USDA and Industry Inspectors Release Numbers for 2008 Celebration

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (September 19, 2008) – This year’s Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration saw multiple entities of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry join together to improve the soundness of its horses. The Celebration, held annually in Shelbyville, Tenn., took place Aug. 20–30.

During the 11-day event, a total of 3,038 horses passed through inspection. Working side-by-side, USDA and industry inspectors handed out a total of 187 violations. With the new, stricter inspection measures in place, 95 percent of the horses entered in the show were deemed in compliance with the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA) and with Tennessee’s Anti-Soring Ordinance. This year’s violations were in line with the five-year average with the exception of scar rule and unilateral sensitivity violations. The breakdown of the violations is as follows: 100 scar rule, 58 unilateral sensitivity, 15 bilateral sensitivity and 14 technical violations.

“The NHSC takes pride in its affiliation with the Celebration and the USDA, and is making sure action is being taken against those persons that violate the HPA,” said Mark Farrar, chairman of the National Horse Show Commission. “However, it says something to us that most of the violations were connected to the scar rule, which is arguably the most subjective of all violations.”
Some attribute the one percent decrease in compliance from 2007 to this year’s increased and more consistent presence of USDA inspectors. In 2007, USDA inspectors were present four out of the 11 nights of the Celebration, as opposed to the full 11 nights this year.

 “Inspections went as planned, and we were at the Celebration to do everything we could to ensure that sound horses entered the ring,” commented Dr. Rachel Cezar, USDA Horse Protection Coordinator. “We were able to successfully swab horses for chemicals, as well as test new thermographic technology to aid in the detection of non-compliant horses.”

Increased inspection procedures were put into action in 2007 and strengthened at the Celebration this year. Those new procedures were as follows:
• Drug and eye screening of random class winners
• Continued the use of hoof testers and randomly removed and inspected shoes to detect the presence of improper shoeing
• Judges could have no HPA violations from 2008 and were subject to polygraph tests after the event
• Inspection security was increased—only trainers, amateur exhibitors and grooms with the proper identification credentials were allowed in
• USDA and industry inspectors were allowed to inspect horses in the barn areas on the Celebration’s grounds

Farrar was excited by the collective effort from trainers, exhibitors and owners to improve the quality of the horses, and felt the compliance rates were positive this year. “We were fortunate enough to have the USDA inspectors working alongside the industry inspectors throughout the entire Celebration,” remarked Farrar. “Even with the most thorough inspection processes to date, I believe it’s a compliment to the trainers, exhibitors and owners that 95 percent of the horses at The Celebration were compliant.”

President and CEO of the American Humane Association, Marie Belew Wheatley, echoed Farrar’s thoughts on the collective efforts of industry professionals. “My experience at this year’s Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., shows that collectively there are several factions coming together to address the concerns that have plagued the industry for the past years.” Wheatley added, “It is encouraging to see this collective spirit of the industry as a whole joining together to improve the treatment and training of the majestic Tennessee Walking Horse."