Skip to content

An Open Letter from Dr. John O'Brien

Copyright 2006

Editor's Note: Dr. O'Brien is a practicing veterinarian in Bowling Green, KY, who is the chairman of the National Horse Protection Society Interim Committee. Dr. O'Brien worked with Dr. Scott Bennett at the 2005 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration as independent veterinarians to assist in conflicts with the United States Department of Agriculture. He was also one of the panel of experts who participated in the Florida meeting of the NHPS.  He sent the following letter to Tom Blankenship.

Dear Tom:

Here are some thoughts I have concerning the formation and mission of the National Horse Protection Society (NHPS).

I have been a practicing veterinarian for 35 years and have treated and been associated with Tennessee Walking Horses for that period of time. In those early years of practice I saw some terrible cases of abuse and at one point thought I would just wash my hands of the whole mess. But my love for the horse would not allow me to do that and I have continued to work at the local level to "clean up" the industry. There have been many positive changes over the years, but it is now time for everyone to come together in one concerted effort. For years we have put Band-Aids on the problem to just get by or many times in fact, looked the other way. In those 35 years the Tennessee Walking Horse has evolved into a different animal. The intense competition to win has caused individuals to do what was necessary to get the blue ribbon at the horses expense. We have come to a time when owners, trainers and the public must accept that the horse is physically only capable of doing so much. Everyone must recognize that limitation and not ask or expect any more. There will always be good horses and winners, but we must make sure to create a level playing field with everyone treated fairly and equal. We can no longer accept the "sore" horse, but must implement drastic changes for the health of our industry and more importantly for the health and well being of the horse.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I accepted a position on the NHPS advisory board and have spent the last four months with other representatives of the TWH industry to make recommendations for a regulatory program that would insure that only "sound" horses be exhibited.

The Horse Protection Act has been in effect for years, but I believe has been somewhat unclear to many. The term "sore" needed to be further defined such that an individual would know exactly where the boundaries were. There is a need for consistency in the application of the Act. The NHPS has proposes revisions to the Horse Protection Act. I have reviewed the proposed changes and revisions and find them to be medically correct and properly defined. These changes will enhance the Horse Protection Act's ability to enforce the rules. It leaves little room for discussion.

I encourage everyone connected with the industry to join together in supporting the NHPS efforts to save the industry, but more importantly to save the Tennessee Walking Horse so that it can have the respect it deserves. God gave us dominion over animals and it is our responsibility to care for them in an acceptable manner.

Respectfully submitted,

John L. O'Brien, Jr., D.V.M.

More Stories

  • Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary Scholarship Application

    The Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary is a national non-profit organization dedicated to charitable organizations, such as the programs for handicapped riders, and the promotion of the Tennessee Walking Horse... Read More
  • Walking For Cancer coverage

    The Report will be providing live coverage from Walking For Cancer on ReporTV this weekend. Highlights from the show will be posted the following day. There will also be live results. Read More
  • Obituary – Emery "Rocky" Jones

    Emery “Rocky” Jones, age 64 of Columbia, TN passed away on April 19, 2019 at home with his family. Rocky was born in 1954 to the late Henry and Geraldine Woodside Jones. He worked at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, TN for 47 years and knew everything about each breed of horse at the farm.  Read More
  • Members of Congress Should Reject HSUS Award

    The Humane Society of the United States recently released its scorecard for Congress. There’s much irony to be found in the situation considering the organization receives a “D” from CharityWatch and was recently embroiled in a major sexual harassment scandal in which the board of directors tried to cover for the alleged sexual predator CEO. Read More
  • Latest Issue 4 22 19

    Read More
  • Year In Walking Horses Dedication: Honey Badger

    Do you know what a honey badger is? If not, don’t worry about it … the honey badger really doesn’t care what you think because they know how awesome they are. A small, fierce mammal also known as a ratel, the honey badger was made famous after a video about it, narrated by Chuck Norris, went viral. Read More
  • Year In Walking Horses Dedication: Howard Hamilton

    Howard Hamilton has spent his entire life devoting himself to his family and the horse and he does it all for one very simple reason — love. He and his family literally love the horse with all of their hearts; Howard certainly plays his part in doing what he can to ensure the horse, the industry and the industry’s youth thrive. Read More
  • The Money Tree Classic selects Beard

    Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary is proud to announce that Rollie Beard will judge the 36th Annual Money Tree Classic on July 5, 2019. The show will be held in Champions Arena.  Read More
  • Bedford Cancer Foundation announces plans for spring show

    The Bedford Cancer Foundation has announced it will again be sponsoring its annual horse show, scheduled to take place Saturday, April 27 at the Champions Arena on the grounds of the Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The show will feature 30 exciting classes including both flat shod and padded performance classes.  Read More
  • Obituary – Keith Champion

    Walking Horse owner and exhibitor, Keith Champion, passed away April 11, 2019. Keith was known for his humble attitude and great personality. Keith owned and exhibited Go Boy on Parade, Collectors Director, and most notably The Real Deal, and Be Cool. Read More