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.

# # #

‘Big Lick’ loyalists work to infiltrate board dedicated to sound horses

ROY EXUM. Source image.

COMMENTARY BY ROY EXUM

Cross-posted from The Tennessean

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

Beware the ‘Big Lick’

Just when horse industry observers were ready to declare the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association was going to install an executive board heavily dedicated to sound horses on Saturday, ominous word is coming out of Shelbyville that there will be a dedicated effort by the reviled “Big Lick” crowd to upset some of those who have been nominated.

To many who have blanched at the Walking Horse industry since a scurrilous tape surfaced in May of horses being tortured and abused, it comes as little surprise as the “Big Lickers” – fearful that impending legislation against soring and abuse will stop a half-century of “business as usual” in the multi-million-dollar industry – are fighting frantically against such groups as the Humane Society of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and hundreds of thousands of animal rights advocates from around the world.

At least three known “Big Lick” loyalists have just indicated they will seek nominations from the floor at Saturday’s meeting in Lewisburg. Tracy Boyd, the son of late trainer Billy Boyd who was long known for soring and horse abuse, will try to seek the president’s position while two others with a history of Horse Protection Act violations – Kasey Kesselring and Wayne Dean – will also attempt to be elected in what is expected to be a tense meeting.

Boyd has a colorful history in the Walking Horse industry. He once worked for William B. Johnson, the owner of the now-defunct Waterford Farm in Shelbyville, said to be a legendary horse abuser, and more recently has been employed by “Big Lick” kingpin Frank Eichler, who also has a record of violations according to the USDA database.

Curiously, Boyd has just left Eichler in order to work for Marty Irby, the outgoing president of the TWHBEA who will still retain a vote on the incoming board. Irby, you’ll recall, was famously banned from the National Celebration and its grounds earlier this year by chairman David Howard as infighting among the “Big Lick” faction has escalated with the alarming developments that have shaken the insiders in Shelbyville all summer and fall.

That Kesselring and Dean are hopeful of securing a spot on the board is even more stunning. Kesselring, the headmaster of the private Montverde School in Florida, and Dean, who trains horses for him, both have records of violating the Horse Protection Act and there is the disturbing news that when the USDA releases “over 100” tests that have been found positive for caustic substances taken at the 2012 Celebration, samples taken from a horse entered by Kesselring and Dean will be included.

Read full article for more shocking and sadistic revelations >>

Perhaps it is time to boycott the State of Tennessee.

Their citizens enjoy the benefits of revenues from the sick “Big Lick” industry. Yet Tennesseans are mum. Where is their outcry? Where are their protests? Other than Mr. Exum, where are the editorials calling for a halt to these abuses?

Tennessee politicians have done nothing good to end this. In fact, you could surmise from certain of their activities that they are working to keep these cruel exhibitions going. — Editor.