Horse Health

Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association Supports Humane Legislation

A Statement from TWHBEA President Tracy Boyd

TWH CrueltyThis past weekend, I made perhaps the toughest decision of my life. A decision that carries potential ramifications for many of my friends. It carries potential ramifications for immediate family members as well. I, along with six other members of the Executive Committee, voted to support H.R. 1518, better known as the Whitfield Amendment. That was on Saturday morning. Before lunch, our vote was not ratified by the TWHBEA Board of Directors. Presently, TWHBEA has taken no official stance on the proposed legislation.

Let me be clear… I love all facets of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. I support the performance division. How then, you say, can I support this legislation? As president of TWHBEA, I represent the oldest and largest membership driven organization in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. TWHBEA, being an international organization, is also the most widely recognized “brand” representing the Tennessee Walking Horse.

I have always said, “The future of the padded show horse is in the hands of two groups… the trainers who train it and the owners who own it.” Unlike the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), for example, who controls all aspects of the Quarter Horse industry, our industry is not set up that way… primarily due to the regulatory issues involving enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

TWHBEA has no say over the padded show horse. TWHBEA has no control over the padded show horse. TWHBEA has no authority over the padded show horse. TWHBEA, does however, bear the brunt of the criticism aimed at the padded show horse.  Our membership numbers are directly affected by the controversy. The group with the least input takes the hardest hit. Why? Because as the breed registry and the largest membership driven organization, we are the face of the breed and are perceived as its ultimate authority in the world equine community.

For many years, the padded show horse drove the market and TWHBEA benefited. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when our industry was breeding 25,000 mares and registering 14,000 foals, it was largely due to the padded market. Breeders were breeding for that $15,000/$20,000 yearling. Horses were selling. New people were coming into the breed. In 1997, TWHBEA hit the 20,000-member mark and in the early 2000s operated under a 5 million dollar budget. We had some 25 or 30 employees. We were the second fastest growing breed in America and the fourth largest breed registry overall.

Today, we have fewer than 10 employees. We’ve gone to a four-day work week and cut our staff’s salaries by 20 percent. We are down to 8,300 members. Breeding production levels are at 1950s numbers. It is clear to me that what our industry is doing is no longer working in today’s world. Times have changed. The world, through technology, gets smaller and smaller every day. We can’t hide any longer. It is clear to me that our past has finally caught up with us and the image currently conveyed by our performance horse is no longer accepted in 2013.

TWHBEA has lost members in droves, and the brutal emails I have received tell me why. It is our reputation. It is soring. It is our image. My responsibility lies with TWHBEA and its 8,300 remaining members who represent all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Sadly, we have no more friends outside our industry. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) no longer supports us. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) no longer supports us. The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) will not recognize our padded show horse. The American Horse Council, whom we’ve cultivated a close working relationship with for many years, has turned away from us, declining our annual sponsorship this year. The World Equestrian Games refused our sponsorship and returned it to us. The Kentucky After Christmas Sale had no performance horses this year. Last fall, the University of Tennessee featured a flat-shod horse rather than a padded show horse to perform at its annual homecoming football game. All of this breaks my heart.

I believe our modern-day padded show horses are cleaner than they’ve ever been. The problem is that nobody outside our industry believes it. And when you’ve lost the public you have lost it all… and we have clearly lost the public.

For two years our industry has known that Congress would attempt to take our pads and chains unless we provided an acceptable alternative. How did we know that? Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for Animal Care at USDA-APHIS, told us so. He told TWHBEA, he told the Trainers’ Association, he told the Celebration and WHOA. Since that announcement the padded horse leadership’s response has been to paint the chains and implement an ambiguous swabbing program. Now the padded leadership is threatening to suspend the licenses of trainers who show under compliant HIOs. Anything beyond that… “Hell No” was the answer. “No compromises!”

I understand that the Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA) may be working on proposed legislation to the Whitfield Amendment. I first heard this in January and have heard it again recently. I hope so. My understanding is that versions of the Whitfield Amendment will continue to be introduced in Congress year after year until something gets passed. It is not going away. So I applaud PSHA if they are working on an alternative. I hope they come up with something soon.

I want the performance division to survive. I believe in the need for the division. I only know that it can’t and won’t survive as it is currently presented. This to me is obvious. The padded show horse’s survival lies at the feet of the trainers who train it and the owners who own it. If I lose some friendships over my vote then so be it. But I hope and pray that the trainers who train padded horses and the owners who own padded horses will find a way to put a horse in the ring that the public can support. Until then, we will remain alienated from the mainstream equine world. It’s as simple as that.

In order for this industry to grow and attract new people, strong, bold, drastic action is needed. A different direction will be required. I just hope our industry will choose the direction rather than have it chosen for us. We all know that the pads and chains alone do not harm the horse, that is no longer the point.

For most of us, our show industry is more about people and families than it is about winning blue ribbons. It’s about the people, the fellowship, the family fun, the friendly competition. Let’s not lose sight of that.

No matter what happens with the Whitfield Amendment, proposed legislation or future versions… the pads and chains do not define this breed.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is the greatest breed in the world. We all agree on that. Just imagine the possibilities that exist for us if we could rid ourselves of this black cloud, this stigma once and for all. Forty-three years is long enough.

I’m sorry to those I’ve offended and hope that one day you will forgive me.

39 replies »

  1. Pads and chains to make a horse perform like that is not natural and not what the breed was intended for. Get back to basics, get rid of the stacks, pads and chains and the people will come back. It’s about more than families, people, friendly competition, it is about treating the horse as it shoul be treated, NATURALLY and HUMANELY.
    A TWH was not meant to perform like that, if it was GOD would have put stacks on him. I’m glad to hear your association is losing it’s membership and $. This is the only way you people will learn to do what’s right and better for the horse. After all, the horse is the reason you are in this business.
    Big lick needs to be done away with all together. It’s not right and never was right. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, get over it, realize you have been WRONG about the big lick all these years, admit it to yourself and the rest of the world and maybe we’ll come back. But until then, I’ll keep my horses and be rid of the org.


    • AMEN, treat the horses humanely and kindly, they should come first and we the people that truly love horses will not sit by and watch abuse to an animal that allows people as you to sit upon their backs after doing what was and still IS done to them, stop feeling sorry for you,


  2. To hell with your image. Horses are being tortured, yet your concern is “losing support.” The horses are your image, and they deserve respect. You, on the other hand, aren’t deserving of the respect of a common house fly. Forgiveness, don’t count on it, perhaps in your next life.


  3. Study in denial,

    “Let me be clear… I love all facets of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. I support the performance division.”

    (REALLY????…you support the abusive training methods that are the foundation of this “sport” and why the need for this communique?)

    “Sadly, we have no more friends outside our industry.”

    (You used to have them AND membership. What happened? The AVMA/AAEP support HCHS, as illegal and immoral as it is; do you realize how bad YOU have to be to lose their support in animal-agri biz terms?)

    “I believe our modern-day padded show horses are cleaner than they’ve ever been.”

    (Somebody get this lady and her followers a clue-card. The current situation of YOUR breed in the performance arena would scream it is not the cleanest ever. When you start from evil, how do you switch to good after YEARS of accepted abuse?…how do you even KNOW what good is, or clean?)

    “For most of us, our show industry is more about people and families than it is about winning blue ribbons. It’s about the people, the fellowship, the family fun, the friendly competition. Let’s not lose sight of that.”

    (Not a word about the horses….typical.)

    This is too easy and I could go on. Bottom line, I don’t think this lady and these people “get it”.


    “The Tennessee Walking Horse is the greatest breed in the world.”

    (If that isn’t the height of arrogance! That’s like saying strawberries are the best fruit in the world. ALL fruit is good and different throughout the world for different reasons.)


  4. The point really is, no one anywhere at any time in any way should support cruelty and abuse of horses. Whatever the horse was bred for and the breed is known for, it loses credibility and interest if it isn’t pure and natural. Gaited horses are born with the gait, naturally. This is what should be emphasized and show-cased in the breed. To try to alter that quality abnormally or abusively is to tarnish or destroy the natural beauty of the gait; what the breed is known for. It should look effortless, fluid, and flowing and be produced by a horse that looks proud and happy to display it. The horse show world has gotten so far removed from those qualities and the love of the breed and continue to ruin and disgrace the horses and their natural talents. No one should support or enjoy anything but a true appreciation and love for the horse and the uniqueness of what each breed represents. After all, it’s a love for horses that unites all of us and that love and appreciation should not discriminate.


  5. The massive damage done to these horses in the name of winning ribbons and money is heinous. For anyone to say that the only reason they are supporting this bill is because they’re losing membership makes my nose wrinkle in disgust. “The hardest decision..?” Supporting this bill should be a no-brainer. That’s the problem. I love the TW breed. They are amazing horses, but what is done to them is so, so wrong. Like has been mentioned in other comments, how about showing off how classy and great they are naturally, instead of forcing unnatural and destructive movement on them with pain and cruelty? This article comes across like it’s such a terrible thing that they have to support a bill that safeguards the horses against this crap. Maybe if you all had stepped up and stopped these practices before they had to introduce a bill proposing law against it, people MIGHT have had a little more respect for you. But no, the only reason you’re supporting it now is to try to save your sorry asses. Bah.


  6. I used to wonder what would make a TWH have such a strange gait like they do……when I found out I was appalled and disgusted. Could not believe that this sort of thing was even acceptable. It is totally unnatural for the horse. If you loved the breed and horses SO much, then how could you even fathom doing something as cruel as soring You say that your show industry is about the people, fellowship, the family fun and the friendly competition. Yet, you omit the HORSE. Where do they come in??!! Oh yeah, that’s right they come in with the pads and chains. Disgusting.


  7. Proof that if you really don’t like what an industry is doing hit them where it hurts..their every time..Hurray for social are is impossible to hide anymore.. I am looking forward to seeing TWH perform naturally..I can’t say I have ever witnessed it..


  8. We used to ride TWH’s at the Maryland Field Trials. They were big, beautiful and brave horses. I remember how “forward thinking” they were and how happily they worked, all day long following the dogs through the fields – gunshots ? not a problem. That is what the TWH’s were bred to do, that is a TWH Performance Horse, NOT the poor horse in the picture with a look of fear in his eye.


  9. If you zoom in on the pictured horse’s front legs, you can see where he has been burned with chemicals. And this is what Ms. Boyd supports? All in the name of family fun?


  10. At the Least, a brave, intelligent, & influential* Horsewoman has finally LIFTED her reins (& chains*, perhaps)…to
    DO the RIGHT ThinG— even if “reluctantly” & cowering to her* longtime supporters! She may DENY (publicly) what her actual* reasonings are…yet, there’s N0 WAY that a human can WorK-WITH, (n0t simply “own the papers” of) any live HORSE ~ & fail to SEE when they’re obviously causing abusive Pain!
    …GIVE her Some “due” for finally, finally Speaking-out ??
    {& perhaps a good bit of HUMANEness will follow*, eventually…}


    • Sorry, csssswv….she is not brave, intelligent OR a horsewoman.

      She hasn’t LIFTED anything….she has thrown in the towel.

      The organization is under siege for a reason and she is its’ leadership. Read her stuff above AGAIN. Check out the blatant and nuanced denials and serious lack to grasp reality….still droning on about the horses’ perfections and use of pads.

      I won’t give her any “due”…wanna bet TWH Associations still support HCHS?


      • I so agree Denise, nowhere in the statement does Tracy show any remorse for the horse. Any recognition of the cruelty endured. Simply notes that they are losing money and that they are social outcasts. Its the money loss and having to hang their heads that made this move. As noted the World Equestrian Games returned the sponsorship. Now that’s a slap in the face even a serial murderer would probably take note of


  11. You’re dang straight it will not be tolerated by the public and neither will horse slaughter

    Offend this —- EVOLVE !

    ….and hopefully horses will FORGIVE stupid brainless money mongering humans


  12. boohooohooo. THe freak show is ending. about time. i was just having a conversation with a TWH owner and she finds the BIg Lick horses disgusting. Enough of this best horse in the world bullshit too. To each his own. I love my quarter horse, I love TBs and drafts and all the others too. Get over yourselves.


  13. I found these comments on the Big Lick issue and the Whitfield Amendment in a Forum on The Chronicle of the Horse. I’ve read this last page (especially the comment from “The Preacher”) and I STILL don’t understand what happened at the meeting. Sounds like they voted against supporting the Amendment, then voted for it, and then voted against it again. I hope someone else can shed some light on what actually happened and the current position of the TWHBEA.*Update-post-1*/page248


  14. I have a barrel racing young lady who lives next to me and she keeps 3 horses in the barn in 12×12 stalls 24/7 with the lights on 18 hours a day. One of the horses has begun cribbing and another has COPD. Both of these conditions are a direct result of being in a stall all the time. When asked about this situation the ignorant barrel racer proudly states that the horses are work horses and not pleasure horses. This chain gang mentality of keeping horses locked up and only taking them out to work is abuse. All the people who own horse for the sake of winning a blue ribbon at the cost of abuse of their horse should not be allowed to own horses. If I had my way I would put chains and pads on the owners and lock them in a bathroom 24/7 with the lights on and throw them some food and water every day.


  15. don’t ya love how this person supports torture but “can’t hide any longer”? they have no friends left, too bad so sad. ever heard of natural training? look at the feats the Lippizaners accomplish w/o torture & cruelty. training takes time and effort, torture is cheating. 2 years in training with my mustang and we are still a work in progress but it’s all good. maybe putting that much effort in a horse will make them more appreciated and less disposal.


    • There was a show on the Lippizzaners on PBS not too long ago. The horses are handled from day1 so they are totally use to man. But they left to be horses for the first three years of life. Even then training is limited to 45/60 mins like every other day. The real hard stuff (airs above ground) the horses need recovery time. Some of that stuff can take 8/10 years to learn.

      These horses can perform til their mid 20’s when they are usually retired. They don’t sell them for slaughter. These horses are well cared for and pampered for the rest of their lives.

      For the TWH that have successfully been been removed from such conditions I wonder how many of them suffer excruciating arthritis, painful joints because, stiffness. I sure wouldn’t want to be left in the hands of these unscrupulous trainers and owners who rush for blue ribbons instead of TRAINING THE OLD FASHION WAY.

      I still don’t get what is so dang important and beautiful about this gait. It’s the ugliest thing ever at IMHO. Perhaps I consider it ugly because of how artificial it is. And I know what the horse suffers to get there. TWH use to be prized for their racking gait. I don’t recall ever seeing the big lick as part of racking–from when I was a kid.


  16. Cock Roach! Someone flips the light on, and he scudders. That non-statement was pure political rhetoric.
    My first horse (un-pony) was a lovely senior TWH, who would graciously allow three children to ride her mile after mile, with never a spook or a bump. I so love the breed, and have cried buckets over what has been allowed to happen to this noble horse. I googled “Tennessee Walking Horse 1940”, just to see the images of this horse, pre-soring. The great champions are shown, in a perfect natural gait. (but with the broken tail…sigh) Why must mankind always destroy?


  17. Amazing, nowhere in his statement did he mention acknowledging the horrible suffering of the horses under the care of these barbarians. His ONLY motivation is loss of $$$$ and public embarrassment. I’m glad that he came out against this but I am appalled by his reasoning. They still do not get the immensity of their sins against the horses. I still think the gait they have forced upon these horses is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. And that was before I knew how they achieved it.


  18. Ditto all. Tracy Boyd is a male, btw. I hesitate to use the word “man,” because that would imply he had all the parts that comprised one. He certainly doesn’t have a heart, or compassion, or remorse, or a soul. What he is made of is evilness, hypocrisy, and stupidity. He’s too caught up in himself and money making to realize why his friends are dropping like flies. He and his association have been begged to, pleaded to, demanded to, petitioned to, and maybe even paid to stop the madness of pads and chains and chemicals and beatings for decades, to no avail. I think he’s a despicable waste of the air normal people breathe.


  19. OK…Mr Tracy’s “letter” is rated Top Post at SFTHH and I don’t see any stars (Thank goodness)….is the rating based on visits and/or comments or the “rate this” option after each new blog entry?


  20. I own walkers and they are the kindest, gentlest horses of all. No other breed would have put up with what those “performance” horses have been subjected to–all in the name of “improving” their gait. My horses will go anywhere, do anything and in a beautiful, comfortable manner. We have divorced outself from the artificial gait of the padded horse show. Natural is best and it MUST be returned to for the TWH to be fully appreciated for the wonderful horses they are.

    Artificial and painful interventions are bad for all horse breeds and should NEVER be tolerated.


  21. Karma is a bitch, ain’t it?
    How many cruely traumatized horses has it taken for TWHBEA to finally see the manure on the barn wall? I am happy for their awakening. I am sad fit has taken so long and for all the horses that endured so much pain and agony getting to this point.


  22. It seems, at last, the walking horses might be getting “their” day. Its time these poor souls who have been winning ribbons (HOW?) and making money off the backs & feet of these great horses felt a tiny bit of discomfort – the horses certainly felt a lot more than that. Between the pads, chains, soring & the set tails – its absolutely shameful whats been done to this wonderful breed. When I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to be able to ride some walkers. They were fantastic horses. I certainly wont shed any tears for the people who belong to this association. Its way past time…
    AND I bet theres no hesitation from these owners & trainers to send their so-called culls to slaughter!


  23. All I can say that as a Walker owner for many years and a animal activist, you, your snobby organization and anyone else who continues the barbaric and cruel practice of soring NEEDS to be stopped, by any means necessary. I stand behind the legislation that will put and end to this horrid inhumane practice. Your shows are anything but true competition; they consist of the snotty snobby horsey people who have nothing better to do but compete under false pretenses and make innocent horses suffer. Hopefully your membership will drop to 0 as more people and horse lovers discover what you are all about. You don’t deserve to compete.


  24. What a crock. I guess abuse is now a family value from what you say. Are you really so ignorant that you don’t see what you are doing….and that enough is enough?


  25. See how image busting is very very succesful in bringing down a cruel industry? Now we need to do the same thing with the AQHA. For the same reason, for how they treat their horses, perhaps not while they are still showing, but right after the horse becomes unshowable and therefore garbage to them. Lets bust their image in a big way. How can you be a breed association all the while supporting the butchering of your breed?


  26. FAT CHANCE!!!!!!!!!! Soring…pads…chains…. R U KIDDING ME!!! I will NEVER believe that any horse that has this done to it is ok!! I only wish I could turn the tables on people like you! Its not normal!!!! Take off the blinders lady….the only thing you did this for was the $$$$$ involved in it. Your kind dont give a damn about the animal! You all should just be tortured just like these horses. You are loosing face because the word is out….horse lovers are outraged at the pain &,torture your kind deals out daily. KARMA!!!! She’s a nasty S.O.B.!!! I LIKE HER!!!!!


  27. After generations of blatantly endorsing abuse, this revelation from TWHBEA leadership represents a very positive change of attitude. Now, if they’re smart, the organization will follow the three R’s of business recovery, and will ‘repent, regroup, and reform’ as quickly as they possibly can, leaving behind that ridiculous Big Lick obsession they have championed for so long. Tennessee Walking Horses are bright, gentle, intelligent, athletic, talented, willing, capable, beautiful horses that fit wonderfully into many areas of the horse world. Unfortunately, so much focus has been given to the TWH “Big Lick” step that all of the other more valuable and more versatile qualities of the TWH have been completely overshadowed. From a business prospective, this is where the TWH world has failed terribly as an industry. In a business where entertainment is the product, the performance has to evolve in pace with public attitude and perception, or it will not survive.

    There is a HUGE opportunity here for the TWHBEA to build a new image for the TWH of being a very desirable breed that can do so much more than circle a show ring taking huge, bizarre-looking steps that serve absolutely no purpose and can be accomplished only by causing the horse excruciating pain. Tracy Boyd is right. The 2013 horse loving public has for the most part moved beyond being entertained by watching what horses can be made to do only when in extreme pain.


  28. I’m glad to see that someone in that group is showing some good sense. hopefully, the rest will follow his lead.


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