Equine Rescue

EXPOSED! Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration: Anything BUT a Celebration

by as published in One Green Planet.org

“…the animal’s are tossed aside and often sent to slaughter houses”

Tennessee_Walker_X-RayFor those of us who are familiar with equestrian shows or may even have a knack for equestrian sports, we are accustomed to the posh appearance of fancily clad riders on top of perfectly clipped, athletically built horses. While there are many different kinds of equine events that can capture the attention of even the least horse-savvy people, one popular sporting event is that of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration.

The Celebration recently held it’s 76th annual event in Shelbyville, Tennessee where nearly a quarter of a million tickets were sold. Considered to be the showcase performance competition for horses, the event looks for a horse’s ability to display the “Big Lick” gait – a movement exhibited when Tennessee walkers swiftly lift their front legs high into the air as they waltz around an arena. Horses are judged on the combination of the over-stepping walk with the typical nod (or rhythmically bob their heads up and down as they walk).

While the competition is specific to Tennessee, similar events occur nationwide (especially in Kentucky) and encourage visitors to gather for an “incredible” experience to view the graceful dance of the Tennessee walking horse. Also, other horse breeds – such as the Hackney horse – have been used as high-stepping show breeds, but due to their graceful charisma, Tennessee walkers remain the traditional breed in the Walking Horse Celebration.

With more than $650,000 in prizes and awards up for grabs, and fair favorites such as decorating contests, dog shows, and trade fairs, who could turn down such an awesome opportunity to enjoy some good old, traditional equestrian fun? Right?

While we would love to support such a grand event that celebrates the beauty of horses, we can’t exactly provide much (or actually, any) positive feedback about this one. Behind the scenes of this “magnificent” show, is the abhorrent practice of horse soring (or abusing a horse until it performs in the “appropriate” manner).

It’s time to saddle up and truly understand the suffering of the Tennessee Walking Horse…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at onegreenplanet.org

17 replies »

  1. Welcome to “Natural Walking Horses”

    “Natural Walking Horses” is a group of Tennessee Walking Horse enthusiasts who support the Tennessee Walking Horse and the natural ability and gaits where they are originally bred for. They preserve and promote the Tennessee Walking Horses that are intelligent, willing, sane and naturally gaited. The horses are barefoot or plain shod horses, who can perform a true four beat walking gait.
    “”Natural Walking Horses” has only one agenda:
    What’s best for the horse and the betterment of the breed.


  2. Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the human infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense or survival.


    • Icy, I think you are right. I also think we are into altering various sectors of our own species, and to extend the idea all the way, plants and anything in nature.


  3. This kind of abuse won’t stop until the judges at these shows stop rewarding this “Big Lick” unnatural gait. I’ve seen some of these horses at local shows and the poor things look so uncomfortable and unnatural. You can bet that if I see any more of these abused horses at local shows that I will boo the riders and make it known to the judges that this is unacceptable.


  4. EGO….that’s the problem with humans, especially when they use animals as an extension of their egos.
    True Horse lovers don’t care about anything except the well-being of the Horse. You will find them more often working in the stables or rescue programs.
    A True Horse Lover would not be willing sacrifice the comfort or safety of his Horse just to be in the winner’s circle.


    • I’m looking for a ‘like” button here. I’m just so happy to find all these people who really love animals and are trying to do them good, I could just cry!


  5. All about the prestige and $. I think prestige more then anything. How many of these owners know what is going on in their stables? They hire trainers and probably never see the horses again until they are shown. What a sad and tragic life for these animals. Disposable commodities – and this has been going on for over 40 years!!!! I definitely don’t want to hear how if the PAST Act is passed it will be ruining their heritage and way of life. It needs to be passed asap.


  6. Ugh. I keep seeing those delicate looking bones of the horse’s foot (foot?) in the x-ray, and then the grisly-looking nails – and so many! Humans truly are insensitive to pain and suffering of anyone but themselves. They deserve pain and suffering of the monetary losses kind. WHY is this blatant cruelty allowed to continue?


  7. On Friday 10/17 and Saturday 10/18, the NC State Fair will be hosting a Tennessee Walking Horse/Spotted Saddle Horse show and allowing Stacked and Chained Performance Big Lick Horses to participate in the show. Despite a petition signed by over 2,000 concerned citizens, Mr. Wesley Wyatt has refused to listen to the public and cancel this show.

    It is a documented and well-known fact that these Big Lick performance horses are tortured and sored in order to perform the unnatural “Big Lick” gait shown by this small division of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. Despite the existing Horse Protection Act that was passed back in 1970, these trainers continue to find ways to sore these horses and “Hide” the soring in order to compete for trophies and blue ribbons. The industry also continues to support those who violate the horse protection act by raising them to high visibility positions within the breeders association and other ruling bodies. In fact 4 of their 5 judges at the National Celebration this year have multiple HPA violations in their names.

    The legislation in front of congress and senate called the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST Act HR1518/SR1406) would ban the use of the Stacks and chains. The bill is backed by more than 600 groups including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Horse Council, U.S. Equestrian Federation, National Sheriffs’ Association, former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, former walking horse industry president Bill Harlin, and the veterinary medical associations from all 50 states.

    The small minority of supporters who continue the Big Lick Performance division are not the voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed and are decimating the breed’s reputation. We, the concerned supporters of the Sound and Natural Tennessee Walking Horse ask that you investigate this for yourselves and decide if this is the image North Carolina wishes to portray at your State Fair.


  8. A possible resource for more help:


    About IFAW
    Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare saves individual animals, animal populations and habitats all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need, whether it’s dogs and cats, wildlife and livestock, or rescuing animals in the wake of disasters. We also advocate saving populations from cruelty and depletion, such as our campaign to end commercial whaling and seal hunts

    Our vision: Our vision is a world where animals are respected and protected.
    Our promise: We promise supporters and policy makers effective animal protection solutions delivered with intelligence, compassion and integrity.
    Our belief: IFAW believes in the intrinsic value of animals and that we have a responsibility to protect them from suffering and unnecessary exploitation.
    Our work: We rescue and care for individual animals and deliver effective solutions for the long-term protection of animal populations and habitats.
    We promote addressing animal welfare concerns in policy, legislation and society.
    Our approach: We are international, with local expertise and leadership in all of our field offices. Through strong international coordination, we leverage regional campaigns and projects to achieve global influence and impact.
    Our work connects animal welfare and conservation, demonstrating that healthy populations, naturally sustaining habitats and the welfare of individual animals are intertwined.
    We use our hands-on projects on the ground to inform and influence policy


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