WRITTEN BY HEIDI HALL
Cross-posted from The Tennessean
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The nation’s largest Tennessee Walking Horse group is in an uproar after an executive committee member went rogue on the issue of using padded shoes and ankle chains on the breed — sponsoring her own poll to see how 6,945 members feel about it.
The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association’s executive committee voted in May to support a bill that would remove the much-debated equipment, but the association’s full board of directors voted not to ratify that action.
Supporters of the bill say the equipment encourages and is used to hide soring, intentionally injuring walking horses to encourage their higher, longer gait. Detractors say pads and chains are harmless, and removing them will turn away fans from horse shows.
Last week, an anonymous donor and Pat Stout of Cookeville, Tenn., the association’s vice president for horse shows, paid to mail out postage-paid polling cards on the bill. Members are to mark yes or no to the statement: “I am for passage of HR 1518/S 1406 — ‘Prevent All Soring Tactics Act’ — to remove the pads and chains in order to end the public perception of soring and abuse presently associated with the Tennessee Walking Horse Breed, to eliminate HIOs [Horse Industry Organizations] and to increase penalties for soring.”
The cards must be returned to a certified public accountant in Arab, Ala., by Oct. 15.
The move has drawn a flurry of angry emails and Internet posts from people on both sides and a stern rebuke from the association’s president, who assured members the group wasn’t behind the cards.
Stout made no apologies.
“I just felt that it was the most important issue that we’ve ever faced with TWHBEA. I felt our membership should have a chance to express themselves on this issue, and I didn’t see that it was going to happen within our executive committee,” she said.
“I’ve talked to a lot of others — their directors were not voting the way the membership in their state wanted them to vote. We have never reached out to our membership and actually let them vote on something like this.”
The problem with the poll is that it strongly advocates one way, said Jeffrey Howard, whose Shelbyville-based Walking Horse Report covers the industry and whose father, David Howard, is a member of TWHBEA. The card features a photo of horses staring at the camera over the words: “We Are Depending On You To Vote For Us.”
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— “LET’S ALL RALLY AROUND AND SUPPORT PAT STOUT, VP – HORSE SHOWS – TWBHEA – FOR HAVING THE COURAGE TO LET THE TWHBEA MEMBERS SPEAK – SEND YOUR EMAIL TO: firstname.lastname@example.org – AND ASK THEM TO PLEASE THANK PAT FOR US AND THESE GUYS“, Billy Go Boy, Sept 24, 2013.