The Celebration today weighed in on HR 6388 expressing concern over portions of the proposed legislation, which includes language that seeks to eliminate Horse Industry Organizations (HIO). Some of the provisions of the legislation would cause irreparable harm to The Celebration, the Bedford County economy and the Industry as a whole; yet do nothing to increase the safety of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

“As the World’s premier Tennessee Walking Horse event, The Celebration’s paramount concern is ensuring the safety of the magnificent Tennessee Walking Horse and preserving the integrity of our competition, ” said Mike Inman, incoming Celebration CEO. “Unfortunately, as written HR 6388 contains language that would demolish the local economy and do nothing to improve the soundness and safety of the horses.”

One of the specific parts of the legislation opposed by the Celebration is the language that would seek to eliminate HIOs, which would leave many horse shows without inspections. HIOs are groups of industry horse inspectors responsible for the inspections at Tennessee Walking Horse shows. All HIO inspectors are certified by USDA-certified instructors and are trained by the USDA. HIO inspectors inspect every horse participating in the show.

Currently, reputable horse shows partner with HIOs. Under the proposed change, horse shows would voluntarily request USDA inspectors. There is no requirement to do so. Historically this has meant that approximately 75% of all horse shows have no inspections and the USDA has been unable to even find these shows. If they don’t request inspectors to be assigned there will be no inspections at said horse show unless the USDA makes a surprise visit. The USDA does not have the capability to monitor all horse shows as they have repeatedly stated. The result would be that that fewer horses will be inspected and there is less enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). The USDA’s Office of Inspector General report stated that USDA can only inspect 6-10% of horses shows so that would mean at least 90% would go uninspected.

“The Celebration is opposed to the elimination of HIO inspectors. They believe that a system like the one proposed by HR 6388 that allows for horse shows to voluntarily request inspectors would do more harm than good by allowing for abusive trainers to go undetected and unpunished,” said Inman.

The Celebration currently partners with SHOW HIO, which is the HIO with the strictest inspections and harshest penalties. And the Celebration Board of Directors has implemented historic reforms and enhanced safety measures aimed at ensuring the safety of the horse. This year’s Celebration had the most stringent inspection process in event’s history. For the first time ever, every horse was swabbed by the industry, positive results were made public during the event, and violators were punished severely by suspending trainers’ licenses, disqualifying horses, and removing ribbons, trophies and prize monies. Additionally, The Celebration banned known horse abusers from its property and events.

“The Celebration’s enhanced safety measures were successful in garnering a 98.1% compliance rate with the Horse Protection Act, significantly better than the 93.6% achieved last year. At this year’s Celebration those suspected of wrongdoing were stopped in the inspection process, or through the swabbing initiative, and punishments were issued swiftly,” said Inman. “Without the HIO inspections and The Celebration’s enhanced safety measures these people would not have been punished and they may have evaded detection all together."