Source: Written by Sue McClure as published in the Tennessean
“Tennessee is getting a reputation as being a horse abuse state,’’
A 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)