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Letter to the Editor
Regarding ASPCA Ad in Southeast Equine




Editor’s Note:

Several sound horse groups (Friends of the Sound Horse, the Sound Horse Organization, and the American Horse Defense Fund) joined with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to run two facing ads in Equus and Southeast Equine regarding soring of Tennessee Walking Horses. The first ad was a letter to Congress and the USDA asking for greater funding and the second ad was a series of pictures entitled “What kind of athletic training produces ankles that look like these?”

At the TWHBEA annual meeting, TWHBEA announced plans to run two ads in the February issue of Equus contradicting the ASPCA ads.

We received the following letter to the editor on the subject as well.

Southeast Equine Magazine
P.O. Box 1333
Columbia, SC 29202

Dear Sirs:

In your December issue are what appear to be two interesting ads side by side; while one is clearly sponsored by the ASPCA, it may be that the second is sponsored by an independent organization known as Friends of the Sound Horse. I congratulate the effort to raise awareness about the potential abuse of horses; however, each of the ads gives several wrong impressions.

On the right is a photo of a fairly conventional “package” of a show shoe, with the caption “Does this look like an athletic shoe to you?’ While the ad conveys the impression that this shoe is an instrument of abuse, this is not so. You will notice that the package leaves the hoof and foot at a comfortable and natural angle. On the back are what we call “rock back pads”, designed to prevent any possible tendon injury by providing extra support for a horse working hard. Shoeing is extremely closely regulated, both as to the size and height of the shoe and the angle of the hoof. Shoeing methods have also been the subject of intense scrutiny by the USDA and in the courts, and all have found that the present regulations are comfortable and safe for the horses.

The pictures show hair loss on the side pasterns of the horse. This animal would never be allowed to show under present conditions. Inspections require that there be no thickened or granulated tissue, and in particular no hair loss in these areas.

One of the ads refers to the abolition of Horse Industry Organizations (HIO’s) as being a constructive step. This sentiment could not be more ill-guided. Industry officials have for many years cooperated closely with the USDA in developing uniform standards and uniform enforcement. Without self-policing provided by the HIO’s, there would be no effective enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. When the USDA officials come to a show, they supervise and compare notes with the industry Designated Qualified Person, the inspector, with a procedure to resolve any differences of opinion. They rarely disagree. Nevertheless, aside from the objective standards for shoeing are some very subjective methods to evaluating horses for potential soreness. Inspectors “palpate” the pastern area and, if the horse flinches, may charge owner and trainer with a violation of the Act. Unfortunately, as horse folks know, some horses will always flinch and resist manipulation of their feet. The industry has many horses whose careers effectively ended because of this reaction. Inevitably, some inspectors dig deeper, some using their fingernails, and it is a rare horse indeed which will not eventually flinch under these conditions.

The thermovision picture shown reflects an attempt to diagnose sored horses which was, to my knowledge, abandoned long ago. This machine shows heat in the foot and leg, from whatever cause - for example, strains and tendonitis, founder, or just plain hard riding.

In the 30 years I have trained horses as an amateur, this industry has come a very long way in self-policing, in eliminating from the show ring any significant foot abrasions, and in controlling soring,. We can always go further. Frankly, I do not believe the statements in these ads attributed to anonymous “industry leaders” and concerning the inevitability of scarring were ever made by any such “leaders”. The solutions proposed in these ads are misleading and counterproductive, and would in fact lead to less regulation and more abuse. It must simply be against the economic interests of trainers to engage in any sort of abuse, and those penalties are already in effect. Organizations, especially FOSH, very much hurt their cause by making outrageous statements, especially in a magazine like yours, whose readers may be obtaining their first impressions about Walking Horses from this disinformation. This is a great breed, and there is nothing more thrilling than to see a talented Walking Horse performing a comfortable gait.

Sincerely,
Thomas B. Kakassy, PA
P.S. Please feel very free to print this. I want to set the record straight.

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