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A Letter From Kathy Zeis

My name is Kathy Zeis and I am a lifetime member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.  I have served on the TWHBEA Executive Board for many years and have done my utmost to live up to my responsibilities as a board member representing my home state of Georgia and all the members of TWHBEA.

I have served as V. P. of the Owners/Exhibitors Committee and V. P. of the Breeders’ Committee, also represented the International Committee (even constructing an International rule book using International rules and the rules of our different organizations for TWH’s) at different times in my tenure.  I hold a SHOW HIO judges’ license and before that a NHSC license. 

I have put on numerous clinics about the wonderful things Tennessee Walking Horse’s could do and how to train them for the different disciplines.  I have put on shoeing clinics, bitting clinics, dressage, extreme cowboy competitions, mounted shooting, emergency care for equines and clinics about the Horse Protection Act and the Regulations governing Tennessee Walking Horse in the show ring. 

I have not sat back and talked about what was going on and speculated on how to change it, I have actively tried and am trying to bring about change in the Industry while promoting the breed.  I have put on TWH shows for just Versatility horses and multiple discipline shows with classes from water glass and costume to championship performance classes.  Last year I even put on an Extreme Cowboy Versatility show and supplied one of my horses for exhibitors. 

Currently I am assisting in putting on what began as a Unity Committee event sponsored by all the TWH’s National and International organizations, an educational conference called Tennessee Walking Horse of Today Equine Conference or TTEC. 

I lodged a complaint against Keith Dane on March 12, 2012.  That complaint was returned to me and a protocol was sent to me to follow in order to file a complaint.  As I understand several other people also filed a complaint but did not follow up with the complex protocol. 

My complaint was resubmitted and received by TWHBEA mid-April.  The substance of my complaint was that in his public comments he has said as a representative of HSUS that all walking horses entering the ring are sored and doing an unnatural gait.  He has also said that performance horses in particular are doing an unnatural gait that is achieved by soring.  He believes that the USDA isn’t doing their job in keeping such horses out of the show ring. 

I don’t believe and am backed up by the facts that all show horses are “NOT” mistreated into doing an unnatural gait.  The very founding of TWHBEA is based on the fact that the founding fathers bred for the over striding, pushing and pulling rear end, animated front end that produces a head shaking, smooth ride for the owners and admirers of this great breed, a unique gait that they founded a Registry to preserve. It is a uniquely American gait valued by everyone that experiences it. 

Contrary to outside media report, my complaint was filed long before Mr. Dane’s exposure of the Jackie McConnell abuse from March of 2010.  Regardless of when the abuse happened those facts weren’t released until mid-May of 2012.  That exposure sickened me but wasn’t part of my complaint.  Even my re-submitted complaint was before that event.

Mr. Dane has been an advocate for sound Tennessee Walking Horses and if he had continued to advocate and work for sound horses I would have had absolutely no problem.  I too have worked for showing sound and USDA compliant horses for the past 20 plus years.  But he has come out as a director of TWHBEA and an officiate of HSUS to say that all horses that enter the show ring are exhibiting an unnatural gait produced by soring and with all the other opinions that he has put out in my opinion he has done incalculable harm to the Tennessee Walking Show Horse and to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association. 

TWHBEA has and is putting on a Futurity which this year has an expanded show bill doubling the number of performance classes.  His statements against performance horses are diametrically opposed to what is going on in the association today.  How does TWHBEA reconcile these differences in one of their own board members?

I am an advocate of showing sound Tennessee Walking Horses in the show ring.  I show halter colts, a versatility horse, two flat shod horses and performance horses.  I interact with the non-educated public about Tennessee Walking Horses in my day to day business and have quickly learned that when I mention that I show Tennessee Walking Horses the general public is totally misinformed.  I make it a point to promote my beloved breed where ever I go.  To see an exhibition put on by sound walking horses you can go on line and see an exhibition done for the MTSU Block & Bridle Club back in February using performance and flat shod horses.

I am saddened that the TWHBEA Executive Committee doesn’t have the same devotion to the breed that many of its owners do and promote and defend all disciplines of the breed that are trained soundly regardless of the division or discipline. Just as I have defended the pleasure horse when that wasn’t popular at TWHBEA I now defend the performance horse when he is trained correctly.

I am withdrawing my complaint due to the fact that even though all the protocols in the past have deemed that a complaint be kept confidential this one was put out to the national press and public by TWHBEA’s President Marty Irby. Since I was bound by confidentiality I have received threatening and abusive e-mails from the public without any knowledge of what my complaint was about or what I was trying to accomplish. 

I believe in this breed.  I believe in the owners.  I believe in the trainers who want to use correct training methods.  I believe that there needs to be an objective qualitative way to judge that a horse has been abused not a subjective test that can cause a person who is not guilty to be punished because his horse is acting like a horse.  I also believe in timely intervention when abuse is detected. 

SHOW HIO came into being three years ago and there has been a huge discernible difference in the show horses going thru inspection today than even a few years ago.  No system is perfect and there is always room for improvement.  I ask that everyone enjoy your Tennessee Walking Horse for his uniqueness in the equine breeds, enjoy his discipline based on his athletic ability and support your local horse shows but most importantly love your equine partner and make sure you both have FUN.

Hope to see you on a trail or in a show soon.

Kathy Zeis

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