By David L. Howard

It was an impressive sight - if you enjoy seeing USDA inspectors in blue suits - at Fayetteville, Tennessee last night.

There was not anyone who was surprised they were there - they have obviously singled this show out - but talk about overkill. Dr. Todd Behre led an inspection team large enough for the Celebration to a one-night horse show and set the tone. I don't know what message he wanted to deliver or tone he wanted to set, but it was a mistake in every sense of the word.

A trainer would have to be a moron to bring a sore horse up for inspection at Fayetteville last night. Everyone knew USDA would be there and any questionable horses were left at home. But the tone was set early and often and yet some trainers bravely put their neck on the line and got their head handed back to them.

Last night was a disaster for everyone, including Dr. Behre and the USDA. There were no winners and a lot of good and decent people were wronged by this unnecessary display of government overkill.

Show manager Charles Gleghorn was devastated and expressed his feelings to Dr. Behre. During my lifetime in the horse business, no one has more consistently stood for clean, sound horses and what is right and best for this horse than Charles Gleghorn. He has participated at every level with generous amounts of time and money and deserves better.

Trainers were afraid to show, the crowd disappeared (except for those watching inspection), a wonderful charity event was ruined and Dr. Behre and the USDA lost credibility and support from responsible people in the industry. Charles Gleghorn has been a lifetime supporter of the trainers, has participated in more charitable and civic activities in his community than you can imagine and has been an outspoken supporter of the USDA's efforts to eliminate sore horses.

And last night he got his thanks!

Dr. Behre and the USDA have every right to come to any show they choose, and they have chosen Fayetteville 3 of the last 4 years, but they also have a responsibility to understand the feelings and trepidation that their attendance and demeanor can cause. Last night, people who stand for what is right were put off by their presence and numbers and the horse industry and the USDA are the worse for it.

I hope the elected industry leaders that were there last night will share with their colleagues the seriousness of the situation and the necessity for everyone to pull in the same direction. Turf battles, personality conflicts and pointing the finger have got to stop. We don't need another new organization formed, we have too many already.

What we need is leadership, direction and some semblance of working together to straighten out this mess. We have problems internally, serious threats externally and the very real possibility of long term damage to this sport and industry. Time is running out and we need some solutions instead of meetings and promises.

A final word - feelings are running high but it is important for all of us to conduct ourselves in a fashion that will reflect positively on us as individuals and as an industry. Nothing worse could happen than an ugly incident that would draw attention away from what happened to a wonderful horse show and some wonderful people last night.

I urge everyone to be gentlemen and ladies and reflect the dignity and honor of this great horse!