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Marty Irby - A Job or Change of Heart?



Marty Irby has a long history with the Tennessee Walking Horse and has held multiple industry positions and employments including President of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association.  For virtually all of Irby’s life he has shown, bred, worked and promoted the Walking Horse industry.  However the last couple years, Irby has done an about-face and inflicted more harm to the Tennessee Walking Horse industry than anyone outside of Keith Dane and Humane Society of the United States.

Irby is now Press Secretary for Congressman Ed Whitfield who introduced the PAST Act and spends his time championing and lobbying for the passage of the PAST Act which would devastate the breed by prohibiting the use of weighted shoes, pads and action devices.  In a complete reversal of his long held position, Irby now claims the PAST Act would not  devastate the breed;  it would allow it to grow and prosper.

Consider his statement in April 2012, “TWHBEA stands firmly against ANY reduction in weight or size of the current pads or action device.  The survival of our registry relies mainly on the performance horse.  As the performance horse market has declined over the past 6 years, our annual budget has decreased from $5,000,000 +/- to less than $2,000,000 annually.  Our breed, horse and registry will not survive at its current level without the existence of our great performance horse.”

Irby now states that pads and action devices are only used as part of soring, championing the position taken by HSUS and Dane.  But consider Irby’s position prior to his employment with Congressman Whitfield, whose wife works for HSUS as a lobbyist.

“Scientifically accepted studies and data indicate that the current regulations concerning action devices and pads do not in any way cause harm to the horse.  To consider amendment of the Horse Protection Act Regulations currently in place regarding the action device and pads would be to take action to address a problem which simply does not exist with no scientific proof to the contrary.  Any attempt to eliminate pads would impact not only the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, but also those breeds which utilize similar pads in their training, showing and therapeutic treatment.  For example, the Saddlebred, Morgan, Racking and others would all be affected by any attempt to eliminate the use of pads.”

HSUS, Whitfield and Irby’s PAST Act would also continue the current subjective inspection methods and these three have criticized Congressman Blackburn and Senator Alexander for including objective inspection methods as part of their legislation.  However, Irby has been on both sides of this argument as well.  Consider his prior statement regarding subjective inspections, “In considering this question as it relates to the HPA enforcement, it must be kept in mind that the enforcement process involves not one, but two levels of subjectivity.  HPA enforcement pursuant to its regulations involves the inspection of large animals by unfamiliar humans who conduct manual palpation in an environment that is unfamiliar to the animal being examined, i.e., large, crowded, dusty and noise horse shows.  The OIG Audit of 2011 recognized that ‘because inspections are performed by hand their quality and results can vary greatly.’” 

The PAST Act would abolish the use of HIOs and place total enforcement responsibility on the USDA.  Irby has criticized Congressman Blackburn and Senator Alexander for legislation seeking a single, independent HIO for enforcement.  Again, Irby is speaking in direct opposition of his previously held position. 
“In light of the fact that the USDA is able to attend only 6% of affiliated events, HPA self-regulation through these (SHOW, KY, HOA, PRIDE and WHOA) and other certified HIOs has provided massive strides in effectuating the Act and its regulations since the Act was passed in 1970.  Additionally, the HIO system has provided for immediate disqualification from competition of horses found to be non-compliant as well as industry-imposed penalties for violators.”

Even better, “USDA-certified HIOs should, and do, have the responsibility of the consistent enforcement of rules which are consistent with the HPA and its regulations to ensure the welfare of the horse and the integrity of the events they affiliate.  Given the number of horse events annually and the budgetary restraints of the USDA, HIOs provide an invaluable ability to ensure compliance with the Act where, otherwise, there would be absolutely no oversight.  Since according to the OIG Audit of 2011, APHIS was able to attend only 6% of horse shows between 2005-2008, HIOs are able to fill what otherwise would be a huge void in HPA enforcement.”

Since Irby understands the value of HIOs, the following statement makes you wonder why he wouldn’t be a proponent of the Blackburn and Alexander called for “single-HIO.”  He states, “The more damaging competitive aspect as it relates to HPA compliance is the competition which now exists between individual horse shows for entry numbers and between certified HIOs for affiliations.”

According to Irby, his change of heart  and the “torture” that the padded performance horse is subjected to came when judging a horse show in Germany in 2012.  However, that seems to be a manufactured timeline to better fit his testimony in front of Congress since in May 2013 Irby showed a “tortured” padded performance horse at the Gallatin horse show in Tennessee.

Close family members of Irby state the change of heart coincided with two different events.  First, Irby was suspended from the industry’s World Championship show, The Celebration after he was found guilty of attempting to extort The Celebration.  Irby illegally acquired domain names registered to The Celebration and attempted to trade their ownership for a sponsorship at the show.  His email stated, “My goal is to use the website names as leverage in a TWHNC (Celebration) Sponsorship if the EC (TWHBEA Executive Committee) sees fit.  Surely the two domain names are worth $5,000 or more.”

An arbitrator found that Irby’s use of “leverage” in his confidential email sounded “distressingly like extortion” and “epitomizes the very essence of cybersquatting.”  Irby was expelled pending his paying the legal fees of the Celebration, approximately $13,000, and to this point Irby has declined.

Additionally, according to family members the unemployed Irby told family that due to his new position on the padded performance horse he was weighing an option to go work for HSUS or Congressman Whitfield.  Just weeks after testifying on behalf of Whitfield, HSUS and the PAST Act in front of the Commerce, Trade and Manufacturing subcommittee, Irby was hired as a legislative aide to Whitfield. Since that time at the end of the 2013 calendar year, Irby has been promoted by Whitfield to Press Secretary.

Only Irby knows the validity and timing of his change of heart.  Was the promise of a job for the unemployed Irby in Washington with Whitfield or the HSUS reason to change his long held views or….. 
 

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