COMMENTARY BY ROY EXUM
Cross-posted from The Tennessean
Beware the ‘Big Lick’
Just when horse industry observers were ready to declare the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association was going to install an executive board heavily dedicated to sound horses on Saturday, ominous word is coming out of Shelbyville that there will be a dedicated effort by the reviled “Big Lick” crowd to upset some of those who have been nominated.
To many who have blanched at the Walking Horse industry since a scurrilous tape surfaced in May of horses being tortured and abused, it comes as little surprise as the “Big Lickers” – fearful that impending legislation against soring and abuse will stop a half-century of “business as usual” in the multi-million-dollar industry – are fighting frantically against such groups as the Humane Society of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and hundreds of thousands of animal rights advocates from around the world.
At least three known “Big Lick” loyalists have just indicated they will seek nominations from the floor at Saturday’s meeting in Lewisburg. Tracy Boyd, the son of late trainer Billy Boyd who was long known for soring and horse abuse, will try to seek the president’s position while two others with a history of Horse Protection Act violations – Kasey Kesselring and Wayne Dean – will also attempt to be elected in what is expected to be a tense meeting.
Boyd has a colorful history in the Walking Horse industry. He once worked for William B. Johnson, the owner of the now-defunct Waterford Farm in Shelbyville, said to be a legendary horse abuser, and more recently has been employed by “Big Lick” kingpin Frank Eichler, who also has a record of violations according to the USDA database.
Curiously, Boyd has just left Eichler in order to work for Marty Irby, the outgoing president of the TWHBEA who will still retain a vote on the incoming board. Irby, you’ll recall, was famously banned from the National Celebration and its grounds earlier this year by chairman David Howard as infighting among the “Big Lick” faction has escalated with the alarming developments that have shaken the insiders in Shelbyville all summer and fall.
That Kesselring and Dean are hopeful of securing a spot on the board is even more stunning. Kesselring, the headmaster of the private Montverde School in Florida, and Dean, who trains horses for him, both have records of violating the Horse Protection Act and there is the disturbing news that when the USDA releases “over 100” tests that have been found positive for caustic substances taken at the 2012 Celebration, samples taken from a horse entered by Kesselring and Dean will be included.
Perhaps it is time to boycott the State of Tennessee.
Their citizens enjoy the benefits of revenues from the sick “Big Lick” industry. Yet Tennesseans are mum. Where is their outcry? Where are their protests? Other than Mr. Exum, where are the editorials calling for a halt to these abuses?
Tennessee politicians have done nothing good to end this. In fact, you could surmise from certain of their activities that they are working to keep these cruel exhibitions going. — Editor.