Letter to the Editor

January 19, 2011

Let Them Walk On

The New Year has begun. 2011 ushers in new opportunities for progress, perseverance, and promotion. A 35-year member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors Association, I for one anticipate huge strides in taking the walking horse to new and exciting levels!

Thirty-five years is quite a long time, but there are many more who have been actively involved in the walking horse world longer than me. Still, I have witnessed disappointments, changes, yet progress through it all. From my vantage point I see three key areas that we must focus on: philosophical, political, and promotion.

To be victorious it is imperative to know what the enemy is thinking! Victors are not second guessers that always rally from behind. Being familiar with some of today’s religious thought, it is most important to understand the philosophy or mindset of the opposition.

Here in the buckle of the Bible belt we often take things for granted and fool ourselves thinking that everyone draws philosophical water from the same well! Not true!!! One of the basic philosophical tenets of those who oppose us is actually founded in Eastern religions such as Hinduism. Animals are sacred and equal to man is their CONVICTION! Eating meat is forbidden because the spirit of grandpa Moses may have resided in that cow! No exceptions are tolerated!

We southerners take a pretty liberal interpretation of the Bible. We hold it to be valid and true; THE guidebook of living and dying. Our philosophy is at the other end of the spectrum! God created all things including humans, animals, and plants, but NOT on an equally valued scale! Man is preeminent for he is created in the image of God with ability to make moral decisions of right and wrong, good and evil! Man is a living soul destined for eternity! Animals or plants were not created with this ability or responsibility so Christ’s death on the cross was to save mankind. God did entrust man with authority over all other creation and holds him accountable for his stewardship. Loving and caring for all God’s creation is foundational in our philosophy.

If we are as committed to our basis of belief as our opponents are, there is no room or need for compromise! Sitting at roundtable discussions with them profit very little! Our goodwill has already kicked us in the backside! When I see our leadership trying to reach out to pacify those who despise our great horse with all its magnificent capability, I see an exercise in futility. We must respect the fact they are free to differ with us, but that does not necessitate surrendering our philosophical foundations or traditions. Yes, we love our walking horse, but we are the master and trainer. We can compete in shows and exhibitions all over the world. We are responsible caregivers! To me, inviting members of Animal Rights proponents into our inner sanctum is only giving them more information and bias used to betray that trust in their inordinate alliance with governmental leaders and media propaganda.

Issues are compounded when government thinking tends to accept some of their erroneous thought radical animal activists are bedfellows with radical environmentalists. As animal rights proponents believe they should mother and protect animals equal to them, so radical environmentalists think man is sole destroyer of our planet and they should save Mother Earth! They would turn back the clock a thousand years if they possessed the power to do so! It becomes clear, then, that when government rules and regulations wed erroneous philosophy that give animals rights equal to that of man, we definitely adhere to vastly different precepts and values!! We MUST boldly and unashamedly stand our ground here, for if we compromise or cave in at this level, we greatly undermine and weaken our solid foundation of truth!

Having said this, it is my conviction that we cooperate and comply with government mandates in every reasonable possible way as together we seek the very best in loving reasonable care in training and showing our beloved Tennessee Walking Horse! It is also our responsibility to elect representatives in both industry and government positions that are committed to sound protection and superb promotion of the most beautiful show horse in all the world! Yes, even the proud high stepping performance horse!

We must continue to believe in and promote the high stepping performance horse! All other ways our multi-talented horse can compete has a rightful place, but I eagerly anticipate watching those proud powerful stake horses enter and compete in the show ring! I still believe that the high dollar performance horse keeps the value of all walking horses at the highest price our economy sustains.

Thirty-five years is enough to witness many methods and ways shortcuts in training were utilized to achieve a “big lick”. Utilizing humane compliant training methods and diligent consistent saddle time, trainers have given us a show ring performance horse that still gives the spectators that spine tingling thrill! Let our resolve be unwavering in presenting clean compliant horses as the rule and not the exception!! Let enforcement within our industry be swift, fair, equal, and certain. It has been said: “Rules without penalty is mere advice”!

I express my gratitude to those who have sacrificially given of their time and money to keep the walking horse industry alive and well. I realize there are still differences of opinion within our industry as to which is more important…the pleasure horse or show horse. The answer does not have to be either or, but both and!!! It is my conviction the time has come for walking horse lovers having no need to hang their heads in shame or glare at each other in disdain! Every one of us has the power to positively promote the world’s greatest horse --- the Tennessee Walking Horse!! Let us hold our heads high, let us walk with class and grace, let us be gentle in spirit, and let us be powerful in purpose as the horse we love! May we always hear the ring announcer call to the riders, “take a deep seat and let your horses walk on”!

David A. Shaw