Members of The Celebration Executive Committee met recently with officials from the USDA following the 70th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  Attending the meeting were (l-r):  TWHNC Past-Chairman John T Bobo, TWHNC Vice-Chairman Charles McDonald, USDA Horse Protection Coordinator Dr. Rachel Cezar, USDA Deputy Administrator for Animal Care Dr. Chester Gipson, TWHNC Chairman David L. Howard, and TWHNC CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows. (TWHNC Photo)


SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Members of the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and CEO Dr. Doyle Meadows met with Drs. Chester Gipson and Rachel Cezar of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday, September 30 in Shelbyville.  The meeting was a follow-up to The Celebration that normally occurs in the weeks following the world championship horse show.

“It’s good for us to get together with them while things are fresh on everyone’s mind,” said Celebration CEO Doyle Meadows.  “It is an opportunity for a thorough de-briefing on the overall inspection process.  It gives us, as well as them, an opportunity to register suggestions, complaints and comments.  I do not know what more The Celebration can do to assist with compliance.”

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA is the overseer of the Horse Protection Act and is the governmental agency with the authority to certify Horse Industry Organizations across the country.  During the 2008 Celebration, Veterinary Medical Officers (VMO’s) from the USDA had an increased and more consistent presence on the Grounds and in the inspection area.

In a recent interview, Dr. Cezar commented, “Inspections went as planned, and we were at the Celebration to do everything we could to ensure that sound horses entered the ring.  We were able to successfully swab horses for chemicals, as well as test new thermo graphic technology to aid in the detection of non-compliant horses.”

The Celebration Executive Committee consists of the Past-Chairman, John T. Bobo, current Chairman, David Howard and Vice-Chairman Charles McDonald.  They, along with the CEO and Show Manager, discuss ideas, and listen to suggestions from the USDA with the purpose of enhancing the inspection process.

In 2008, 3,038 inspections were made (at The Celebration) with 187 violations cited.  The 95% compliance rate is a percentage point below the previous year with more than half of all violations falling under the “Scar Rule,” which continues to be the most subjective portion of the entire inspection process.

Prior to the 2007 Celebration, an overall plan to ensure the health and safety of the horses along with the integrity of the event was put in place.  The plan was enhanced prior to the 2008 event.  Tenets of the plan included:

• Continue an equine drug-screening program that will now includes eye examinations
• Use hoof testers on flat-shod entries
• Remove, inspect, and weigh shoes on random flat-shod entries after championship classes
• Prohibit use of syringes, except by licensed veterinarians
• Prohibit veterinarians from giving third-party opinions in the inspection area
• Drop girths for inspection
• Select judges with no HPA violations in 2008
• Sanction with an HIO that has signed the 2007-09 Operating Plan
• Judges to submit to polygraph test after the show
• DQP’s to submit to polygraph test after the show
• Show management to submit to polygraph test after the show
• Maintain a secure inspection area
• Allow only eligible horses in the inspection area
• DQP’s and VMO’s to perform random inspections in the barn area
• Enforce the Tennessee Anti-Soring ordinance

Results of the drug-screening, eye tests, and polygraphs will be used to build a database of information to help with future rule changes that will benefit the animals for years to come.