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Celebration Seeks Relief for Exhibitors



Editor's Note:  The letter sent by the Celebration was done so on August 31st however the Celebration has not received confirmation of its receipt nor any answer to the letter.

Joseph Wilson with Kelley Drye & Warren, counsel for The Celebration sent a letter to General Counsel Jeffrey Prieto seeking relief for its exhibitors from the inconsistent inspections at the 78th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  The letter cites an over 50% discrepancy rate of inspections performed by two Veterinary Medical Officers on the same horse during inspections over the first six nights of the show.

The USDA agreed, prior to this year’s show, that if any custodian wanted a second exam of their horse they would grant that request.  As a result of the reexamination, several horses have been found in violation by the first VMO and upon reexamination cleared by the second VMO and allowed to show.

In other instances, the results of the first VMO were not consistent with the results of the second VMO, although in these cases if they both found the horse out of compliance the horse has been disqualified from competing.  One of the above two scenarios has occurred on 24 of 45 (53%) horses that have asked for a reexamination, a highly alarming inconsistency.

As a result, Wilson asked the General Counsel to issue a directive to APHIS to cease the current method and institute the following:

“In the spirit of working together to ensure both of our organizations do what is right and legal for the horse, and its owner and trainer, the Association proposes the following:

1. For inspections in which the DQP and VMO agree on a finding that the horse is not in compliance with the HPA or its regulations, show management of the National Celebration will be informed and disqualify the horse;

2. If the DQP and VMO disagree on a finding that the horse is not in compliance with the HPA or its regulations, including any post inspection discussions, the horse will be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to show.  This does not preclude APHIS’s right to bring any action in the future that it deems necessary and appropriate against the owner or trainer (but not show management); and,

3. Any horse identified by the VMOs prior to this letter as allegedly in violation of the HPA, and which show management therefore disqualified, will be allowed to be re-entered and re-shown in this year’s National Celebration, and the USDA will withhold any “disqualification” determination and/or complaint until after the National Celebration, as well as hold show management harmless from allowing a previous allegedly sore horse to be re-entered and re-shown during the National Celebration.”

The Celebration reiterated its commitment to work with USDA after the show to improve the protocol.  “Furthermore, the Association offers to work with the USDA after this year’s National Celebration is concluded to identify a scientific, objective examination protocol that is repeatable, peer reviewed and approved, and can be consistently and objectively applied in identifying sore horses in order to meet the requirements of the Constitution as well as the HPA.

Click here to view the letter in its entirety. 

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