Tennessee Walking Horses and Marsha Blackburn

Image from 2015 HSUS Horse Soring Investigation.
Chemical “soring”. Image from 2015 HSUS horse soring investigation.

INTRODUCTION

For those of you who know little about the political history of horse soring, this is an excellent piece. For those of you who have good knowledge of it, this is still highly informative. Brilliantly written.

What is horse soring?

Soring is the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves in order to force the horse to perform an artificial, exaggerated gait. Caustic chemicals—blistering agents like mustard oil, diesel fuel and kerosene—are applied to the horse’s limbs, causing extreme pain and suffering. Chains are also applied to exacerbate the pain. Numerous nails are sometimes driven into the hooves.

Horse soring radiograph. USDA image.
Horse soring x-ray. Some 49 nails were used to hold the pads together on this Tennessee Walking Horse. USDA image.

Via The Chattanoogan, October 10, 2018

OPINION

Last month the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration crowned its World Grand Champion is Shelbyville.

The show is unusual because it has inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – a rarity for any horse show in the United States. The reason: for 50 years, some trainers and owners in the industry have abused Tennessee Walking horses in order to cheat and give them a leg up on their competition.

The legendary Howard Baker (R-TN), helped shepherd to passage the Horse Protection Act in 1970 to crack down on these trainers injuring horses to cause them so much pain that they step higher after putting their tender feet on the ground — it’s like walking barefoot on hot asphalt.

The old-timers in the breed have said that Steve Hill, a well-known top trainer in the industry, utilized some chemical agents for the purpose of healing on Talk of the Town, the 1951, 1952 and 1953 World Grand Champion that was considered “unbeatable” by those competing against him.

None of the other horses performed quite like Talk of the Town, and trainers couldn’t compete so more and more trainers began practicing this egregious abuse by utilizing mustard oil to burn the skin around the horses’ ankles, and in some circumstances even placed barbwire around the ankle to create the reaction that later became known as the “big lick.”

The Act was well intended, and the result of some compromises that marked the first federal law designed specifically to help the iconic American equines we all revere. But the law is in need of a serious upgrade, because trainers have figured a way around the proscriptions in the law.

In an ideal circumstance the Act should have eliminated to use of stacked shoes or pads, and action devices now known as ankle chains, but it didn’t, and those devices are still highly utilized in 2018.

But there is reason for optimism. Veterinarian U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), along with U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Mark Warner (D-TN) have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation known as the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, H.R. 1847/ S. 2957 that would close the loopholes in the Horse Protection Act by eliminating the large stacked shoes and ankle chains, increasing the penalties, and eliminating the industry’s failed self-policing system by replacing it with licensed USDA contract inspectors, all at no cost to the taxpayer.

This is the third Congress in six years that this legislation has been introduced, and now has over 300 Members of the House and Senate as cosponsors.

But it hasn’t moved. Why? Because the scofflaws’ political protectors, such as U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), have gone to great lengths to block the bill and are watching out for their campaign contributors in the industry rather than working to encourage protection of the horses.

For many years, political pressure from my fellow Republicans in Tennessee and Kentucky backed down the federal government, preventing the USDA from enforcing the Act that Senator Baker and Senator Joseph Tydings (D-MD) worked so diligently to pass.

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn's campaign announced that ads would hit the airwaves on April 27 in "all" major and small markets across Tennessee and run for a total of 14 weeks. Blackburn is running to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is stepping down after two terms. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s campaign announced that ads would hit the airwaves on April 27 in “all” major and small markets across Tennessee and run for a total of 14 weeks. Blackburn is running to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is stepping down after two terms. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It all boils down to money. Dozens of violators of the Act continue to fill Blackburn and others’ campaign coffers with money made on the backs of injured horses. It seems Blackburn cares much more about snatching Senator Bob Corker’s seat, than supporting the will of the American people, her constituents, and the best interest of the voiceless animals that are so rampantly abused in the state.

I know firsthand what great lengths the pro-soring will go to in order to protect their habit, as a former Tennessean, past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, eight-time world champion and lifelong supporter of the breed. When the PAST was first introduced in 2013, Blackburn, introduced a phony reform bill that would only codify the industry’s self-policing program that the USDA’s own Inspector General deemed corrupt.

Even the University of Tennessee recognizes that the big lick pain-based gait is something the public will no longer tolerate – they disallowed the exhibition of the World Grand Champion at the UT homecoming game, a long-standing tradition in the state, until several years ago. I hope that on Nov. 6 Tennesseans will step up and take action against soring by sending Marsha Blackburn back home to Tennessee.

Marty Irby
Executive Director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. and a past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association


Vote Blackburn Out of DC

Tennesseans, remember Marsha Blackburn and her hideous track record of allying herself for money with the henious horse soring crowd when you go to the voting booth.

This country and the country’s horses deserve to be rid of her.

Related Reading

Tuesday’s Horse

Veterinarians oppose Blackburn Bill »

Soring bill advocates blame Blackburn, McConnell for lack of action »

Roy Exum: Blackburn draws fury for supporting horse soring »

The Horse Fund

Horse Soring Fact Sheet »

Horse Soring FAQs »

Horse Soring Images »

Billy Go Boy

Billy Go Boy website »

Billy Go Boy on Facebook »

Video

What does horse soring cruelty look like? Like this.

Big Lick” Animal Cruelty – 2 Year Old Tennessee Walking Horses – Asheville, NC – Oct. 6, 2018

See Also

Soring the PAST Act USDA Booklet (pdf, 60 pp) »

Vote. Blackburn. Out.

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Study: Equestrians’ Views Vary on What Constitutes Good, Bad Horse Welfare

Researchers say these differing views have a lot to do with peoples’ personal beliefs and experiences. This indicates that horse welfare is still very subjective, which is why there’s a real need for reliable welfare evaluation tools with objective scoring, they said.


Courtney Ferguson and Taylor: A Therapy Team What a time it has been for Taylor and his owner, Courtney Ferguson. Not only has Taylor, an 18-year-old Nevada mustang, competed and placed in dressage, but he's also passed the tough tests for becoming a certified therapy horse for Saddle Pals.
Courtney Ferguson and Taylor: A Therapy Team
What a time it has been for Taylor and his owner, Courtney Ferguson. Not only has Taylor, an 18-year-old Nevada mustang, competed and placed in dressage, but he’s also passed the tough tests for becoming a certified therapy horse for Saddle Pals. Is this as good for the horse as it is for the people? Source: Flickr.

THE HORSE (Posted by Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA | Sep 27, 2018 | Horse Care, Welfare and Industry)

IF  there’s one thing horse owners aren’t short on, it’s opinions. From feed types and housing options to horse health maintenance and even a favorite pitchfork, equestrians tend to know what they believe and why. This even extends to what constitutes good or bad horse welfare — not everyone agrees on what’s good and bad for horses. Those views, researchers recently confirmed, have a lot to do with peoples’ personal beliefs and experiences.

“The idea of welfare is an important concept to anyone dealing with animals, but what welfare is, or what comprises good or poor welfare, seems to be very subjective and influenced by personal, cultural, or societal values,” said Katrina Merkies, PhD, associate professor and equine program coordinator at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada.

In a recent study, Merkies and colleagues asked 14 industry professionals to consider a series of 12 scenarios involving horses and owners, each of which described a situation in which horse welfare might (or might not) be compromised. Read full article »

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NOTE: The image filed with this post was selected by Tuesday’s Horse and not part of The Horse’ article cited here. Thank you!

NYC carriage horse stable argues that bare, cramped, filthy stalls are not animal abuse

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Carriage Horses) — There are already many valid reasons and obvious examples why we must rid U.S. cities of the horse drawn carriage trade.

Not that we need another example, but here is yet another one, this time in New York City, which clearly demonstrates that it needs to put an end to its horse drawn carriage business.

The New York Post filed the following image and report on June 1, 2017:

A worried city building inspector snapped a photo of a carriage horse inside her “filthy” stall on Manhattan’s West Side — but the stable owners insist that the huge pile of manure is simply what the animal would produce in four-to-six hours.


The inspector — who is asking not to be named — is claiming animal abuse.

“The stable is filthy. It’s tiny. The horse almost can’t even stand up in there,” the outraged whistle-blower told The Post.

The inspector stumbled on the stinky stall on May 17 while checking the conditions of the building structure at Westside Livery Stables, Inc., on West 38th Street.

He was not there to assess the sanitary or health conditions of the horses, which is done by the Health Department.

But the inspector said he felt compelled to take a cellphone snapshot when he saw the conditions.

“The stable looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. It got so crammed up that the horse would have a hard time getting up,” he said.

The inspector said the horse was also lying on a hard floor with little hay for cushion.

But a rep for the stable gave a resounding “Neigh” to any abuse claims.

“I dare say whoever took this picture and thought there was something `wrong’ with it is not a horse person, nor were they interested in learning from someone here at the stable who is,” said Christina Hansen, a spokeswoman for the stables who examined the photo.

“This is a totally normal horse stall, prior to mucking by one of our stablemen, most likely in the morning. Sophia the horse here is shown comfortably lying down in her 9’ x 10’ box stall,” she said.

Horse sh*t. Hansen is delusional. None of what we can see in the picture filed with this report is normal or fitting. Poor Sophia looks anything but comfortable. She looks miserable.

Anyone who thinks that this an acceptable way to care for horses should be banned from having them in their control. This is animal abuse. Sophia is virtually lying on bare concrete next to piles of feces, and no doubt urine too.

PIX 11 News reports that the activist group NYCLASS gathered outside the West 38th Street stables the following day, June 2, to protest the conditions the horses are kept in. The group says it “hopes” for a “one-on-one meeting with the Department of Health to discuss ways to improve the overall quality of life of carriage horses”.

I know they mean well, but that sounds like even more horse sh*t.

New York City needs to clean up its act and rid itself of its cruel and outdated carriage horse trade. This insidious business is never going to treat its horses well because the people in it are not only totally out of touch with a horse’s most basic needs but totally uninterested.

What horrifies us in this case is clearly business as usual to the folks at Westside Livery Stables.  They see nothing that needs changing. Worse still, it appears they think they are doing a good job!

How about some arrests and fines or citations for the abuses these people are committing?

If the Health Department conduct inspections that means they have guidelines. Are there no penalties when people fail to adhere to Health Department standards?

In the meantime, we thank the inspector who reported the sad conditions Sophia is living in. It took courage. It has been our experience over the years that there are plenty of people who work in the carriage horse industry who are ruffians and bullies. They are also often retaliatory and prone to violence.

West Side Livery Stable (left) in Hell's Kitchen has been stabling horses for over 150 years. Time for a change don't you think? Google search result. Unattributed image.
West Side Livery Stable (left) in Hell’s Kitchen has been stabling horses for over 150 years. Time for a change don’t you think? Google search result. Unattributed image.

We are investigating what action we can take on behalf of carriage horses in cities and circumstances like these in New York. Attempts to reform the horse drawn carriage industry to improved the lives of the horses over the past 15 years has failed.

Please help. Share your thoughts and ideas. Let’s bring an end to this once and for all.

Last updated 6/3/17 7:33 pm EST.

Unsanctioned horse racing flourishing in rural Colorado

DENVER, Colorado. KDVR FOX31. Chris Halsne and Chris Koeberl reporting. (May 18, 2017)  — Hidden cameras capture doping, gambling and abuse of horses as regulators, politicians, and law enforcement turn a blind eye. Go to full investigative report »

It’s Easter Sunday outside the Deer Trail Rodeo grounds.

Armed teams of private security in flak jackets set up a road block searching passengers and vehicles. What they are looking for is unclear, but alcohol and beer are allowed to pass. An Arapahoe Sheriff’s deputy drove by slowly on the street outside the stadium, but did not stop.

By early afternoon, approximately 500 spectators are lined up along metal railings near a long, manicured dirt track.

They were drawn here by an online advertising push from a company calling itself Parejeras Racing USA.

A Spanish language flyer promised 10 “match-races,” with prize money in the thousands of dollars.

At first glance, the horse races looked much like the legal, sanctioned ones held at Colorado’s only licensed horse race facility, Arapahoe Park in Aurora.

Jockeys, in colorful silk, mounted muscular Quarter horses draped with matching blankets embossed with large numbers. Handlers helped guide the horses and riders to a metal starting gate.

As the horses charged down the straight-away, it became apparent, there were few rules.

Whipping of the animals was harsh and nearly nonstop.

In one race, a jockey veered his horse into another competitor. The high-speed ramming pushed the thundering beasts toward spectators standing within inches of the track, including children.

In two other races, jockeys lost their balance and went tumbling among the hoofs of other race horses.

Problem Solvers, working with knowledgeable insiders, acquired hidden camera footage of not only the races, but all the activities happening just off the track.

Audio and video recordings show plenty of cash being wagered on horses. Continue reading at source »


 Drugging

Image source: KDVR.
Image source: KDVR FOX31.

The drugging of the horses is rampant and potentially lethal.

Hidden camera footage revealed a brown liquid being injected into a racehorse’s neck who moments later was entered into the starting gates and raced.

The liquid in the syringe was described as “ ‘typically a cocktail of stimulants’ to ramp up the horse’s heart – to get it to run faster”.

Equine veterinarian Bruce Connelly stated, “I’ve seen match-race horses run blind. Break themselves up because of stuff that was put in ‘em that shouldn’t have been.”

Local Law Enforcement

The problem is, the report points out, is that law enforcement and the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees some 1,400 pages of racing regulations, can take action only in sanctioned horse races. Adding “it seemed impossible to FOX31 that such a large event, widely advertised and attended by so many people could go unnoticed by local politicians.”

Oh, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by local politicians or law enforcement. They have either turned a blind eye to it like that Arapahoe Sheriff’s deputy who drove slowly by and didn’t stop, or profited by it, or both.

What about the Mayor?

According to state records, Deer Trail mayor, Kent Vashus is the “registered agent” of the Deer Trail Jockey Club. The Jockey Club is one of the oldest non-profits in Colorado and owner of the Rodeo grounds where the unsanctioned Easter races were held.

Vashus admitted to the FOX31 Problem Solvers he had allowed Parejares Racing USA to use the Rodeo grounds for races in the past. Records show he approved at least fourteen “Mexican Horse Races” in Deer Trail since 2015.

There is much, much more including video reports. This is an in-depth undercover report and one of the best we have seen in a very, very long time.

Take Action Colorado Residents

The Governor

Contact the Governor and register your concern using his online form.  Ask him to take immediate action against unsanctioned horse racing and the horrific abuses of the horses used for it.  Notwithstanding the horses, onlookers including children are put at risk of injury and even death. Share this shortened link to the full KDVR investigative report with him — https://goo.gl/ajkEFl.

Colorado General Assembly

The Colorado General Assembly adjourned May 10, 2017 and reconvenes January 10, 2018.

(1) Contact your individual legislator stating this is an important issue to you and you wish to see it on the next Session’s agenda. Share this shortened link to the full KDVR investigative report —  https://goo.gl/ajkEFl.

(2) Contact the following Colorado lawmakers urging them to place this issue on the next Session’s agenda and enact all laws necessary to make these unauthorized races illegal. Be sure to share the link to the full KDVR investigative report —  https://goo.gl/ajkEFl.

• Speaker of the House, Cristanta Duran (crisanta.duran.house@state.co.us)
• House Majority Leader, K.C. Becker (kcbecker.house@state.co.us)
• House Minority Leader, Patrick Neville (tim.neville.senate@state.co.us)

• President of the Senate, Kevin Grantham (kevin.grantham.senate@state.co.us)
• Senate Majority Leader, Chris Holbert (chris.holbert.senate@state.co.us)
• Senate Minority Leader, Lucia Garcia  (leroy.garcia.senate@state.co.us)

Oh, and throw that unscrupulous Mayor of yours Kent Vashus out on his ear next election Deer Trail residents.


FEATURED IMAGE
The image of the horse looking out from under the stands was taken at the Deer Trail Rodeo Grounds and is used here for illustrative purposes only. The image was not filed with the source report.