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Letter To The Editor - Sam Hamilton

Editor's Note:  The following letter was emailed to the Walking Horse Report by Sam Hamilton with the PRIDE HIO.

Dear Walking Horse Industry,
I am writing this letter today with a heavy heart. I have been in this industry my entire life and I have loved this horse and the many friends that I have made. It has come time for me to step aside because I no longer believe that the direction the leadership of this industry has chosen is healthy for its future. I have held many positions in this industry and have grown up showing horses that my grandfather and I raised on our small farm in rural Kentucky. It was an opportunity for me to spend time with the grandparents that I cherished so dearly. My grandfather passed away almost 6 years ago and the farm is void of any Tennessee Walking horses. I have always stood for the one night horse show and the little guy in this industry. My convictions to support fair and equal treatment for all involved and to stand firmly against soring have cost me several positions in this industry but I do not regret one vote that I have made to stand for integrity and honesty.

As the leader of PRIDE I have advocated eliminating soring for the last 4 years by fair and objective means and not by selective enforcement based on political status in an organization. I have been bad mouthed by both the HSUS supporters on one side and the SHOW supporters on the other side saying I am promoting sore horses. I am proud of the work that PRIDE has done over the last 3 years. I am proud of the board especially the hard work that Duane Rector and Jeff Daniel put in helping me guide this organization thru some rough times. I want to thank every PRIDE supporter in this industry for your support over the years. Your vote of confidence was very important to me. I stated from day one that I would do two things. I would put the horse first, the industry second and our organization third. Secondly I stated that I would be part of the solution to eliminate soring or I would get out of the way and allow others to fix the problem. Over the last few months I have been working on a solution that I have attempted to bring to the table but it failed to get industry support and on Monday industry leaders chose to go in a new direction. I am not writing this letter to air dirty laundry about my opinions of individuals or motives but instead to clear the air about what Sam Hamilton stands for as I exit this industry for good.

Over the last two days I have attempted to call many of these new leaders to voice my opinion one on one and to leave them with my ideas in case they chose to use them at some point. I have also wished each one of them well as I have ended my conversations with them. The last call I made today was to a trainer on the trainer’s board. As we were talking his wife decided to take the phone and tell me off and again attack me and tell me I was supporting sore horses and that PRIDE was causing this industry to continue to show sore horses. She was so belligerent that I finally just hung the phone up after three failed attempts to explain my position. As many of you know I was an original member of the KWHA-HIO. What many of you do not know was I took a stand against sore horses while on that board and was promptly voted off the HIO board and out of the KWHA completely. When I started PRIDE I committed to two things. First to eliminate sore horses and secondly to not allow the USDA to unfairly harass the people of this industry that were trying to obey the law. PRIDE has always taken a firm stand against the USDA and its attempts to overstep its authority. Many in the industry praised us for our position, but when we took a stand against sore horses many have been critical. I have been called arrogant by many trainers in middle Tennessee who do not even know me. This particular lady told me to get off my backside but used a different word and stop promoting sore horses. She has not had the first conversation with me to even know what I have proposed. These types of assumptions by people are what has become the downfall of this industry. I should have gone to the trainers meeting on Monday but I was in a meeting with a US Congressman discussing his support for our industry and his willingness to go toe to toe with the HSUS on our behalf. Many of the leaders of this industry think they have a corner on the political market because they write big checks but some of us little guys have long relationships with deep roots with these politicians. I have withdrawn my requests for help from these folks over the last two days.

I want to close my letter by wishing this industry much success and by making it perfectly clear about what Sam Hamilton stands for and if you do not believe this letter then I will welcome your phone calls or emails to clarify any misconceptions of my stance. My phone number is 859-694-3700 and my email is The following is the very bullet points that I had sent to Congressman Whitfield for our proposed meeting that he had agreed to in early March.
1. Trainer and Owner Education Programs to insure that the responsible parties are being held responsible for the condition of the horses presented for inspection.
2. Eliminating USDA case backlog by allowing the USDA to negotiate penalties directly with the potential violators.
3. Embracing objective testing such as swabbing to eliminate the conflict and personalities involved in subjective testing. This discussion must also include how to determine what substances should be banned and how to objectively add new substances to the banned substance list.
4. Subjective testing should only be used to protect Show Management and not be the basis of penalties.
5. Scar rule and how it should be enforced moving forward.

Based on the above bullets I want to make my position clear. I believe that three things must happen for this industry to survive.

1. The USDA must be totally responsible for enforcing the HPA and held accountable for every single ticket that they write.
2. The HIOs only job is to protect show management.
3. The trainers and owners must be held completely responsible for the condition of their horses when presented for inspection.

My plan to accomplish these three objectives was very simple.
1. In order to hold owners and trainers responsible you must create a program where trainers license are only given once a person goes thru proper training including the same training as our DQPs. They must also have continuing education to renew their license. Every trainer must have a photo id and present it at the show and enter their own horses for inspection. They must also present a document that shows the legal owner of each horse entered so that only the legal owner is listed on the entry sheets.
2. In order to hold the USDA accountable for enforcing the HPA there needs to be a few legislative changes to the HPA. The USDA needs to have the ability to negotiate penalties directly with potential violators so that the backlog of cases can be reduced. It also eliminates the all or nothing approach to prosecution. Once they have this authority then they must also be held accountable for every ticket written and they should have six months to either decide to prosecute or dismiss the case against the person. These documents need to be public record so that the HSUS cannot hold it over a person’s head that information was taken on their horse 10 years ago but the USDA never prosecuted them. Secondly the industry needs to embrace objective testing such as swabbing and agree to swab every horse. At the same time the USDA should be asked to pay for the testing of the swabs because enforcement is their responsibility. All penalties should be based on these objective tests and the USDA should be responsible for handing out the penalties. There should be a list of illegal substances and an objective way to add new substances to the list that could cause a horse to be sore. This would prevent the USDA from arbitrarily adding substances to the list.
3. If the industry embraces objective testing the palpation would only be used by the DQPs to keep potentially sore horses out of the show ring in order to protect show management from potential liability. If a horse fails palpation then it would be sent back to the trailer. This prevents one DQP or VMO from putting a trainer out of business without objective proof. 
4. Once these items are in place then an objective discussion can happen about how the scar rule comes into play and there would be grounds to ask for a more relaxed interpretation.

The items above are what I believe could save this industry and at the same time eliminate soring once and for all. My last position concerns pads and chains. I am 110% against agreeing to a reduction in pads and chains in any way because they do not cause horses to be sore and it is time to stand up for this industry and say enough is enough. I am a person who fixes the problem not treats the symptoms. This industry has spent the last 40 years treating the symptoms instead of addressing this issue head on. In closing I want to thank everyone that has supported PRIDE and I in our efforts to do what we felt was right in our hearts for this industry. Many of you may not agree with my stance and that is why this country is so great but know that every single decision that I have ever made was thought about long and hard with the principle of horse first, industry second, and organization last. I have agonized over many difficult decisions over the years and I have never backed away from doing the right thing no matter what it was or who was involved. I have suspended some of my closest friends and have fought to protect the rights of some of my worst enemies. I hope and pray that my reputation as an honest person with the highest level of integrity has shown through all of my decisions. I wish each and every one of you the best and may God bless this industry and this great horse.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Sam Hamilton


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