Winky Groover, of Shelbyville, is a trainer who is willing to talk about the past and the future.
He believes that on the whole, the breed draws more spectators than any other horse events. But he thinks to keep that going, he and his fellow trainers and walking horse owners have to convince the government and the public that soring is over.
Excerpt by PAM SOHN from the Times Free Press
The individuals who sore horses to win competitions may be even more loathsome than the ones who abuse racehorses to win. One thing they both have in common, depending on how you look at it, is out-and-out lying or entrenched denial full of self-justification regarding their cruel exploitation of horses. The result is that the gruesome suffering they inflict goes on decade after miserable decade.
Look at the picture above. How Groover expects the government or the public to believe that soring and other abusive manipulations is over or on the way out defies description. Individuals who sore horses, apply caustic chemicals, attach stacks and other contraptions to horses hooves and ankles or drive nails up into the tender part of their feet to inflict pain, have done it for so long — in some cases from generation to generation — think it is acceptable, normal.
In the case of Groover, he sounds just like spokespersons for the American horse racing industry who say the same thing: we need to convince the public our sport is clean and all our horses are treated well.
It is this sort of entrenched denial that blocks any sort of change for the better, and the reason why “bleeding heart advocates” refuse to listen any longer and call for the outright ban of these abusive “sports”.
Federal legislation by way of the Horse Protection Act, although enforcement has recently been stepped up because of the glare of media scrutiny, has failed miserably to stop horse soring and related cruel practices. Even with that, the Tennessee Walking Horse industry itself make and break one promise after another resulting in little to no change.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and all events like it should be expressly prohibited. For myself, I do not see how anyone who loves or cares about the welfare of horses can really see it any other way.