When legislation to toughen federal protections against horse soring gained momentum last year, opponents said the proposed rule changes would decimate their walking horse show industry.
But a Murfreesboro-based walking horse group says it has found a way to thrive regardless of what becomes of those stiffer rules.
Dee Dee Miller, president of the Walking Horse Owners Association, said entries for its sanctioned shows across the country nearly doubled from 2012 to 2014. The number of shows were up, too.
“The popularity is just growing by leaps and bounds,” Miller said. “We just create a good time and a good place where everybody feels welcome and equally and fairly treated.”
But spectators at WHOA shows won’t see horses wearing the special shoes and metal chains that are a common sight in padded performance show rings. They’re not allowed.
Only flat-shod horses — those without materials between the hoof and shoe — are welcome to compete, Miller said. The proposed Prevent All Soring Tactics Act included a universal show ban of the pads and action devices that are used to artificially enhance the gait of a horse.
“We saw that we couldn’t be profitable with performance padded shows, but we had a great niche in the flat-shod industry,” Miller said. “If the PAST Act passes and the pads and chains were gone, the industry and the Tennessee walking horse breed will certainly survive.”
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