92% of Horses Found to be in Compliance

The National Horse Show Commission (NHSC) reports that the overwhelming majority of horses at the 2006 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration were in compliance and passed inspections of both NHSC inspectors (DQPs) and USDA inspectors (VMOs).  NHSC inspectors looked at 3,241 horses, a decrease of only 208, or 6%, from the previous year.
     The NHSC has stepped up their inspection procedures all year and had twice as many inspectors present at the Celebration than in past years.  “Our inspection procedures are based on the training we received during our joint session with the USDA held this past February,” says Lonnie Messick, executive vice-president of the NHSC.  Inspections at this year’s Celebration resulted in a 2% increase in violations over 2005.  Messick says there has been an increase at shows all year.  The increase is attributed to a stricter interpretation of the “scar rule,” which the USDA instructed NHSC inspectors to follow this year.  “Scar” refers to a tissue change on the rear pasterns of the horses front feet.  “We have actually seen fewer violations for sore horses, but more for the scar rule,” he says.  At this year’s Celebration there was a 1.5% drop in sensitvity violations, but a 2% increase in horses with unacceptable tissue change.
     The most significant difference between the 2005 and 2006 Celebration is the number of cases in conflict resolution.  Cases are referred to conflict resolution when the industry inspectors pass a horse and the USDA disqualifies it.  These cases tripled from seven last year to 21 this year.  The number of conflicts is what troubles David Pruett, chairman of the NHSC and president of the Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA).  “As of July 31, 2006 USDA inspectors had attended 11 NHSC shows to oversee our inspectors and had agreed with us, and even complimented us, on our inspection procedures,” says Pruett.  For the first seven months of the year there were only two cases referred to conflict resolution.  However, in the past month 23 more cases have been sent to conflict resolution, including those from the Celebration.  “There was no indication from the USDA that the procedures we have used all year were not acceptable in their eyes.”
     Pruett says he is pleased with the quality of horses he saw at this year’s Celebration but is not pleased with the number of confilcts between NHSC inspectors and the USDA.  “We worked hard at the first of the year to set a standard that we could all enforce.  After seven months and over 200 horse shows the USDA should not be able to change those standards.”  Pruett feels the NHSC and the USDA should continue their joint training and resolve these differences so trainers and exhibitors will know what to expect from show to show.  “We owe the walking horse people inspections that are both fair and consistent.”