Skip to content

USDA Floods Industry with Complaints



The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) has developed a new strategy regarding violations they find at horse shows across the industry.  In the past four decades, very few of the alleged violations found at horse shows ever rose to the status of a formal complaint being filed by USDA.  However, with a change in leadership at USDA, the percentage of alleged violations found resulting in formal complaints has skyrocketed. 

At the 2016 Celebration, which is the basis for many of these alleged violations, the USDA allowed for two VMOs to inspect for compliance if the custodian of the horse wanted a second opinion.  Even though the second VMO knew the first VMO found a violation, 22% of the time the second VMO found the horse compliant and the entry was allowed to show.  In 52% of the cases where two VMOs inspected the same horse, those two VMOs disagreed with what violation they found.

The USDA proposed, finalized and had ready to publish on January 24, 2017 a rule that would have devastated the industry through the removal of all action devices and pads.  In addition, the rule would have eliminated the Horse Industry Organization (HIO) system and turned all enforcement of the Horse Protection Act over to the USDA.  

Under the rule, the USDA would continue to use the same subjective and arbitrary inspection process currently in place, one that has caused constant confusion and discrepancy amongst inspectors, both USDA and industry inspectors alike, veterinarians, trainers and exhibitors.  In its comments, the industry proposed an alternative inspection process that would include objective, science-based inspection protocols more stringent than those used in most every other breed of show horse competing under the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) banner.  

Due to the large number of complaints filed recently, trainers and owners have been offered settlement terms that in many cases include an admission of guilt.  The enticement to take these offers is that it alleviates the need for the accused to spend money on a defense and most industry participants feel that in the Administrative Law Proceeding, no matter how effective their defense, the Administrative Law Judge will rule in favor of the USDA.  There have even been recent cases challenging the validity of the Administrative Law Proceedings as official actions in other industries.

However, the industry has asked repeatedly for due process and the opportunity to defend itself.  It is imperative that trainers, owners and others charged by the USDA file answers to these complaints and retain attorneys to ensure they receive ample representation as they seek due process.  The industry and all of the attorneys being utilized have facts and data regarding the deficiencies in the inspection process that were not available to defenses utilized in the past.  In addition, most of those receiving alleged violations by the USDA had accredited veterinarians inspect the horse pre-show and post-show and found the horse compliant with the HPA.

For more information contact the Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA), the Foundation for the Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse (FAST) or the Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA).

More Stories

  • Obituary - Kenneth Joseph Wulff

    Kenneth Joseph Wulff, 66, died Thursday, April 12, 2018 at his home. Born October 2, 1951 in Jefferson City, Missouri he was the son of the late Victor J. and Coletta (Werdenhause) Wulff. Ken graduated from the University of Missouri and worked as a loan officer for Movement Mortgage locally. Read More
  • WHT Auxiliary Scholarship

    The Walking Horse Trainers' Auxiliary has released their 2018 Scholarship information. Read More
  • Obituary - Joseph Martin Finch

    Joseph Martin Finch of Shelbyville, Tennessee passed away Tuesday April 3, 2018, surrounded by his family. Joe is survived by his wife Gail, his three daughters, Kim Withrow, Suzie Finch and Lisa McMahan, his three grandchildren, Joseph, Brooks and Max Withrow and his brother Bill Finch. In lieu of a funeral service, a Celebration of Life will be held for family and friends at the Blue-Ribbon Circle Club on the Celebration Show Grounds April 22nd from 1-4pm. All friends and family are invited. Read More
  • Latest Issue April 16 18

    Read More
  • Celebration selects Fun Show judges

    The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has selected its judging panel for the 48th Annual Spring Fun Show to be held in Calsonic Arena May 24-26.  The judging panel of Jamie Hankins, David Sisk and Johnny Puckett is a blend of experience with a new face to Celebration judging. Read More
  • Gala Glitz

    The second annual FAST Gala was held Thursday evening, April 12 at the Blue Ribbon Circle in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Organizer Kathy Zeis, pictured with husband Steve, said she was pleased with the event. Zeis said there were more local people supporting this year’s event, the food was great, and horse industry folks enjoyed a chance to socialize... Read More
  • HSUS loses charity accreditation

    The Humane Society of the United States has lost its accreditation by the charity arm of the Better Business Bureau. This action follows the resignations, earlier this year, by former CEO Wayne Pacelle and vice president Paul Shapiro... Read More
  • AL Ladies Auxiliary selects Dekle

    The Alabama Ladies Auxiliary Show, scheduled for May 5, has selected Mack Dekle of Shelbyville, Tennessee to mark the cards for this year's event. The show will be held at the Celebration Arena in Priceville, Alabama. Read More
  • Columbia Spring Jubilee selects judging panel

    The Columbia Spring Jubilee, scheduled for May 31–June 2, has selected Jamie Bradshaw, Aaron Self and Brent Grider to mark the cards for this year’s event... Read More
  • Dotson attends Trump’s roundtable

    Walking horse owner Terry Dotson, who is also a passionate leader on behalf of the industry, attended a Presidential Roundtable on the recent GOP Tax Reform bill last week on behalf of Worldwide Equipment, of which he serves as the company’s CEO. Dotson was accompanied by the company’s director of human resources, Carla Stapleton. Read More