by BRIAN WILSON, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SHELBYVILLE – A lingering rain Saturday night was enough to quiet but not halt the first weekend show of this year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.
Despite gathering storm clouds and a brief downpour right before the show began, organizers didn’t stop the events at Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville.
In ponchos and rain gear, hundreds of fans cheered on their favorite horses and riders.
They stuck through the rain, which became the talk of the show, even as expanded, independent inspections of the horses were going on outside the stadium walls.
A team of veterinary inspectors was testing select horses for signs of soring, a practice where chemicals or other forms of abuse are applied in order to exaggerate a horse’s higher, long gait.
Celebration officials agreed to allow an independent veterinary advisory council to come into the 10-day event this year and conduct blood tests and X-rays on two horses in each competition.
Those horses were taken to a standard-issue barn that had no signs or indications that it was a testing ground.
Those tests were conducted by veterinarians with few reported ties to The Celebration and would show whether horses were given any chemicals to mask possible soring or if the horses had illegal objects in their shoes to influence their gait, said Tom Blankenship, a spokesman for the organization.
He said no violations have been found to this point, though the results of blood tests would not be available for three weeks.
These tests came in addition to U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections across the complex from the advisory council’s barn.
Fifty-nine congressmen specifically called the Department of Agriculture to toughen its inspections during the 10-day show.
“We urge the Department to aggressively inspect horses in each class, both pre-show and post-show, not merely monitor the performance of DQPs (designated qualified persons),” the letter stated.
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by News Editor, EquiMed