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Celebration Stands By Tennessee Walking Horse; Opposes USDA Proposed Rule

The Celebration is disappointed with the proposed rule issued by the USDA-APHIS.  The rule is deficient in its intended objectives and will have a devastating impact on the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and thus The Celebration, the community of Shelbyville and all those communities and charities impacted by our great breed.

The Celebration is adamantly opposed to soring of any kind and has done more than the Horse Protection Act requires to eliminate soring at its horse show.  It has been extremely frustrating and disappointing that the USDA has not acted as a partner in eliminating soring but rather as an adversary.  The Celebration has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars and worked with veterinarians and an appointed Veterinary Advisory Council to aid with the objective testing.  These objective tests include blood tests and digital radiography which has proven that no pressure shoeing exists at our shows.

The Celebration favors and believes strongly in veterinary science and objective testing.  There is no veterinary science, including the Auburn Study and a recently concluded study by the University of Tennessee, that even recommends action devices under 6oz nor pads harm or cause any soring to a Tennessee Walking Horse.  The studies actually state the exact opposite and clearly show that no harm is caused by the current allowed equipment.

The change in the inspection process would remove all regulatory responsibility of HIOs, including the SHOW HIO owned by The Celebration.  This will be a more costly and less efficient process for horse shows across the country. 

The current inspectors are already licensed and trained by the USDA and currently the USDA can revoke the license of a DQP issued by the HIO.  The USDA fails to accept responsibility for its failures in the current program, which is administered by APHIS, and the flaws in the inspection methodology which has produced a large percentage of false positives and results that are inconsistent at best.

The Celebration, along with the industry has been willing to adopt an independent HIO that would rely on world-renowned veterinarians to set an objective, science-based inspection protocol and utilize independent inspectors.  Again, the USDA has been unwilling to share data, ideas or resources to achieve these objectives.

The Celebration has retained legal counsel and will respond during the comment period of the proposed rule.  The Celebration has been expecting this move by USDA to circumvent Congress to achieve their objectives and has been preparing for this action.  The Celebration intends to fully exercise all of its legal avenues to protect the Tennessee Walking Horse and its sound, compliant exhibitions.

We urge the Tennessee Walking Horse community to remember the USDA recently tried rulemaking to initiate a Minimum Penalty Protocol that The Celebration and others commented during the comment period was illegal and outside of their authority.  The USDA ignored those comments, but after appealing an earlier district court opinion in favor of the USDA, the SHOW HIO and Contender Farms were successful in obtaining a unanimous opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the illegal rulemaking was reversed and defeated.

In conclusion, we would like to assure all of our exhibitors, sponsors and fans that this proposed rule will not change anything with this year’s Celebration.  We are looking forward to a great 78th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration beginning on August 24th and concluding with the crowning of our breed’s World Grand Champion on September 3rd.

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