConnell’s training barn and are being kept at an undisclosed location, authorities said.

The alternative show this weekend does not include the controversial “Big Lick,” an artificial movement in which the horses raise their forelegs up and forward.

The Big Lick is produced by “padding” a horse with thick front horseshoes that animal rights groups say are abusive. The alternative show will restrict the horses to light shoes, or barefoot without shoes, and the animals are judged by natural talent in events such as jumping, reining and driving.

If a horse can perform the Big Lick naturally, it is allowed at the alternative show.

“We do want to help the Tennessee Walking Horse to be the horse of the future and move away from the reliance of abusive training practices and devices that the breed has been associated with,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society, along with other animal welfare groups, has been aggressive in recent years in exposing cruelty to animals. They have used controversial undercover operations to expose abusive farming practices at chicken, beef and pork facilities. Some Midwestern state legislatures have banned undercover operations at agricultural facilities.

The alternative show is taking place one month before the prestigious 75th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, where the Big Lick will be performed.

Mike Inman, chief executive of the National Celebration, said the event does not condone soring, but allows the use of thick shoes.

“The difference in equipment and shoeing accentuate the natural ability of the athlete, it doesn’t provide the ability,” he said.

Mike Dunavant, Fayette County district attorney general, who prosecuted trainer McConnell, praised the alternative show as highlighting better practices.

“(It) promotes people who engage in the humane treatment and training of Tennessee Walking Horses,” he said.

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Breaking News: TN Gov to Veto Ag Gag Bill

Source: TN Newsroom

“I am going to veto the legislation”

Gov Bill HaslamNASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam released the following statement regarding HB 1191/SB 1248:

“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Tennessee.  Farmers play a vital role in our state’s economy, heritage and history.  I understand their concerns about large scale attacks on their livelihoods.  I also appreciate that the types of recordings this bill targets may be obtained at times under false pretenses, which I think is wrong,” Haslam said.

“Our office has spent a great deal of time considering this legislation.  We’ve had a lot of input from people on all sides of the issue.  After careful consideration, I am going to veto the legislation.  Some vetoes are made solely on policy grounds.  Other vetoes may be the result of wanting the General Assembly to reconsider the legislation for a number of reasons.  My veto here is more along the lines of the latter.  I have a number of concerns.

“First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect.  Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so.  If that is the case, it should say so.  Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.

“For these reasons, I am vetoing HB1191/SB1248, and I respectfully encourage the General Assembly to reconsider this issue.”

Horse Slaughter Bill Dies Quiet Death in TN

Written by Tony Gonzalez of The Tennessean
Anti-Horse Faction Suffers Another Defeat

Horse-Hater TN State Rep. Andy Holt commits political suicide in attempt to push bill to butcher American horses to be eaten by foreigners

Controversial bills to bring more horse slaughter facilities to Tennessee and protect religious expression in schools were tabled Monday, leaving no guarantees that either will come up again this year.

The sponsor of both, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, asked that the proposals be “held on the desk,” a move that neither sends the bills back to committee nor reschedules another time for a vote. It leaves open the possibility that they can be discussed again but, in the short time remaining this legislative session, makes both long shots for passage.

Afterward, Holt said he may not have explained his bills well enough to convince his colleagues to support them.

“If we can’t get the job done this year, it looks like I just need to work harder and be better at explaining my position for next time around,” Holt said.

The technical maneuvers came at the start of Monday’s evening session, beginning with HB 3619, which would have created incentives to encourage horse slaughtering operations to locate in the state.

The bill had already lost steam after a similar measure was withdrawn in the Senate.

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Tennessee Horse Slaughter Bill Stalls in State Legislature

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II  as it appears in the Daily News

Butchering Companion Horses is a No Go

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The sponsor of a state Senate proposal that seeks to encourage the commercial slaughter of horses in Tennessee withdrew the measure Wednesday, but said he likely will revive it if a similar bill makes progress in the House.

Republican Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport took the legislation off notice in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee. A House floor vote on the companion bill has been delayed until Monday evening.

Faulk said the proposal is intended to encourage Tennessee to develop rules and regulations in case a commercial slaughter operator wants to locate in the state and “properly, humanely … dispose of horses.”

“I don’t care for the notion of a horse slaughter plant,” he said. “But it’s one of those parts of the cycle of life that is necessary. As repugnant as it may seem to someone who has a horse that is a pet, the fact of the matter is, that animal is eventually going to die.”

Opponents of the bill argue that it would unfairly discourage legal challenges of horse slaughter or processing plants by requiring plaintiffs to submit a deposit worth 20 percent of the facility’s worth.

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued an opinion earlier this month that requirement is constitutionally suspect. He said the measure would conflict with state constitutional provisions forbidding “unreasonable and arbitrary barriers” to using the courts to settle disputes.

Rep. Janis Sontany has been a vocal opponent of the legislation. The Nashville Democrat said she doesn’t believe it has the votes in the House, where it was delayed three weeks.

She said she’s concerned the company that would come to Tennessee might be foreign and have “no regard for our environmental health or workplace safety laws.”

“It’s breed for greed,” Sontany said. “As long as we have a horse slaughter plant in Tennessee we’re going to see between 80,000 and 100,000 horses come through our state to be slaughtered. We don’t want that.”

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Tennessee Horse Slaughter Bill is Constitutionally Suspect, says State Attorney General

story by Chas Sisk of The Tennessean

“Ag Gag” Provision Could be Unconstitutional

A bill that would require plaintiffs trying to halt horse slaughter facilities to post large bonds up front probably violates the state constitution, the attorney general says.

House Bill 3619, which requires people who sue horse slaughters to post a bond equal to 20 percent of the estimated cost of building a horse slaughterhouse, is constitutionally suspect under Tennessee’s Open Courts Clause, Attorney General Robert Cooper says in an opinion released Thursday.

Article 1, section 17 of Tennessee’s constitution says, “That all courts shall be open; and every man, for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.”

The federal government stopped funding for inspections of horse slaughterhouses in 2006, effectively killing the industry in the United States, but some Tennessee lawmakers have pressed for horse slaughter legislation in case it is revived.

Advocates say domestic horse slaughter would allow for more humane destruction of horses and keep horses from being shipped instead to Canada and Mexico. Opponents say horse slaughterhouses cause environmental problems and that horse slaughter practices are inhumane.

A vote on the bill has been scheduled in the state House of Representatives for Monday. No action has been taken on the measure in the Senate.

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