©2002, Walking Horse Report. No duplication without written consent. All rights reserved.
Editors Note: The following article is reprinted from the Monday, February 11, 2002 Shelbyville Times Gazette and is reprinted with permission.
By Mark McGee
T-G Editor
MURFREESBORO - Sixth District Congressman Bart Gordon, known for his long-time support of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, updated members of the Walking Horse Owners' Association on the status of the industry on the federal level.

Gordon made his remarks during a lunch meeting Saturday at the Holiday Inn as part of WHOA convention activities

"My father was a farmer and I grew up going to horse shows." Gordon said. "All my life I've been going to horse shows. I still can't pick a winner, but I know that I enjoy them."

Gordon admitted there have been a number of battles to fight on behalf of the industry. He had spent a great deal of time Friday in Washington, D.C. meeting with William T. Hawks, under secretary, marketing and regulatory programs for the United States Department of Agriculture concerning the Horse Protection Act of 1970. Gordon was encouraged by the tone of the meeting.

Hawks is relatively new in his position having been sworn in May 24, 2001. Hawks has an agricultural background from the state of Mississippi and expressed a sincere concern for the problems of the industry Gordon and industry officials represented. Also present for the meeting were Craig Evans, chairman of the National Horse Show Commission; Bill Young, president of the Walking Horse Trainers' Association; Robert Thomas, president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeder's and Exhibitors' Association; Jack Brown, DQP coordinator for the Kentucky Horse Show Commission and Neils Holch, attorney for the National Horse Show Commission.

"It was a positive meeting," Gordon said.

This is the fourth administration Gordon has worked with in the U.S.D.A. and he thinks progress is being made.

"I know three years ago we went in with a note of 33 different concerns we wanted to talk about," Gordon said. "This time we just had four."

One of the enduring problems has been the scar rule, which deals with hair loss and scars above the hoof areas.

"The problem is the scar rule to a great extent is backward thinking rather than forward thinking," Gordon said. "You are still responsible for scars or loss of hair that may have happened years before you owned the horse or trained the horse."

Gordon, who is a runner, usually pulls off his shoes at a meeting and shows the effects of all that running on his feet.

"I have some nasty feet," Gordon said. "If you look at the feet of most athletes there are going to be calluses. And these horses are athletes.

"What we are trying to do is make this forward thinking. We think a better approach, from the trainer's standpoint, is that violations should accumulate on the one horse, and that trainers should not be responsible for problems they didn't create."

Another issue involved the palpation of horses, which is a hands-on inspection of the horse. The Designated Qualified Persons also will watch a horse move in the inspection area and take that into consideration along with the reaction of the horse to palpation before turning a horse down. Veterinary Medical Officers from the United States Department of Agriculture depend only on the palpation reactions.

"Something of a compromise was established," Gordon said. "During this season we are going to try to do a better job of documenting cases where there is a palpation violation and try to determine how many times there was corroborating information and how many times there was not any corroborating information."

Gordon also addressed problems with one VMO, who is responsible for approximately 50 percent of appeals to the Horse Show Commission. He told the group that he is in the process of filing a Freedom of Information request to study the results of an investigation by the U.S.D.A. of this particular VMO.

"We have difficulty in that people filing formal complaints put their horse on their own show career in some jeopardy," Gordon said. "What we need to try to do is lower the rhetoric for awhile and see if things don't get better. We have all been at shows where this individual can clear out a whole show."

DQPs are certified while VMOs are not certified. DQPs have thousands of hours of training with horses where VMOs, who may actually be small animal vets, may have only a couple of hours of training dealing with horses. Joint training sessions for DQPs have been proposed.

"I think the joint training is on schedule," Gordon said.

Gordon said the industry has "done a good job of getting its act together."

"As long as you are trying to do the right thing. I'm going to do the right thing," Gordon said.