Skip to content

Letter to the Editor from Sarah Lynn Bledsoe



Dear Trainers, Owners, Exhibitors and Horse Show Fans:

Some few weeks ago David Howard and Walking Horse Report supplied significantly important information about HSUS presenting numbers and statistics concerning the constituency of this activist organization that reveals it to be the most powerful lobby in the entire world. Paralleling these membership numbers is the subsequent financial power and strength generated by HSUS that is unequaled by many of the major lobbies combined, i.e. prescription drug manufacturers, NRA, and tobacco. Of significant importance is the fact that the total TWH industry nationwide membership numbers combined do not equal the HSUS constituency in one single Congressional district.

There exist three methods whereby our extremely small industry might approach the current critical TWH situation surrounding our horse shows and the performance TWH:

Politically through Congress / Legislature,

Litigation through the Judicial Court system, and

Negotiation.

Political negotiations have occurred since the implementation of HPA in 1970. It is generally understood our TWH industry does not have the membership numbers to support strong political influence for our show horses. Historically very few of us have ever contributed to various political efforts specifically in the interest of our TWH industry, and in recent months I have witnessed serious criticism on various breed related Internet web sites against those TWH industry individuals who contribute to campaign efforts for those elected officials who might be positioned appropriately and willing to assist our industry. It must be understood that political negotiations while necessary and important only apply short-term remedies to our serious industry problem and must occur ongoing to achieve assistance for our industry. The larger majority of our industry membership has neglected to participate to secure positive political support.

Litigation should possibly have been accomplished many years ago when HPA was legislated. While issues such as Due Process and The Presumption of Innocence guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights may be questioned and judicially tested, litigation on these issues is not only vastly expensive but also extremely time consuming and cannot be accomplished in a timely manner to salvage our critically imperiled horse show industry. This type legal action will require not weeks or months transpiring; this will be years in litigation. Even though our horse show industry has been seriously affected by numerous Federal Register rules and regulations directing inspections that can be interpreted to be arbitrary and capricious and are believed to be evidenced as discriminatory and exclusionary against our specific breed, here again any litigation approaching these issues will require great amounts of time to work through the court system. Of extreme significance is the fact that scientific data must be generated to support any approach to the current issues surrounding Activist and USDA interpretation of scars, pads, and action device as related to lameness. Even though positive results might be anticipated, our horse show industry probably will not survive years of litigation and the time required to generate irrefutable scientific data in support of our performance show horse. Serious and immediate negotiations must occur to secure a future for our horse shows.

HSUS, originally organized mid 20th century with one significant goal being the protection of wild and exotic animals held captive in our nation's zoos, now commands great powers affecting many privileges and freedoms we as a nation have taken for granted to be our birthright: our access to medications (prescription drug manufacturing), our food supply (production and marketing for hogs, beef, chickens, egg production, etc.), and our ability to enjoy the equine species for sport, to name only a few significant ways HSUS affects and will continue to affect the lifestyle we experience in our great nation.

Originally HSUS protected four main categories of animals:

Companion animals,

Livestock (agriculture animals),

Zoo animals, and

Research animals.

How HSUS has become positioned to exert such power specifically against the TWH industry can perhaps be easily understood and recognized. Mr. Keith Dane, a guiding force behind FOSH, an industry organization not supporting performance show horse, is believed to have combined his efforts with this group and other activist forces to generate great amounts of money for the establishment of Equine Protection Division, HSUS. Was Mr. Dane's directorship seat of this newly established division at the most powerful activist lobby in the world thereby secured? The goal of the Equine Protection Division, HSUS can in all probability be recognized as twofold: passing the Horse Slaughter Bill and the Tennessee Walking Horse situation with regards to HPA.

Negotiation is the only avenue whereby our horse shows might be expected to continue. Any negotiation to be successful must be accomplished from a position of achievement, credibility, and strength. TWHNC presently is the only industry entity satisfying this necessary criteria.

NHSC is greatly diminished in the perception of the activists and USDA-APHIS. This industry self regulatory entity is also perceived within many corners of the horse show industry to be flawed to the extent that serious restructuring is generally understood and accepted to be necessary.

WHTA and WHOA comprise NHSC, and therefore these two important and significant industry entities involving the total horse show discipline, trainers and exhibitors, have experienced greatly diminished credibility. Certain industry alliances supporting activist goals and intentions surrounding the total discredit of the performance show horse discipline for our great Tennessee Walking Horse have possibly contributed to this situation.

TWHBEA is generally perceived to exist under tremendous management problems. Rightfully the industry entity that should be the umbrella under which the total industry might operate, TWHBEA has achieved great discredit within the horse show industry and within its own ranks. Is it possible that covert actions and alliances couple with unknown and unexplained management activities and new unidentified management structuring to the detriment of the performance horse discipline? The credibility of the breed registry is perhaps thereby seriously impugned.

TWHNC, the private corporate structure owning the privilege of crowning the Champions of the Tennessee Walking Horse, has since its inception continued to grow and operate successfully in total support of the TWH industry and to promote the horse show discipline for the entire breed. TWHBEA supports HPA and has continued to work diligently to assure industry compliance. Recognized and understood to be an entity in support of the performance show horse, Celebration Inc. has continued from its very beginning to successfully promote not only the show horse, but also has expanded the horse show consistently to accommodate the various and continuing growth aspects of the show horse discipline as dictated by the ever-growing choices of the exhibiting and spectator public. While being greatly affected and influenced by the continuous and growing problems surrounding HPA and the performance show horse discipline, and understandably having to continually negotiate with various government and political groups, this major private corporation is subject to the continuing success of the performance Tennessee Walking Horse. The success of all industry horse shows is inextricably tied to the success of The Celebration.

That TWHNC, the major entity supporting and promoting our performance show horse, might negotiate with any and all opposing forces attacking the future of the horse shows for our great breed is unquestionably of significant importance. Negotiation is the only avenue whereby an immediate and successful effort might be accomplished to secure a future for our horse shows. While restructuring is not yet defined and / or accomplished for NHSC, it should be expected, accepted, and understood that TWHNC has the ability to move forward and negotiate a workable and acceptable venue for the continuance of our horse show industry in the best interests of the horse, the exhibitors and owners, and the trainers of our great breed. That both the negotiations and the suggested restructuring of NHSC will be accomplished in the best interest of the horse, the performance show horse discipline, and all those individuals thereby associated is critically important.

Respectfully,

Sarah Lynn Bledsoe

More Stories