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.

# # #

Soring bill advocates blame Blackburn, McConnell for lack of action

Reported by Paul C. Barton
THE TENNESSEAN

Tennessee Walking Horses with Stacks and Chains
WASHINGTON – The man who led passage of the first law regulating horse soring 44 years ago blamed Kentucky and Tennessee lawmakers on Wednesday for blocking a new bill to shore up that act.

Former Sen. Joseph Tydings, D-Md., the lead sponsor of the 1970 Horse Protection Act, said “one very powerful senator from Kentucky” was blocking the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act from coming to a vote in the Senate.

Tydings made his remark, a clear reference to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., while addressing a rally of about 75 walking horse enthusiasts and animal rights activists in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

McConnell is co-sponsoring alternative legislation introduced by Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. But groups such as the Humane Society of the United States criticize Alexander’s bill for allowing the industry to continue to regulate itself.

Dan Cramer of Clarksville, a Democrat running for Blackburn’s 7th Congressional District seat, attended the rally and also blamed her.

“She’s been telling her fellow lawmakers that the PAST Act will never leave committee,” Cramer said.

Read full report »

WE SAY

Horse soring is doing more than expose Tennessee Walking Horses to torture and blistering cruelty — it is crippling the industry.

We hope the blinkered Ms Blackburn is blamed for that when the Big Lick and its related gaited horse shows finally founders and dies and the State of Tennessee suffers more damage to its reputation and a major loss of revenues.

Insofar as McConnell, he is no friend to horses. He has insinuated himself into this issue as well as other horse welfare issues including allegedly putting secret holds on a number of bills banning slaughter during his time in office over the years.

As we see it McConnell has done nothing of merit for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its equine industry.

Why does McConnell do it? “Must be the money“.

Both Kentucky Senators, Paul and McConnell, oppose the PAST Act.

RELATED READING

‘Dutch’ walks in D.C. Today, Roy Exum, The Chattanoogan, Jun. 18, 2014

Horse industry ponies up for political campaigns, May 13, 2012

Ditch Mitch Kentucky, Sept. 23, 2008

McConnell opposed USDA inspectors of sored Horses, Sept. 2, 2008

Veterinarians oppose Blackburn Bill

Tennessee Walking Horse is inspected for soring. HSUS image.
HUMANE SOCIETY OF UNITED STATES IMAGE
Dr. Clem Dussault of the Office of Inspector General and veterinarian Angie Lingl investigate for evidence of soring at the stables of well-known Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell in Fayette County, Tenn. The undercover investigation led to felony criminal indictments against McConnell, for multiple violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. (Photo by The Humane Society of the United States)

Cross-posted from TheHorse.com

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) have issued statements opposing a bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives last month as an alternative to anti-soring legislation introduced last year.

Last year, U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) introduced HR 1518, or the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. That bill would increase penalties for anyone who sores a horse; would require the USDA assign a licensed inspector if a Tennessee Walking Horse show management indicates its intent to hire one; and would forbid the use of action devices, including metal chains, and stacks and pads used in performance packages. HR 1518 remains pending.

On Feb. 26, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced HR 4098, or the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014, which would create one horse industry organization (HIO) to manage shows where Tennessee Walking Horses are exhibited. Under the legislation, that HIO would be composed of industry experts (drawn from states most impacted by the Walking Horse industry) and equine veterinarians, who would develop and implement protocols, guidelines, testing policies, and inspection policies. The bill would also require that testing used during horse inspections be done “though objective, science-based methods and protocols,” and preserves the oversight structure between the Walking Horse industry and the USDA. The bill does not forbid trainers from using metal chains, or stacks and pads used in performance packages.

Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, assistant director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, said the association opposes HR 4098 because the proposed legislation doesn’t make soring illegal and doesn’t address action device use.

“That’s because the supporters of the legislation know that by taking action devices and performance packages away, we remove one more tool from their abusive toolbox,” Miller’s statement said. Continue reading >>

Horse sorers gain 10 despicable friends in Congress

Tennessee Walking Horses competing with stacks.

Cross-posted from The Tennessean
by ROY EXUM

ROY EXUM. Source image.
ROY EXUM. Source image.

The scurrilous crowd that is desperately trying to halt a national effort to eradicate horse abuse, or soring, of Tennessee Walking Horses has just gotten 10 despicable friends.

Shockingly, the 10 are actual members of Congress and seven are from Tennessee, the epicenter of a depraved and sadistic method of “training” the beautiful animals with caustic wraps and electric shocks in order to achieve an unnatural and sickening gait called the Big Lick.

Currently there is a very good bill pending in Congress called the PAST Act, which stands for “Prevent all Soring Tactics.” The bill, sponsored by Ed Whitfield (R-Ky), is quite popular; a majority 265 of 435 members of Congress are now listed as co-sponsors of H.R. 1518. A similar bill in the Senate (S. 1406), sponsored by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), is also well on its way with 47 of 100 senators listed as co-sponsors.

But there is fierce opposition to the legislation in Tennessee. A small segment of the Walking Horse industry, called the “Big Lick” crowd, has generously funded the state’s representatives for years and as the PAST Act gained momentum, Republicans from Tennessee in both Congress and in the Senate refused to endorse the bill and some have vociferously spoken against it.

Instead, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) recently introduced an alternative bill, HR 4098, that would greatly reduce the measures being sought by Whitfield’s PAST Act. Blackburn’s bill would not only allow the grotesque pads, or stacks, which are believed to be used to hide “action devices,” but would also virtually eliminate inspection efforts called for in the PAST Act that a great many believe are now necessary to stop over a half-decade of torture and the scofflaw reaction to it.

Not surprisingly, the rest of Tennessee’s embarrassing Republicans in Congress have co-sponsored Blackburn’s laughable alternative. They are Diane Black (R-TN-6), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4), John “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-2), Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8), Charles “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-TN-3), and David “Phil” Roe (R-TN-1).* The three others who have endorsed Blackburn’s bill are Garland “Andy” Barr (R-KY-6), Nick Rahall (D-WV-3), and Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY-5).

Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director for the American Veterinary Medical Association, scoffed at Blackburn’s bill, saying, “In fact (it) will do nothing to protect gaited horses and stop the egregious practice of soring. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse and will ensure that the broken system of seeing horses sored at an alarming rate does not have to answer for its crimes.”

So what should the Congress and the Senate do? “The PAST Act, which AVMA supports, takes many important and necessary steps to end soring,” Dr. Miller said. “It makes the act of soring illegal; overhauls the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement system; bans incentives to sore, and improves the penalty structure against violators. The bill is supported by the AVMA, AAEP, every state veterinary medical association in the United States, and many other groups and individuals.
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* Including Rep. Marsha Blackburn who introduced the bill, that makes 7 out of 9 US House Representatives from the State of Tennessee who endorse the heinous acts of cruelty associated with horse soring.

Read full article Roy Exum: Our Ruse in Congress, The Tennessean, 5 March 2014.

Featured image from MSN.com

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