by Linda Scrivner

            WHITE PINE, Tenn. – The East Tennessee Trainers’ Association hosted a USDA Clinic on March 5, 2007, at the Walter State Ag Center in White Pine, Tenn. Lunch was served by the East Tennessee Walking Horse Ladies’ Auxiliary at $6 per plate which will benefit the Trainers’ Incentive Program (TIP). Lunch was served at 11:30. Two hundred and twenty-five people were fed and there were still many who did not eat.
            There was a huge crowd in attendance. This clinic was open to owners, trainers and any other interested persons and was held to better prepare those in attendance for the upcoming show season. The East Tennessee Trainers’ Association requested that everyone do what it takes to make all the necessary changes for a better horse show season.
The clinic began at 1 p.m. and was conducted by Dr. John Poe and Dr. Rick Kirsten. It began in a large conference room with slides of the pastern area and explanations of what was acceptable and what was not. The room filled quickly with people lined to the wall and sitting on the floor in the front of the room. The door was left open due to the fact that many could not come into the crowded room.
The slides began with some perfectly clean pasterns from a pleasure horse show held in South Carolina last weekend. After several of these, members of the audience requested to review some padded horses’ pasterns. Dr. Poe then brought up some slides with visible scars and discussed those. He passed out pieces of folded paper to the audience and then explained that if the wrinkles on the back of a horse’s pastern could be flattened out like the sheet of paper could be flattened out that the horse would be in compliance. The audience began throwing questions at him concerning the difference in the interpretation and the enforcement of the scar rule between last year and this year. Many expressed concern that their horse that showed last year would not be allowed to show this year and this would decrease their value. He said that was not his concern and that he was to enforce the scar rule as they were presenting it.
Debra Coleman asked about her 13-year-old mare that had never been questioned and shown many times and now might not be able to. She asked if there was any consideration of the age of the horse. Coleman stated, “There is no consistency in your enforcement. You’ve failed us.” Again Dr. Poe explained that he did not care about the age of the horse. It must be in compliance.
Poe also stated during this session, “You’ve done a tremendous job in cleaning up the walking horses. You’ve come a long way but you’ve gotta go a little farther.”
After much discussion, they went to the arena to inspect 25 horses. As Dr. Poe inspected each horse, he explained to the group what he found on each foot and why he had made the decision that he did. Of the 25 horses that were inspected, 16 were in compliance and nine horses were out on scar rule violations. Poe explained that a horse might be out on one foot but clean on the other and therefore the horse was in compliance. He must be scarred on both feet. He also discussed wire cuts and old injuries that were on several of the horses and explained that those would not put the horse out of scar rule compliance because those were not man-made.
Following this part of the clinic, the horses that were declared out were lined up in the center of the ring so that questions could be posed to Dr. Poe again. Dr. Poe suggested that perhaps training methods needed to be changed so that there would be less “wear and tear” on these horses. He also explained that hair loss doesn’t matter as long as the tissue is smooth.
At the conclusion to this clinic, WHTA President Wink Groover spoke to a large group that gathered around him concerning the work that Bill Hawks is doing for the walking horse industry in Washington. David Finger, NHSC Interim Director of DQPs, said that he felt that tremendous strides have been taken with Groover working with those connected with the horse enforcement area. Groover felt that a study was necessary concerning pasterns and scarring.
One gentleman asked, “How can we as John Q Public help you?” Groover replied that he felt that John Q Public could help because they needed money for this study. Groover said that he personally had given more money to Hawks to continue and he was very impressed with him. Groover related that Hawks had attended the Louisiana Jubilee at West Monroe, La., last weekend and had watched it all and had examined some horses himself so that he could talk about it first hand.
Groover also said, “If Hawks is not the one, then you all tell me who is. We need everyone’s help to continue our industry.”
David Friend then added, “The sore horse issue is gone. We must show sound horses. This interpretation of the scar rule will make it difficult to show, however, we will continue to work on this issue.”
East Tennessee trainer Mike Carter expressed the group’s appreciation of President Groover being in attendance at this meeting.
Larry Wheelon, President of the East Tennessee Trainers’ Association, commented on the clinic. “We were very pleased with the excellent turnout and we appreciate the owners showing their support. Wink was tickled and the government was tickled with this clinic. The horses were presented in excellent condition and the horses that were turned down were close with the exception of two. Dr. Poe said that these were really close horses and it could go either way. We appreciate Wink stepping up and trying to solve our problems. Everyone needs to support him. We can survive as an industry if we all work together and pull together.
“We appreciate the Walking Horse Report covering this clinic and keeping our efforts before the public. We must band together and raise money for the Bill Hawks fund. Our livelihood is at stake,” Wheelon said.
Dr. John Poe expressed his thoughts about the clinic, “I was pleased with the large interested group of owners, trainers and exhibitors at the March 5, 2007 White Pine, Tenn., Scar Rule Clinic. This increased awareness in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry of the need for continued improvement in compliance with respect to the Horse Protection Act is a positive sign that progress is being made on critical enforcement issues. This continued emphasis on compliance with the HPA will pay strong dividends for the Walking Horse, horse owners and the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and the general public.”
Lonnie Messick, NHSC Executive Vice-President and Director of Animal Welfare and DQP Services, commented, “I was really pleased with the turnout. They had a lot of good horses to look at. It was a good training session and will help with better enforcement.”
Groover said, “I was very impressed with the horses and their presentation. The animals were in good shape. It was a credit to the industry and I hope good can come from it.”
Finger spoke after the clinic. “The NHSC thinks the expectations of the USDA are unrealistic but as far as our determination, we can comply with the Horse Protection Act and show horses.”