Tennessee Walking Horse is inspected for soring. HSUS image.

Walking Horse Celebration’s flat shod performers gain popularity


Cross-posted from The Tennessean

Tennessee Walking Horse is inspected for soring. HSUS image.
Tennessee Walking Horse is inspected for soring prior to competition. Notice the big stacks, or elevated horseshoeing typical of competitions that prized the “big lick” or exaggerated high-stepping gait. Flat shod horses are gaining in popularity. HSUS image.

Most people come to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration expecting to see what the TV commercials show — performance horses in 3-inch shoes, their front legs reaching high and long in a distinctive gait exaggerated by training and unusual footwear.

But there’s a smaller class that doesn’t make the ads or the program cover: pleasure horses. They wear no big shoes, use no ankle chains and don’t attract nearly the fanfare.

People used to go to the bathroom and buy popcorn during the pleasure classes, fans say, but the competition is gaining popularity. Pleasure horses are about a third of the entries this year. They weren’t even in the Celebration about 15 years ago, said Bruce Hankins, the Walking Horse Trainers Association’s pleasure horse committee chairman. Video and more of this report >>

While this is encouraging, soring is still found even in the pleasure classes warns the article. A famous case in the flat shod division involved trainer Barney Davis who was “sentenced in federal court in February and banned for life by the industry.” Animal welfare groups like the HSUS advocate for random shoe removal and inspection for soring even on flat shod horses to check for abusive techniques, and no shoes weighing over 2 pounds apiece.

8 thoughts on “Walking Horse Celebration’s flat shod performers gain popularity”

  1. Some individuals, wishing to produce similar movement in less-talented horses or in less time, borrowed practices used by other breeds to enhance movement. This included action devices such as weighted shoes, “Stacks” (stacked pads), and the use of weighted chains around the pasterns, all of which, within certain limits, were allowed.


  2. While the Shelbyville shows allow walking horses to compete wearing padded front shoes, the Kentucky group doesn’t permit that, requiring all horses in its competitions to perform flat-shod.


  3. What’s even more interesting is that these statistics Howard is putting out are on mostly flat shod and halter classes. This proves beyond a shadow of doubt the majority of violations occur during the padded classes. I would love to see what classes those foreign substance results were in!


  4. “2 pounds each”? Those are the shoes? Never mind. These criminals need to be removed from all contact with horses, other animals and children for life. Toss the key away after locking them up.

    Peggy hit the right tone with her first line and polopaula did very well in informing us.(Thank you.)

    Great post.


  5. There is no way that I believe any of these people, nor trust them at all. Each horse needs to be inspected 2 weeks before the competition barefooted. then again barefooted at the show, then shod with an inspector watching. Even the pleasure horses are at risk…This money-based crowd has no restrictions against using any type of cruelty that will get them the win.. Disgusting , lousy scum.


  6. Winky Groover is full of **** if he thinks for one moment I believe that he doesn’t torture his horses or get someone else to do it this is not a natural gait….His Father Wink Groover was one of most ruthless and abusive trainers in the Walking Horse industry!

    There is a saying “The Apple Doesn’t Fall From The Tree” All of the trainers I’ve ever known are cruel and have NO regard for life!


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